Posts Tagged ‘Kiss’

Manowar – The Triumph Of Steel

Manowar – The Triumph Of Steel

In the same year that Grunge was well and truly selling billions of CDs worldwide, US Heavy Metal legends Manowar released their seventh full-length studio album – 1992’s The Triumph Of Steel.

It must have been no easy task following up their immensely popular and loyally beloved 1988 release Kings Of Metal, nor must it have been easy having to train up a new drummer and guitarist after losing Scott Columbus and Ross “The Boss” Friedman. In fact, nor can it have been fun trying to promote an album of blistering, powerful, OTT Heavy Metal after “Man In The Box” and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” changed what must’ve felt like every journalist on earth’s priorities in the pre-internet culture of the day.

Despite all that was going against them, Manowar released what must surely be one of their greatest ever albums (certainly its my personal favourite at any rate). Call it ambition, or call it arrogance, but the band even opened up the record with a twenty-minute long song. A song with a bass solo, a drum solo so indulgent that it has a separate solo for the cymbals and for the drums, two minutes of somber guitar violining… all telling the story of Achillies and Hector from Greek Mythology. The world wanted “Touch Me I’m Sick” …Manowar gave ‘em “Achilles, Agony and Ecstasy in Eight Parts.”

Despite how easy it is to skip a twenty-minute album opener with three solos in it, the song isn’t poor. In fact, some sections of it are absolute genius, such as the furious Thrashy “Death Hector’s Reward” part, which feels like the musical equivalent of being battered upside the head.

After that, the first normal-length track comes in. Its my favourite track on the album, or by the band. “Metal Warriors” is the most perfectly-pitched, sing-along tribute to Heavy Metal that’s ever been written. Ludicrous to the point of featuring the lyric “If you’re not into Metal you are not my friend” and yet musically out of this world. Its some kind of supercharged version of Kiss’ “I Love It Loud” filled with Painkiller screams, mountain-top chants and the screech of guitars that feel only-barely in control.

There’s more blistering speed, in the sword-and-scorcery realm of “Ride The Dragon” with its constant double-kicks and incredibly catchy chorus.

The band then take a different tack, choosing to sing about Native Americans in a surprisingly tasteful way, in an interesting mid-paced affair that sonically evokes cowboy movies subtly, but doesn’t loose that Manowar sound. Maybe they were jealous of Anthrax? Who cares why they did it, but it works, really well!

Then they follow it up with another mid-paced track called “Burning” which you’d imagine might be a momentum killer, but is actually one of the more interesting compositions in the band’s catalogue. It’s a bit different than their usual any of their usual directions… epics, ballads, rousing anthems or blistering speed. It’s a nice change of pace. Sort of experimental, with a lot of emphasis on dynamics and Eric Adams trying out as many vocal techniques as he can imagine.

“Power Of Thy Sword” comes next, and its what I would consider the quintessential Manowar song. If you wonder if the band are for you, this is one of the tracks you should use to decide. Its got everything that’s great about the band in spades. Its so powerful, OTT and fun. Its beyond catchy, the solo is awesome, there’s slow bits, fast bits and there’s a touch of the orchestral epic-ness that the band aspire to. With this one song, you get a good musical, technical and lyrical picture of Manowar… oh, and by the way its a great song too!

Even if the last one felt good enough to be an album closer, it doesn’t stop there. There’s more Metal in the form of “The Demon’s Whip.” A robust, interesting track which is half crushing Sabbath-inspired Doom and half double-kick Thrash attack, almost-ending the album with a jarring reverse-whiplash effect as the too-slow doom accelerates out of control to the tune off way-too-loud whip samples.

It all closes with the grand, cinematic, vocally-impressive “Master Of The Wind” which kind of evokes Greg Lake-era King Crimson with its chiming bells, big reverb, dynamic production and haunting singing. Its probably the best ballad/orchestral-track that Manowar ever did. Not something to be skipped, but a genuine album highlight in itself.

Overall; Triumph Of Steel is a really diverse and almost strange album. Despite its seeming lack of focus, it really feels like Manowar just doing everything they could think of to absolute perfection. Anthem – nailed. Ballad – absolutely nailed. Fast bits – nailed. Slow bits – nailed. Exploring new ideas – nailed. Keeping true to what makes Manowar, Manowar – nailed. It might not have gotten the attention it deserved at the time, but for my money this album is a straight up-and-down masterpiece that shows what superb musicians, performers and songwriters Manowar are from every possible angle. Highly Recommended!

Manowar – Louder Than Hell

Manowar – Louder Than Hell

1996’s Louder Than Hell album was the US Heavy Metal legends Manowar’s eight full-length opus, and served as a grand and defiant championing of Heavy Metal that was simultaneously both ahead of and behind its time. Manowar in steadfastly focusing on what could be argued as the “true” (the band certainly argue that themselves) aspects of the original Heavy Metal sound were throwing back to the early ‘80s heyday of Metal from which the band themselves came, something very uncool in the eyes of the Grunge and Alternative focused public at the time, and in so doing were setting up the future, predicting the soon to be popular Power Metal movement that had been brewing happily away for a decade but really exploded when bands like Hammerfall would break just a year or two later.

This album sees the return of drummer Scott Columbus, who was absent from the band’s superb previous album, 1992’s Triumph Of Steel, as well as seeing the introduction of new guitarist Karl Logan who’s muscular sound fit nicely into the band. It was self-produced by the band and released on Geffen. Just cast one eyeball at the album’s art and that should tell you whether or not you’ll love this album. Embarrassed by “cheesy” D&D bands? Think singing about being in a band is dated? Then step away! However…Think that close-up shot of ‘roided-out barbarian thumping an anvil is awesome? Then buy a copy without hesitation!

Musically, Louder Than Hell is another step down the road that the band have always been headed in. Manowar don’t make the same album over and over again, but they never make a head-scratching left turn either. This is the logical successor to Triumph Of Steel. You can see how Thrashy tracks like “Death Hector’s Reward” and “Ride The Dragon” from that record begat “Outlaw” on this record. You can see how tracks like “Wheels Of Fire” on the album before that, begat the tracks on this album such as “The Power” (sonically, with the bombast and absolute over-the-top performance) and “Return Of The Warlords” (thematically, with the biker imagery and don’t-care attitude).

Manowar also always have a lot of lyrical fun boasting about how awesome they, and Heavy Metal in general are, and in the fine tradition of tracks such as “Metal Warriors,” “Kings Of Metal” and “All Men Play On Ten,” this album lets rip with an absolutely storming, fists-to-the-sky anthem in the form of “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.” A track so charged with pride, power and the demand that you sing along that you can almost picture the band in the studio laughing to themselves that they’ll never get away with being so obvious….and yet you forgive them, because, well dammit, its just THAT GOOD.

There’s also spots of variety to break up the oily, red hot ‘80s-Hollywood-masculinity that the band love to exude so much (to the point of constantly singing about power, strength, challenge, muscle, fighting and having all that bodybuilder imagery in photoshoots and album covers) in the form of a nice piano-ballad called ‘Courage’ (because you can tender AND manly!) as well a guitar-only solo track, and a dense, 9-minute Prog affair called ‘Today Is A Good Day To Die” which sounds like some kind of Power Metal version of Pink Floyd’s “Empty Spaces.”

This album has a nice production job, with a nice crunchy chug to the palm-mutes, a nice amount of drive, audible bass-guitar, and a clear separation of all the instruments (toms merrily dance from ear to ear during fills, and you can accurately feel how the band would be standing relative to one another in the practice-room). Add to that, another fantastic vocal performance from Manowar’s secret genius Eric Adams who can sound equal parts Rob Halford or Paul Stanley influenced depending on his mood, but with a distinctive identity all of his own most of the time.

Overall; It sounds great, the band play/sing great, there’s a bit of variety but not too much in the way of interludes or nonsense shenanigans, and just a general feel of consistency and craftsmanship. Its a strong whole for sure – and on top of that there’s some absolutely superb standout tracks that elevate it even higher – just try not enjoy “Brothers Of Metal,” “King” or “The Gods Made Heavy Metal.” If you thought Manowar were done after the first four albums, you thought wrong! Louder Than Hell is absolutely worth your time and I highly recommend it to anyone who likes Thrash, Power Metal, NWOBHM, or good old Heavy Metal.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 71: Poison – Look What The Cat Dragged In

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Volume 71: Poison – Look What The Cat Dragged In

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 is the seventy-first entry in the series and this time I’ll be listening to the debut album by the American Glam Metal band Poison, 1986’s Look What The Cat Dragged In. (1986 – Which was the year of Peace Sells, Reign In Blood and Master Of Puppets).

I’d like to think I was done with talking about Glam by now. I’ve covered it in previous FI articles on the subject of W.A.S.P , Quiet Riot, Motely Crue, Extreme, Twisted Sister , W.A.S.P again and more recently, Dokken.

Maybe I’m just not done with Glam yet. Maybe there’s something left to say, because I haven’t properly given Posion a detailed scrutiny. I remember a friend saying that even as a fan of Glam, Poison would be an embarrassing band to admit to liking.

I like the sound of that. It seems like it might be an interesting experience. A band that are too over-the-top looking, a band that are considered style over substance by other style-over-substance artists, a band that watered their sound down even more than the rest. A band that is more symbolically pop-with-guitars than Glam METAL. I remember a video of Corey Taylor telling a story of picking up this album to see the “hot chicks” on the cover, only to discover that they were men. That sort of says all I’m going to bother with about how the band looks.

I also know their music videos are stupid. To be fair, almost all music videos are either stupid or else just dull. It took me quite a while to stop judging bands based on music videos, so if you saw one and it put you off the band I completely understand, but I’m going to go on with the article under the premise of “only the music matters, the image and videos don’t change whether the album is good or not.”

I remember my initial point of giving Glam a fair chance was the promise of that Metal part, that Judas Priest sounding Metal that hid in the early material of W.A.S.P and the deep cuts of Twisted Sister. The idea that a band who people write off can sound almost indistinguishable from Overkill’s debut makes me smile a little.

That’s not going to be the case here though is it? This is the other end of the spectrum as far as I know.

Lets find out.

[Play]

‘Cry Tough’ opens up with a nice crowd-friendly drum part people could clap along with that reminds me of Green Day’s ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ only shone through the filter of a sunny 80s buddy comedy. Then a mixture of shimmering arpeggios low in the mix, slow distorted guitar chords and a sort of pop-punky bass line. The vocals are quite reminiscent of 80s female pop stars. It also reminds me of Bryan Adams for some reason.. Its about as heavy as the start of ‘Sweet Child Of Mine,’ so its still definitely Rock music, but its not sounding very Priest-esque yet.

I wonder if Poison were quite influential on Emo and Pop Punk bands. Not in a snarky way, because those things are all seen as ‘bad’ by certain vocal minorities online, but because I hear some genuine sonic similarities.

Its interesting that people online can be so venomous towards Pop Punk, Emo, Nu Metal and Hair Metal, but linking back to the James Gill “You Know All The Words” in a Rock-Club-scenario argument, I was in a Rock Club last night, and people most definitely knew all the words to Green Day and Sum 41 and My Chemical Romance and Paramore and Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park and seemed to be having a wonderful time of singing along to all of them, whether they were dressed in Pantera t-shirts or Death t-shirts or Burzum t-shirts.

I guess in a way its redundant to keep pointing out the same hypocrisies over and over again, and to write “Hey a lot of people actually like bands that are quite clearly well liked” when to most people its probably obvious, but it’s a topic that interests me a lot. To my mind, the way I perceive the world, from what I’ve read it seems like almost everyone hates Linkin Park, Sum 41 and Poison, but quite clearly this is the opposite of the case. Its probably because they’re so loved by so many people that online grumps want to deny their quality and popularity and endeavor to convince impressionable and easily-fooled people like me that no-one likes these bands.

I wonder, if the internet had have been bigger back in the 1980s-90s, would the whole Black Metal Helvete-scene thing have happened, or would having an outlet to simply troll Motley Crue and later Nirvana online have stopped all those guys having such a bad attitude towards commercial music in their day to day lives? Furthermore, when Euronymous and Count Grishnack got drunk, did they happily sing all the words to ‘Talk Dirty To Me’?

Its an interesting thought. I’m not a psychologist, and I don’t know enough about human nature to give you an actual insight, but the question is mildly interesting at any rate.

‘I Want Action’ opens up with just vocals, then an intro kicks in, then there’s a bouncy song which unfolds which is almost indistinguishable from Dookie-era Green Day, to my ears anyway, with a little Rock N Roll part thrown in there too. There’s a very pleasing and fun-to-the-ears guitar solo. The production reminds me of Appetite For Destruction but the music reminds me of Green Day. It ends the way you’d end live, with extra long fills and that sort of thing. That aspect reminds me of The Darkness, but not sonically, just in spirit.

‘I Won’t Forget You’ is a sort of ballad, or at least a very soft rock track, it reminds me of The Saw Doctors and The Proclaimers. The production makes it sound really perfect in a way. Its not particularly anything, but its good anyway… like the movie Adventureland. Its not the most emotional, humourous, or interesting film, even among its peer films, but its still good anyway.

‘Play Dirty’ opens up in a more energetic Rock fashion, it reminds me a bit of The Darkness’ ‘Growing On Me’ due to the rhythm of the main riff. This is probably the closest to Guns N Roses or Skid Row that this album has got so far. There’s a bit more attitude to it. The on/off nature of the chorus, combined with the reverby sing-along vocal makes me think of ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane.’ This is quite an enjoyable, fun, 80s Rock song. Kind of the same sort of fun as Quiet Riot’s ‘Metal Health.’

I think so far, Posion are a whole heap more slick, professional and impressive than Motely Crue. More talented as musicians, better songwriters and easier on the ears.

I also think they are more original in a strange way, because you can’t hear any Kiss or Aerosmith or Judas Priest in their sound at all. Maybe though, I just don’t know the band’s they’re ripping off. Even so; They’ve also got heaps of personality. This isn’t just another Glam band. There’s audible personality here. Like Limp Bizkit, even if the-

Woops. Spoke too soon. The Title Track comes in next, its actually quite a Metallic song compared to everything else so far. I guess there is a bit of Priest-influence after all. Well, you’re probably sick of me making Limp Bizkit analogies all the time anyway. Hey. This is actually a good song! Its simple but catchy. I wouldn’t be embarrassed listening to this song in a mix of Ozzy, Judas Priest and Gun N’ Roses songs. Interestingly, it even references Sin After Sin in the lyrics.

‘Talk Dirty To Me’ follows. I used to hate this song when I first heard it in Guitar Hero 3, which I also initially hated, but darn it if they didn’t both really grow on me. This is another very Pop Punky song. That main riff is even quite original-punky in a way. I’m not saying it sounds like The Ramones, but it does remind me of people who like The Ramones practicing guitar. I have a vague memory of a plot point in an episode of Scrubs surrounding a patient wanting to listen to this song.

The guitar solo here is a lot of fun, I think I quite like CC Deville. I’d rather listen to his guitar solos than Kerry King’s or Andreas Kisser’s. Yes I know that looses me a million Metal-points.

‘Want Some, Need Some’ comes next. It reminds me a bit of the Title Track but its a little slower and with a less Metallic feel. The chorus reminds me of Motely Crue slightly. It’s a fair enough song. The guitar solo is less musical this time though.

‘Blame It On You’ is the quintessential, stereotype, LA Stripper music Rock song. I mentioned this in relation to some songs on Dr. Feelgood. There’s a certain, specific way of writing bouncy beats with clunky bass guitar tones that connects a lot of Glam bands together. It’s sort of present in Mr. Brownstone.

‘Number One Bad Boy’ burst out confidently as if it was an extension of the previous song, the production here and the way some of the vocals work remind me of Motely Crue even though the actual vocal tone is closer to Twisted Sister. You know what it also reminds me of? The slightly Glam touches hidden in there on Alice In Chain’s Facelift. The bits with the guitar solo distantly remind me of Cowboys From Hell era Pantera, but that’s probably more to do with the fact that there’s an absence of Rhythm Guitar during the solos more than anything else.

‘Let Me Go To The Show’ comes on next, opening with a guitar solo. It’s a fast, fun, song with clean yet punky energy. It reminds of when Guns N’ Roses cover punk songs like ‘Attitude’ and ‘New Rose.’ There’s a bit in the middle that reminds me of ‘Ballroom Blitz’ due to the snare drum part. In one way it’s a very good song. In another, all the different parts don’t really gel together well. Maybe it was longer and the producer got them to delete a lot of the bridging parts so as to save the spirit of the song.

Ok. That’s it over.

You know what? I can see why people would be embarrassed to listen to Poison, but I would be a bold-faced liar if I said I did not enjoy this record. Admittedly; It doesn’t satisfy much of my Metal receptors, but it’s a whole heap of well-produced, personality-filled fun that reminds me of being a teenager and listening to Green Day for the first time.

I guess I’m not going to convince many Mayhem fans to give Poison a fair chance, but nobody really expects me to. Oh well, I’ll have more fun with this in the coming months than I will with Des Mysteries Dom Sathanis. I don’t really mind if that makes me look silly to the people who found this website for the Cannibal Corpse, Zyklon, Emperor or Melechesh entries, at least I’m enjoying myself.

Instead of beating the same old dead horse for yet another time, I’ll finish with a completely unrelated point. Kiss’ ‘Shout Mercy’ has become one of my favourite songs. I really recommend everyone listen to it. I was walking around Asda with my headphones in one day recently, trying to find powdered milk, and I suddenly stopped, wondering why I was having an absolutely brilliant time. The reason was because Kiss’ ‘Shout Mercy’ was playing. I don’t care if the lyrics are about being so good in bed that your partner has to loudly urge you to stop such is the intensity of their orgasm, because damn it, that is one great combination of musical parts. It also harks back to everything that was great about 70s Kiss but the weird swing feel of the main bit sounds unlike anything the band ever did before, so it’s a real satisfying track because of its mixture of giving you what you want and being creative at the same time too.

If you just skimmed through Kiss’ most recent album Monster and didn’t really play it all that often, take a moment and just set this one song aside, turn it up, and pay attention. You’ll thank me for it.

No, I guess its got nothing to do with Poison other than the fact that the lyrics are about sex, as are most of Poison’s, but its on my mind and I’m writing a blog, so I’ve added it in here. Its happened.

You want a song to put you in a good mood? ‘Shout Mercy’ by Kiss. To be fair, ‘Talk Dirty To Me’ has put me in a good mood too. Listen to that too if you like. The only other song that’s put such a big smile on my face today is when I heard Opeth’s ‘Harlequin Forest’ for the first time and that huge part at 7.32 comes in. That is a seriously cool part.

Oh, I mentioned enjoying Opeth, do I win some Metal-points back?

Cheers. G’bye for now.