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Van Helsing’s Curse – Oculus Infernum [Review]

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Van Helsing’s Curse – Oculus Infernum: A Halloween Tale
2003, Koch Records
Buy the album at Amazon.com

1. Patience (Introduction)
2. Tubular Hell
3. All Fall Down
4. Let Me Prey
5. The Child
6. The Tortured Soul
7. Revenge
8. War
9. Let the Pain Begin
10. The Curse

Producer:Joe Franco

Van Helsing’s Curse was a side project put together by Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider. The idea was Trans-Siberian Orchestra meets Halloween. On that front, Dee has succeeded. Oculus Infernum is a great collection of symphonic metal with just enough of a dark, spooky vibe that you can throw it on as background music to get yourself in the Halloween mood.

The project was meant to be so much more than that though. Snider envisioned the group touring every October. I know they’ve did a few live shows but I’m not sure whether they ever toured annually. The year that this album was released, the music was licensed out to a Six Flags theme park in New Jersey as the soundtrack to that year’s “Fright Fest”.

Though TSO occasionally features lead vocalists, there is none of that here. Dee Snider narrates a few tracks and there might be some choir chantings going on here or there, but the music is mostly all instrumental. What’s surprising is that the music is well put together. If I went into this blind, I would’ve thought it was Trans-Siberian Orchestra had started writing darker music.

I suppose that’s because TSO guitarist Al Pitrelli is involved with this project. One Amazon.com review states he co-wrote the album with Dee. I can’t find any confirmation he played on this album but I’m leaning towards ‘yes’ (he did play the live shows at least).

If you like TSO and you like Halloween, you will like Oculus Infernum. I hope some day we’ll get new music from this group because it’s a really cool idea.

www.vanhelsingscurse.com

Dee Snider – Dee Does Broadway [Review]

Dee Snider – Dee Does Broadway
(2012, Razor & Tie)

1. “Cabaret”
2. “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”
3. “Big Spender”
4. “Mack the Knife”
5. “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”
6. “Music of the Night”
7. “The Joint Is Jumpin'”
8. “Luck Be a Lady Tonight”
9. “I Get a Kick Out of You”
10. “There Is Nothin’ Like a Dame”
11. “Razzle Dazzle”
12. “Tonight/Somewhere”

Musicians:
Dee Snider – Vocals
Bob Kulick – Guitar
Rudy Sarzo – Bass
Brett Chassen – Drums, Backing Vocals
Doug Katsaros – Keyboard, Piano, Backing Bocals
Clay Aiken – Vocals (“Luck Be A Lady Tonight”)
Cyndi Lauper – Vocals (“Big Spender”)
Bebe Neuwirth – Vocals (“Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”)
Patti Lupone – Vocals (“Tonight/Somewhere”)
Jesse Blaze Snider – Vocals (“The Joint Is Jumpin'”)

Producer: Dee Snider, Bob Kulick & Brett Chassen

So the lead singer of Twisted Sister and writer/director of the horror movie Strangeland wants to do a rocked-out Broadway album? It actually doesn’t sound so out of place. Dee takes chances (A Twisted Christmas and the Halloween of equivalent of Trans-Siberian Orchestra– Van Helsing’s Curse) and it seems to work more often than not and Dee Does Broadway works. I could also see Alice Cooper doing something like that and making it work as well.

After all, Dee has always had a flair for the theatrics. That’s exactly what Twisted Sister was built upon. And it’s not like these Broadway numbers are played straight. They are given a heavy metal makeover and it all works incredibly well. “Whatever Lola Wants” sounds downright sinister with a heavy metal sheen added to it.

Snider’s voice still holds up too and he’s not doing some cheap lounge lizard act here. Definitely one of the best rock/metal vocalists of all-time. Much like Kevin DuBrow, I’ve always felt his voice was bigger & better than the band he’s famous for.

Dee’s duet with Cyndi Lauper on “Big Spender” is my favorite track here but there’s plenty of other worthy tracks. One of the most pleasantly surprising tracks of Dee’s duet with Clay Aiken on “Luck Be A Lady Tonight”. You figure if any song is gonna play it safe and traditional, it’ll be the Clay Aiken song. And it starts out that way. Then it turns into a blistering heavy metal track with Dee Snider sounding absolutely venomous and sharing some heavy metal screaming with Clay (who actually does a decent job!).

Dee Does Broadway is a really fun album that finds a middle ground between metal and musicals. Worth seeking out if that sounds like your type of thing.

Highlights: “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”, “Big Spender”, “Mack the Knife”, “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets)”, “Luck Be A Lady Tonight”, “Tonight/Somewhere”

www.deesnider.com/
www.facebook.com/facedeesnider
Buy the album on Amazon.com

Monster Madness

Various Artists – Monster Madness (2000, Razor & Tie Music)

1. “Dr. Feelgood” – Motley Crue – 4:51
2. “Unskinny Bop” – Poison – 3:48
3. “I Remember You” – Skid Row – 5:15
4. “Kiss Me Deadly” – Lita Ford – 4:01
5. “I Wanna Rock” – Twisted Sister – 3:04
6. “Silent Lucidity” – Queensryche – 5:49
7. “Epic” – Faith No More – 4:54
8. “Up All Night” – Slaughter – 3:47
10. “Don’t Treat Me Bad” – FireHouse – 3:58
11. “Hole Hearted” – Extreme – 3:40
12. “Bang Your Head (Metal Health)” – Quiet Riot – 5:20
13. “In My Dreams” – Dokken – 4:21
14. “Wait” – White Lion – 4:03
15. “Easy Come, Easy Go” – Winger – 4:03
16. “I Saw Red” – Warrant – 3:50
17. “I’ll See You in My Dreams” – Giant – 4:45

Following Razor & Tie’s success with Monsters of Rock and Monster Ballads, here comes Monster Madness! Monster Madness is essentially Monsters of Rock 3 (Monsters of Rock 2 was released a few months before this album) and is certainly superior to MOR 2 (which was already scraping the bottom of the barrel) and is just as good as the original MOR album in my opinion.

I mean, just look at the songs here. “Dr. Feelgood”, “Unskinny Bop”, “I Remember You”, “I Wanna Rock”, “Wait”, “Bang Your Head”, “Hole Hearted”, “Don’t Treat Me Bad”… It’s a hair metal dream! Even the odd inclusion of Queensryche and Faith No More is welcomed because those are killer songs.

The album takes me back to my youth. No, not the ’80s but the year 2000 when I bought this album and my girlfriend at the time loved it because it had Lita Ford’s “Kiss Me Deadly” on it. I still remember her getting all excited when she heard it for the first time in years.

Just a great “feelgood” album filled with major acts and songs.

MONSTERS OF ROCK

Various Artists – Monsters of Rock (1998, Razor & Tie)

Track Listing:
1. “Cum on Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot … 4:51
2. “Once Bitten Twice Shy” – Great White … 5:22
3. “Poison” – Alice Cooper … 4:30
4. “The Final Countdown” – Europe … 5:11
5. “Round and Round” – Ratt … 4:24
6. “Cherry Pie” – Warrant … 3:20
7. “Here I Go Again” – Whitesnake … 4:35
8. “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” – Poison … 4:20
9. “Seventeen” – Winger … 4:05
10. “Cult of Personality” – Living Colour … 4:54
11. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” – Twisted Sister … 3:39
12. “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” – Judas Priest … 5:08
13. “Nobody’s Fool” – Cinderella … 4:48
14. “Hold on Loosely” – .38 Special … 4:37
15. “Turn up the Radio” – Autograph … 4:34
16. “Sister Christian” – Night Ranger … 4:56

Ahh… The hair metal compilation that gave rise to all the rest of the imitators and countless sequels from Razor & Tie.

Razor & Tie initially pushed many of their compilations (love songs, country, 80s, etc.) through their 800 number. I remember many of these ads over on cable stations like TBS and WGN. I *think* there was even a 2-disc version of Monsters of Rock that was only available by ordering over the phone.

Anyway, tons of classics here, though I would argue the inclusion of .38 Special, Autograph, Night Ranger and Living Colour (I really hate “Cult of Personality” anyway). You can’t go wrong with these songs. Though I would eventually own all the albums that these songs were taken from, this was a great introduction for me to the genre when, up to that point, I had really only gotten heavy in GNR, Poison and Bon Jovi.

My fondest memory is playing this one constantly when my family moved from Virginia to Florida in June 1998. I had no friends and nowhere to go and this album received CONSTANT play in my room that summer. Also, Monsters of Rock gave me a great “I REMEMBER THAT SONG!” moment with Alice Cooper’s “Poison”. I had totally forgotten about that massive comeback hit for The Coop.

This album pretty much set the standard for pop metal comps and usually knockoff CDs basically just took this tracklisting and hit ‘shuffle’.

MONSTER BALLADS XMAS

Various Artists – Monster Ballads Xmas (2007, Razor & Tie Direct)

Track Listing:
1. “Jingle Bells” – Skid Row … 3:02
2. “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” – Winger … 4:06
3. “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” – Jani Lane … 3:35
4. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” – Twisted Sister (w/ Lita Ford) … 4:09
5. “White Christmas” – Queensryche … 2:28
6. “Run Rudolph Run” – L.A. Guns … 3:10
7. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” – FireHouse … 3:07
8. “Naughty Naughty Christmas” – Danger Danger … 4:56
9. “Blue Christmas” – Tom Keifer … 4:15
10. “Jingle Bell Rock” – Nelson … 2:52
11. “Silent Night” – Faster Pussycat … 4:13
12. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” – Dokken … 4:01
13. “Happy Holidays” – Enuff Z’Nuff … 4:23
14. “Winter Wonderland” – Stryper … 3:34
15. “Christmas Love” – Billy Idol … 3:57

Produced by: Michael Anderson & Beka Callaway

Another album in the long-running Monster series from Razor & Tie, this time with a Christmas theme, although calling it “Monster Ballads Xmas” doesn’t make much since because most of these songs are not ballads. Why not just “Monster Xmas“? Or get really old school with “Monsters of Rock Xmas“?

Anyway, I picked the year of it’s release at Target, of all places. It’s a decent release, though it pales in comparison to 2008’s excellent We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year from Armoury Records.

I don’t have to tell you that Faster Pussycat, as always with compilations and cover albums, sticks out like a sore thumb here with their more recent and improved industrial sound. Just an awful rendition of “Silent Night”. What is it with “Silent Night” getting so screwed up on these metal Xmas compilations? Queensryche does a pretty bad version of “White Christmas” as well. Geoff Tate’s voice sounds horrible here. Like someone trying to sound like Edguy’s Tobias Sammett but totally failing.

Dokken’s version of “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” is actually pretty funny to me because of the fact that it sounds EXACTLY like a Dokken song. They totally made it their own and you’d swear Don wrote the song himself.

Twisted Sister’s Jay Jay French, certainly inspired by the Christmas spirit after the success of A Twisted Christmas, executive produced.

Highlights: “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”, “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”, “Naught Naughty Christmas”, “Blue Christmas”, “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”, “Happy Holiday”

TWISTED SISTER – Stay Hungry

Twisted Sister – Stay Hungry (1984, Atlantic Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Stay Hungry” … 3:03
2. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” … 3:38
3. “Burn in Hell” … 4:53
4. “Horror-Teria (The Beginning):
    A) Captain Howdy
    B) Street Justice” … 7:45
5. “I Wanna Rock” … 3:06
6. “The Price” … 3:48
7. “Don’t Let Me Down” … 4:26
8. “The Beast” … 3:30
9. “S.M.F.” … 3:00

Band:
Dee Snider – Vocals
Eddie “Fingers” Ojeda – Guitar
Jay Jay French – Guitar
Mark “The Animal” Mendoza – Bass
A.J. Pero – Drums

Produced by: Tom Werman

Pretty famous album thanks to killer songs & massive hits and the PMRC hearings back in the 80s. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and the band were placed under scrutiny by Tipper Gore and Dee Snider himself stood tall at the senate hearings and defended rock ‘n’ roll!

The album features two of 80s metal’s biggest hits, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and “I Wanna Rock”. Personally, I’m burned out on “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, it still gets tons of airplay on the radio, on VH1 Classic for the music video and appears in many movies, TV shows and commercials to this day. “I Wanna Rock”, though, is a song I never tired of. “The Price

“Burn in Hell” is another strongpoint for the album and who can forget Twisted Sister’s cameo in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure where Pee Wee interrupts them filming a music video for the song? Hilarious. “Horror-Teria” set the stage and was the inspiration for Dee’s 1998 horror film Strangeland.

Definitely an essential 80s metal album and Dee Snider has one of the greatest voices of all time in rock.

Highlights: “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, “Burn In Hell”, “Horror-Teria (The Beginning)…”, “I Wanna Rock”, “The Price”, “Don’t Let Me Down”

www.twistedsister.com
www.myspace.com/twistedsister

Twisted Sister + Alice Cooper + zombies = AWESOME!

YOUTH GONE WILD: Heavy Metal Hits of the 80’s, Volume 1

YOUTH GONE WILD: HEAVY METAL HITS OF THE 80’S, VOLUME 1 (1996, Rhino Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Rock You Like a Hurricane” – Scorpions (4:12)
2. “Talk Dirty to Me” – Poison (3:45)
3. “The Last in Line” – Dio (5:47)
4. “Lay It Down” – Ratt (3:27)
5. “Never Enough” – L.A. Guns (4:14)
6. “Parental Guidance” – Judas Priest (3:26)
7. “Blind in Texas” – W.A.S.P. (4:22)
8. “Ace of Spades” – Motorhead (2:49)
9. “Balls to the Wall” – Accept (5:43)
10. “Street of Dreams” – Rainbow (4:28)
11. “Screaming in the Night” – Krokus (6:40)
12. “Summertime Girls [Studio Version]” – Y&T (3:28)
13. “We’re Not Gonna Take It” -Twisted Sister (3:40)
14. “Cum on Feel the Noize” – Quiet Riot (4:50)

Rhino was ahead of the curve by a few years when they started releasing 80s metal compilations as the hair metal renaissance really didn’t start picking up until around ’98 and ’99 with the arrival of sites like Metal Sludge, VH1 Behind the Music specials on bands like Poison & Def Leppard, and the countless hair band reunion and summer tours that sprung up.  The first three volumes of this series were all released on the same day and there was a fourth volume released in ’98 (don’t worry, I’ll be getting to all of them).

Of all the YGW releases, this is the most star-studded, with Krokus and Y&T being the only lesser-known bands (but any fan of the genre knows who those bands are). There are some glaring omissions from the whole series (Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Guns N Roses, Def Leppard, Alice Cooper, etc.), but I’ll just assume they probably couldn’t afford to license any of those songs because with the exception of Cinderella, most of those acts remained big names even as the 90s rolled on.

Every song here is a classic with the exception of Priest’s “Parental Guidance”, which enters the Cheese Zone somewhat. There’s so many better Priest songs they could’ve chosen to represent them outside of the standard Priest “classics” (I’m assuming they were trying to avoid the obvious inclusions like “You Got Another Thing Comin'” and “Breaking the Law”).

This is the best volume of the series and probably one of the better 80s metal compilations you’re going to find as virtually every band is represented by their signature song. Even if you already own the albums these songs originally appeared on, this compilation makes for a great “mix” CD to go cruising around with.

Highlights: The whole freakin’ album. Even the weakest song (“Parental Guidance”) has some charm to it, as long as you take it in the context of “it was the 80s”. Bonafide classic tracks here.

Lowlights: None. A near perfect compilation.

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