Posts Tagged ‘NWOBHM’

Raven – All For One Review

Posted: April 7, 2015 by kingcrimsonprog in Metal, Metal - Studio, Music Reviews
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Raven – All For One

Are you in the mood for some NWOBHM? Why not try Raven’s 1983 record All For One. This was the noisy Newcastle band’s third studio album and was produced by none other than Accept’s singer Udo Dirkschneider.

The sound is earthy, workingman’s Heavy Metal with rumbly bass, steady drumming and midrange vocals that would sound at home on a Thrash album. It has a very pure and honest sound, with hints of Motorhead and Saxon; it toes the line between amped-up rock n roll shuffle and proto-Thrash, often within the same song. Think of Angel Witch playing faster or Diamond Head if they didn’t listen to Progressive Rock.

Its not as heavy as fellow Geordie NWOBHM band Venom, but its definitely raw and energetic, with more emphasis on attitude and energy than excessive virtuosity or structural complexity. They’ll still bust out a solo when necessary, but there’s a certain punky attitude.

When you listen to John Gallagher’s vocals here, it would be easy to imagine this is the sort of thing that influenced the likes of Paul Baloff or Randy Rampage. There’s even a certain closeness to Anvil if you squint your ears.

Owing to Udo’s fine production job, this record is cleaner and more professional sounding than the albums and EPs which preceded it, but musically the band were still in their early excited phase, so it isn’t commercial like their major label releases. Its got charm, raw power and enthusiastic performances, but you can clearly make out every note, so it’s a real best of both worlds situation. People often call this one of the band’s best albums and its easy to see why.

If you’re interested in exploring the band, who took Metallica and Anthrax out on early tours, and the album which was produced by Accept’s singer, then I’d recommend checking out the songs “Hung, Drawn & Quartered,” “Seek & Destroy” and album closer “Athletic Rock” (titled after the band’s proposed name for the style of music they play) as the tester songs you use to see if its something you want to buy.

If you get it nowadays, you’ll usually get bonus tracks, two of which feature guest singing from Udo, including a cover of Steppenwolfe’s famous “Born To Be Wild.” It adds some extra value to the record, and gives you an extra incentive to check it out. For me, the bonus track “The Power And The Glory” is one of the best tracks on the disc.

Overall; All For One is a strong album and if you are in the mood for some early Metal then its definitely something you should consider trying out. There’s some great tunes, a good attitude and a sense of consistency that makes the whole thing flow.

I went to go see Saxon tonight on Thursday the 4th December 2014 at the HMV Ritz in Manchester, England. The ticket said doors 6.30, over at 10. Saxon were to be supported by fellow ‘80s British Metal band Hell (recently rejuvenated, and musical home of Andy Sneap).

It turns out that the evening got re-organized. Beyond The Black, a German Power Metal band were added to the bill, which was a nice addition.

Beyond The Black sounded like a bit of a mixture between Accept, Sabaton and Stratovarius (although a toned down one) at times. They had a female singer and a keyboard player but weren’t either symphonic or operatic, nor were they in the Evanescence mould either… it was good solid traditional Heavy Metal from Europe. Or at least that’s what it sounded like in the Hall, who knows what a record producer could do to them?

Interestingly, their rhythm section locked into these very Slipknot grooves at times that seemed very modern and out of place in the Euro-Metal thing if you thought about it (but of course, flowed naturally if you weren’t scrutinizing it looking for things to write about).

I quite liked them. I’d be happy to see them again.

Next came Hell. I knew of them, but hadn’t heard anything. Hoo boy. It was interesting. Very theatric. Very very theatric. It was like watching King Diamond or Queensryche when they do Mindcrime with all the acting. He dressed up in a cloak like a wizard. He stripped topless and self-flagellated with a whip… there were smoke cannons and very theatric lighting. Interestingly though, either the smoke cannons were unreliable or the person operating them had never seen Hell before because they were so badly out of time it was really distracting.

This was the first Metal gig I’ve ever went to with my girlfriend, and she was baffled by this. Or amused to the point of laughing. I was baffled to the point of laughing too. Musically, it was pretty awesome. Quite traditional, sort of like a mixture between early Queensryche and Savatage’s most Power Metal moments (think ‘The Needle Lies’ and ‘Power Of The Night’) mixed with Cradle Of Filth’s less heavy sections (think ‘Better To Reign In Hell’)… oh and a big huge dose of Mercyful Fate. The singer was like a very strange mixture between King Diamond and Van Der Graaf Generator’s Peter Hammil… listen to VDGG’s ‘Killer’ or ‘Arrow’ and you’ll probably see what I mean. His whole thing was performed like he was in a musical or a play, rather than actually singing in a band. But still… very entertaining. Wikipedia said there’d be exploding bibles though… that might’ve been even more fun. Fireworks are cool in a controlled setting.

It went on too long. It was a big contrast to the super down-to-earth attitudes of Beyond The Black and Saxon. But still… I recommend checking them out.

Then, the moment I paid for, Saxon came on. When I originally bought the tickets it said they were only playing songs off of the classic trio of Wheels Of Steel, Strong Arm Of The Law and Denim & Leather. Somewhere between then and now, things changed, and they played a more representative setlist, with two or three more modern tunes like ‘Lionheart’ ‘Forever Free’ and ‘Sacrifice’ as well as a few surprises like ‘Frozen Rainbow’ off of the debut and ‘This Town Rocks’ off of the The Power And The Glory album. All the tracks you’d want or expect from the non-classic-trio rest of the catalogue like ‘Crusader,’ ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ and ‘Solid Ball Of Rock’ were present and accounted for. The modern tracks, far from being momentum killers, made me want to pick up all the modern Saxon albums… I think these guys might very well be in a new golden age like Kreator, Accept and Queensryche. Y’know that thing when they come back super strong.
That probably sounds super obvious to someone who’s been there since the beginning, but for a new, young fan who got turned onto the band with the internet recommendation of essentially “hail-to-the-80s,” it makes for a new thought. Either way, I’ve got some more Saxon albums to buy!

The concert had absolutely superb sound and mixing, and a brilliant civilized crowd. I had lots of space, a great view and wasn’t shoved or crowd-surfed over once. Just like when I saw Queensryche here last year… awesome venue, and an older crowd is nice too. Hmmm, why am I mentoning Queensryche so much? Queensryche on the brain tonight.

Nigel Glockler is a fantastic drummer. He injected such life and energy into things. He would throw in double-kicks and extra fills and sneaky cymbal catches all over the place and really improve and modernize the drum tracks to all the classic material.That and his fills are thunderous. He plays with a lot of power and authority. It makes the band feel so much tighter, stronger and heavier than the studio recordings. If I was going to recommend Saxon on someone I’d now recommend they check out a live album with Nigel on it. Possibly the St George’s Day Sacrifice one since it was also from Manchester’s HMV Ritz. I know he was there in like ’82… but still, here he just felt so… like a young modern guy coming in and kicking ass… you know like when you hear an old song, and think ‘I’d love if someone with some umph covered this’? Well… Nigel gave the material that umph. Like I said, I know he’s got a long, long history in the band, but something about seeing him in the flesh just made me stand back and think “wow… this guy is awesome.”

The band also added extra parts to some of the songs and extended or slightly rearranged them to be better live. A lot of their best songs are pretty short, and to make them up live they’d throw in an extra guitar solo, or one more repetition of the chorus to just let you sing along one more time… it worked really well. The whole unit were incredible.

Even ‘Suzie Hold On’ which I never really liked (until now), felt really great live. I usually zone out during ‘The Eagle Has Landed’ too even though I like it, because the comparison to Judas Priest’s ‘Victim Of Changes’ distracts me and my brain runs off on a thought-tangent and before I start concentrating again the song is over, but it completely captured my attention here, especially with Nigel making it feel so much more powerful.

Then, hearing all the classics like ‘Strong Arm Of The Law,’ ‘Denim & Leather,’ ‘Dallas 1PM,’ ‘747 (Strangers In The Night)’ ‘The Power And The Glory’ and ‘Princess Of The Night’ was just great fun. It was awesome. Real fun sing-along stuff, very entertaining concert… well sang, well played, sounding and looking great, with the whole ‘raises-them-to-another-level’ drumming really icing the whole metaphorical cake.

Bottom line… Saxon were awesome and I had a great time. Go see ‘em if you’re a fan, they are excellent live. If you can’t see ‘em live maybe check out the Wacken DVD or the new George’s Day live album for some Glockler-improved Saxon.

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.

Chances are, that if you listen to Rock or Metal music, you’ll have come across the idea of the seminal, incendiary live album. An album that just absolutely scorches, and where the versions of the songs are heavier, bigger and more bombastic than their studio counterparts.

After about a year, or two years at the most, nobody needs to be told to check out Live And Dangerous, Live At Leeds, Live Killers, Live After Death, Alive, Alive II, Unleashed In The East, No Sleep Till Hammersmith, Made In Japan, Playing The Fool or 101 Proof Live.

The following is a list of albums that are every bit as good as those, but for whatever reason aren’t just quite as famous. If you like Rock or Metal music at all, of course you should pick up those aforementioned records, but you also should get yourself a copy of these:

Live

1. Jethro Tull – Bursting Out: This album sees Jethro Tull touring Heavy Horses, with a really powerful performance, witty stage banter, and a phenomenal set list. They manage to mix in a few acoustic numbers without killing the energy and have a drum solo that isn’t boring (an absolute miracle as far as live albums go). The songs are so much bigger and heavier than their album counterparts; hear how ‘Sweet Dream’ absolutely comes to life. The version of ‘Thick As A Brick’ on here is indescribably brilliant. This record mixes up tracks from many different Tull eras and makes them sound cohesive and related.Material from Stand Up sits proudly beside material from Songs From The Woods and sounds absolutely natural in so doing, all owing to the fact that the band are absolutely on fire, and deliver the material so well. As far as live albums go, this is hands down one of the best ever to be released. In Fact; Not only is this a brilliant live album, or a brilliant Tull album, its one of the best albums ever released. If you haven’t got it I’d strongly urge you to find out what you’re missing.

Live

2. King Crimson – USA: This is an absolute rager of an album, the performances are out of this world. The setlist pulls together some of the absolute best tracks from the Wetton period, and adds ‘21st Century Schizoid Man’ in there too for good measure. If you haven’t explored the band any further than In The Court Of The Crimson King yet, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of this. Prepare to have your hair blown back.

Live

3. Lynyrd Skynyrd – One More From The Road: Quite how this album isn’t the most famous Skynyrd release really is beyond me. This album is absolutely fantatic. So much energy. There’s not one song on here that’s better in the studio. This takes every Skynyrd track worth thinking about from the first four albums and makes them faster, heavier and better. There’s ‘Sweet Home Alabama,’ ‘Tuesdays Gone’ and ‘Free Bird’ for the casual fans, and just about every gem going for the rest of you. The version of ‘Travelin Man’ on here is quite possibly the best thing that Skynyrd ever recorded. Instead of buying a greatest hits, buy this.

Live

4. Saxon – The Eagle Has Landed Live: This is a recent addition to the list. I only got into Saxon last April after being a bit skeptical of them. I’ve been listening to the first six studio albums a lot since then, but it took me a while to realize that this live album which I got as part of the same boxset I got all those records in existed, and was worth listening to. Not only is it worth listening to though, its absolutely brilliant. I don’t know why people don’t talk about this more often. It contains absolutely all the best songs from Saxon’s best three albums, performed with power and precision. Long story short, you listen to this and you’ll walk away thinking Saxon are brilliant. If you only buy one Saxon album, it should be this one. The only thing I would say about this album at all is that it doesn’t have the song “Denim And Leather” on it, although I fixed that for myself in iTunes by moving the live bonus track of it from The Crusader over to the end of this. If you ever wonder why Saxon were considered equals to Maiden and Motorhead at one stage, listen to this and you’ll see why. All of their best stuff with none of the filler, great solos, great riffs, an appreciative audience and a killer performance. You can’t beat it.

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5. Marilyn Manson – The Last Tour On Earth: I think you’ve gathered the idea of this list by now. Consequently, you’ll probably understand that if its included here, then The Last Tour On Earth is an absolutely cracking live album, that takes the best songs available at the time it was recorded, and makes them even better. John 5 really adds extra style and class to the material. The whole thing just absolutely jumps out of the speakers. No fan should be without this.

Live

6. Foghat – Live: I think I might go so far as to say that this is all you really need from Foghat. They had some great songs but the albums were often a bit hit and miss, you’d get one or two absolute ragers on an album, then the rest would just be “OK.” There’s none of that here though. This takes six of their ever best tracks and delivers them in a really energetic, exciting way. The musicianship is absolutely stellar. If you like guitar solos then this is definitely an album for you. In fact, if you like Classic Rock at all you really should give this album a try.

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7. Biohazard – No Holds Barred: Everything that I just said about Saxon’s album; that all goes for this too. No Hold Barred is all of the band’s best songs at the time of recording, played hard and with passion, to an audience that gives a crap. Its one of those albums that makes you feel like you’re at the concert. Anytime you forget how good Biohazard are, or any time that you start to think that the rapping is a bit much, a bit cheesy or whatever… this album shows you just what a serious, creative and powerful band Biohazard are. The recording quality isn’t the best (due to the band’s strict no-overdudbs policy) but the passion and umph more than make up for that.

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8. Blackfoot – Highway Song Live: Blackfoot in my opinion are what you would get if you crossed 70s Judas Priest with Lynyrd Skynyrd, and then made it twice as fun. This album captures them at the absolute height of the powers, with a setlist comprised mostly of their best material, absolutely smashing it. Its loud, raucous and its very, very fun.Its hard to hear something like ‘Good Morning’ without breaking out into a giant grin. Every song on here has that effect, Ricky Medlocke really knows how to force you to have a good time. If you like Blackfoot its mandatory listening and if you haven’t tried them yet, you should give this a shot. Its a fine, fine introduction.

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9. Machine Head – Hellalvie: This album may have been released as a contractual obligation; there might be a few cover songs that the band played live removed from the album to save money, two of the songs may be taken from a different show and the setlist may contain more music from the controversial Burning Red and Supercharger albums than a few fans might care for, but do you know what? This album is absolute solid gold. There is such a brilliant energy and power to this performance. Tracks like ‘Nothing Left’ and ‘Supercharger’ are a thousand times better live than their studio counterparts, and the songs from the first two albums crush just as hard. Don’t be too proud to give this album a chance or else you’re missing out big time, because its an absolute gem.

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10. Led Zeppelin – How The West Was Won: Don’t be put off this because it was released so long after it was recorded. Don’t worry about things like “nostalgia” or “cash in.” Just listen to the version of ‘Immigrant Song’ and ‘Over The Hills And Far Away’ and be absolutely decimated by some of the best live performances anyone has ever captured on tape. As a gigantic, triple album taken from different concerts you’d think it might be a bit bloated and bitty, put it really works. I have to admit that if I’m listening to it, I’ll give the gigantic Drum Solo and Guitar solo a miss, but when the songs are being played, this is one of the best records on the market, period.