Max Norman

REVIEW: Megadeth – Countdown to Extinction (Remixed & Remastered) #200wordchallenge

200 word


Scan_20160826MEGADETH – Countdown to Extinction (2004 Remixed & Remastered edition, originally 1992)

Dave Mustaine is a visionary, there is little question of that. He knows what he wants with each record and goes for it. With this one, “precision” was the word of the day. Recorded digitally, Countdown to Extinction is perfection embodied. Not one bum note, every beat is metronomically correct. So what could possibly be improved on a remaster?

This excellent series of Megadeth remasters are actually all remixed from the original tapes. This was done with Dave himself at the helm, still the perfectionist. Countdown being flawless already, I’m sure he didn’t have to do much remixing. You can hear some changes and some additional effects added here and there, and some different takes of instrumental tracks. In general though, the differences are the kind only diehards will notice. This CD sounds three-dimensional even on the cheapest of sound systems.  Dave Mustaine, this is your Sgt. Peppers!

I won’t even bother discussing the tunes. You know them all anyway.  “Symphony of Destuction”, “Sweating Bullets”, “Foreclosure of a Dream”…they are all excellent examples of technically sharp and aggressive heavy metal.   For bonus tracks, you get one hard-to-find B-sides and some interesting demos, but not the coveted rare Trent Reznor remix.

4.5/5 stars

 


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REVIEW: Death Angel – Act III (1990)

ACT IIIDEATH ANGEL – Act III (1990 Geffen)

I am no stranger to Death Angel.  In the 80’s, I knew them as that thrash band from San Francisco, that grew up listening to Love Gun.  I also thought they were a bit too heavy for my hemispheres.  Whatever “too heavy” means, anyway.  Then I received a review request, from Uncle Meat.  “I want this man to review Act III by Death Angel .   I think it’s a good’er.”

Very vintage Anthrax-like is “Seemingly Endless Time”, and excellently produced by Max Norman too.  The vocals are in the Belladonna range, and the pace is rangingly fast, while paradoxically grooving heavily.  However you want to describe it, it’ll slam you right in the face.  It’s that whole Bay area thrash vibe, honed to a killing edge.  The chorus has an Ozzy-like melodic power.  Then, “Stop” chugs like the heavier side of Testament.  Mark Osegueda has a versatile voice, at times recalling young James Hetfied.  There are plenty of time changes and surprises on this track, enough to challenge the meek.

Speaking of surprises, I didn’t expect the acoustic guitar opening “Veil of Deception”.  Singer Mark Osegueda really gets to show off his pipes on this one, but it’s the guitar duo of Rob Cavestany and Gus Pepa that really impress with their ability and diversity.  Then, “The Organization” (also the name of their next Osegueda-less band) is bone-shaking fast and heavy.  There are still the slithering guitars and melodic vocals to sink your teeth into.  This is top notch metal.  Andy Galeon lays down some complicated beats for “Discontinued” on which he has a writing credit.  It’s Dennis Pepa’s funky bass that reminds me of where guys like Mike Muir were going with thrash.

I remember the ballad “A Room With a View” being played on MuchMusic in ’91, so it is familiar.  Ballads seemed to be working for bands like Metallica and Testament at the time, but it seems more fitting for a diverse album like Act III.  Layers of vocals make it special, as does the acoustic guitar solo.  “Stagnant” opens bright and slow, but shortly an avalanche of menacing guitars is upon us.  This transforms into a funky assault that sounds like 90’s stoner rock.  Then “EX-TC” is old-style screaming thrash, as is “Disturbing the Peace”.  The final track, “Falling Asleep” is anything but sleepy.  It returns to the chugging that works so well for head banging.

I understand now why Death Angel was so critically acclaimed back in the 80’s.  Their ability and musical intelligence was off the charts.  Too bad they were one of the bands that didn’t survive the 90’s.  I’m glad I had the chance to check out this thrash metal cornerstone.  The Devil’s metal indeed!

4/5 stars

All songs written by Rob Cavestany, except where noted.

  1. “Seemingly Endless Time” – 3:49
  2. “Stop” (Cavestany, Mark Osegueda) – 5:10
  3. “Veil of Deception” – 2:35
  4. “The Organization” (Cavestany, Andy Galeon) – 4:16
  5. “Discontinued” (Cavestany, Galeon, Gus Pepa, Dennis Pepa) – 5:50
  6. “A Room with a View” – 4:42
  7. “Stagnant” (Cavestany, Galeon) – 5:33
  8. “EX-TC” (Cavestany, Osegueda) – 3:06
  9. “Disturbing the Peace” – 3:53
  10. “Falling Asleep” – 5:54

Credits and art from Wikipedia.

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Bark at the Moon (2002 Remixed version)

Happy Hallowe’en! AAHOOOOOOOH! Bark at the moon!

OZZY OSBOURNE – Bark at the Moon (2002 Sony, unadvertised remixed)

Much like Diary and Blizzard, when Bark At The Moon was reissued in 2002, it was also remixed. People who own my preferred edition of this beloved Ozzy classic have noticed the unadvertised remix. (There was no sticker on the cover indicating this album was remixed, and it was also ignored in press releases.  The liner notes claim this was mixed by Tony Bongiovi, like the original.) Why this was done is a mystery to me, I’ve never read anything about it. All I can say is that you’ll notice particularly on Jake E. Lee’s solos, the overall sonics, and some keyboard parts as well. The ending to some songs, and the beginnings of others are very different.  Maybe Ozzy thought the album sounded dated?  The remix seems as if they were trying for the drums and effects to sound “current”.  Which is silly, of course.  This year’s “current” is next year’s out of date, but classic will always be classic.

Either way, the original mix of Bark has been an underdog favourite for many years.  Ozzy seems to really want to bury the Jake years.  He only plays the title track live, none of the other songs. Granted, “Bark at the Moon” is clearly an outstanding track.  There are still some lesser-known classics here equally good as the album tracks on Diary or Blizzard. For example, “Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel”. This riff monster sounds like the natural successor to some of the best moments on Diary. There are a ton of great songs here. “You’re No Different”, which is one of those great Ozz slow burners is another one. I’ve always liked “Slow Down” and of course “Waiting for Darkness”. Ozzy had gothed out his sound a lot more on this album and you’ll hear a lot more keyboards and even strings.

Ozzy was in a bad place back in ’83.  Still hurting from the death of Randy Rhoads, Ozzy was forced to audition players again, a process he hated.  Jake E. Lee (ex-Ruff Cutt) was selected, perhaps due to his ability to meld white hot riffs with neoclassical shredding.  Bassist Bob Daisley returned, as did drummer Tommy Aldridge, who had played on the last tour.  Don Airey returned for keyboard duties, creating a spooky atmosphere for the Ozzman to prowl.

And prowl he did.  This is a hard rocking album, probably harder than the two Rhoads discs.  It is also a dark sounding album.  Blizzard has a lot of musical joy on it; you can hear that these guys were stoked to be playing those songs.  Bark sounds a bit tired by comparison, a bit like a druggy haze.  “Now You See It (Now You Don’t)” is an example of a song that has all these qualities.  It has a hard, almost Sabbathy guitar riff, but is cloaked in darkness.

“Rock ‘N’ Roll Rebel” is the most upbeat song.  Who doesn’t like a song about rebellion in the name of rock and roll?  It also has obvious references to the TV preachers who were out to get Ozzy at the time, so the song is like a big middle finger from Ozzy.  “I’m a just a rock ‘n’ roll rebel, I’ll tell you no lies.  They say I worship the devil, they must be stupid or blind.”

Then you have the jokey weird ballad, “So Tired”.  At least that’s how I heard it then, and still hear it now.  The video seems to emphasize the jokey aspect.  Who doesn’t love to see Ozzy dressed up as monsters?  As far as the song goes, I have no idea what they were thinking at the time.  Maybe it was the drugs?  Another weird thing — even  thought I think the song is a joke, I love it!

As mentioned, since the remix changes the sound of the album and swaps out solos here and there, pick up one of the earlier CD editions. The 1995 remaster is pretty good; it contained the B-side “Spiders” (sometimes written as “Spiders In The Night”).  Unfortunately even though it’s a well sought rarity, it’s not one of Ozzy’s better songs. It’s an obvious B-side. Better (because it’s funnier) is “One Up The B-Side” which makes its CD debut on this edition. “The bent overture”. Heh.

Now that Ozzy and Sharon have seen the light and finally reissued the original mixes of Blizzard and Diary, one can always hope for a long term Ozzy reissue program. I’d like to see the original mix of Bark At The Moon made available again. I think it’s a shame that Ozzy seems to have disowned most of the Jake E. Lee era. Jake was and remains a great guitarist — check out his work on the incredible Badlands album.

4.5/5 stars (original)
3.5/5 stars (remix)

REVIEW: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Each day this week we’re look at rare singles.

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)

MEGADETH – “Crown of Worms” (1994 Capitol promo CD single)
also known as the “Creepy Baby Head”

Here’s a real treasure that I acquired via T-Rev’s store for about $4.  Lately this thing’s been going on Discogs for $36, which must be solely for the packaging.  All the tracks have been available on various Megadeth collections for a long time now, although “Crown Of Worms” was originally a rare track.  It’s a co-write between Dave Mustaine and Sean Harris from Diamond Head.    It kicks some serious ass, but it’s no longer a song that’s worth $36.  I think what makes this single command high prices is the bizarre baby head slip case.  That and the fact that it was a promotional CD, meaning it was never intended for sale and only small numbers were made.

A while back I made a video explaining what a promo CD was, which featured the “Creepy Baby Head”.  You can check out that video below.   The head obviously ties into the Youthanasia album artwork but otherwise there’s nothing else externally to tie it to the band.  No logo, no tracklist, just the serial number DPRO-79448.

As mentioned, “Crown of Worms” kicks some serious ass.  I was a big fan of the Mustaine/Ellefson/Friedman/Menza lineup of Megadeth, and this song was not only album worthy but single worthy.  Nick Menza sounds great on it, and the song just smokes from start to finish.  Killer riff, too.  Mustaine’s at his snarly best.

The other two tracks are both Youthanasia album songs:  “Black Curtains” and the single “Train of Consequence”.  “Black Curtains” is a lot more doomy, kind of like “Harvester of Sorrow” (perhaps).  “Train of Consequence” seemed to alienate some fans back in ’94, but I think it’s a strong single if a bit more melodic then some would have liked.  It still has a cool stuttery riff and a vintage Dave vocal.  It’s rhythmically interesting and I think the guitar solo is ace.

There is no way I would pay $36 for this thing, and I’d advise you to keep searching the used CD shops. Promos were funny things. Record store and radio stations would be sent these things, and a lot of the time nobody gave a damn. They would end up in the hands of a non-fan and sold at a pawn shop or another CD store. While today some fans will pay a lot of money for this, you know that copies will end up in used CD stores without a $36 price tag.  You just have to do the legwork and find it.

4/5 stars

MEGADETH CREEPY BABY HEAD_0003

GUEST SHOT: 30 Albums that Uncle Meat Thinks You Should Visit (Or Re-Visit) Part 1

By Meat

Music fans love lists.  Maybe it’s the Ten Best Bass Lines of the 1990’s or a list of the songs you wish you lost your virginity to.  I have always been a lists guy as the whole Sausagefest Top 100 thing would attest to.  So here is yet another list.  The albums listed below are not my favorite albums of all time, even though many of my favorites are included.  The point of this list is to possibly introduce to, or maybe even remind, this blog’s readers of 30 albums that I think need to be heard.  Maybe an album that in my opinion was under-appreciated.  Perhaps even an album that inspired me in some way.   Anyways, here are 30 albums that Uncle Meat wants you to visit … or re-visit.  They are in alphabetical by album title.  Enjoy

A EULOGY FOR THE DAMNED  –  ORANGE GOBLIN (2012)

I could have easily listed several other Orange Goblin albums here, but their latest album is an absolutely killer album.  Almost fusing some Black Crowes into their brand of Metal, these British stoner-rockers put out maybe the best Metal album of 2012.  And considering that there are only 3 albums on this whole list that were released before the year 2000, it feels good to actually get some new content in here.  The album ends with the title track, which almost plays out like its own Rock N’ Roll Western.   The band finally tours Canada for the first time coming up in spring of 2013.  As the late Billy Red Lyons used to say, “Don’t ya dare miss it!”

 

ACT III  –  DEATH ANGEL (1990)

Death Angel’s first two albums are pretty sloppy, sound-wise and in song structure.  Some very heavy moments, but at times it just sounds annoying.   On their third release, Max Norman (Megadeth) got his hands on them and it resulted in a polished sound and the best album of their career.  Gone were the high-pitched shrieks of singer Mark Osegueda that littered their first two records.  It really does seem that the band simply matured.  One of the best Metal albums of the 90’s indeed.  Definitely among the most progressive metal albums I can think of.  A must-have album for every true Metal fan.

 

ARGUS  –  WISHBONE ASH (1972)

It is fair to say that Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy would never have the musical identity they have, if it wasn’t for Wishbone Ash.   Innovators in twin- lead guitar harmonization, this band never really got its due.  Interestingly enough, the sound engineer on this record is none other than Martin Birch.  Coincidence?  Meat thinks not.  I remember this album sitting in front of my Dad’s stereo for years when I was very young, and then seeing Star Wars and thinking that Darth Vader looked a lot like the guy on the cover of Argus. Check this album out and discover a part of where it all came from.   When you listen to the beginning of the song-clip included here, “Throw Down the Sword, think “To Live is to Die” by Metallica.  Sounds like Lars and the boys were paying attention as well.

 

ARGYBARGY   –  SQUEEZE (1980)  

Think The Beatles meets The Clash.  The first two songs on this album are both stellar pop moments.  The melodies are McArtney-esque, and that is truly saying something.  “Pulling Mussels From a Shell” is pure song-writing genius“Another Nail in my Heart” is one of my favorite songs of all time.  Check out the incredible guitar solo in this song.  Funny enough, like the 2 previous albums listed, this was the band’s third album.  Maybe a trend is happening here.

 

BIG WORLD  –  JOE JACKSON (1986)

For Joe Jackson’s 8th release, he decided to go all out. An original studio album, recorded live in front of a New York City audience who were told to be silent throughout.  Capturing the excitement and spontaneity of a live performance, in which absolutely no post-recording mixing or overdubbing was done, this record is ambitious as it sounds.  It is all here.  You get Jazz, Pop, Punk and everything in between.  Jackson possesses one of the classic all-time voices.  When this double-album was released, it contained three sides of music, leaving the fourth side blank.  A landmark recording.

 

BLUE  –  JONI MITCHELL (1971)

This album came in at Number 30 on Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Albums of All-Time chart, the highest placing for any female artist.  So why is this album on this list?  Honestly because I still believe this album is truly under-appreciated.  Too many people do not realize how great this album is.  Simply, some of the best lyrics of all time are here.  If this album was any more personal it would contain a video of Joni Mitchell going to the bathroom.  Listen to this front to back when you want to feel like someone understands your pain.   A truly cathartic experience, when she played this album originally to Kris Kristofferson he was reported to respond, “Joni… You really should keep some of that to yourself”.  I am glad she didn’t take heed of his advice.

 

DOGMAN  –  KING’S X (1994)

It seems as soon as Brendan O’Brien (Pearl Jam/STP/Black Crowes) got his hands on King’s X, the band’s sound fattened up.  Thick, lush and pounding would be a good overall description of the sound on this album.  The songs are great too.  I saw King’s X at the legendary El Mocambo in Toronto and was standing literally beside Dimebag Darrell and the rest of Pantera.   While I love almost every song on this album, the title track is an absolute killer.  When the first Woodstock concert in 25 years began, it was King’s X who took the stage to kick it all off.  Check out this live performance from the old Jon Stewart show from back in the day and crank it.  One of my favorite youtube videos ever.

 

DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE   –  DUKE ELLINGTON & JOHN COLTRANE  (1962)

This might be my favorite jazz album of all time.  Duke was 63 and Trane was 36 when this album was recorded.  With a running time of 35:05 this album is short and oh so very sweet.  Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” starts this album off and it never lets up.   “Big Nick” is just a wonderfully happy shuffle.  True story: I once got so fed up with Metal that I became a Jazzatarian for a few months, listening to nothing but old school Jazz.  I started with John Coltrane and went from there.  I never did find a jazz artist after him that I enjoy more.

 

EL CORAZON  –  STEVE EARLE (1997) 

Simply put, this album is easily in my Top 3 albums of all time, of any genre.  True storytelling at its finest, El Corazon is a complete masterpiece.  It seems that sobriety allowed Steve Earle to realize how great of a songwriter he really is and on this album he branches out and removes any constraints of style.   Of all the 30 records included on this list, this is the one I am not asking you to check out, but I am TELLING you to check out.  Comparing the laid-back intensity of “Christmas in Washington” to the sheer power of “Here I Am” truly makes you appreciate the diversity of this record.   Steve Earle is THE man.  A lifetime Bro-mance going on here.

 

HEAD HUNTERS  –  HERBIE HANCOCK (1973)

Quite possibly the greatest jazz fusion record ever recorded. This record is a funk buffet.  Only 4 songs and all of them are great.  The YouTube clip here of “Watermelon Man” is the shortest song on the album, and is as original as it is velvety-smooth.  I find it hard not to do some sort of jig when this I hear this song.  “Chameleon”, “Sly” and “Vein Melter” complete one of the most influential jazz albums of all time.  Half of this album made 2012’s SausageFest countdown.  I suspect the other half will not be far behind.

Stay tuned for Part 2!