black sabbath

REVIEW: Stryper – Fallen (2016 Japanese import)

STRYPER – Fallen (2016 Frontiers, Marquee Japanese import)

As far as this writer is concerned, Stryper are the reunion kings.  Their 80s output featured fantastic singles like “Calling to You” and “Free”, but many of the albums were uneven and not as rocking as you knew they wanted to be.  Since their heavy-as-hell (pun intended) comeback album Reborn (2005), Stryper have been off the leash.  It seems they gave up trying to fit in to any specific mold and are just trying to be true to themselves through their music.  2016’s incredible Fallen could be the pinnacle of the reunion era.

Unabashedly Christian, the opening track “Yahweh” happens to be one of the most potently epic slices of rock I’ve heard.  A choir sings “Yahweh, Yahweh…” while lead wailer Michael Sweet spits out of his words as few singers in metal can do.  His range is still remarkable and he has lost none of his lung capacity.  There are Maiden-esque riffs, latter-day Metallica grooves, and some seriously epic solo work by Sweet and guitarist Oz Fox.  And that’s all in just the first 6:21 of the album.  It’s strange to say, but you could compare “Yahweh” to similar epic tracks by Ghost.

“Yahweh” may be the most impressive track on a very good metal album, but it’s certainly not the only one.  The cool descending riff that accompanies “Fallen” bites into your flesh, while Sweet’s chorus lifts the ceiling.  There is also material that sounds like old school Stryper, such as “King of Kings”, “Big Screen Lies” and “Pride”.  These songs boast big and classic sounding choruses and riffs.  Stryper even snuck in a Black Sabbath cover (not their first) of “After Forever”.  The words fit Stryper like a leather studded glove:

Perhaps you’ll think before you say that God is dead and gone,
Open your eyes, just realize that He is the one,
The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate,
Or will you still jeer at all you hear? Yes, I think it’s too late.

A lot of people forget how Christian that particular Sabbath lyric is!  Very amusing how much flack metal took from the church in the 80s, all the while “After Forever” dated back to Master of Reality in 1971!  Granted, I’m certain that most Catholics wouldn’t appreciate the line “Would you like to see the pope on the end of a rope, do you think he’s a fool?”

Whether you are a believer (it’s not a requirement) or just a worshipper at the altar of St. Halen, Stryper serves up plenty of hot metal on Fallen.  The modern grooves of “Heaven” and “Let There Be Light” are two that should appeal to many, and long time fans of Stryper will go bananas for the emphasis on melodies and choruses.  And Stryper didn’t forget their ballad fans, either.  “All Over Again” is a typical bombastic Stryper ballad, but not with the extra saccharine they used to utilize in the 80s.  And if that is too bombastic for you, check out the acoustic version included as a Japanese exclusive bonus track.  I think I prefer the bare acoustic version, but I’m also getting tired of getting acoustic versions as my Japanese bonus tracks.  It seems the go-to bonus track lately has been the acoustic version.

Rest assured, Stryper have not Fallen.  Quite the opposite. They continue to soar on mighty wings of metal.

5/5 stars

 

 

 

 

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R.I.P. Geoff Nicholls

2017 rolls on like a mini-2016.  The latest casualty is former Black Sabbath keyboardist Geoff Nicholls who was on every Sabbath album from Heaven and Hell (1980) to Forbidden (1995).  He played bass and sang when need be.  For that period of Sabbath’s history, he was the only stable member excluding Tony Iommi himself.  Geoff passed at age 68, after a battle with lung cancer.  He was rarely pictured with the four “main” Sabbath members, but he was more important than most of them.  Rest in Peace.

#539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

GETTING MORE TALE #539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth Michigan is a small Bavarian hamlet/tourist trap not too far from the Canada border.  Some people love going; I seem to be one of the only dissenting voices.  My best friend Peter introduced us to the Frankenmuth tradition.  His family would typically go once a year, staying at the Bavarian Inn.  The big draws to the town are two.  One is the big “family style” chicken dinner at Zehnder’s, where the food just keeps coming.  The other attraction is Bronner’s, an all-year-round Christmas store.  Some in my family seemed absolutely thrilled to be buying our Christmas ornaments in April.

Frankenmuth seemed a long way to go for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  However, it’s not too far for a shopping excursion focused on music, so that’s what I turned it into for me.  In the three years I went to Frankenmuth, I found plenty of goodies, and accumulated some entertaining memories.

frankenmuth

My first year was 1992.  I had just finished writing all my final exams for my first year classes at Laurier.  The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert had just aired.  I taped the whole thing, and then recorded it to cassette (three 100 minute tapes).  I tossed that into the Walkman, and joined the family for our first US road trip together.

The Mercury concert was special.  Queen shared the stage with some luminaries as David Bowie (RIP), George Michael (RIP), Mick Ronson (RIP), and many more.  Vivian Campbell played live with Def Leppard for the first time.  Tony Iommi and James Hetfield shared the stage with Queen on “Stone Cold Crazy”.  Guns N’ Roses were there, and Axl got to sing with new friend Elton John.  The excitement in the air was genuine.  There was talk afterwards of someone charismatic, like George Michael or Gary Cherone joining Queen permanently so they could continue.

Our first road stop was a McDonalds in a small town just outside of Flint.  The washroom stunk of piss so badly that my dad couldn’t even use it. Great first impression, Michigan!

When we got to the Bavarian Inn, I had the chance to watch MTV for the first time at length.  After all I’d heard about it, I was disappointed to see it was not nearly as good as Canada’s MuchMusic.  The American coverage of the Mercury concert (which was re-running all weekend) was truncated compared to what we saw in Canada.  MuchMusic had Erica Ehm and others on site at Wembley interviewing the stars and covering behind-the-scenes, while the US coverage cut away to other things.  The food at the Bavarian Inn was incredible, including what I remember to be the best omelette I’ve ever tasted.

I can’t say that I cared for the family style chicken dinner.  “Family style” isn’t my thing (where everybody has the same dinner, all served together on big platters).  If I’m eating out, I will rarely order chicken.  Seemed like a big waste of a night out, to go and eat somewhere that serves chicken dinner just like you get at home.  But I didn’t make these decisions, I just complained about them!

On the way home, we stopped at a Target store in Port Huron.  My first Target store; I had never even heard of them before.  This is where I made my first US music purchases.  In stock was the cassette single for “Let’s Get Rocked” by Def Leppard.  This featured the bonus track “Only After Dark”, a Mick Ronson track, who had just played at the Mercury concert!  The other item I picked up was Slaughter’s new The Wild Life CD, which had a different cover than the ones I’d seen in Canada.  It still appears to be the rarest version today.

The 1993 trip was even better, because this time Peter came with us.  In 1993, Peter was the man with the plan.  He was looking for something.  Something very specific, that as of yet was not released in Canada.  He had read about this new comedy tape called The Jerky Boys, and he was determined to find a copy.  And find a copy he did.

We found The Jerky Boys at a record store just on the outskirts of Frankenmuth.  At the same store, I picked five tapes that I couldn’t get back home:  Savatage’s first albums Sirens (1983), The Dungeons are Calling (1985), Power of the Night (1986) and the brand new Edge of Thorns (1993).  There was also Richie Kotzen’s third album, Electric Joy.  These fine records meant that the summer of 1993 was filled with sounds both heavy and complex.  The Kotzen album was a whole level beyond was I was used to listening to.  As for Savatage, they heavied up my tastes at a time when I was craving faster/heavier/louder.

I spent a lot of time absorbing each of these albums, but it was The Jerky Boys that dominated the car tape deck on that Frankenmuth trip.  Peter and I listened to the entire thing through.  Tarbash the Egyptian Magician, Sol Rosenberg and his glasses (he can’t see goddammit), and the whole gang had us laughing so hard, my sides actually hurt.  When the tape was done, we put it on repeat and played it again.  I’m not sure if my mom and dad enjoyed the Jerky Boys as much as I did.  I started calling people “sizzlechest” and responding to questions with “listen jerky, I don’t need to talk to you.”

What a summer.

This Frankenmuth trip was also my Karaoke debut.  I chose “The Immigrant Song”.  And I fucking killed it, in my opinion!  Like Axl Rose gyrating on meth, I owned that stage.  The heels of my cowboy boots stomped the boards, keeping their own beat.  I asked my entire family to leave the room, but I lost my place in the song when I caught them spying around a corner.

On we sweep, with threshing oar, our only goal will be the western shore.

That was a fantastic trip.  Mission accomplished, with both the music shopping and the Jerky Boys acquisition.  On my third and final year going to Frankenmuth, Peter really upped his game.  Once again, the goal was to acquire something that we could not get in Canada.

Instead of travelling in one car, we did a convoy with two.  Peter and I needed transportation of our own to run the missions we were planning.

As much as MTV did not impress me on my first US trip, our goal this time was dependant on MTV.

“Let’s rent a VCR and tape some episodes of Beavis and Butthead!”  We didn’t get the show in Canada.

That is exactly what we did.  We drove over to the local video store, and rented a VCR.  You might think renting a VCR in a foreign country might be difficult, but it wasn’t.  We hooked it up to the hotel TV (much easier than doing something like this today — more on that in a future instalment of Getting More Tale also involving Peter).  Tuning up MTV, we watched some music before Beavis and Butthead was scheduled.

This time, MTV really pissed me off.  They gleefully ran the embarrassing 1994 Motley Crue interview that the band infamously walked out of.  But the band didn’t do themselves any favours in that interview. MTV baited them a bit with the questions, but they didn’t have to attack Vince Neil in their answers. “No one cares anyway,” said Nikki Sixx when asked about his former frontman. Pushed further, they were asked to comment on Vince’s recent jet-ski accident that put him in hospital with broken ribs. Laughing, Mick Mars asked “What happened to the coral reef?” Sixx answered, “Hey, when 300 pounds of blubber lands on a coral reef, there’s gonna be some dust flying around.”

The question that killed the interview was about “women, hairspray and fire.” MTV ran the segment complete with Nikki mocking the question, while showing images of women, hairspray and fire from their music videos. Stick in a fork in that lineup; it was done.  No matter how good that 1994 Motley Crue album was (and is), that interview polished off the attempted comeback in one stroke.

We recorded a couple episodes of Beavis and Butthead and called it a night.  The next day we did some music and comic book shopping.  US exclusive once more:  Quiet Riot’s reunion album Terrified found and liberated.  I didn’t even know they had come out with anything new.  A cassette single for “Heaven Help” by Lenny Kravitz also found its way home with me. I scored an oversized Black Sabbath comic (Rock-It Comics) and Transformers: Generation 2 #1 with the silver foil fold out cover.

With another successful trip in the books, we packed our bags and checked out.  The last mission to run was returning the VCR to the video store.  There was only one snag.  We were primed and ready to head home early…and the video store opened at noon.  We had to kill some hours driving around, but when that store opened we got the hell out of dodge.  Not the greatest return trip ever, but at least we had Lenny Kravitz.

I stopped going to Frankenmuth after that trip, although Peter and his family returned yearly for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  My family too.  My mom tells me of a memorable trip that ended in the hospital!   Four years ago my mother, father and sister made a trip where they did the usual; Frankenmuth chicken and the Christmas store. They also ate a lot of junk food; pizza, hot dogs, French fries and candy. On the way home they stopped along the 401 for more French fries. That night my mother ended up in the hospital with a gall bladder attack. It was serious enough that she had it removed two weeks later.  Thank goodness they were home when it happened as they never bothered with extra insurance for a short trip to the US.

As years went on, I ran into people all the time who had gone to Frankenmuth for a vacation.  Inevitably, they will always talk about three things:  the Bavarian Inn, the chicken dinners, and the Christmas store.  None of them seem to have any stories about cool comic books, or finding rare tapes and CDs in Frankenmuth.  Very few of them have done Karaoke, and none have performed “The Immigrant Song” at the Bavarian Inn.  Nobody rented a VCR to record Beavis and Butthead, and then have to wait hours for the store to open to return said VCR.   Nobody even discovered the Jerky Boys on their Michigan trips.

I guess that means that Peter and I are the only ones who did Frankenmuth right.

#533: Spirituality as a Heavy Metal Fan

STOPARRETThe below is a personal non-preachy discussion on living life as a Christian heavy metal fan.  I’m not interested in changing anyone’s personal convictions, just telling a story.  If this bothers you, press “back” now.

 

papa

GETTING MORE TALE #533: Spirituality as a Heavy Metal Fan

Any fan of heavy metal music who is also a believer in the Lord above has had to come to grips with this apparently hypocrisy.  How can one follow the word of God and yet listen to Ghost?

Believe In One God Do We,
Satan Almighty,
The Uncreator Of Heaven And Evil,
And The Unvisable And The Visable,
And In His Son,
Begotten Of Father,
By Whom All Things Shall Be Unmade,
Who For Man And His Damnation,
Incarnated,
Rise Up From Hell,
From Sitteth On The Left Hand Of His Father,
From Thense He Shall Come To Judge,
Out Of One Substance,
With Satan,
Whose Kingdom Shall Haveth No End.

I wrestled with this contradiction very early in life. As a young Catholic-raised kid discovering rock music, I wanted to make up my own mind. One of my earliest sources of music via the magic of Sunday afternoon taping sessions was my next door neighbor George.  In addition to the Kiss discography, George had most of the Maiden, Priest and Ozzy catalogue either on LP or cassette.  George wasn’t particularly religious, but one afternoon he did tell me, “I won’t listen to anything Satanic.”  I took that to mean that Maiden, Priest and Ozzy lyrics checked out A-OK.

Many people of faith have found that their religious convictions shake and waver over the years.  That period for me began in the 1990s, although I never considered myself an agnostic or an atheist.  I was in the early years of my University career; that period when you think you know it all.  I remember some fierce discussions around the dinner table with me loudly proclaiming that I was the only sitting authority on whatever subject had come up.  My parents remember them too, as the naive younger me spouted off about whatever I read on an overhead projector.  Meanwhile, I was frustrated that they didn’t seem to be giving my lecture serious enough consideration.  Some dinners ended up with me storming up to my room in anger with my food unfinished.

One of my earliest courses in University was my first year introduction to Anthropology.  The prof, whose name long escapes me now, was an animated character.  His long hair was always tied up in a ponytail on the back of his head.  He wore suits and ties to class, which most profs did not.  Many (especially in the psych department) preferred socks and sandals.  He told anecdotes and moved around a lot.  He always kept one hand on the podium.  The class noticed his storytelling sessions always proceeded with one hand firmly anchored, keeping him in a tight orbit at the front of the classroom.  He was a fantastic teacher and I briefly considered a career in Anthropology before I realized it involved a great deal of travel and going out of doors.

He was most certainly an atheist, which is unsurprising considering that the first semester of the class was about primate evolution.  He was fascinating, and though I never doubted the science of genetics and natural selection, he certainly proved to me that the simple 7-days 7-nights story of the Bible did not happen as simply as it was written.  That could only be allegory for a sequence of events that humanity did not have words for or basic knowledge of at the time.  Knowledge is cumulative.  We know now that we can follow the development of life through fossils, getting older and older as we dig deeper.  Things line up, make sense.  He explained to us why the concept of a “missing link” is a logical fallacy.

None of this bothered me.  Even though I wouldn’t consider myself a spiritual person at that age, I just assumed any God who is truly all knowing and all powerful could easily create the universe as it was, with the laws of nature, physics and all the matter inside it, via the Big Bang.  It would still turn out exactly as He envisioned it to, because that’s the definition of an all powerful God.  There didn’t seem to be any contradiction to me.  I tried to argue this as part of an intro Philosophy course paper that I wrote the same year.  I attempted to go to the quantum scale to explain things and blew it fabulously.  That paper was a C-, if I recall correctly.  The T.A. that marked it suggested that the quantum section should have been axed completely.  (He was absolutely right!)

At the same time, I was very deeply invested in a love of heavy music, having collected at least 400 tapes at that stage.  Stryper aside, none of them were Christian rock.  There were plenty of masters of the dark arts, however:  Alice Cooper, the Ozzman, the Sabs, Priest, Maiden and the lot.  As least, that’s the way many religious folks seemed to think it was over the years.  I couldn’t hear any Satanism in their lyrics.  Look at the words to Sabbath’s “After Forever”:

I think it was true it was people like you that crucified Christ,
I think it is sad the opinion you had was the only one voiced,
Will you be so sure when your day is near, say you don’t believe?
You had the chance but you turned it down, now you can’t retrieve.

Perhaps you’ll think before you say that God is dead and gone,
Open your eyes, just realize that He’s the one,
The only one who can save you now from all this sin and hate,
Or will you still jeer at all you hear? Yes! I think it’s too late.

Because the song also has a line that goes “Would you like to see the Pope on the end of a rope – do you think he’s a fool?,” some folks are likely to get their panties in a bunch. Context in any art form is important, often true with lyrics.  It’s hard to imagine Ozzy sitting there seriously worshipping Satan when he’d rather be drinking, don’t you think?

At the same time, I was collecting the albums of Savatage, and their lyrics sometimes had a clearly Christian bent.  Their Streets album features a character called “D.T. Jesus” and a full-on Holy character redemption.  This didn’t bother me either.  It stirred warm memories of Bible stories that I learned in school.  Most importantly at that time, I was learning that music lyrics are not always meant to be taken at face value.  Take Poison for example.  You might think that the “Unskinny Bop” might be an exercise regime.  They cleverly disguised their true intention with made-up words.  Ozzy isn’t singing about his belief in the undead in “Bark at the Moon”.  Maybe he’s inspired by some movie he saw as a kid.  Does it really even matter?  It’s just a song.  It’s just entertainment.

OZZYThere is one instance when paying attention to the words does really matter, such as when a vulnerable youth might think “Flying High Again” sounds really fun and cool because Ozzy said so.  But that is where the parents must step up.  It’s not Ozzy’s responsibility, nor the state’s, to monitor what your kids are doing.  Pay attention to what they are listening to and make sure you give them the straight talk on any issues that concern you.  That’s what my parents did (unbeknownst to me).  My mom read over the lyrics when I wasn’t home.  She never had made any musical demands of her son other than “turn it down” when it was too loud.

I felt a stronger return to my faith around the time I met my wife.  Our connection seemed beyond just two random people falling for each other.  It seemed like two puzzle pieces coming together.  Like I’d finally found the one who understands and puts up with my bizarre self, and vice versa.  It’s not about thinking “I was made for loving you, and you were made me loving me,” so much as feeling it.  One thing I learned from Philosophy class is that faith is not something you can prove or disprove.  The definition of an omniscient and omnipotent God means He or She could create the universe we live in without leaving any trace of His/Her existence, nor any purpose we can comprehend.  Maybe we’re all just chess pieces on a big chess board.  You don’t know and you can never prove it one way or another, because how do you know your “proof” isn’t just another move in the chess game?

Faith means you believe something or not.  I think science is pretty bang-on with how it describes how the universe behaves, and will continue to modify and reshape its theories based on what comes flying out of the next particle accelerators.  It’s an exciting time to be following science, as we unlock some of the most elusive particles predicted by theory.  At the same time, events in my life (far more than just meeting my wife) have made my heart lean further in the direction of faith than disbelief.  I think whoever it is that created the universe did so with the laws of nature that we study today.  I think that science is peering into the mind of God, as Einstein suggested.  I came to these conclusions on my own; only later did I realize many got there before me.

As for lyrics about Satan even though I’m on the other guy’s side?  I think it’s all about being a good person in the time you’re given on this Earth.  I don’t care what you call it; that doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.  As long as you try to go about your life without being an asshole, sure we can be friends.  For example I’d be foolish to exclude you from friendship just because we don’t share the same opinions on (delicious) olives.  I’d be equally foolish to exclude you just because you have different ideas about how we all got here.  I think, if anything, we’re all here to help each other.  We should do that anyway, even if it’s just holding a door open for your neighbor.  There are some things that some Christians consider hellfire-worthy sins that I could care less about.  It was always important for me to find a balance between my spiritual beliefs and what I know to be right or wrong.  I’ve encountered a few Christians who say that homosexuality in a sin.  A really bad one, too.  I don’t want anything to do with that statement.  I know in my mind and my heart that it doesn’t matter what gender you’re attracted to.  What matters is using your time on this Earth to be the best person you can be.

I like Ghost; I don’t have to sing along to their music if I’m not feeling the words.  That’s free will, and I don’t think I’ll go to hell for exercising it, even though some folks have warned me that’s where I’m headed.  I hope that when it comes to the important choices in life, I’ve made more of the good kind than bad.  At the end of it all, that seems to be more important.

Reverend X.  Much different than Catholic school.  Is that a phone book?

REVIEW: Heavy Metal – Music From the Motion Picture (1981)

movie-soundtrack-weekHere we go with another week of movie soundtracks! It’s a case of the second one being even better than the first, so let’s start things off properly, shall we?

 


Scan_20160706HEAVY METAL – Music From the Motion Picture (1981 Elektra)

I’d never seen anything like Heavy Metal before.  It was a sci-fi cartoon with a bunch of guys from SCTV doing voices…but it wasn’t for kids!  I probably saw my first animated genitalia in Heavy Metal.  It was also the first time I heard Sammy Hagar.

Sammy’s title track opens the now-legendary soundtrack, which like many others was deleted in the 1990s and commanded heavy prices on the second hand market.  When I worked at the Record Store during that period, there were always plenty of names on the wish list for this album.  There were tracks on here that were hard to find anywhere else.  This version of Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” is different from the one on Sammy’s Standing Hampton LP, and it was not the only such exclusive.  “Heavy Metal” is one of Hagar’s best tunes, simply legendary.  It’s a pummelling good time!

The rest of the album is equally awesome.  Riggs (Jerry Riggs, later of the Pat Travers Band) has a Hagar-esque rocker called “Heartbeat” that is definitely good enough for rock n’ roll.  You might not expect DEVO to be on an album called Heavy Metal, but what’s not to like about “Working in the Coal Mine”?  I’m sure more than a few metal fans would have skipped this one back in 1981, but when compared to the next song by Blue Öyster Cult…what’s the big deal?  B.Ö.C.’s “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” leans just as heavily on synthesizer, so purists be damned.  “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” is a classic, through and through, a dark apocalyptic ballad that can’t be touched.  Some would say it was the last gasp of B.Ö.C. before a long period of mediocrity.  Cheap Trick utilised synth too, but their “Reach Out” is a rocker.  Cheap Trick were another band in a period of decline, following the departure of original bassist Tom Petersson. “Reach Out” was a damn fine tune, and not on one of their albums at the time.  (It’s hard not to notice that Tod Howarth ripped off the verses of “Reach Out” for his own song “Calling to You” with Frehley’s Comet.  Howarth later played with Cheap Trick as a sideman.)

Don Felder from the Eagles isn’t the kind of guy you’d expect to hear do a song called “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)”.  It’s an Eagles-metal hybrid and it’s pretty cool, more metal than Eagles, but you can hear them in there.  He’s followed by Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen who presents the interesting “True Companion”.  It’s progressive jazz light rock nirvana.  The punks will hate it, but the same guys who dig Captain Beyond will appreciate it.  Quite daring to include tracks like this on a CD primarily made up of rock and metal, but this helped open the minds and tastes of many metal heads over the years.  Nazareth re-centers it back to rock and roll, with “Crazy (A Suitable Case for Treatment)”.  It’s not among Nazareth’s best but it’s always such a pleasure to hear Dan McCafferty gargling glass.

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Riggs returns with “Radar Rider”.  Heavy riff in hand, it’s a slammin’ good track.  But it is overshadowed by the bombast of “Open Arms” by Journey, one of the biggest ballads in the history of balladry.  You know what’s funny?  Even though I have heard this song 106,941 times as of this morning, I still smile upon hearing it.  There must be something timeless to it that I can’t explain.

Grand Funk were in a decline (like a few of these bands), and “Queen Bee” from Grand Funk Lives was their contribution.  Good track, though it does not sound much like the Grand Funk I know from the 1970s.  And then it’s Cheap Trick again, with a noisy throwaway track called “I Must Be Dreaming”.  It’s a bizarre track from the high priests of rhythmic noise, but they do bizarre just as well as they do catchy.

There’s one band that I think blew the doors off the album.  One band that, to me, is always associated with this album.  One band that defines the phrase “heavy metal”, and that one band is Black Sabbath.  If you listen to fools, the mob rules!  This was brand new Black Sabbath at the time; Mob Rules wouldn’t be out yet for a couple months.  I have always preferred the soundtrack version of “Mob Rules” to the different recording that made it onto the album.  This could be because it was the first version I owned.  Regardless, to my ears it sounds faster and livelier…and more “Geezer-er”.  Not that it matters, because no matter how you slice it, “The Mob Rules” is a shot of adrenaline right to the heart.

Don Felder takes it back to a slow groove with “All of You”, a good rock ballad with some seriously cool funky bass.  All told, the Heavy Metal soundtrack has some damn fine playing on it from all of these bands — just incredible musicianship in these grooves.  Things wind down with Trust, and a very heavy track called “Prefabricated”.  Nicko McBrain was in Trust in 1981, but this does not sound like Nicko on drums.  The song would have been better without the vocals.  Especially when it’s followed by Stevie Nicks, one of the most iconic voices in rock.  “Blue Lamp” was recorded for her solo debut Bella Donna, but not used.  It’s certainly not outtake quality.  In fact it’s pretty damned classic.

That’s what the Heavy Metal soundtrack is:  a classic.  If you like heavy metal, but don’t like soundtracks, then you should still own this one.  Make it so.

4.5/5 stars

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Like many movies with a rock soundtrack, there was also a score for Heavy Metal released.  I asked our friend Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound for a few words on this score in the interests of being complete:

“It’s a great score by the late Elmer Bernstein who is best known for a lot of 80’s comedic scores including Ghostbusters, Animal House and Airplane. His score fits perfectly within the metal music atmosphere, weaving its way through the various stories and songs to the Taarna story. The “Taarna” theme was actually first written for the Farrah Faucett character in the 1980’s film Saturn 3 but was not used. It includes an unusual instrument called a Ondes Martenot, similar to a Theremin but with a physical keyboard. Bernstein used the instrument quite a lot in his scores. While a lot of people know Heavy Metal for the songs in the film the score is of equal note and probably one of Bernstein’s best.”

HMSCORE

 

 

REVIEW: Wayne’s World – Music from the Motion Picture (1992)

MOVIE SOUNDTRACK WEEK

By a weird coincidence, I wrote up this review on the exact same night that Aaron wrote up his for the KMA. Weeeeeeird.

Scan_20160605WAYNE’S WORLD – Music from the Motion Picture (1992 Warner)

Today we’ll take an extreme close up look at Wayne Campbell, Garth Algar, and the movie soundtrack that returned Queen to the top of the charts.

Wayne’s World was a phenomenon.  Not only did it put Queen back on their throne, but it also kickstarted a whole wave of Saturday Night Live movie spinoffs, including the Coneheads and Pat.  The soundtrack was one that “everybody” had to have.   While I had started my Queen collection well before the movie came out, this soundtrack was the first place that I acquired “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  In many regards, you can almost regard “Bohemian” as a brand new song in 1992.  It charted as if it was brand new, and it became a cultural cornerstone only after the movie.  I know I can’t be the only one who head-banged to it in the car on weekend nights during the summer of ’92.  As one of the most campy yet brilliant tracks ever recorded in the history of rock, “Bohemian” deserved everything that came its way.

The soundtrack CD was made up of new and old material like “Bohemian”.  Also dusted off:  “Dream Weaver” by Gary Wright.  Though not to the same degree as Queen, Gary Wright experienced a bit of a renaissance thanks to the prominent usage of the song in the film.  The 1975 soft rock ballad is still cheesey fun today.  Then, Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” was given a fresh release in one of the most memorable Garth scenes.  Admit it:  If you are over a certain age, you make the little “fox ears” on your head just like Garth Did when Jimi sings “Foxy”!  I know you do — don’t try to lie.  Although I can’t recall the song being in the movie at all, a mediocre Eric Clapton outtake from 1985 is included on the CD, in “Loving Your Lovin'”.  It’s about as memorable as you would expect a mid-80’s Clapton outtake to be; its just “OK”.  Of course, everyone knows that Alice Cooper’s “Feed My Frankenstein” was used during the Cooper cameo in the movie.  It introduced Alice to a whole new generation who still remember and love that song.

New tracks included the zippy Red Hot Chili Peppers funk blitzkrieg “Sikamikanico”.  Bass pulsing in time with the racing beats, this is the kind of Chili Peppers I love.   Meanwhile, Black Sabbath unveiled their first new material with Dio since 1981, on “Time Machine”.  This Wayne’s World version of the song is completely different from the one that was recorded for Dehumanizer, although both are included on the Sabbath remaster.  The Wayne’s World version feels faster and more frantic.  It was quite a thrill for fans to hear a brand new Black Sabbath song in a mainstream comedy movie.  (Cool scene too, with Robert Patrick of Terminator 2 fame.)  Although the soundtrack couldn’t resurrect their careers, both Cinderella and Bulletboys had new tunes on the CD.  Bulletboys tackled a cover of Montrose’s “Rock Candy”, perfect for their Van Halen worshipping vibe.  Cinderella had a new rocker to show off, a soul-infused vintage song called “Hot and Bothered”, which was a fine return to form but had no impact.  Finally, Rhino Bucket who were considered heirs to the throne of AC/DC included a new song called “Ride With Yourself” from their 1992 album Get Used to It.  It’s cleaner sounding than AC/DC but it’s in that ballpark.

Finally there are the throw away tracks.  At the time, Tia Carrere was being hyped up for a music career.  They hooked her up with Ted Templeman and recorded a cover of “Ballroom Blitz” (you know the scene in the movie) and a ballad called “Why You Wanna Break My Heart”.  Both are fine in the movie, but not really necessary for rock fans in general to own on CD.  Still, here they are!  (Tia’s version of Hendrix’s “Fire”, also in the movie, was included on the B-side of the “Ballroom Blitz” single.)  Then there is a throw-away version of the Wayne’s World theme song with Wayne and Garth singing.  I’ll take the Aerosmith version any day!

Not on the soundtrack CD, but prominently featured in the film, was Ugly Kid Joe’s hit “Everything About You”.  No big loss; you should be able to find their Ugly As They Wanna Be EP for under $5.  Party on!

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The End (2016)

NEW RELEASE

Scan_20160330BLACK SABBATH – The End (2016 BS Productions)

As a Black Sabbath fan since I was old enough to be a Black Sabbath fan, I have amassed a huge collection of official and unofficial Sabbath recordings.  With the exception of one Japanese bonus track (“What’s the Use” from Cross Purposes), I can happily say I have everything the band has ever officially put their name on.  The End has proven to be one of their most difficult albums to acquire, because Sabbath insisted on selling it at their concerts exclusively.  (At least until the inevitable reissue with bonus tracks.)  With only one CD, eight songs, and no booklet, it’s hard to justify a $30 selling price.  Additionally, many concerts were sold out of the CD, because of people buying multiple copies for re-sale.  The proof is on eBay and Discogs.

Thankfully, a fine gentleman known to his friends as James went to see Black Sabbath on a whim on their Calgary date.  He exited the arena with three copies of The End, but none were for re-sale: One for him, one for our buddy Aaron, and one for me!

Ever since the release of the terrific album 13, the band teased that they had plenty of extra material to perhaps do another LP.  It turns out, they had recorded at least 16 songs that we know of for 13.  There were eight songs on the album proper, and an additional four on various special editions.  The End contains four more from the sessions!  Four songs isn’t enough for a whole new album, so for added value, rare live songs are included.  None of these have ever been on a live Sabbath album before.

Sounding something like an outtake from the not-Sabbath album The Devil You Know, “Season of the Dead” has the slow crawl that has become a Sabbath trademark.  A chugging, biting riff and a slightly psychedelic melody are the pillars, but like Sabbath of old, it twists and turns into different parts.  “Season of the Dead” is a grower, but it certainly does sound like Black Sabbath and nobody but.  Doom, gloom and slinky bass.  “Cry All Night” starts as a slow Sabbath crawl but then immediately transforms into a mid-tempo stomp.  These Iommi riffs are by no means leftovers.  Can you imagine what he still has in the vault?  (Note:  Tony Iommi really does have a vault where he keeps all his riff tapes.)

Studio drummer Brad Wilk really stands out on “Take Me Home”, as a precise and hard-hitting player.  The monolithic riff he compliments is simple but effective.  Meanwhile, parts of Ozzy’s vocal melody are reminiscent of his song “Fire in the Sky” from 1988’s No Rest for the Wicked.  Tony’s Spanish guitar solo is a delicate icing on a very heavy cake.  The final studio track is “Isolated Man”, a different and interesting experiment.  At its core it is still a heavy-riffed Black Sabbath refrain, but Ozzy’s vocals are purposely mixed back and heavily layered for effect.  The result is something very much like the oddball shit that they used to do in the 70’s.

Each one of these “new” songs is going to take time to fully absorb.  They are not immediate, but neither was all of 13.  Even without Bill Ward, they managed to rebuild the sound they had 40 years ago, and that’s just grand.  13 easily could have been a full double album, consistent and heavier than fuck, had all 16 songs been included.  It also would have been an overly long ride of doom!

The live stuff is well recorded.  Ozzy doesn’t sound too lively on “God Is Dead?”, but that tends to happen when you read the words off a teleprompter.  He was in good voice that night in Sydney, maybe even great!  It’s great to have “God Is Dead?” in live form, but it only really cooks from time to time.  Oldie “Under the Sun” (from Vol. 4) has long been one of my favourite Iommi riffs.  It’s great to finally have this in live form; it’s just too bad it lacks the swing of Bill Ward.  That is not a swipe at Tommy Clufetos, a great drummer who has done very well under difficult circumstances.  Of the many drummers that Sabbath have employed over the years in the absence of Ward, Tommy has been one of the best fits for an “original” sounding Black Sabbath.

Jetting off to Hamilton Ontario Canada, “End of the Beginning” serves as a main course of doomy metal.  The crowd is clearly into it, as Ozzy gets them riled up.  This track works better live than “God Is Dead?”, being much more peppy and headbang-worthy.  Here is my only beef:  I noticed during one of Tony’s solos that there was rhythm guitar.  Looking at the back cover, keyboardist Adam Wakeman is also credited with additional guitar.  Black Sabbath has always been a single-guitar band, and I definitely noticed this unfamiliar sound.  I’m not sure how I feel about that.  Sure, it sounds more like the album, but it sounds less like the live Black Sabbath that I loved.

Of course Ozzy has to remind the audience that he loves them all!  “God bless you all, thank you!” he says, showing gratitude for a #1 album in Canada.  “Age of Reason” sounds like a crusher live, and certainly epic enough to act as a closing track on the final Black Sabbath album.  Even if it wasn’t epic, it was a new Black Sabbath song recorded for posterity and now in the collection forever.  That’s enough for this guy.

I am not sure how a $30 price tag is justified, but I have paid more for less.  The score for this review is completely independent of the price.  You’ll have to judge for yourself how much you’re willing to pay.  $30 is high for four new songs and four live songs.  Be that as it may, eBay prices are stupid.  My advice:  Grab it for $40 or less, or sit tight and wait and see if it’s ever reissued.  Final Black Sabbath album?  Perhaps, but expect plenty of Sabbath material to buy in the future.  Up next: deluxe editions of Headless Cross and Tyr!

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Mollo / Martin – The Cage 2 (2002)

Scan_20160208DARIO MOLLO / TONY MARTINThe Cage 2 (2002 Frontiers)

Three years out from their debut album The Cage, Tony Martin and Dario Mollo re-teamed up for a sequel, creatively titled The Cage 2!  On their second effort, Mollo and Martin broke out of a cage of sorts and made heavy metal music with a little more identity.  Keyboardist Don Airey did not return for this album, but in his stead is the legendary Tony Franklin on bass.

Heavy modern nu-metal touches highlight “Terra Toria”, a detuned beast with a bit of grunting on the choruses.  Thankfully the verses are piled high with Tony’s melodies, the same kind that he used to contribute to his Black Sabbath albums.  Mollo meanwhile lays down the shred with a Neal Schon vibe and plenty of power chords.  The heavy stuff takes a bit of a back seat on “Overload” which could have worked well as a Dio power ballad.  Underrated as a vocalist, Tony Martin has no issues delivering the hooks and high notes.  One thing I have loved about Tony Martin is that he also plays violin, and sometimes throws that into his songs, as he did on his solo album Scream.  “Overload” has a fast flying violin solo, and it’s a killer.

Distorted lead vocals on “Life Love and Everything” lend it a modern touch on the verses, but the layered vocals of the chorus make it clear that this is not nu-metal.  The guitar riff is a tricky shuffle, but with a groove.  It’s soul metal with the emphasis on the metal rather than the soul!  “Balance of Power” is just speed metal, along the lines of some of the things Sabbath had done on Tyr such as “The Lawmaker” and “Heaven in Black”.  If you miss that era of Sabbath, or the kind of fast metal that Dio was apt to do, then check out “Balance of Power”.  If you’re in  tune with 80’s Sabbath, check out “Amore Silenzioso”.  It is the closest thing to Black Sabbath’s “The Seventh Star” that I have heard, though not quite on that level.  A short keyboard based instrumental (“II”) closes that, and goes into “Wind of Change”, not the Scorpions song, but a ballad nonetheless.  If the songs on Cage 2 have a common weakness, it is that many are on the long side.  “Wind of Change” is too much ballad, though it does house an absolutely stunning guitar solo.

“Theater of Dreams” carries over with the 80’s Sabbath sound, and more intricate and cool guitars.  The slow groove combined with the might of Martin and the metal of Mollo make it a winner in these books.   Then they take a drive down Van Halen alley, with “What a Strange Thing Love Is”, not a bad tune at all, but definitely in the summer song style of Sammy Hagar.  It’s pop metal with soulful backing vocals, and it’s cool.

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The only serious mis-step is an ill-advised cover of “Dazed and Confused”.  It’s nearly impossible to do this song without sounding like a jackass.  As great as Martin sings most of it, he ruins it by adding in his own adlibs that just remind you, oh yeah,  it’s a cover of a better version by Led Zeppelin. Thankfully Mollo makes the guitar solo the centerpiece and it does the job without copying Jimmy Page.  Without this cover clogging up the works, the CD is actually more enjoyable.

Moving into the last lap, “Guardian Angel” pounds the ground with double bass and heavy riffing.  It has Iron Maiden elements but kicks ass all around.  Still they saved the best track for last, which is “Poison Roses”.  This melancholy closer is the most memorable in a batch of pretty strong heavy metal songs.

You have to give Tony Martin credit.  He’s a great singer, a good songwriter, but no matter what kind of albums he makes, he remains in the shadows.  Too bad.  Fans would do well to seek his his collaborations with Dario Mollo.  They compete in quality with the albums Tony made in his better known band.

3.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Mollo / Martin – The Cage (1999)

Part one of a two-parter!

Scan_20160109DARIO MOLLO / TONY MARTIN – The Cage (1999 Dreamcatcher)

When Ozzy Osbourne returned to Black Sabbath in 1997, that was undeniably a very exciting moment in heavy metal, and rock in general.  By ’98, original drummer Bill Ward even returned to the band, completing the original lineup.  We were rewarded for our patience with two new Black Sabbath songs called “Psycho Man” and “Selling My Soul” by the original lineup, but otherwise it was the beginning of a long drought.  Though Sabbath toured and played festivals, it was the sparsity of new material that pissed off a few fans, this one included.

Thankfully during this Sabbath ice age, some former members kept the flame alive with new heavy metal music.  Former vocalist Tony Martin, who was ousted for Ozzy’s return, recorded three albums with Italian guitarist Dario Mollo.  1999’s The Cage, featuring Don Airey (Deep Purple) on keyboards, is their first collaboration.  This helped scratch the Sabbath itch during the drought.

A jagged Dio-ish guitar riff commences “Cry Myself to Death”.  The doomy edge is present.  Martin sounds as if in peak voice.  The thirst is quenched.  It’s easy to imagine a song like this could have been on a followup to 1995’s Forbidden.  Dario Mollo is nothing like Iommi, being capable of heavy modern shreddery at maximum velocity.  This is proven on “Time to Kill”.  This time the vibe is like “Lawmaker” from 1990’s Tyr album.  The pace is breakneck, but Don Airey is more than capable of keeping up on the keys.  This is a stunning metal track mixing the spirit of old with the talent of new.  It verges on regal Priest-isms by the solo break, blazing on to the end in a frenzy.

Don Airey plagiarizes his own keyboard part from Judas Priest’s “A Touch of Evil”, for an instrumental intro called “The Cage”.  This serves as the start for a moody Dokken-esque ballad called “If You Believe”.  Don Dokken only wishes he could still write a song this good, a quality dark ballad, perhaps akin to Sabbath’s “Feels Good to Me”.  Then “Relax” also operates on a dark Dokken / Whitesnake vibe.  Mollo’s shredding on this would would make Eddie Van Halen nod in approval.  And speaking of Whitesnake and Cov the Gov, guess what they cover later on in the album?  “Stormbringer”!  Don makes the keyboards a bit too spacey on that one, but it is an otherwise pretty authentic cover, and the guitar solo is virtually note for note.

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“Smoke and Mirrors” is pretty lame.  “Some girls, they look really pretty but they tell you lies,” sings Martin.  Well maybe, but some singers sing real good but struggle on the lyrics.  The weakest track so far, “Smoke and Mirrors” has a sleezy rock vibe, like a latter-day Europe track.  Mollo’s playing is the highlight but the song is pretty skippable.  “Infinity” is more Sabbathy, reminding me of “Headless Cross”.  Onto “Dead Man Dancing”, I think of Gary Cherone and Extreme.  The song boasts a soaring Martin chorus and plenty string mangling by Mollo.  Then it’s onto “This Kind of Love”, a dead ringer for Van Hagar.

The album closes on “Soul Searching”, (kind of similar to Sabbath’s “Nightwing”) which is something I wish Dario and Martin had done more of during the writing of this album.  It would be nice to hear more of the sounds of their own personalities rather than songs that remind us of other bands.  That’s rock and roll; the great struggle.  It is not easy to carve out your identity among the thousands of bands who already have.  The Cage is loaded with great music, and the playing is above reproach.  What it lacks is originality.  Even in the guitar playing, I would say that Dario Mollo owes John Sykes a debt of gratitude, though he is certainly no slouch.  I just crave more originality in the tunes.  Yes, part of the appeal of following ex-Sabbath members like Tony Martin into a solo career is to hear a bit more of that sound you loved.  There are just too many moments on The Cage that sound like songs you already know.

3.25/5 stars

DVD REVIEW: Black Sabbath – Never Say Die (live 1978)

A double-header for you today, folks!  Head over 80’s Metal Shatz N Giggles to read Deke‘s review of the Never Say Die album!

BLACK SABBATH – Never Say Die (Live in 1978, 2003 Sanctuary DVD)

Recorded in 1978 at the Hammersmith, the DVD Never Say Die was recorded for TV, and not badly either.  The video part, anyway!  Great live angles and decent editing lead to a very watchable concert, albeit chopped down for length.  The audio leaves something to be desired.

The muffled riff of “Symptom of the Universe” commences the set, Iommi sounding as if powered through a crappy battery powered transistor amp, such is the horrible sound captured.  A blazed Ozzy growls through it, and Bearded Bill is in the back wearing braids and looking like a complete dirt bag.  As for Geezer?  He’s mixed too low to have any significant impact.  Tony Iommi stands guard at center stage, while Ozzy claps along next to him.

The close-up shots are nice and vivid, Ozzy waving the peace sign during the start of “War Pigs”.  He then commands the crowd to put their hands together, and they soon oblige singing along with him.  There is something about a live version of this song with the full original lineup including Bill Ward.  Bill was always a jazzy drummer, and that’s the vibe he loaned Black Sabbath.  It’s especially necessary on tracks like “War Pigs” which require a certain swing on the traps.  With Bill here still in vintage mode, the song has all the right heft and movement.

It’s hard to tell that this was a group of guys who couldn’t bear each other anymore.  While they mostly keep to themselves on the large stage (as they always have), Ozzy acts as Tony’s cheering section during the guitar solos, and you can even see a hint of a smile in Tony’s eyes.  Then Ozzy claps and screeches his way through the monolithic “Snow Blind”.

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The only track from the new album, Never Say Die, is the title track.  Its upbeat attitude and fast tempo allude to where Ozzy was going to go as a solo artist.  For Sabbath, it’s one of their most unappreciated tracks.  This live version is pretty sloppy but very rock and roll (including an old-tymey rock and roll riff that wasn’t in the original).  Then, Ozzy introduces the all-time classic, “Black Sabbath”, with an interesting statement.  “Thanks for the last 10 years, and we hope we’re around for another 10 years, and another 10 years.”  It’s interesting because at this point, Ozzy had already left the band once, been replaced by Dave Walker (Savoy Brown) for one TV performance (“Junior’s Eyes”), and then returned to the band to do the Never Say Die album, refusing to sing anything they wrote for Walker.  Not exactly the kind of environment to encourage longevity!  Of course the amazing thing is that three of these guys are still together, winding up the band that they formed.

It’s worth noting that nobody can (or will) capture the vibe of “Black Sabbath” like the original four.

Detouring to Technical Ecstasy, Sabbath pour into the underrated prowl, “Dirty Women”.  After this, uncredited, is a brief Bill Ward drum solo.  That melds into “Rock and Roll Doctor”, another obscurity.  Ward’s cowbell and Tony’s rock and roll riff give it a retro vibe.  Bill plays it busy compared to the album version; that’s fine by me.  Tony takes a guitar solo before the scary oldie-goldie, “Electric Funeral”.   Always a treat to hear this rarely played Paranoid classic, but unfortunately this one is noticeably edited down.

Closing out the disc, “Children of the Grave” is an obvious highlight.  Once again there is no drummer on Earth who can play it properly, except for Bill Ward.   Some come close, but none capture the reckless engine that drives it.  For the encore, Ozzy asks the audience “What do you wanna hear?” to which they are supposed to respond “Paranoid!”  I don’t know if they do; the audio here is really not good.  They trot out “Paranoid”, the flaw of which is that it always sounds by rote.  Ozzy couldn’t sound less interested in singing it again for the millionth time.

You have to consider the sound quality on a DVD like this and if you’re the kind of person who will care or even be able to tell the difference.  I don’t care.  This is a great though imperfect glimpse at a rare period in Black Sabbath’s history.  A short while later Ozzy would be solo, and Sabbath would go to Heaven and Hell with Ronnie James Dio.

3.5/5 stars