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Avantasia – The Mystery of Time [Review]

Themysteryoftimecover

Avantasia – The Mystery of Time
2013, Nuclear Blast Records
Buy the album

1. “Spectres”
2. “The Watchmakers’ Dream”
3. “Black Orchid”
4. “Where Clock Hands Freeze”
5. “Sleepwalking”
6. “Savior in the Clockwork”
7. “Invoke the Machine”
8. “What’s Left Of Me”
9. “Dweller in a Dream”
10. “The Great Mystery”

Band:
Tobias Sammet – Lead Vocals, Bass
Sascha Paeth – Guitar
Russell Gilbrook – Drums
Miro – Keyboards

Additional Musicians:
Joe Lynn Turner – Lead Vocals
Michael Kiske – Lead Vocals
Biff Byford – Lead Vocals
Ronnie Atkins – Lead Vocals
Eric Martin – Lead Vocals
Bob Catley – Lead Vocals
Cloudy Yang – Lead Vocals
Bruce Kulick – Guitar
Oliver Hartmann – Guitar
Arjen Anthony Lucassen – Guitar
Ferdy Doernberg – Organ

Produced by: Tobias Sammet & Sascha Paeth

Tobias Sammet just does not quit! Between Edguy and Avantasia, he’s constantly recording or touring. He’s the German equivalent of Dave Grohl. Busy, busy, busy!

It seems to be paying off. The Mystery of Time has done very well across Europe and while it didn’t break the Billboard 200 in the United States, it sold well enough in its first week to make Billboard’s Heatseeker and Hard Rock charts.

Thankfully, The Mystery of Time is only a 10-track collection and not a double album effort like when Sammet released The Wicked Symphony and Angel of Babylon simultaneously back in 2010. But don’t worry, there’s enough power metal epics here — “The Great Mystery” and “Savior in the Clockwork” both clock in (no pun intended) at 10 minutes.

Though I included this album in my Top 10 list for 2013, I didn’t get around to really listening to it until the end of the year even though it was released in March of 2013. Boy, I’m sorry I procrastinated. This may be my favorite Avantasia release yet and the presence of the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg only adds to the majestic metal that Avantasia already brings to the table.

Speaking of that orchestra, Edguy used them for their Hellfire Club album. I admit it’s getting harder to tell the difference between Edguy and Avantasia these days. Sammet is the driving force in both bands and they both play power metal. The only real difference is that Edguy seems to have a cheesy sense of humor and Avantasia uses a lot of guest vocalists.

Yeah, definitely should have rated this one higher for 2013. The more I listen to it, the more I like it. Great vocal performances all around, great melodies and songs that you can’t get out of your head. Best Avantasia album yet.

Highlights: “Spectres”, “The Watchmaker’s Dream”, “Sleepwalking”, “Savior in the Clockwork”, “Invoke the Machine”, “What’s Left of Me”, “The Great Mystery”

http://www.tobiassammet.com/
http://www.facebook.com/avantasia/

Metal Excess Awards 2013

2013 was an interesting year for rock/metal. Some bands delivered more than I expected them to (Stryper, Bon Jovi, Mike Tramp), a few disappointed me (Megadeth, Avenged Sevenfold, De La Cruz) and some confirmed my suspicions that they shouldn’t have released an album at all (Black Sabbath… okay, it was good but it seemed derivative of their past works).

Overall, it was a bit of a slow year for me as I focused a lot on listening to old favorites rather than having an interest in checking out and reviewing some of the latest releases.

Best Albums of 2013
1. Buckcherry – Confessions
2. Stryper – No More Hell to Pay
3. Bon Jovi – What About Now
4. Tom Keifer – The Way Life Goes
5. The Poodles – Tour de Force
6. Avantasia – The Mystery of Time
7. Reckless Love – Spirit
8. Megadeth – Super Collider
9. Jorn – Traveller
10. Mike Tramp – Cobblestone Street

Best Live Albums
1. Whitesnake – Made In Britain / The World Record
2. Dio – Finding the Sacred Heart: Live in Philly 1986
3. Def Leppard – Viva! Hysteria
4. Whitesnake – Made In Japan
5. Great White – 30 Years: Live from the Sunset Strip

Best EPs
1. Stone Temple Pilots with Chester Bennington – High Rise
2. The 69 Eyes – Love Runs Away
3. Skid Row – United World Rebellion: Chapter One

Best Compilation/Cover Albums
1. Stryper – Second Coming
2. Kelly Clarkson – Wrapped in Red
3. Buckcherry – The Best of Buckcherry
4. Trans-Siberian Orchestra – Upon the Winter Solstice
5. Jorn – Symphonic

Most Anticipated New Releases for 2014
Alice Cooper
Judas Priest
Motley Crue
Sebastian Bach
Whitesnake

Queensryche – Queensryche [Review]

Queensryche-Queensryche

Queensryche
2013, Century Media Records

1. “X2”
2. “Where Dreams Go to Die”
3. “Spore”
4. “In This Light”
5. “Redemption”
6. “Vindication”
7. “Midnight Lullaby”
8. “A World Without”
9. “Don’t Look Back”
10. “Fallout”
11. “Open Road”

Band:
Todd La Torre – Lead Vocals
Michael Wilton – Guitar
Parker Lundgren – Guitar
Eddie Jackson – Bass, Backing Vocals
Scott Rockenfield – Drums, Percussion

Produced by James Barton

Well, I’ve already reviewed TateRyche, I figured I had to give ToddRyche a shot as well! Equal time and all that jazz. As I’ve mentioned before, Queensryche has never been a favorite of mine. I never disliked them, they’ve certainly recorded some very cool songs over the years, but when I bought Operation: Mindcrime I felt that was enough for me. Funny that with the feud, I’m more interested in Queensryche than I ever have been!

I think part of what has helped me enjoy this album so much is that it’s barely 30 minutes long! “X2” and “Midnight Lullaby” are instrumentals that clock in around a minute a piece. I wonder if songwriting/recording for this album was cut short in order to get it out quicker to “compete” with Geoff Tate’s Frequency Unknown. It doesn’t matter. While it’s rare to see these days, I actually think an album that comes in around a half hour is pretty refreshing, especially when I seem to be getting busier and busier!

As for the album, it’s good stuff. Todd La Torre’s vocals are very similar to Geoff Tate but just different enough and the band is full of energy and doesn’t get weighted down by the bore ‘n’ chore of what progressive rock can sometimes be. The major difference between this album and Tate’s is that this one completely embraces the classic Queensryche sound. “A World Without” sounds like something Queensryche did years ago, and I mean that in a good way.

There’s really no attempt at creating a modern hard rock song. It’s just Queensryche being Queensryche with a singer that is perhaps better-suited to sing in this style than Geoff Tate is these days. Frequency Unknown isn’t a bad album, but this self-titled release by his ex-band mates is better. The REAL Queensryche sounds completely re-energized.

Highlights: “Where Dreams Go to Die”, “Spore”, “Redemption”, “A World Without”, “Don’t Look Back”

http://www.queensrycheofficial.com
http://www.facebook.com/QueensrycheOfficial

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Black Sabbath – 13 [Review]

Black Sabbath – 13 [Best Buy Deluxe Edition]
2013, Republic Records

Disc 1
1. “End of the Beginning” 8:05
2. “God Is Dead?” 8:52
3. “Loner” 4:59
4. “Zeitgeist” 4:37
5. “Age of Reason” 7:01
6. “Live Forever” 4:46
7. “Damaged Soul” 7:51
8. “Dear Father”

Disc 2
1. “Methademic” 5:57
2. “Peace of Mind” 3:40
3. “Pariah” 5:34
4. “Naïveté in Black”

Band:
Ozzy Osbourne – Vocals, Harmonica
Tony Iommi – Guitar
Geezer Butler – Bass

Additional Musicians:
Brad Wilk – Drums

Produced by Rick Rubin

I won’t get into all of the stats and figures but it’s been a long time since these guys have played on an album together as Black Sabbath. It’s just a shame they couldn’t work out something with Bill Ward in order to do a TRUE reunion album/tour.

Still, this is a very important time in the band’s history. Though I’m not an Ozzy fan, I can still agree that this is a monumental occasion, so I’ll give my thoughts track-by-track:

  • “End of the Beginning” – This one starts off like something from The Devil You Know with a heavy, slow and doomy vibe. It picks up later in the song but at 8 minutes, it’s not how I would’ve chosen to kick off the album.
  • “God Is Dead?” – I can’t hear some of the guitar parts in this song without thinking of Weezer’s “Undone – The Sweater Song”. I can’t be the only one that hears that, can I? We’re now only two tracks into the album but sitting 17 minutes! Again, I question the track listing. Decent song but like most of the world, my socks weren’t knocked off when I heard this.
  • “Loner” – Finally the speed is picking up a bit and look — this song is only 5 minutes long! We even get an “Alright now!” from Ozzy.
  • “Zeitgeist” – Essentially this is “Planet Caravan, Part II”. If you had told me this was either a Pink Floyd song or recorded by Sabbath in the mid-70s, I’d believe you. It’s a good song but I’m a bit disappointed they basically tried to recreate something they’d previously written. Seems a bit lazy to me. But hey, they aren’t the first band to ever do that.
  • “Age of Reason” – Love the drums here (sorry, Bill!). One of the first songs from this album that grabbed me immediately.
  • “Live Forever” – Another much-need slightly more up-tempo number.
  • “Damaged Soul” – Ugh. Another 8 minute track. Fuzzy 1970s stoner vibe. Another track that really sounds like something the band recorded “back in the day”.
  • “Dear Father” – Probably feeling this song the least of all on the album.

That finishes up the proper album, now onto the deluxe edition tracks:

  • “Methademic” – Shame this one was relegated to being on the deluxe edition!
  • “Peace of Mind” – I know ’70s Sabbath when I hear it. This is it.
  • “Pariah” – Another good rocker. Has a cool melodic opening.
  • “Naïveté in Black” – Exclusive to the Best Buy edition of the deluxe album. The fastest song out of both discs. Why didn’t they write more songs like these? Kinda reminds me of modern day Metallica.

Disc 2 is very strong. The songs are a bit faster and much shorter. Disc 1 has its moments but it’s just too slow and time-consuming for its own good. Surely we could’ve swapped out “God Is Dead?”, “Damaged Soul”, and/or “Dear Father” for any of these four tracks! It’s a strange choice for them to include so many slow and plodding 7-9 minute epics on the album when they had some very good 4-5 minute rockers being released as bonus content.

13 is going over well with the Ozzy fans and I can see why. It’s definitely got that old-school Sabbath vibe to it that should be pleasing to those that prefer the band’s Ozzy years. Being someone who isn’t an Ozzy fan, I can admit that this is certainly a good album, possibly will make my Top 10 for the year, but I don’t think it’s great and it’s probably not something I’ll ever listen to much again. I can’t imagine thinking, “Man, I really need to hear that 9 minute song Black Sabbath wrote back in 2013!”

Highlights: “The End of the Beginning”, “Loner”, “Zeitgeist”, “Age of Reason”, “Live Forever”, “Methademic”, “Peace of Mind”, “Pariah”, “Naïveté in Black”

http://www.blacksabbath.com
http://www.facebook.com/BlackSabbath

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Stryper – Second Coming [Review]

Stryper – Second Coming
2013, Frontiers Records

1. “Loud ‘N Clear”
2. “Loving You”
3. “Soldiers Under Command”
4. “Makes Me Wanna Sing”
5. “First Love”
6. “The Rock That Makes Me Roll”
7. “Reach Out”
8. “Surrender”
9. “To Hell with the Devil”
10. “Calling on You”
11. “Free”
12. “The Way”
13. “Sing Along Song”
14. “More Than a Man”
15. “Bleeding from Inside Out”
16. “Blackened”

Band:
Michael Sweet – Vocals, Guitar
Oz Fox – Guitars
Tim Gaines – Bass
Robert Sweet – Drums

Religion aside, Stryper is one of the few successful bands that I never got into when I was discovering the wonderful world of hair bands and glam metal. Despite owning a few one or two albums from their original run, it’s actually their later albums that pulled me in and converted me (no pun intended) to a fan. Despite the fact that Second Coming is the band re-recording their own material from their peak years, it has further solidified Stryper’s status with me as one of the best and most relevant hair bands in modern times.

I won’t even pretend to know how some of these songs compare to their original versions but it’s safe to say the production is greatly improved and these songs just sound so HEAVY now. Classic metal songs with a modern twist. These oldies are definitely beefed up to match the power and sound the band has been displaying on their recent albums.

When the band released The Covering (an album of covers… what else?) they included one new track called “God”. It’s one of my favorite songs from the last few years so I was definitely looking forward to the two NEW tracks that were included on this album. Both continue on in the fine tradition of modern Stryper. Another major standout for me is “To Hell With the Devil”. It finally sounds exactly like it always deserved to (okay, that is the Stryper song I’ve always loved)!

Die-hards are probably all over this already but casual Stryper fans should give it a shot to hear some of the band’s classic material with updated production and to check out the new tunes.

Highlights: “Loud ‘N Clear”, “Soldiers Under Command”, “Makes Me Wanna Sing”, “Surrender”, “To Hell With the Devil”, “Bleeding from the Inside Out”, “Blackened”

http://www.stryper.com/
http://www.facebook.com/Stryper

Buy the album at Amazon.com

Mike Tramp – Cobblestone Street [Review]

Mike Tramp – Cobblestone Street
2013, Cleopatra Records/Deadline Music

1. Cobblestone Street
2. Caught In The Storm
3. New Day
4. Ain’t The Life I Asked For
5. Revolution
6. We’ll Be Alright
7. Angel Or Devil
8. Find It In Your Heart
9. What Are You Gonna Do?
10. Once
11. When The Children Cry [2013 Acoustic Version]

Musicians:
Mike Tramp – Vocals, Guitar
Soren Anderson – Guitar, Piano, Keyboards, Bass, Drums, Harmonica

Mike Tramp will always be best known for White Lion but he’s had quite a solid music career outside of that band, at least in terms of quality releases. The handful of his solo albums that I’ve heard have been extremely good and I enjoyed Stand Your Ground (released under the name of Mike Tramp & The Rock ‘N’ Roll Circuz) a lot as well. I was looking forward to checking out Cobblestone Street once I heard it was coming out.

Citing the likes of Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen for inspiration, Cobblestone Street is a collection of acoustic tracks and balladry. Tramp has been quoted as saying it’s the album he’s wanted to make for the last 20 years. Tramp’s voice has always worked well with the more low-key moments in White Lion’s catalog, his voice is perfectly suited to convey the pain and emotion of songs like “When The Children Cry” (which has be re-recorded as an acoustic number for this very album). Laid back, yet deep and personal Cobblestone Street has become one of my favorite releases of 2013.

There’s not a dud to be found on this release. The album is mellow and sentimental but well worth seeking out if you aren’t in a mood to bang your head. If Tramp decides to leave his rocker ways behind him, I would be completely okay with that. That’s just how much I’ve enjoyed Cobblestone Street.

Highlights: “Cobblestone Street”, “New Day”, “Ain’t the Life I Asked For”, “Revolution”,  “We’ll Be Alright”, “What Are You Gonna Do”, “Once”

http://miketramp.dk/
http://www.facebook.com/MikeTrampOfficial

Buy the album at Amazon.com

King Kobra – II [Review]

KK booklet_cover

King Kobra – II
2013, Frontiers Records

1. Hell On Wheels
2. Knock ‘Em Dead
3. Have A Good Time
4. The Ballad Of Johnny Rod
5. Take Me Back
6. When The Hammer Comes Down
7. Running Wild
8. The Crunch
9. Got It Comin’
10. Deep River
11. Don’t Keep Me Waiting
12. We Go Round

Band:
Paul Shortino – Vocals
David Michael-Philips – Guitar
Mick Sweda – Guitar
Johnny Rod – Bass
Carmine Appice – Drums

Produced by David Henzerling, Carmine Appice & Paul Shortino

This is King Kobra II. It comes 25 years after King Kobra III. It is the band’s seventh studio. Are you following me? Well, after Carmine Appice reformed the band a few years back and they released a self-titled album in 2011, this is the sequel. So naming it II kinda makes sense because it’s in reference to being the follow-up to the self-titled album.

I’ve listened to this album a few times. It didn’t grab me initially like a few tracks from King Kobra automatically did. It’s still done in that same 1980s bluesy hard rock/metal meets 1970s bluesy classic rock style of the last album. Honestly, I just really wasn’t impressed with the lead track “Have a Good Time”. It just seems a bit generic to me. I’m not sure where I would rank this album in the band’s catalog but I’m seeing a surprising number of people saying it’s the band’s best album. I don’t agree with that because Ready to Strike is just too much of a classic but if you’re a fan of the band’s 2011 album, you’ll like II. You couldn’t classify this album as heavy metal but it seems like their hardest rocking album to date.

Shortino’s voice is still in great form and Carmine is just killing it on the drums. Great production here as well. After giving this album more of my attention, I would place it on level with their 2011 self-titled album. This is fun no-frills blues hard rock with a vintage sound that will make you forget it’s 2013.

Highlights: “Hell On Wheels”, “Take Me Back”, “When The Hammer Comes Down”, “Running Wild”, “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, “We Go Round”

http://www.carmineappice.net/
http://paulshortino.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Official-King-Kobra/270854497159

Buy the album at Amazon.com!

Jorn – Traveller [Review]

JORN trav COVER

Jorn – Traveller
2013, Frontiers Records

1. Overload
2. Cancer Demon
3. Traveller
4. Window Maker
5. Make Your Engine Scream
6. Legend Man
7. Carry The Black
8. Rev On
9. Monsoon
10. The Man Who Was King

Band:
Jorn Lande – Vocals
Trond Holter – Guitar
Jimmy Iversen – Guitar
Bernt Jansen – Bass
Willy Bendiksen – Drums

Produced by: Jorn Lande & Trond Holter

Another year, another Jorn release! You’d have to go all the way back to 2005 to see a year where Jorn didn’t release something. 

So what do you get when Wig Wam’s Trond Holter & Bernt Jansen join up with Jorn Lande? One great catchy metal album! Holter ended up co-writing most of the album with Jorn and, wow, with spectacular results! Jorn has always delivered wonderfully produced, powerful & melodic heavy metal (I suppose Jorn would call it “heavy rock” though) and the addition of Holter as a songwriting partner has only helped matters. It’s a bit surprising that Jorn would give us a new studio album just a year after Bring Heavy Rock to the Land but when you’re loaded with such a fantastic collection of songs, why not? I enjoyed the previous album but I can already tell you this album is much, much better from top to bottom.

Of course, what Jorn album would be complete without some type of tribute to Ronnie James? “The Man Who Was King” is another song Lande has written about Dio and I would imagine “Cancer Demon” probably is in reference to Ronnie’s battle with cancer. To be honest, while I enjoy these tributes and appreciate Jorn’s obvious love and respect for the man, I do think it’s time to move on to new territories. Lande does great covers, so I’m always up for him to throw one or two cover songs onto an album, I don’t want that to stop… but I think the time is right to start paying tribute to other rock ‘n’ roll heroes. At the rate Jorn is going, we could start putting together an anthology of Jorn’s Dio covers and songs written about Dio soon!

Regardless, this album is a monster of crunching riffs and Jorn’s amazingly powerful voice (which is worth the price of admission alone). “Overload” and “Rev On” would be my favorite tracks here. Traveller is definitely one of the year’s best releases. Not a dud track in the bunch. Jorn continues on with his very enjoyable blend of melodic metal and ’70s inspired heavy rock and that makes for one heck of an album!

Highlights: “Overload”, “Cancer Demon”, “Traveller”, “Window Man”, “Make Your Engine Scream”, “Carry The Black”, “Rev On”

http://www.jornlande.com/
http://www.facebook.com/OFFICIALJORN

Buy the album at Amazon.com!

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