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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/

Sunstorm – Emotional Fire

Sunstorm – Emotional Fire (2012, Frontiers Records)

1. “Never Give Up”
2. “Emotional Fire”
3. “Lay Down Your Arms”
4. “You Wouldn’t Know Love”
5. “Wish You Were Here”
6. “Torn In Half”
7. “Gina”
8. “The Higher You Rise”
9. “Emily”
10. “Follow Your Heart”
11. “All I Am”

Band:
Joe Lynn Turner – Lead Vocals
Uwe Reitenauer – Guitar
Dennis Ward – Bass, Guitar, Backing Vocals
Chris Schmidt – Drums
Justin Dakey – Keyboard

Producer: Dennis Ward

There’s a few things I didn’t know about this Joe Lynn Turner/Dennis Ward project before researching this album. The first thing is that I wasn’t aware that the very first Sunstorm album debuted in 2006 (I had always thought 2009’s House of Dreams was the debut). Secondly, for those albums most of the songs recorded were songs that JLT had written in the past, either for other artists or himself.

With Emotional Fire there’s a twist because instead of recording songs that he had a hand in writing, Joe is covering songs that he sang backing vocals on. Examples: Michael Bolton’s “Gina”  and Cher’s “Emotional Fire”. But don’t think this is just an album of old songs. A number of songs have been penned members of the current crop of AOR/melodic rockers who hold connections to Issa, Vega, Khymera and Xorigin.

My absolute favorite track is “Lay Down Your Arms”. Seriously, I’ve probably listened to that song about 15 times. It’s only January when I’m hearing this but this has got to be one of the best songs of 2012 when it’s all said and done. You’ll have to excuse my AOR ignorance because I am not sure if this is a new song or something Joe sang background vocals on in the past but it has enough of a modern touch that I can imagine it playing on a Top Forty station. There’s a great hook in this song.

The other song that stands out above the rest is “Never Give Up”, which is a great way to open the album. A bit cheesy with the lyrics perhaps: “never give up/never give in/if you believe it/you can win” but it’s so infectious and positive I had to use it as my Facebook status! It’s a fun & very upbeat melodic rocker.

The rest of the album is fairly standard AOR/melodic rock fare but some of it is quite good like “You Wouldn’t Know Love” and “The Higher You Rise”. Some songs like the closing ballad “All I Am”, “Follow Your Heart” and the cover of Bolton’s “Gina” fall flat with me but that’s because I’m not a hardcore AOR fan. I know the previous Sunstorm albums were well-received so I have no doubt this album will please fans of the first two releases and JLT fans in general. Even in his 60s, Joe is still proving that he is one of the best voices around for the genre.

Highlights: “Never Give Up”, “Lay Down Your Arms”, “You Wouldn’t Know Love”, “Torn In Half”, “The Higher You Rise”

http://www.joelynnturner.com
http://www.facebook.com/joelynnturnerofficial

Buy ‘Emotional Fire’ at Amazon

Looking Forward to in 2012…

2012 is shaping up to be another spectacular year for rock music. This is a year that is going to see releases from KISS, Judas Priest, Aerosmith, Van Halen and Black Sabbath. WHAT YEAR IS THIS ?!?

In no particular order, here’s what I’m definitely picking up in 2o12:

AcceptStalingrad (April)
Accept really blew me away with Blood of the Nations. The band has proven there is life without Udo. In fact, I think many people would prefer the current line-up over the classic Accept roster at this point.

Crazy Lixx – Riot Avenue (April)
These solid modern glam-metallers are currently in the studio working on their 3rd album.

KISS – Monster (Spring)
Obviously, this is the album I’m looking forward to most. Sonic Boom was a triumphant return to the studio for these guys, now that the wheels are well-oiled, I think Monster has potential to be even better.

SunstormEmotional Fire (February)
I missed out on the last Sunstorm despite good reviews. In the past year I’ve come to appreciate AOR/melodic rock more so I think I’m going to try out this Joe Lynn Turner-fronted side project when it’s released.

Crashdiet
No date yet set by these sleaze rockers but they are supposedly in the writing process now. I’m guessing sometime in the Fall.

Black Sabbath (Fall/Winter)
Another highly anticipated album for me because I’m really curious what it’s going to sound like. I’m not a big Ozzy fan, either as a solo artist or in Sabbath. I’d much rather see Iommi w/ Geezer go on to new projects (Iommi needs to give Tony Martin another call) but I still will be pre-ordering this one. My expectations aren’t all that high though given who is singing. I feel like he and Sharon are going to bring everyone else down to his mediocre level. Still, it’s exciting to know that new Iommi riffs and solos are coming.

Aerosmith (May)
So much prima donna drama in this camp over the last 5 years or so but hopefully that’s gone long enough to give us a new album. Granted,  I don’t really expect much from these guys in terms of, well… anything anymore. They’re kind of a joke at this point but with the legendary Jack Douglas back on as producer, I have no doubts that he’ll drag something out of them that’s better than the last studio album (2001’s Just Push Play).

Van Halen (February 7)
Geez, it was starting to look like the new Chinese Democracy, wasn’t it? No album title has been released yet but a release date has been and the first single will be released on January 10. Van Halen is another band that has become a joke over the years (despite the last tour getting rave reviews) but I have a good feeling about this album. The first album with Roth since 1984 and 1984! Rumored titles have been The Future and 2012 but I don’t think either will turn out to be true. Maybe IV though..?

Judas Priest
The band hasn’t definitely said a new album is coming in 2012 but they’ve been working on new material for a while now and seem to be looking at 2012 for releasing it. It’s a different songwriting dynamic now though. Instead of Halford/Downing/Tipton, it’s just Halford/Tipton. By all accounts, new guitarist Richie Faulkner is carrying his weight in a live setting so I think the album is going to turn out quite good. I do think it’s time the band delivers a straight ahead metal album though. Angel of Retribution and Nostradamus were good but not excellent. The band really hasn’t given the world that kick-ass classic metal album that they should’ve already done since Halford has come back. They really need a PainkillerHell Bent for Leather or British Steel at this point and keep it simple.

Primal Fear – Unbreakable (late January)
I have heard this album. It’s good. Plan on reviewing it soon.

Mollo/Martin – The Third Cage (late January)
See above. It’s great to have a new album out with Tony Martin on vocals.

Buckcherry
Maybe wishful thinking on my part but they were working on new material this past summer so hopefully something new will appear by next summer.

The Last Vegas The Other Side
No date announced yet but they recently released the free digital Other Side E.P. so I’d imagine we’ll have the new album by the spring.

Slash
His first solo album was one of the best records from the last few years and this time, Myles Kennedy is singing all the songs. Everything is written, all that’s left to do is record the songs so I’m guessing spring for this one as well.

Trans-Siberian OrchestraRomanov: What Kings Must Whisper
The second non-holiday from TSO, it was actually planned to be their first album way back in 1994 but they held on it while trying to get a Broadway musical out of it first. Night Castle was dark and cool while still keeping that trademark blend of metal, rock and classical music, I expect more of the same here.

Dokken
With a deal in place with Frontiers Records for the new album, I’m expecting something special despite never being a huge Dokken fan. Lightning Strikes Again was good enough for me to be interested in a follow-up. The plan, as of this past November, was to have recording completed by February.

Stryper
This album was actually delayed from this past year in favor of recording and releasing the excellent The Covering album of cover songs. According to Michael Sweet, two albums are in the works: the first will be an album of re-recordings (Why? Can we stop this trend, please?)  followed by an album of all-new material written in the same heavy, edgy vein as “God” from The Covering.

M-Pire of Evil
M-Pire of Evil is the renamed Primevil which itself was the reunited late ’80s/early ’90s line-up of Venom that featured Tony “Demolition Man” Dolan on vocals/bass . I’m not well-versed on the comings and goings of the Venom roster but the “classic” line-up is split into two different bands right now. Conrad “Cronos” Lant is leading Venom with a few newer guys while the other two “classic” members (Jeff “Mantas” Dunn & Anthony “Abaddon” Bray) have hooked up again with Dolan for M-Pire of Evil.

They released an EP this past summer called The Creatures of the Black, which was pretty good and I liked the Prime Evil album (the only Venom release I’ve heard from this line-up) so I’m looking forward to a full length album. I couldn’t find anything resembling a release date but going by the band’s Facebook page, it should be soon because they’ve been teasing releasing the album cover.

Tooth And Nail (March)
The band that features 3/4 of the classic Dokken line-up. How does “Wild” Mick Brown still retain a position in Dokken while joining Tooth And Nail? Given Don Dokken’s reputation, you’d think he’d have been fired from Dokken by now. I mean, this band was named after a Dokken album and they’ve gloated over the fact that Don Dokken isn’t in the group (bassist Jeff Pilson will handle vocals). What’s weird is that on the band’s Facebook page, they list current Whitesnake drummer Brian Tichy as a member as well… I guess he’s there for the live shows in case Brown has to go off and play in Dokken?

I’m probably forgetting a few more albums but oh well!

RIOT – The Privilege of Power

Riot – The Privilege of Power [Remastered] (2003, Sony Music/Collectables Records)
Original Release: 1990, CBS Records

1. “On Your Knees” … 6:37
2. “Metal Soldiers” … 6:40
3. “Runaway” … 5:11
4. “Killer” … 4:53
5. “Dance of Death” … 7:17
6. “Storming the Gates of Hell” … 3:43
7. “Maryanne” … 4:55
8. “Little Miss Death” … 4:12
9. “Black Leather and Glittering Steel” … 7:07
10. “Racing with the Devil on a Spanish Highway” … 7:17

Band:
Tony Moore – Vocals
Mark Reale – Guitar
Don Van Stavern – Bass
Bobby Jarzombek – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Joe Lynn Turner – Vocals (“Killer”)

Producer: Steve Loeb, Mark Reale and Rod Hui

After frequent changes in style (NWOBHM, southern fried hard rock, heavy metal, power metal) over the span of four albums, Riot founder and guitarist Mark Reale finally settles in and keeps The Privilege of Power in the same realm as Thundersteel though it is a bit more melodic at times. Vocalist Tony Moore (my favorite singer Riot has had) really delivers all throughout the album.

The album is not without a few odd choices though. Virtually every song has the annoying habit of some audio clips and sound effects from news and movies and whatnot. It really disrupts the flow of the album when all I wanna do is hear the music. I suppose there was some statement behind all of this about society, government and the power of television and maybe if they did it for one or two songs, that’d be okay, but this is overkill.

It is a full FORTY-SIX SECONDS before the music starts playing on the first track and for a few more seconds after that, the sound is purposefully muffled. That’s inexcusable for a heavy metal album! If someone was so insistent on these weird intros, they should’ve just made them outros (or better yet, their own tracks) so that as soon as you hit play or skip tracks you get to hear MUSIC.

Another oddity is the use of horns throughout the album. Sometimes it works and sometimes it sounds out of place. But hey — if Aerosmith could do it, why not Riot ?

Getting on with what is good about this album is we still get plenty of speed and power metal moments that stand up to anything done on the excellent Thundersteel album. “Metal Soldiers” is a great anthem and “Black Leather and Glittering Steel” is a fantastic speed metal number where Tony gets to do what he does best. “Dance of Death” is a strong power metal number.

There are also a number of melodic moments (foreshadowing yet another change in direction for the band). “Maryanne” sounds like something out of the pop-metal scene crossed with Boston (the band, not the city) and the guitar work on “Little Miss Death” reminds me of Michael Schenker Group. “Killer” (accompanied by horns) features Joe Lynn Turner on vocals.

Horns and interludes aside, this is another great Riot release featuring a nice blend of heavy metal and melodic hard rock. Too bad it would be Moore’s last album with the band and he would not return to sing for the group until 2008 (then left again in 2009).

Highlights: “Metal Soldiers”, “Runaway”, “Dance of Death”, “Maryanne”, “Little Miss Death”, “Black Leather and Glittering Steel”

www.officialriotnyc.com
www.myspace.com/officialriotnyc

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