Posts Tagged ‘Rainbow’

220px-Intermission_(Stratovarius_album)_coverIntermission is a mish-mash compilation album by the Finnish Power Metal band Stratovarius from 2001. It was released as a stopgap between their commercially successful Infinite album from 2000 and their ambitious and slightly Prog Metal double album series Elements Parts 1 & 2 from 2003.

Its got linear notes from the band about the release and a very well designed cover art referencing previous albums (kind of like Pink Floyd’s Echos compilation does).

The album opens up with four brand new songs, first of which is the slightly power ballad style ‘Will My Soul Ever Rest In Peace?’ Its nice solid melodic Hard Rock stuff. Next comes ‘Falling Into Fantasy’ which starts off with a shimmering Empire-era Queensryche style vibe. Think ‘Della Brown.’ It sounds like the sort of stuff the band were doing on the popular Destiny album. Speaking of Queensryche the chorus is quite reminiscent of ‘Jet City Woman’ too actually. The song livens up further with a nice energetic guitar solo and a fun drum pattern underneath with a very nice tom fill at the end of the solo. At the start you thought it was just another ballad (Statovarius do a lot of ’em) but really it turned out to be one of the best songs they do in this particular direction, if a little derivative of Degarmo and company (for me that’s a good thing really).

That’s followed up by the traditionally power metal track ‘The Curtains Are Falling,’ a speedy double-kicks-a-flailin’ headbanger with a catchy chorus and memorable neoclassical keyboards. Its got a lot of energy and probably would have been the smarter choice to open the album with, I think. Probably would’ve worked better going from most to least energetic, but hey, its sequenced how its sequenced folks, I don’t make the rules.

Finally there’s a track called ‘Requiem’ which is essentially just a typical instrumental intro or outro. The sort thing most people will skip after the first few listens. A slow, keyboard driven atmospheric build up with no Heavy Metal payoff.

That’s it for the brand new specially written for this songs. The rest are gathered from mixed sources during their classic period. There’s two demos ‘Neon Light Child’ and ‘Freedom’ both of which are OK but forgettable (just the same as the final versions but with less polished production really). Then two live tracks, ‘Hunting High & Low’ (their very fun hit single) and ‘I Surrender’ (which is actually a Rainbow cover, and very fun, if a bit out of place), which are nice but kind of pointless on a compilation as opposed to a proper full-length live album. There’s two studio cover songs; ‘Bloodstone’ originally by Judas Priest (which they nail) and ‘Kill The King’ originally by Rainbow again (which has been done better by other bands, but its decent if you aren’t over-familiar with it).

The majority of the rest is all the bonus tracks from deluxe editions of the last few albums etc. ‘Keep The Flame’ is a very somber and emotional piano ballad. ‘Dream With Me’ is a power ballad that gets very jaunty towards the end when the solo kicks in. Then there’s another power ballad called ‘What Can I Say?’ which is slightly similar to track one, but with a bit more bite to it. OK yes, sensing a theme here? There are a lot of ballads on here. Its not all ballads though…

‘Its A Mystery’ is a very strong more commercial Power Metal tune in the vein of ‘Hunting High & Low’ which sounds like it would’ve fit perfectly on Infinite and probably would’ve made a great single if they’d released it that way. Its one of the best songs on this compilation. ‘Why Are We Here?’ the bonus track from Infinite is similarly just another really strong track from them in their commercial direction, and also baffling that it wasn’t a big single either. ‘Cold Winter Nights’ is typical perfect up-tempo Stratovarius, with that sort of Judas Priest’s Electric Eye vibe only with more keyboards and melody. Its also one of the best songs here and a nice surprise if it wasn’t on your version of Destiny already. ‘When The Night Turns To Day’ is a stomping mid pace track with a whiff of Queensryche’s Empire about it, just like the new track mentioned above. It would also have fit best on Destiny (even though it was initially from as far back as Episode, if you can believe that).

As you can imagine, Intermission is just a jumble of odds and ends with no particular theme or flow or consistency. Its not a must-have release or anything. Hey, if you like ’em doing ballads and covers you’re quids-in. If you want ’em doing more of a Speed Metal thing there’s not so much of that on here though, so maybe don’t start here if you are new, pick up one of the records in their glory run from Episode to Elements Part 2 instead.

If you like the band already though, and just want a cheap, easy and quick way to get the bonus tracks and b-sides in one place then this is great for that purpose, and hey there’s four solid new songs too to flesh it out. Nothing life changing, but worth a look if you’ve ran out of other Stratovarius products to check out from this era.

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.

Welcome to yet another edition of my blog series, Get (Into) What You Paid For. Its day 37, and I haven’t spent anything new today. Well, I bought concert tickets on behalf of someone else if we’re being 100% honest, but I’m not “counting that” as a failure in the challenge.

Yesterday, I described how I’d been reading Martin Popoff’s Top 500 Metal Albums book, and it had gotten me to sit back and listen to albums that I haven’t been focusing on lately (and some that I have, but from the same era). I’m very much at the same business today. Every time he brings up an album I like, it has me running to the iPod or CD player to revisit some gem.

Here’s what I’ve got through today:














In between lifting weights, consuming more fruit and veg than I would’ve in an entire year in my teens, and other health-related activities now that I’ve got my motivation back, I’ve managed to refresh myself of a lot of things.

Some that I heard today like Rainbow’s Long Live Rock N Roll, I usually only listen to one or two tracks from, but if I’m honest I have never really fully got into, perhaps because of picking them up at the same time as a bunch of other albums. (I can’t believe how unfamiliar I am with Queensryche’s song “Nightrider” despite how much I listen to the band overall). I still feel like that Rainbow album is new. Its in my “new pile” in my brain. I actually bought it in 2009. That’s five years now. Similarly, Iron Maiden’s Final Frontier was got even earlier in that year and I feel like its still new too, however I got Arctic Monkeys’ Humbug on the same day, but they’ve had two records since then and it feels super old. Perception is a strange thing, ey?

On a similar note… I barely ever, ever, ever listen to “Gyspy” by Dio. Why not? Why has that song just been deleted from my memory? It was on the album when I bought it, I didn’t delete it, I listen to other songs from the album. I listen to the other albums of the first four Dio albums a lot. Why has “Gypsy” just been jettisoned? Oh well, its back in my brain now…

Some that I heard today, like the Anthrax albums, are among my favourite albums ever, but have for some reason been a bit ignored in the last two years, and now its time to get them back into rotation. It strange how long I can go without listening to Anthrax actually…. I remember saying so many times in my teens that they were my favourite band in the world (but hey, so were Biohazard and Napalm Death at different stages too, and I’ve somehow basically not listened to them in 2014).

Some that I heard today, such as the Saxon ones, I’ve been caning a lot recently anyway, but hey, they fit with the general theme of the rest of my listening, and I’m in the mood for them.

I also went for the two Judas Priest albums that I listen to the least nowadays. Wow, how good is Defenders Of The Faith, seriously? Why am I not listening to that more often. I remember thinking it wasn’t as good as some of the others and tails off towards the end, and mostly I just listen to “Eat Me Alive” on its own. Strange that this has fallen out of favour, because I liked it at the time I bought it, and gave it a good review, but somewhere in the last three years I forgot all about this one. Taken for granted! Well no more!

I guess it is just a matter of how much new stuff you buy. Even the absolute gold gets ignored due to time constraints (when was the last time I actually listened to And Justice For All come to think of it?). I love this whole Get (Into) What You Paid For system because it really gets me not only to save money, but feel a real pleasure in rediscovering things, like Rob Halford’s vocals on “Love Bites” or the ending to Rainbows “Kill The King” (- a song I feel I’ve heard a lot due to Heathen and Megadeth covering it, and yet, the ending was a surprise joy!).

I’m thinking of extending this round now from 1.5 months to 2 months! This is great fun.