Archive for the ‘First Impressions Articles’ Category

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 79: King Diamond – Abigail

Hello. Welcome. I’ll skip the preamble, you know it by now. Nerd. Not a real review. Classic album I’ve not heard before. Listening in real time. Sound familiar? Good. Lets roll… This entry finds me listening to Danish Metal icon King Diamond’s 1987 concept album Abigail for the first time.

[Side Note: Before we start, I noticed today that I had a huge spike in web traffic from Finland… any idea why? The only reason I could imagine is if a Stratovarius or Children Of Bodom article of mine got shared or something? …any ideas?]

Anyway; I don’t know that much about King Diamond. I’ve not heard a full song, only the segment in the movie Clerks 2.


– not exactly a good advertisement for the band, ey?

I also know he likes concept albums, the occult, has Kiss-esque make up, had Motorhead’s Mickey Dee as a drummer, and that he was in Mercyful Fate… who I have one album from (check out my First Impression of that here… the appropriately spooky 13th article in the series which was absolutely intentional…cough cough… shifty eyes…) and hey, isn’t it almost Halloween…sure, that’s why I did this article now…and not just because I saw a shiny boxset for a low price.

Anyway, I like ‘80s Metal, but King Diamond’s voice on that album was ludicrous and offputting on first impression (I got used to it more over time, and like the album about a medium amount now… but that’s mostly the music not the vocals) so this will be interesting… I have no idea if I can stick him in his solo career. I don’t find much interest in the occult, and you can’t hear make up, but I do like Mickey Dee and concept albums. This could go either way.

Lets find out…

[Play]

‘Funeral’ starts out with some spooky music somewhere between Cradle Of Filth and Doctor Who…with a silly voice modulated funeral prayer that sounds quite sci-fi and very artificial keyboard noises doing a film score in the background. Its an intro rather than a full song.

‘Arrival’ bounds on next though, with a sort of Rhime Of The Ancient Mariner swagger and a nice spacey clear production job. There’s some more very artificial keyboards but a very sturdy Heavy Metal backing. The vocals sound like Venom’s Chronos at first then turn into the very silly King Diamond I know from Mercyful Fate, and at times there’s a slight Mille Petrozza sound. He does a lot of different vocal styles and is very operatic. He reminds me of Hell and Cradle Of Filth in that way.

The music itself is a lot tighter, crunchy and satisfying than I’d expected. Its Heavier than Accept, but not as Heavy as Slayer… a very satisfying level for the ‘80s. It is also quite adventourous and proggy in terms of structure and musical show-offery. Its like Images And Words era Dream Theater covering Black Metal era Venom. Thrashy at times but not enough to be Thrash, but still meatier than most NWOBHM. Lots of guitar solos. I’m warming to this.

‘A Mansion In Darkness’ comes in sounding like German Power Metal, with that sort of Helloween drum confidence and some nice melodic lead guitar. Its showier and more eccentric than most Helloween saving the Keeper’ title-track though. Cradle Of Filth keep coming to mind, I guess this must’ve been a big influence on them maybe? I like how it keeps altering between fast and slow and the guitars do neoclassical for a bit but also dirty noisy too, and are melodic without being twee. Yup, satisfying. I’m getting a lot more out’ve this than I did from Mercyful Fate. I wonder would I like Rob Zombie more than White Zombie?

There’s a bit in the middle that reminds me of Mountain King era Savatage, a very good thing to remind me of. The solo at the end reminds me a bit of Yngwie but then it ends abruptly as the song closes.

‘The Family Ghost’ (excellent title!) comes next. Its got a great intro, then goes into the same sort of sturdy bounce as the slower bits from the past two songs. You know who it reminds me most of though? Hammerfall! Swap out the vocals and you can imagine Joacim singing about dragons and glory quite easily. To be honest this is what I expected when I bought Helstar. This is great, then halfway through it just goes ‘screw you, its Judas Priest time!’ and just erupts into some classic speed metal. Its pretty damn great. After the solo it also randomly throws in a funky groove metal riff before going off in an awkward prog direction clearly only there to fit all the lyrics in, then back to the bounce. I like this tune. King’s high vocals are the hardest thing to take seriously but they do suit it after a fashion.

Next comes ‘The 7th Day of July 1777’ which is one thousand years short of having all the sevens, but whatever, which opens with acoustic guitar that really would fit perfectly on the first two Hammerfall albums, then goes into some nice Thrash but in an awkward time sig. Its interesting. The drum fills are so slick, clean and confident, it really reminds me of Mickey Dee …if that makes any sense. I can’t articulate what I mean. I guess, I can see how he ended up in Motorhead doing what he does so well now. Then hey, Yngwie style solo again! This is a pretty damn delicious album, no wonder it has the reputation. I bet if they had a normal singer, they’d be gigantic. Imagine this, but with Bruce Dickinson? Wouldn’t that be successful. I guess the novelty factor of King draws in fans but I imagine it’s as much a barrier as it is a hook.

The drum breakdown is really satisfying. I’m saying satisfying a lot. I guess you can tell what I’m starting to feel about the album then.

‘Omens’ kicks in with an excellent riff that could be either Pantera or Skid Row. It’s the jauntiest moment on the record so far. Makes me want to dance, almost. The song goes off in an unexpect direction afterward though. The keyboards in the background sound a little sci-fi. If this song was about aliens and not hauntings, you could really picture it. It too has a bit of a Savatage feel at times, sort’ve. The guitar solos are nice. Then hey, it goes into a key break that feels very out’ve place, but is excellent. You know what, the complex structures and jarring transitions are a bit much on first listen, but every section of music is excellent, and I’m betting when you’ve heard it a few more times and know the material better the changes seem more natural. Images And Words was an interesting point to bring up because that’s what I’m picking up for everything after the keyboard break.

‘The Possession’ is next and it sounds like the three recent Accept albums. Hey didn’t I mention them earlier too….what is the supernatural aspect here changing history to alter the recording based on my whims or something? Wow… great drums… I love when drummers…excuse the phrase…tickle the bell. You know, when they throw in a quick series on strikes to the bell of the ride cymbal when otherwise the drum hand movements ought to be slow?

This song is badass! One of the best so far. Then in the middle it just turns into ‘Lie’ by Dream Theater. This album is really different than what I was expecting. But it is really enjoyable and impressive. I’m glad it is what it is and not what I thought it would be.

[Also, side note, the snare drum sound reminds me both of Powerslave and Countdown to Extinction… don’t have the knowledge to guess why? Wooden drums or something?]

‘Abigail’ is a bit different than everything before. Less chuggy, more clean, more high pitched. Still NWOBHMy but with a shimmer. It sounds a bit eastern at times…a bit Stargazer. The ending which goes extra synthy is pretty interesting. You get overwhelmed by keys like maybe it represents something in the story?

‘Black Horseman’ opens like a Rush ballad. I wonder what will happen next? Oh, no, it went a bit sinister like a Cradle Of Filth intro. Oh, no. Now it’s a bit like Crystal Ann by Annhilator with Spanish guitar. Its vocals are like a horror version of Fish era Marillion for a while. This is very very different than everything else so far. Even when it goes electric it sounds like a different band. It reminds me a little of Mother Russia by Iron Maiden. Its also so much brighter than the rest of the songs. It kind of feels like Annihilator’s Never Neverland too, especially the little shimmery arpeggio. This song is pretty grand, epic if you will. It sounds like an album closer. The solos are great, more Ozzy Osbourne than Yngwie Malmsteen. It even has more bell tickling! This is a very good song indeed.

Well well, that was a bloody good album, now wasn’t it. Good stuff. On my way home from the shop yesterday I felt a bit foolish and hoped I hadn’t wasted my money, but if the rest of the 5 album set is up to a similar standard it is money well spent for sure. King Diamond… he’s ok in my book. (Or blog, as the case may be).

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 78: Yngwie J. Malmsteen – Trilogy

I think my usual long intro for these articles is too long so I’ve condensed it from here-on to this simpler version:

Forward 1: This is not a review, but a stream of consciousness written as I hear something for the first time. It’ll be subjective, personal opinions and un-researched speculation. The tone goes for fun rather than informative.

Forward 2: If you wonder what I’m talking about you can stream anything I reference on websites like Spotify nowadays and read about anything I reference on databases like Wikipedia.

Forward 3: Everyone is a nerd about something. Maybe its Heavy Metal, maybe its football, maybe its beauty products and grooming tips but we all get our nerditidy from somewhere, whether or not society currently thinks its nerdy or not right now.

So; today I find myself listening to the third studio album by Yngwie J. Malmsteen, a nine-track record from 1986 entitled “Trilogy” with very Targarian looking album art and featuring in the line-up not only the titular Swede but also the very talented Jens Johansson who later went on to join Stratovarius to awesome results.

I have no idea what to expect… I have heard the name Yngwie Malmsteen bandied-about before (was he the guy who said “you have unleashed the fucking fury” on an airplane??) by people citing great guitar players, and I half-remember that he helped popularize the neoclassical guitar style in Heavy Metal (alongside of course Ritchie Blackmore and the late Randy Rhodes) but other than that I’m a blank slate.

Is it instrumental? Is it heavy? Is it Rock or Metal? …I have no idea. Let’s find out together…

[Play]

“You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget” energetically bursts the record open, with bright shiny ’80s keyboards and some chugging NWOBHM-esque guitar stabs. Seconds later and it sounds like I’m listening to Dio’s classic Holy Diver album. Hey…speaking of which, the vocals (ah, so there ARE vocals?) come in and what’s this? The guy sounds massively like Ronnie himself! Is that Ronnie?

Hmmm… a quick sly look on Wikipedia reveals its someone called Mark Boals…. My oh my, I feel like I did when I heard Eric Adam’s name for the first time.

Oh hey! A guitar solo kicks in… hmmm that IS a nice guitar solo… and I’m a sucker for a good guitar solo…oh and hey before the end there’s plenty more guitar soloing.

Then Foghat’s ‘Coming On Down The Line’ plays because I forgot to unselect ‘shuffle’ in my iTunes. Its got a nice boogie, I have to admit, but its not strictly relevant so I’m going to have to stop listening to it and get back to the matter at hand.

Next comes ‘Liar’ which opens up with one of those great gallop parts like ‘Aces High’ by Iron Maiden or ‘The Needle Lies’ by Queensryche. When the vocals come in there’s a sort of feel like Rainbow’s ‘Stargazer’ (oh Hey… DIDN’T DIO SING ON THAT?) but with a nice NWOBHM-y chug underneath. This song is right up my alley. Then hey, when he says the word ‘Liar’ the song jumps a bit into a syrupy Power Metal mould for just a second and the whole mixture together is intoxicatingly perfect. I imagine this album was probably an influence to some of the early Power Metal pioneers for sure. Wow… its like listening to Tygers Of Pan Tang’s ‘Gangland’ along with ‘The Needle Lies’ and ‘Stargazer’ at the same time, and then at the break when all the neoclassical guitar heroics break in its like a big slice of Stratovarius pie as well! Then when the actual guitar solo follows it sounds so fresh and unique and unlike anybody else that I feel all nice and warm inside.

The next song comes on and its is pure shimmering 80s Dio. Are we sure iTunes didn’t shuffle again and actually stick on Sacred Heart? Nope? OK. This one is called ‘The Queen Is In Love’ and its amazing. I feel like I’ve heard it before. It sounds like it would’ve been on Grand Theft Auto Vice City.

Guitarwise, I think Yngwie is even further down the neoclassical spiral than Randy or Ritchie are. A lot further. Its cool that its on such a nice ’80s Metal record though. I thought it might’ve just been pagganini lines on an electric guitar but not actual songs and not heavy or catchy on the rhythm section. I like how they throw in double-kicks for the last verse of the song, I always like when a song will do that.

‘Crying’ comes next and really reminds me of Dream Theater ballads for some reason. Will it be a ballad? There’s some nice clean guitar. It’s a bit softer. The keys remind me of Hammerfall album closers, especially ‘Glory To The Brave.’

Two minutes in and still no vocals. Not a ballad per sae but rather a slightly softer instrumental. Not brushes-instead of drumsticks levels of soft though. It sounds like the music in a movie’s credits. Vague as that could be literally anything… but its what the song makes me visualize.

Then next he unleashes the fucking fury so to speak, in as much as the next song is called ‘Fury.’ It starts off with a nice ‘The Needle Lies’ sort of drumbeat… but the music sounds a bit more like Iron Maiden’s ‘Invaders’ than ‘Aces High’ if you need a Maiden reference point (because of course you do, right?). The keyboards dampen the heaviness a bit, and the vocals, though still Dio-esque are a little less biting so it feels like a laid back kind of heaviness. Then the guitars and keyboards dual in the way great Power Metal often does and it is delicious. I like this drummer, wonder who he is?

Hey hey, wait up… the drummer is Anders Johansson out’ve Hammerfall? Well I’ll be a son of a paladin! I had no idea. That is a nice bit of business. Hey, this record has members of Stratovaris and Hammerfall on it? If I’d known that I’d probably have tried it out quicker!

Next up is ‘Fire’ which is very much the kind of song that is the most-commercial song on a Dio album. It REALLY sounds like the 80s due to the keyboard sound… it feels like it’d be in the soundtrack to an 80s movie and by extension sounds hugely like GTA Vice City again. I can imagine competing against the rich preppy kids as a poor but determined underdog in a Ski Tournament in a montage to this song. Side note: A lot of these songs just fade out and don’t have a specific ending.

‘Magic Mirror’ follows. I’m getting more Dio, it’s a mix between the Speed Metal ones and the commercial ones. It doesn’t have the Maiden/Queensryche thing of the other two I mentioned. Its Still pretty Dio sounding though. And yes, after a period there’s a nice fat slice o’ neoclassical. The guitar solo in this one is wonderful, if brief, sort of that Black Label Society paradox where the band famous for guitar would be expected to really have mostly guitar solos but it isn’t the case. Nice song though, catchy, fun, easily digestible but Metallic enough to satisfy that urge as well. Its like a halfway point between Cacophony’s Speed Metal Synmphony and Ozzy’s first four solo albums.

Next up is ‘Dark Ages’ and it’s slower. I don’t know if its going the ‘epic’ route or the doomy route. I think it might be a bit like ‘Egypt (The Chains Are On)’ where it’s the ‘epic’ route without the bells and whistles, and only a regular length. A similar example would be Exodus’ ‘Like Father, Like Son’ which you imagine lasts ten minutes but it really doesn’t… or a modern example would be Trivium’s ‘And Sadness Will Sear.’
Its not an especially memorable song, but towards the end, when the song starts fading out, there’s a really nice guitar part that is pretty entertaining.

The album closes with ‘Trilogy Suite Op 5’ which has an unwieldy title but a nice guitar intro that actually reminds me of the aforementioned Speed Metal Symphony, up until the drums kick in with a sort of shuffle that reminds me more of Saxon’s ‘A Little Bit Of What You Fancy’ and ‘This Town Rocks.’ This song seems to be 7 minutes of solid guitar solos (and instrumental, and much more neoclassical focused) and in that respect is exactly what I expected from the album (I never figured all that Dio stuff would be on it, but lots of guitar solos is exactly what I predicted).

Side note, the drums are excellent, all the fills and little touches with the ride’s bell are right up my street. Oh wait, what’s this… it goes the ‘2112’ route and stops the rock in the middle for some quiet acoustic guitar! Its remarkably well done. At 2.51 it comes back to rock and boy what a fun riff! Nice and bouncy! At this point its not too dissimilar from Michael Schenker Group at times but then there’s also great heavy guitar that’d be happier with Dave Mustaine than Mr. Schenker, but again the keys dampen it so you wouldn’t notice if you weren’t looking.

I really like this last song. Heck, I like the album rather a lot… Its like if the Europe song ‘Ninja’ was a whole album… but that album wasn’t The Final Countdown.

No… I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore… I’m going to bed.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 77: Bad Brains – Bad Brains

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average fisherman’s knowledge of lures and lines. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Fishing. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the self-titled debut album Bad Brains, by the US Hardcore Punk band Bad Brains. Its been almost a year since I last wrote about my discover-Hardcore-Punk plan spurred by watching the excellent documentary American Hardcore and finding the lyrics to D.O.A’s ‘Fucked Up Ronnie’ so enjoyable that I needed to find out more (which if I recall correctly was written about 2 years after seeing the actual documentary, actually, but hey, that’s how my brain rolls). You can read that here.

Overall; I’ve had a mixed relationship with Punk. I found Punk tempting since first seeing a red mowhak as a kid and wanting one. One of the first bands I ever owned more than one album by was Green Day. I then went away from Punk ideas towards more Metal ideas (with Biohazard happily slipping under the Metal-Curtain though). Since starting this blog I’ve weakened my defenses, helped along the way by bands like Gallows, Sick Of It All , Madball and Life Of Agony, my Punk fears were slowly lessened.

Then Grunge helped me a little. Sure I didn’t actually fall in love with Minor Threat last summer but it was a stepping sto-o-oooone. Most recently I’ve picked up a bunch of stuff by all the bands I wanted to buy as a tween like Rancid, The Offspring, NoFX, The Distillers. That stuff’s sunshine fun fits in with my Fu Manchu’s California Crossing love and provides not only a new way into Hardcore but also some more context. I’ve got the Metallic NYHC context, I’ve got the Grunge context, but I’ve also got the 90’s Pop Punk context too now. My brain likes music in context. Hell, I didn’t even like Motorhead til I’d first gotten into Judas Priest.

Anyway, what do I know about Bad Brains? Well, every Thrash band seemed to love them. Every Metalcore band seems to love them. T Shirts with this album’s artwork on it seem as popular as ones with Venom’s Black Metal artwork on it. I know they did reggae too and it inspired Soulfly in some way. I know they have a song called ‘Pay To Cum’ because I remember it being prominent in the aforementioned American Hardcore documentary. Admittedly, I can’t remember the song. Maybe that’s not a good start? I don’t know. I’ll give it a chance….

[Play]

Four Sticks Count-in. Then it kicks in. Its buzzy, my brain can’t focus. Is this going to be like Venom’s Black Metal where I have to ‘squint’ with my ears to hear it?

No. OK. the chorus comes in. Very melodic. This song is quite good. It is fast, punchy, energetic and exciting. Oh… nice guitar solo. Like, not ‘nice for Punk’ but actually nice. Then that chorus, yeah, that’s a good chorus, its got a shambolic charm. The ending of the song has a strangely peacful and serene sound that reminds me of the beach.

The next song kicks in, its pure power, noise and thrashing. It sounds like a mixture between Sodom and Minor Threat to my limited ears. Especially when the floor toms kick in. That reminds me of my favourite parts of Minor Threat. The buzzsaw guitar tone reminds me of Sodom’s first two albums.

Also I just noticed its the next song. The transition was subtle, felt like one song, not two.

The net song, ‘The Regulator’ starts up. Its clear that Gallows must like this one. Its got a menacing quality, it feels foreboding, like if it was used in a movie, it would be on in the scene just before it all goes wrong. It doesn’t sound anything like Clutch’s ‘The Regulator,’ though, that’s for damn sure. Ps. How good is Clutch’s ‘The Regulator’ !?

Then Slayer’s Alter Of Sacrifice starts. Oh wait no, its the famous ‘Banned In DC.’ Wow, so Slayer ripped that intro off pretty majorly eh? See this is why I love the whole discovery aspect of music. Its cool to learn. Side note, I like the clean singing parts, the vocals sound like no one else in my record collection, and wow, what an awesome guitar solo! That’s a pretty decent song right there!

Next comes some reggae, presumably an intro and the Punk will explode?
…..
….


…um. Nope. Its just a full real instrumental reggae song. Oh, wow. I didn’t know they did this on their first album. I thought it was something that happened later in their career. Ok, its not my cup of tea but I can appreciate it must’ve been pretty damn innovative at the time.

The next song comes in, ‘Supertouch/Shitfit.’ It is exactly what I expect Hardcore Punk to sound like. If you took this, D.O.A’s ‘Fucked Up Ronnie’ and Minor Threat’s ‘Out Of Step’ then you’d have my view of what Hardcore Punk is. There’s a cool hanging bit in the middle of the two bits that has a Black Sabbath sort of a feel. Oh, it comes back, with a nice guitar solo. Then it does a Motorhead’s Overkill and refuses to end.

Up next comes ‘Leaving Babylon’ which is just an actual, real, full, 3 minute reggae song. Not what I expected when I pressed play. I thought maybe this came in the 90s when they had an artistic shift (ie. like Metallica and Load. I don’t expect a ‘Momma Said’ on Kill ‘Em All neccesarily). I don’t know anything about reggae to know if its good, but its not making me switch it off, so that’s a good sign. I’ve got to admit, I don’t much love this area of music, when The Libertines or any one of their spin off bands go a bit in that direction, its always my least favourite song of theirs, but at the same time its not that I dislike it, just that its not Rock/Metal music like I really like.

The next song ‘Fearless Vampire Kills’ is basically like any song off that Minor Threat cd. In the style I now expect, but not necessarily super fun or memorable.

Ho ho hold up. What’s this… on ‘I’ it plays a bassline I’d swear to goodness I know already. Somebody’s ripped that off too. . Oh, this is driving me crazy. Anthrax, Overkill, Metallica, Slayer or someone like that completely copy this. This is driving me up the wall, I wish I could remember who it is that ripped this off so much. Its like when I first heard Saxon’s ‘Stand Up And Be Counted’ and couldn’t remember that it was the same riff as Motorhead’s ‘No Class.’ (Which are both just ZZ Top’s ‘Tush’ anyway…but I hadn’t heard that yet at the time)

Also, btw, the ending is soooooo Metallica. Like they do that sort of ending all the time. ‘Phantom Lord’ is a good example.

‘Big Take Over’ follows. Its more mid paced. It has a cool mid section where it feels like the music changes direction it does one part that feels ‘forwards’ and follows it with another art which feels ‘backward’ creating a whiplash effect. Its quite charming. The guitar solo is mixed waaaay too loud.

Next up is ‘Pay To Cum.’ I recognize it now from the documentary now. It was in my memory, just not easily accessible. Vulgar title for sure. Weird mumbly production. The drum beats during transitions are very Dave Lombardo even if the main thing is very punky. But the bit of that alternating quickly between cymbals and snare is a very Lombardo, the du-ba-do-ba-dodo thing.

‘Right Brigade’ is next. At first it doesn’t seem very special, but in the middle its got what I think Anthrax would call a Mosh Part, just before the guitar solo. It goes midpaced and menacing. That lasts all the way up to the ending.
It then ends with a 6 minute reggae song called ‘I love Jah’ which feels like a mix between the previous two, with the vocals and busier drumming of the second, and the slide guitar and echoey effects of the first one. As good a way to end the album as any I suppose. Probably really good cool-down music after the speed and Punky energy.

Well, I liked that album, and I can see a lot of how it applies to Thrash and Pop Punk. Its quite a nice gap filler in my musical knowledge. Will I like it in its own right or only as a learning experience? Time will tell. For now, I feel satisfied.

Oh well, now to go and listen to every Thrash song I own trying to figure out who ripped off ‘I.’

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average fisherman’s knowledge of lures and lines. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Fishing. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the compilation album Complete Discography, by the US Hardcore Punk band Minor Threat. It collects all their officially released studio material, including the highly influential Out Of Step. I got it for my birthday, just like the Manowar albums I mentioned in the last First Impressions article, but I’ve been saving it until now because I’ve been portioning out my gifts because I didn’t want to “lose” albums in the herd. I’ve learned my lesson. Every Christmas or birthday something loses. In 2009 Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier lost for example, and I still never feel like I listened to it enough, so this time… I’m spreading out the gifts so they all get their own brain-space.

Heck, when I got back to the city after my awesome holiday, my flatmates had gotten me four CDs for my Birthday, (what great guys, and what a prosperous Birthday this year!), which upon consideration I have decided that I am now locking out. The new Judas Priest album for example is banned until the start of next month and the rest are banned to the start of the next month… that way all this awesome stuff can all be appreciated, and none of it “lost” in the herd. Also, it will help me not buy new things if I know these new things are coming.

Now; I usually talk about the subgenre before talking about the band and the album in these articles. The genre of this one is Hardcore Punk, as I mentioned above. What do I know about Hardcore Punk?

Well; apart from groovy, Metallic, 90s NYHC, not much to be honest. All my Hardcore knowledge is pretty second hand, or Metal-informed. My history with Hardcore is pretty much that I got into Biohazard in 2001, and have loved them ever since (well, in waves, it waned for a while and came back strong in 2006 and never went away). I saw Sick Of It All’s “Scratch The Surface” on MTV2 around the same time (and later “District” too) and loved it, but didn’t get around to buying an album until last year , as part of this series. This was shortly after becoming a
Madball fan
, which I got the idea for when Jamie Jasta of Hatebreed (who I’d liked since 2001, but properly fell in love with in 2009 following my 2008 acquisition of their Live Dominance DVD causing a building love for them that exploded the following year upon the released of their suberb 2009 Self Titled album) listed his favourite albums in a magazine, including Madball’s Set It Off, and I got curious.

In that same year, I also got into Life Of Agony, who are in that world but are rather unique, and bought a Vision Of Disorder record (well, a two-in-one set of the first two V.O.D albums), and that band are within that world, but are a lot more ragged, unhinged , noisy and high pitched. Oh yeah, and Downset, who were sorta half in that world and half considered Nu Metal. In the same way Hatebreed are more in the Metalcore scene than the Punk scene.

This was all about two years or so after I’d watched the excellent documentary American Hardcore and learned all about the American Hardcore of the ’80s… the kind of stuff like Bad Brains and Black Flag and Dead Kennedys and indeed, Minor Threat. The kind of stuff Slayer covered on their Undisputed Attitude album. Since that time I’ve been really in love with the song “Fucked Up Ronnie” by the Canadian band D.O.A, which I bought individually off iTunes, but I haven’t gotten around to hearing a full album by the band yet. I also got gifted an autobiography of their singer Joey Shithead last Christmas and it was excellent. Really made me want to get into the band… which I probably will eventually. Anyway, that one song is probably my only comparable thing to Minor Threat in my whole iTunes… unless you count S.O.D, or the Punky joke tracks on any given Nuclear Assault album… but that’s really Crossover Thrash if we’re splitting hairs.

Speaking of which, after the band gave it away for free online, I also did a First Impressions in the early days about the Crossover Thrash band Cro-Mags’s debut album, The Age Of Quarrel but its not something I listen to a lot these days. I actually stuck it on out of the blue some time this week, and it was OK, but I didn’t fall in love with it or anything.

Then of course there is Gallows’ Grey Britain, which I guess is technically Hardcore, but comparing it to this ’80s American Hardcore is like comparing Tool’s 10,000 Days to Iron Maiden’s debut album. Sure, they’re technically both Heavy Metal according to some people, but lots of people will get pernickety about that, and also they sound a million miles apart because one is raw and true and the other is adventurous and genius but also way-out-of-basics so people can argue the genre.

AAAAAAANYway.

This is about Minor Threat. All I know about the band is that they are in part responsible for the straight edge scene… which I more and more can understand these days, seeing as I dislike drinking, don’t smoke, and have no interest in drugs at all. Sounds like a good enough scene to be apart of if you are so inclined. I’ve also seen straight edge people extending that idea into things like fitness and vegetarianism and the like… and my current headspace is all about fitness, and I’m also experimenting with meat reduction. Anyway…. That’s all a side-note. I’m not going to tattoo two “x”s on my hands anytime soon, don’t worry.

What else do I know? Their singer is called Ian McKaye and he is also the founder of Fugazi, who I haven’t heard, despite their massive fame and importance to my musical world. I also know Minor Threat have a song called “Guilty Of Being White” which isn’t as racist as it sounds, although it sounds even worse when Slayer cover it and then say “guilty of being right” and come across as a bit Neo Nazi for doing-so and make us all feel pretty uncomfortable. I guess that racial issues can spoil anything. Maybe that’s why Dead Kennedy’s wrote a song called “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” because it must suck to like Punk and then be associated with Nazis. Just like enjoying Black Metal means you have to put up with NSBM and their Nazism. Nazis and music maybe shouldn’t team up. Nazi’s should at least team up with chocolate instead… so then losing weight would be easier.

Other than that? They’re a short-lived Hardcore Punk from the ’80s (in the D.C. scene) and lots of Metal bands like them. I’m hardly an expert as you can tell, and this is more or less a blind-purchase (although it’s a gift anyway) based on reputation and the fact that I might like it, and even if I dislike it, I’d enjoy the learning experience and associated blogging (Nerd, remember?).

So, without further ado, I’m going to crank this.

[Play]

The album starts off with a track that I recognize from the Slayer cover; “Filler.” Its only quick at 1:32, but that’s what you’d expect from a band at that time in this scene. I think a lot of Hardcore is quite short, and that’s probably how Napalm Death got to writing “You Suffer,” – an evolution of that idea, many steps down the evolutionary road.

The production of the rhythm section reminds me of early Overkill, the production of the guitar reminds me of The Sex Pistols. The relationship between the bass and the guitar reminds me of Motorhead. The shambly guitar playing and fluffed notes remind me of The Libertines b-sides like “Mayday” and “Skag & Bone Man.”

“I Don’t Wanna Hear It” – 1:13; This is quite bouncy, a bit more catchy than the previous song. It was also covered by Slayer. The music kind of reminds me vaguely of Overkill’s “Rotten To The Core.”

“Seeing Red” – 1:02; This song reminds me of Green Day’s heavier material, like “Geek Stink Breath” or “Take Back.” Again, that d-beat in this production reminds me of Feel The Fire era Overkill. It’s a lot more up my street than the Cro-Mags album, but I couldn’t actually explain why.

“Straight Edge” – 0:45; This is what the majority of my brain tells me Hardcore Punk sounds like. If I think of Hardcore Punk… my brain makes a mental picture that sounds like this. I could do a perception of a genre by one track series, and if I did, the track for Hardcore would be this one. (Prog would be “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis, Death Metal would be “Hammer Smashed Face” by Cannibal Corpse, etc.)

“Small Man, Big Mouth” – 0:55; Quite bouncy and fun. I like it when floor toms are used in this way.

“Screaming At A Wall” – 1:31; Nothing particularly new here. Its just another song in the same style as those before. Not a favourite of mine. The fast snare rolls are fun though. Oh, cancel that, I should have waited until the end before I said that, it gets quite different at the halfway point and has a slow middle-eight. It in fact does have an identity of its own. Fair dos, Minor Threat.

“Bottled Violence” – 0:53; This is short and energetic, but I can’t really talk about it in any other way. It reminds me of grasshoppers? This song was responsible for Henry Rollins painting his fence back in ’82? This is the Scottish National Anthem? I got nuthin….

“Minor Threat” – 1:27; This is a bit of a change of pace. It is more mid-paced, and has a lot more melody than everything else so far. Until it speeds up in the middle, but still, this is one of the more distinct tracks so far. It has more tuneful singing than you’d expect too. I can see how Punk got from Sex Pistols to this, to Descendants to Green Day, to My Chemical Romance. This is what I love about going back… I want to buy a Saxon album and inadvertently learn something new about Pantera. I want to go to the past and understand the present and even predict the future. I love the jigsaw aspect of all of this.

“Stand Up” – 0:53; Well, this is certainly a song in the Hardcore Punk style, other than that I can’t really comment. For some reason it is rather fun, sort of reminiscent of Metallica’s “Motorbreath” in some weird way.

“12XU (Wire Cover)” – 1:03; The band are experimenting with dynamics here, going between open chords, chugging, then cutting the guitar out. Well, I don’t know if Minor Threat or Wire are experimenting, I haven’t heard the original.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

“In My Eyes” – 2:49; This starts with a straight four-four Hard Rock beat and super messy bass fumbling and then purposely jumbles and ends and the real song begins… I can hear the Nirvana in that intro. Then its got a fun tom-build-up part. This is also a highlight so far for me.

“Out Of Step (With the World)” – 1:16; hmmm… it isn’t in my iTunes… I don’t know what happened here. Oh well, moving on…

“Guilty Of Being White” – 1:18; Ok, I mentioned this before. Musically, I can see why Slayer covered it, it is a quite fun song, lots of energy, and a bit of a hook to it. Just a shame about the lyric thing. Also I don’t like listening to it in this neighbourhood in case I look like some sort of BNP person. I’ll turn this one down and close my windows…

“Steppin’ Stone [Paul Revere And The Raiders Cover]” – 2:12; Ok. Back to full volume. A lot more variety here, reverb on the cleaner vocals, but then it is a cover. I can here Monster Magnet in this, in a way. I bet Dave Wyndorf likes it.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

“Betray” – 3:02; The production here is a lot better. There’s melody to the singing. This is the Out Of Step album’s opening track. It sounds a bit more professional, again I hear Motorhead in it in a way… mostly the high guitars over rumbly bass. Its quite a long track for this band as well! Hey, they even throw in a slow section just before the end.

“It Follows” – 1:50; Not quite as fun as “Fucked Up Ronnie” but it kind of reminds me of it. Also, I can now see why Green Day are pop Punk. Like, I can here the connection between this and something off Kerplunk or ‘Slappy Hours… or whatever.

“Think Again” – 2:18; Quite a different sound for the band, a more distinctive riff than the usual thrashing. A bit mid-paced. Quite soft in parts compared to the all out thrashing of the first few tracks.

[A quick break to go on a nice date with my lovely gal to The Handmade Burger Co, which incidentally is awesome! Go there if you can. Their spicy bean burgers are sublime! Be warned however, chips portions are so generous two people should never buy two separate portions, if they don’t want to burst!]

“Look Back and Laugh” – 3:16; This opens with a slightly Russian-sounding slow riff, that reminds me of Brent Hinds for some reason. Then it turns into a slow sunny punk song, that reminds me of people skateboarding on Venice Beach, LA, while eating Goodburger burgers and high-fiving Ronald Regan-themed cardboard cut-outs (my mind is a confused place).

It reminds me vaguely of that one Pennywise video where the guy skateboards around town and goes to a record store and paws a Black Flag vinyl but doesn’t buy it. Its quite varied and diverse and fully-realized. Its not just a quick blast of speed, its got dynamics and lots of different ideas.

“Sob Story” – 1:50 ; This song is halfway between the last one and a quick angry blast from earlier on the record. It’s got dynamics up to a point but is fairly straightforward.

“No Reason” – 1:57; Pretty much the same as the previous track but ever so slightly more aggressive, and the guitar solo segment is more melodic.

“Little Friend” – 2:18; I’m getting a bit exhausted with the formula now if I’m being perfectly honest. I haven’t stumbled across anything as noteworthy as “Fucked Up Ronnie” yet. This song is another slightly samey go around the Minor Threat wheel. The coolest thing is at the halfway point there is a slow part that feels like a “Mosh Part” as described by Scott Ian in any documentary about Thrash and Hardcore’s link.

“Out Of Step” – 1:20; This one is the one that helped spawn the Straightedge thing. (“I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, I don’t fuck, I gave up, I’m out of step with the world.”) Its ok I guess. I thought I’d identify with it more than I actually do. Its ok. It’s a bit more memorable than the last three or four tracks. I was expecting a giant anthem that I’d want to scream out embarrassingly loud and be too-into. Oh well.

“Cashing In” – 3:44; This one is probably the most musical and advanced track on the record so far. Its got lead guitar, recurring choruses, a messy prog bit and that leads into a rousing heavy metal section in the middle where he keeps saying “there’s no place like home” and they play a kind of NWOBHM part, and that’s the end. I don’t know if it is a send-up of Metal or not, I can’t really tell on initial listening. A lot of Punks hated Metal so its pretty likely, although cross-over happened too, so maybe it isn’t ill-natured. Hard to tell.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS, Volume 76: Minor Threat – Complete Discography

“Stumped” – 1:55; This is more advanced, this marks the start of the Salad Days EP, and it is a bit of a step-up in musicianship and production, but still more or less the same sort of thing. It starts off with a slow, pleasant bassline that could be Green Day or The Offspring. The chugging guitar slowly builds, then the song lilts into a soft gentle groove that reminds me of colourful pop-punk music videos from the ’90s. Rancid videos. The vocals are kind of half-assed and lazy, in an intentional punk way. The song dies, intentionally.

“Good Guys (Don’t Wear White) [The Standells Cover]” – 2:14; It reminds me of the 1950s. I don’t know the original, just like I don’t know the original bands that Poison (“Your Momma Don’t Dance”) or Motley Crue (“Smokin In The Boys Room”) cover (parenthesis, much?). Hmm… turns out they’re a garage rock band from the ‘60s, like when Heart cover “The Witch” by The Sonics. Its ok. Its quite summery and bright, it kind of reminds me of The Proclaimers for some reason. Also, the acoustic guitars with punky production thing reminds me of Smashing Pumpkins and the entire ‘90s.

“Salad Days” – 2:46; Here we go, final song. It starts with some loose strumming on a guitar, then a raucous Motorhead style rumbly bassline, and then a disco drumbeat and bells come in. When it finally kicks in, it goes into a D-beat. Its kind of their usual style, but with cleaner production and a bit more melody. Its all a bit smoother. I could see some wieners saying the band lost their edge or whatever, but it’s a decent song.

Ok. And that was that. It didn’t really make for good reading. I can’t really discover much on an album that is pretty samey. I’m not sure how I feel about this collection overall so far. Maybe I’ll love it after a few more listens. I often find that when writing about these records at the same time, I don’t enjoy them as much… Dream Theater’s ‘Scenes From A Memory being a prime example. Maybe that album was just a grower though? I’m sure I loved it in a past life or something…

I think I could take this band more in small doses. Maybe a whole discography all at once was a bit of an overkill (is that good grammar? “A bit of an overkill” ? Should it be “A bit overkill” ?) (Should I just go and listen to Overkill?). I guess that’s why most of these type of bands released EPs and singles so much. Actually that’s not true, it was because it was cheaper, it was a financial thing. Also, what band would want to limit their audience’s consumption of them? Still… I think I’d like a Nasum or Terrorizer or Agoraphobic Nosebleed EP more than a full album. So, maybe it is a small-doses situation? Maybe. If anyone knows, comment that shit!

I enjoyed this one from a historical/educational perspective… but I’m not sure how much I enjoyed it. I still really want to check out things like Black Flag’s Damaged and Bad Brains’ Self-Titled debut, and all of Dead Kennedys’ early albums, but at the same time, I can foresee them being a bit boring and not-to-my-tastes. I think it may just be the case that I’m not a Punk person. Its ok. Not everyone has an ear for everything. My housemates just can’t enjoy Metal. My brother just cannot enjoy Hair Metal. My friend just cannot like any Extreme Metal…. Maybe I just am not equipped to like Punk.

Well; that’s why God invented Crossover, Groove Metal, Stoner, Grunge and Metalcore isn’t it?

I think I’m going to go listen to Napalm Death cover “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” instead of listening to the original. And that’s Ok.

 FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 75: Manowar – Kings Of Metal

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of Stephen King Novels or Vintage French Cinema, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the average Facebook-users’ knowledge of Farmville and Candy Crush. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or Farmville. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

Today I’ll be listening to the album Kings Of Metal, by the US Power Metal band Manowar. It was their 6th studio album and was released in 1988 on Atlantic Records. I got it for my birthday, inside a boxset which also contained Fighting The World and Triumph Of Steel. Good gift for someone like me!

I usually talk about the subgenre before talking about the band and the album in these articles. I think I’ve bored you all enough talking about Power Metal in its early 80s American guises and its late-80s-and-beyond European guises on this blog already, so if you want to know how I feel about it in more depth look back at reviews and articles on the likes of Savatage, early Queensryche, Helloween, Gamma Ray ,Stratovarius, Hammerfall and Iced Earth.

Its mostly European Melodic Power Metal, and only a bit of the early USPM (by bands who are mostly considered Prog Metal overall or turned Prog soon afterwards), and not exactly a perfect match for Manowar, who straddle the border between just being Traditional Metal like Priest, Maiden and Accept, with being Power Metal (well, all these things can vary on a song by song basis. I mean, there’s lots of Priest that sounds like Power Metal… just like there’s a lot of Djent that sounds like Messugah. Maybe Manowar aren’t Power Metal, maybe they’re just Metal… I don’t know. Also, maybe it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Let’s just call them Power Metal for now, so I don’t have to swap all those hyperlinks, ey guys?)

So; What do I actually know about Manowar? I know the band members are muscular, wear loincloths (either all the time or at least at some stage in their career) and promote manliness and strength. I know that they have a Conan The Barbarian type mascot on their album artwork. I know they are cheesy and over-the-top lyrically, and revel in all the sword-and-sorcery aspects of Metal culture. I know they are responsible for a lot of the “true Metal” and “Death To False Metal” sentiment you read about online, although I’m pretty sure they are probably joking about it. I know they have a devoted cult-like audience similar to Rush fans who are really defensive and proud of the band and will support the band no matter what. (Its sort of a “cool” thing, to a certain subsection of Metal-society, to be a Manowar fan, I guess.)

I don’t, as yet, know exactly why that is. I don’t see the same cult-thing going on for Helloween or Blind Guardian or whatever other massive influential Power Metal band with a lot of fans and some releases with a “Metal Albums You Must Hear Before You Die” type reputation. Maybe it exists and I just didn’t notice it, or maybe its something peculiar to just Manowar. (Perhaps because they seem so convinced of it themselves? Perhaps entirely because of their own sloganeering?)

I remember my friend at College about half-a-decade-ago telling me that Manowar were officially recognized as the Loudest Band In The World, and that once their stage-show caused an electrical surge that shut off all power to the Eastern Seaboard. Dunno if its true, but if it is, it’s a neat fact to have if you are a Heavy Metal band.

The album title intrigues me; Kings Of Metal. Manowar get called “Kings Of Metal” a lot in reviews and articles and I’ve always wondered if it was self-appointed [Side note: Didn’t Pantera call themselves “Kings Of Metal” too by the way, or at least something very similar?] or if it was one of those things like Judas Priest’s “Metal Gods” situation where they had a song about robots called “Metal Gods” (not even lyrically about the band or even Heavy Metal itself…just about robots) but people decided to call the band Metal Gods as a term of endearment anyway. Or maybe its just genuinely made up and applied to them like Black Sabbath getting called Godfathers Of Heavy Metal all the time by the press.

Basically, did they write this title because they were being called Kings Of Metal, or did they get called that due to this album title?

….Well that’s the band. What about the album?

Looking now at the album’s artwork, I almost feel like I need to go to the gym. I’ve just finished an hour of weightlifting at the time of writing by the way, but suddenly I almost feel the urge to lift again. Geez, these guys’d give you a complex with album art like that!

Anyway; I was looking into the band when I was making my List of albums that help you to understand Metal. I think there is a sort of lack of consensus about which of their records are good or not. Then there’s this sort of old Manowar vs. Mid-Manowar vs. Everyone hating new Manowar debate which is kind of like Judas Priest’s fan’s reaction to their discography. Some people love the Screaming/Defenders sound but some people only want Sad Wings/Stained Class sounds. Not so many love the Ripper Owens era.

I’ve read dozens and dozens of times that Kings Of Metal is Manowar’s “best,” “most influential,” “highest selling,” “most-beloved” and that sort of thing, album. I’ve also read that those descriptions belong to Hail To England instead, and that Kings Of Metal is part of the decline from their glory days to their career nadir in the late ‘90s. I’ve even read some people call it a sell-out, but some people call Emperor sell-outs for recording a demo and therefor diluting their credibility as a garage-only band… I don’t have much time for people calling albums sell-outs unless its drastic and obvious.

I guess it might be like Kiss’ Destroyer, some people count the classic bit as the first 3 Kiss albums, some the first 6, some more than that. I guess I might like analogies a bit too much.

What else? Well; Its also one of those “end of an era” type records since it was the final album from the “classic line-up” featuring Scott Columbus and Ross “The Boss.” After this, the two would be replaced by a drummer called Rhino and a guitarist called Giraffe David Shankle. I have to be honest, right at this moment I don’t know any of those musicians and don’t have any opinion on who is better. I guess I’ll find out.

[Play]

First up, the album opens with “Wheels Of Fire” which is apparently a concert favourite. Its pretty up-tempo and thrashy, and kind of reminds me of Alice-era Annihilator a little bit. It starts off with some samples of a motorbike starting up and driving around, then wham, blistering Thrashy Metal. There’s high pitched screams and low growls, and vocals trading between speakers. Then the chorus comes in and hell-yeah we’re in Power Metal town, gloriously big and bombastic. Power Metal choruses are the definition of Bombastic. Its like a giant tom fill with squealing Queen-reminiscent guitar and a vocal perfect for singing along to.

A guitar solo follows… a pretty excellent guitar solo. Well, I guess Ross The Boss is pretty important then. Oh yes, the chorus comes back…that is a good, good, good chorus. I’m loving this mixture between furious Alice In Hell aggression and over-the-top Land Of The Free grandiosity.

The thing I notice is that singer Eric Adams sounds quite like Kiss’ Paul Stanely at times. I wonder if that is because of where they come from. Also a bit like early Anthrax’s Neil Turban. Then again, he also reminds me of Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow.

Speaking of Iced Earth, I’ve never really noticed this before, but there is a missing link between Judas Priest and Iced Earth. That Missing Link is Manowar. Maybe its Jag Panzer too, but one thing at a time people, I haven’t got all day. Its funny, but I didn’t think their singer was even called Eric Adams until today, I thought he was called Joey DiMiao. When people said or wrote “Joey DiMiao” I always assumed it was the band’s singer, not bassist… oh well, I know now, ey? – I’ve never heard of Eric Adams before… seems odd really given how important Manowar are in Europe. Well, in Metal really. I mean I heard of Geoff Tate and John Arch and Rob Halford for years and years. There’s lots and lots of singers in my mind as definitive traditional singers… strange that Adams is not one of them, especially considering how powerful and talented he is. Its not as if he is dull and un-noteworthy or something.

Next up is the album’s title track, “Kings Of Metal.” It boasts boastful lyrics about Manowar themselves and how they come to town and kill, rather than play like a normal band, and how their audience are definitely not posers. This is a completely different style of music to the previous track. Its more like a very aggressive Kiss song than any Thrash or Power Metal band. It wouldn’t be too out of place on Shout At The Devil actually, in that Kiss-but-heavier spirit.

No denying it, this is catchy. I’m loving it. Its sort of embarrassing in a way, but heck, I do believe “Manowar Kill!” and are going to kick my ass, such is the convincing power of the song due its massive, massive fun-factor.

The solo starts off with a Saved By The Bell ‘50s Rock n Roll vibe, then shreds afterwards.

“Heart Of Steel” follows that big smile-fest, and is once again a different style. Its a ballad. The vocals kind of remind me of Greg Lake on Court Of The Crimson King’s title track and “Epitaph.” Ok, its not a ballad as in love lyrics and soft brush drums. The first two minutes are basically a string section and tasteful piano with manly vocals. Then the band kick in to a very heavy drum beat and ringing big guitars. It’s a powerful power ballad. More Powerful than Helloween or Gamma Ray’s ballads. More powerful than Stratovarius’ ones too. Heavier than Hammerfall’s. Better than all of Dragonforce’s. There’s also a gorgeous yet brief guitar solo that really feels like Slash. This is a genuinely good ballad. One I’d keep on my phone even with space limitations to consider!

“Sting Of The Bumblebee” livens things up next. Its an explosive bass solo (with band backing) based on the classical piece “Flight Of The Bumblebee,” which I seem to recall having to learn about in GCSE music but have since forgotten all about, apart from recognizing that it is frantic and hurried sounding, like a Bumblebee. Its so furious and metallic and intensely performed that you don’t even really think of it as a bass solo anymore… just a neat, brief, instrumental Metal song. I wouldn’t leave this off my phone either. Its just Manowar’s equivalent of “Stratofortress.”

“The Crown And The Ring (Lament Of The Kings)” opens up like it might be another ballad. Its got choirs and organs and orchestral percussion. It sounds like a Viking ascending into heaven. Eric’s vocals are very strong. This guy seems pretty underrated. Amazing vocal talent. Maybe its just his actual voice causing people to forget to talk about him, because the talent applied to that voice is unquestionable.

This track has no drums or guitars, it feels sort of like it should either be the first or final track on an album, and not so soon after a ballad. Strange move, momentum-wise in my opinion. That said, this is very strong. This is what I think Hammerfall should write instead of the ballads that they do write. Its bigger and grander than just a ballad. I guess its what you would call “epic” before the word got diluted so much recently (although; in Metal, “epic” things usually also have to be at least 10-minutes long for most reviewers to classify them as such. I guess that’s “an epic” as opposed to a song that is epic though).

After all that questionable epicness; “Kingdom Come” starts off with a chugging riff that sounds like it might be quite commercial, but could go either way, either into a quick-paced Metal track like the first one on the album, or into an MTV ready hit like Priest’s “Living After Midnight.” Then it reveals itself. It kind of reminds me, strangely, of A Momentary Lapse Of Reason-era Pink Floyd…but in no way I can articulate. I guess maybe there’s just a touch of “Learning To Fly” to the pace and drum sound? Either way; this isn’t a thrashy blaster of a song. Its like a way-slower “Metal Gods” (Ironically, given my Metal Gods/Kings Of Metal question) drum beat, with a ballad hidden over the top, these shuffly drums transforming it out of a ballad, and an into MTV ‘80s Rock song, but the enthusiastic and ultra powerful vocals making it metallic enough to fit on the record.

“Pleasure Slave” comes next, and is in slightly the same mould as the previous track during the verses, but with heavier guitars and indeed a nice Iommi-style riff in the chorus. Its not speedy thrashy Metal. Its enthusiastic ‘80s Rock…with a nice doomy riff in the chorus. It sort of reminds me of Kiss’ “God Of Thunder” in its slow power.

Aside from the music, the most notable thing about this track is the over the top sexism… I mean it is arguably even more objectifying than what most Hair Metal bands wrote about. There’s a big difference between Poison’s lyric “I got a girl to the left of me and a girl to the right, I know damn well I slept with both last night” and Manowar’s lyric “Woman be my slave, chained onto my bed… your body belongs to me… the greatest gift I could ever give.”

I kind of wonder if they are being ironic, perhaps a touch of Steel Panther here? I mean, I always read the sentence that Manowar’s fans take them with a pinch of salt but the band themselves are serious about it. Or maybe I’m looking at it wrong and its not even sexism, but just about BDSM. Maybe they are just writing about BDSM from a reporting perspective, in the same way that Slayer wrote about Nazis without being Nazis. I’d like to hope they aren’t ridiculous sexists at any rate… in the same way I hope Carpathian Forest aren’t really as Right Wing as they say they are. Hopefully its all just good fun. (Just playing-up to expectations etc.)

“Hail And Kill” follows that, opening promisingly with a powerful ringing guitar chord and some aggressive-yet-melodic dual guitar in the spirit of Painkiller-era-Priest. Yay! The album had slowed down quite a bit…hopefully this is a fast one.

Hmm…nope, it broke down to some nice acoustic arpeggios and more of that Greg Lake-but-louder stuff vocally; and then… Yay, it explodes into lovely 80s Speed Metal sounds!

Oh, nice Maideny guitar bit. Catchy sing-along-gang chant of the song’s title. This is right up my street. Exactly what I’m in the mood for. I love this chorus!

Nice guitar solos, quite flashy. You can really feel the instrument being played, you can visualize the bends really easily. Excellent production now that I think about it. Yes. This song is the bee’s knees.

That long “Yeeeeeeah” scream where all other music cuts out… that is something I always love in music. Also, impressive! “Nice pipes” as they say in our musical world.

Then comes “The Warrior’s Prayer” which in all honesty is kind of ridiculous. Its essentially a spoken word intro, which you hear on lots of Metal tracks in lots of various different styles. Sometimes they appear in the middle of tracks or have music underneath them. Yes’ “Circus Of Heaven” has one with a little kid talking about a circus with no animals etc. It is too long, and it is already in the middle of a song and has music underneath but still a lot of fans find it unbearable. This track doesn’t have much in the way of music, and lasts for an entire FOUR MINUTES. Four minutes of just talking in a slightly silly old-man-telling-a-kid-a-story voice. Not fourty seconds, which is already a bit too far. Four ENTIRE minutes! – I’m not that keen on it, can you tell? We’re talking about the guy who deleted the intro to Exodus’ “Deranged” because it wasn’t worth my time. Oh well, at least they were kind enough to have it as a separate track, so I can skip it from now on. [I’m sure as fuck leaving this one off my phone considering there’s space limitations.]

Finally we end things here with the seven-and-a-half-minute album closer “Blood Of The Kings.” This song is explosive, powerful and excited. The vocals are so over-the-top, the main riff is incredible fun and the verses are like a supercharged “Diamonds & Rust.” This song just sounds absolutely massive. Its real Thor-on-a-mountaintop stuff.

The guitar solo is pretty impressive. Accept/Deep Purple/Yngwie style neo-classical stuff in there, filled out by muscular shred. The song also continuously does the thing I love where the vocals continue when the rest of the song stops.
At the five-minute point they also go into an almost-pisstaking Prog style bit-by-bit ending. (You know, like when they tease ending over and over and over, sometimes note-by-note, slowly decreasing speed and volume in their actual playing rather than with the mixer). Then after doing that for a very long time, the main riff comes back as if the song is going to erupt again…but then that fades out with the mixer. Hmmm. Definitely feels a bit pisstaky. In a good way.

So, there we have it. My first exposure to the field of true Metal, my introduction to the kings of said True Metal, and the righting of my wrong (“if you don’t own this album, you aren’t a Metal fan” etc.) in ignoring the band for this long. I don’t know if its as instant a KCP classic as Land Of The Free or Keeper Of The Seven Keys but it was certainly far from a waste of time. I think it’s a sort of uneven album… three rock songs, two ballads (or there-abouts), three Power/Speed Metal songs, a bass solo, and a really overlong intro/skit/spoken word boredom-fest.

I wonder if it may be better without the spoken word bit (or at least at a severely, severely reduced length), with more space between the two ballads (perhaps the “epic” one as the final track and the “normal power ballad” as the exact middle of the album). Oh yeah…and don’t listen to “Pleasure Slave” when there’s any women in the room. [Fuck it; actually…do listen to it when there’s women in the room, but lie and say the song is called “50 Shades Of Grey” and then they’ll lap that track up!]

Still, even if it is oddly disjointed and has a weird momentum, and lacking that maybe-one-more-fast-song that would make it work, this is a pretty neat album and I’m sure I’ll listen to it a lot in the coming months. The highlights (the three fast songs, the fun-as-hell title track and the Viking funeral) will certainly get a real pounding and make it into my regular-listening for a long time to come.

Ok. That was my first experience with the band and the album.
Any thoughts, opinions, corrections or recommendations guys?

Here’s a quick list, and series of thoughts, on all the blog-related purchases I’ve made in the last while. I haven’t had time to give them all their own articles yet, so I’m going to give them all a short round-up here:

(more…)

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 72: Psychotic Waltz - A Social Grace

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 72: Psychotic Waltz – A Social Grace

Hello, and welcome to my Blog. Why is it called KingcrimsonBlog, the official Blog of Kingcrimsonprog?. Good question; It is called that, because I am called Kingcrimsonprog (or Gentlegiantprog). Well, I’m not. I’m called Jimmy. But, I’m called either Kingcrimsonprog or Gentlegiantprog on most websites and forums. (You know, in the way you have to choose a name or “net-handle” when you register?).

Back when this Blog was first devised, it was sort of a hub “digest” of all my various internet output, under one easy “roof.” So people could then tell that my things were not stolen from elsewhere on the internet, I kept my net-handle in the title. The name of my net-handle was simply chosen because I enjoy the Prog band King Crimson (and Gentle Giant) and is not in fact my real name. Forget about the name. Imagine its called “Music Nerd Blog” instead. You’ll get the idea.

I’ve been obsessing about music since about the year 2000. Over this time I’ve bought what must now be nearly 1,000 albums, and heard hundreds more through friends, relatives, streaming services and whatever else. I’ve also watched over a decade’s worth of music videos and heard countless individual songs on the radio, free covermounted CDs, websites and whatever else. All that, as well as read years and years worth of music magazines and websites.

I’m a nerd. Basically. Only, instead of James Bond or Vintage Clothing, its Music that I obsess about. Lots of people are nerds and don’t even realize it. Sometimes its obvious; trainspotting, stamp collecting etc. Sometimes its less obvious due to presentation. Some (make that many) football fans’ depth of knowledge about players and transfer costs and club histories would make many tram-enthusiasts seem normal by comparison. The amount of information that some people know about Reality-TV celebrities and their sex-lives would easily overpower my knowledge of bands, or the most dedicated historian and their knowledge of French Military Tactics. Everyone has a thing they get nerdy about, whether or not they realize or admit that it is similar to the more famous nerdy things like Star Wars. I don’t particularly like Football or Reality TV or French Military Tactics. I like Heavy Metal music. That’s my one thing. That’s what this Blog is all about.

Welcome to my First Impressions series of articles too, incidentally. In this series I (or sometimes my friends, or readers) pick an album for each entry that I will listen to for the first time. I then write in depth about what I know about that album or the artist that created it and the genre and subgenre to which they belong, before describing the experience of listening to it in real time, in a sort of semi-stream-of-consciousness way intended for entertainment purposes. I also enjoy writing reviews of albums, but when I write reviews my goal is to be helpful and provide you with information with which to aide your decision about whether to try out an album or not. When I write a First Impressions article however my goal is purely to entertain the reader, explore how much I know about music and be my own psychiatrist in the process.

I may go into some very specific detail and assume you have heard everything I’ve ever heard and perceived everything in the manner I’ve perceived it, and call out very specific sections of music and draw comparisons between things that the casual listener may find completely unrelated. Don’t worry, most of these songs are on Youtube and most of the terminology is on Wikipedia and Urban Dictionary anyway, so if there’s anything that goes over your head, you can always get clarification in a second web-browser-tab (or ask about it in the comments).

According to the aim of the series, the albums are considered by the public and music critics knowledgeable about the subject to be Classic albums within Rock and Metal, or at least within their own Subgenres. Classic albums that I’ve somehow missed out on, despite my nerdly need to hear and understand almost every piece of recorded Metal music ever.

If you have an album that you’d like to read a KingcrimsonBlog First Impressions article about, please suggest it in the comments, I’m game, I’ll give anything a try.

So that’s the preamble out of the way, on to the article:

This entry will focus on A Social Grace; the 1990 debut album by the Californian Prog Metal band Psychotic Waltz. When I first started as a contributor to the website Metal Music Archives about two years ago, all the guys who ran the site constantly recommended the band, and anyone who has even the slightest interest in bands like Dream Theater or Fates Warning or Queensryche would get told to try them out.

I was thinking back the other day to how they had recommended Queensryche and how successfully that worked out for me, and that reminded me of hearing about this band.

I’ve also recently been doing some reading about them and found out that they have flutes and are influenced a lot by Jethro Tull. Well, you’ve got to know by now that I absolutely love Jethro Tull and Queensryche if you read this site regularly, and recently I’ve been getting into Dream Theater, so when I saw this album last week, I decided to make a purchase.

All this Dream Theater (and Protest The Hero) listening has gotten me heavily back into Riverside too, as well as Savatage. If my phone is on shuffle, chances are I’ll hear Riverside, Queensryche and Savatage all in one journey. My Prog Metal receptors are particularly hungry these days (I’ve been back on the Opeth again, and constantly low-level listening to Coheed & Cambria, Anathema and Porcupine Tree) so I’m hoping that Psychotic Waltz might be a real right album at the right time sort of affair. Let’s find out:

[Play]

“…And The Devil Cried” opens the album out with some bendy riffs, before kicking into some crunchy, mid-tempo Annihilator-reminiscent Technical Thrash, then the vocals come in, which seem hugely reminiscent of Geoff Tate. It also reminds me a bit of Iced Earth’s Matt Barlow.

The production job is a bit lower quality than Dream Theater or Queensryche albums from the same era, but not massively. It kind of reminds me of Beneath The Remains in terms of production.

Some of the leads remind me of the infamous Cannibal Corpse Ghost Riff and of Exhorder’s lead style. After about three and a half-minutes the song settles into a slow groove that sounds slightly seasick. It reminds me a little bit of Voivod, in that all the notes sound off. Like there might be some intentional dissonance.

Its impressive on a technical level, but for a first listen, it doesn’t really wow me on a gut level. I can hear Protest The Hero and Annihilator style rapid-fire switching between tempos and ideas but there isn’t a noticeable larger-than-life bit to hang your hat on.

To be fair, I felt the same way about Dream Theater’s “Pull Me Under” until the third time I heard the “…Watch the spell falling” vocal line. Maybe repeat listens will make this fun as well as just impressive.

“Halo Of Thorns” comes next. It opens with slow creepy clean guitars not unlike Lamb Of God’s “Vigil” or Testament’s “The Legacy” with some operatic vocals, that sound Italian to me for some reason. It sounds like this song is going to be a ballad. It really reminds me of the ballads on Iced Earth’s Something Wicked album.

Then the distorted guitars kick in. It’s in another sludgy, seas-sick time sig. The notes seem just that little bit off, in a Dimension Hatross sort of a way. When the clean part comes back it reminds me ever so slightly of King Crimson’s “Circus” (there’s just the faintest whiff of it).

It progresses into some slow, groove Metal riffs that remind me of Mate Feed Kill Repeat in a vague way, then it kicks into a better part than reminds me of that Death album I discussed earlier , with a nice but very brief Thrash bit in between it starting and coming back. There’s a dark, noisy guitar solo too. Then some staccato distorted riff-kickdrum synch ups that remind me of Fear Factory and Pissing Razors.

“Another Prophet Song” follows with more Geoff Tate vocals, and some additional percussion in the background, over quite a Testament/Queensryche mixture series of parts. Its like a very, very slow version of “Walk In The Shadows” mixed with “Raging Waters.”

Eventually it all slows down into a shimmering, dreamy part, with some nice subtle bass and strings-sounding keys. This bit reminds me much more of Dream Theater than anything else so far, but their atmospheric side as opposed to their technical side. There’s a guitar part that comes in that is really reminiscent of 70s Rush, before the part morphs into something darker, its got that clean-yet-dark tone of Opeth. Then it speeds up, the guitar solos come in, they throw out a lot of different parts. That Walk In The Waters bit, with the additional percussion comes back and then they end the song afterwards.

“Successor” comes in, with a Prog Metal/Thrash stop-start intro (which two out of the last three songs did as well). Then it settles into a bit of a slow menacing groove that would sound quite like Iron Maiden’s more epic side if not for the phazer guitars. Then it goes through a very Voivod stop-start bridge. The vocals are pretty Tate-esque. There are even more allusions to Voivod as the song goes on. At the half-way part, it picks up a bit of interest when it goes into a dramatic, vocal emphasizing section, then they start sounding like an infected space station. The song really reminds me of the first Dead Space on your first play through when everything is still tense and horrific. The only problem once again is that nothing really rocks. Its impressive but it is absolutely no fun.

“In This Place” opens with a nice drum fill that suggests that its going to be like Sepultura’s “Territory” but then changes its mind and goes through about nine two-second long permutations before the song decides what the main verse will be. Its actually quite a good one. As are the bridges that it cuts to. This is one of the better songs so far, because it sounds like it has a sense of purpose.

The vocals are more treated in effects and lower in the mix, they feel sort of distant. Then some samples come in talking about what a Psychotic Waltz might be as some really odd guitar comes in. There are more parts that remind me of Voivod, the way he hits the china cymbal also reminds me of me when I was 15. Not that I could explain that to you accurately. There’s some really great drumming in this song’s ending.

So far, all these songs have had superb musicianship but slightly boring songwriting. There aren’t really any big hooks. Nothing that you would feel excited to mimic if you heard it live.

“I Remember” opens with nice clean guitars that actually remind me more of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Blackfoot ballads than anything else, then a flute comes in and changes it to a more Genesis style. Then something very odd happens. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson, in 1977-1978, comes in and sings exactly like he does on the Songs From The Wood and Heavy Horses albums. Not really its actually Singer (and guitarist, keyboardist and flautist) Devon Graves, but he really does do a ridiculously good impersonation. Like Todd La Torre does with Geoff Tate. He captures the little things that you would think are too unique to capture. What’s interesting is that the song is also quite good. It’s the best one so far, but not just because I like Jethro Tull…honest. The song is more powerful and well-written and less dissonant and awkward and has more of a sense of direction and purpose. Oh hey, some properly Tull-esque flute too. You know, when I read that there’d be flute and heard Ian Anderson comparisons I thought it would be knee-jerk comments that were ill-informed. Nope. This is EXACTLY sound-alike. To the point where its 100% out of place with the previous material on the album. Its like a completely different band. I hope there’s more songs like this.

It actually seems rather brave for a Metal band to so faithfully sound like Jethro Tull back in 1990, just after that whole Metallica-Grammy thing.

“Sleeping Dogs” comes in next. Its not a full song, but more of a sort of intro or interlude (like Pink Floyd’s “On The Run” is), showing off different effects and synth sounds. It sounds like the first song on an album . I wonder if it started the other side of the vinyl back in the day? (Hey, it does look to be exactly half-way through the album)

Some energy and Metal power returns with “I Of The Storm” which also has something of a Testament tinge to it in the beginning. Its got more bite to it than anything on side 1 (or what I’ve decided might be side 1). The guitars when chugging have an almost Far Beyond Driven stomp to them. The drums are played with a much more savage intensity, and he just feels like he’s hitting harder. If I was to speculate, I’d imagine this one was written more recently than some of the others. There’s definitely some Groove Metal in there. They throw in Proggy bridges and a noisy technical solo with too much effects, but the core of the song has balls. You know what I was saying about like, needing something to hang your hat on rather than just technicality? This song has it. Plus there’s some really fun doublekick patterns.

“A Psychotic Waltz” opens with more of that creepy clean guitar. It reminds me of Megadeth’s “The Conjuring” and Queensryche’s “Roads To Madness” a little bit, but most of all its really quite similar to Sacred Reich’s “Who’s To Blame.” It’s a bit slow and groovy (or is that waltzy), but still interesting. There’s a neat bit with extra melodic vocals at around the three-minute-mark which is quite a highlight. Once that part comes in, everything starts to have a bit more of that energy that the Tull-esque song did. The solo is one of the best on the album so far, possibly because its not so Voivoddy. Towards the end when the piano comes in it gets really good. The vocals here are extra Barlow-sounding. It ends with a nice fade out of parts that’s a bit like Mushroomhead might do, mechanically if not sonically.

“Only In A Dream” also starts off clean and arpeggiatted. There’s some pleasant keys and some additional percussion. It kind of reminds me of weirdly of King Crimson’s “Eyes Wide Open” and Black Label Society’s “House Of Doom” ever, ever, ever so slightly. Perhaps this is going to be one of those songs, like, not a ballad per se, but a fast happy stripped down song.

Then the riff kicks in. Nope. It’s a Metal song. Oh hey, nice galloping double kicks. Its got a bit of speed and energy to it. Now this is a good track! I’m really getting into this. This has the magic that the first few didn’t. The weird guitar-soloy choruses with the sunken vocals are a bit odd, but everything else is solid gold. I’m loving the pinch harmonics and the double kicks. The main verses actually kind of remind me of Toddryche’s album. Overall; Its short, focused and one of the best songs on the record so far.

“Spiral Tower” opens up with a lot of guitar noise and heads into a slow, evil sounding rumble. It reminds me of the bits on a Thrash album before everything cuts to silence and the first really kick-ass speedy chugging riff kicks in. That doesn’t happen here though. Vocals come in and that rumble sort of morphs mildly into the main verse. Its got a bit of bite and balls to it though. Again, this one sounds newer than some of the others. In parts it reminds me of Forbidden’s second and third album. It doesn’t remind me much of Queencryche, Savatage or Dream Theater. As a song, its more interesting than it is good. Its not boring exactly, but the problem is that its about two minutes longer than it feels like it should be.

“Strange” once again opens with the clean parts. Will this one be a ballad or throw out another surprise heavy bit? Heavy Bit! Its got the same sort of thing going on as the chorus to the previous song. Then luckily, a nice Thrash riff comes in and makes it a bit more energetic and interesting. This one is a bit similar to the first song in the record, in that it has parts that channel Annihilator at times, has Tate-tinges to the vocals and has a lot of parts in awkward time-sigs. It has a very nice guitar solo but the song sounds a bit sparse underneath it. The song sort of loose my patience a little bit though, its hard to keep paying attention to it. Its being interesting in a very uninteresting way. Its being unique in a very standard way. Its just… not all that good. I think that’s my opinion on most of the music on here so far. Its almost very good due to the skill involved, but its just a bit boring on a human level.

The album closes with “Nothing.” It sounds very promising with its big intro. Its certainly louder. It seems like its actually mastered louder. At least its keeping my attention. There’s even a bit of speed and excitement in the middle. Then it just gets a bit boring until about 4.20 when a really good part kicks in. You know what this is like? Its like Eddie Izzard when he looses his thread. He can tell very funny jokes but sometimes he’s unfocussed and you just sort of think why don’t I go listen to somebody telling one-liners instead? – Maybe I’ll go listen to Hatebreed next.

So. That was the album. Hmmm. It reminds me of how I felt about Dimension Hatross the first time. Its interesting, I’m glad I’ve heard it, I understand why it was recommended to me… but for the most part it bored me.

There are definitely people out there who are head over heels in love with this album, and fair play to them, but nope… this one’s not for me.

(I would however, gladly take a whole album of just the Tull stuff)