Rob Caggiano

REVIEW: Anthrax – Live from Sonisphere Festival 2010 (picture disc EP)

Welcome back to the Week of the Singles 3! Each day this week we’ll be looking at rare singles and EPs.

MONDAY: OZZY OSBOURNE – Ultimate Live Ozzy (1986 CBS picture 12″ record)
TUESDAY: BON JOVI – Livin’ On A Prayer (double 12″ EP)

ANTHRAX – Live from Sonisphere Festival 2010 (picture disc EP, Record Store Day exclusive)

I don’t get these Record Store Day exclusives, honestly.  I saw this thing for a reasonable price on Amazon and bought it without even knowing it was some kind of “exclusive”.  I sure didn’t buy it at a record store, but I won’t turn this into a Record Store Day rant.

This is a very nice looking picture disc. I wouldn’t recommend playing it too often, you know how quickly a picture disc can wear out. If you’re lucky enough to own the Big Four Live CD box set, you won’t need to play this.   I don’t have that very limited set, but these two Anthrax performances make me want it! “Medusa”, an oldie from the Anthrax days of yore (Spreading the Disease), is just as powerful as ever.  Belladonna’s voice has changed, but not enough to matter.  The song has been tuned down, but that really only makes it heavier.

“Only”, the first single from the John Bush era of the band, is on the other side.  This is one of the best Anthrax songs ever, in my opinion.  Joey certainly turns a more than able performance.  He sounds at home, and I quite enjoy his version, especially when he starts shrieking before the guitar solo.

I loved this single, and I was surprised how awesome Joey sounded. I really lost track of Anthrax after the We’ve Come For You All period and haven’t been too excited about all the rotating singers since then. However since Joey’s been back (for hopefully the rest of the band’s life) I’ve been a lot more interested, and that’s why I bought this. I didn’t know how good he would sound on the Bush-era stuff, and “Medusa” smokes with furious intensity too.

Good single, I’d really like that box set.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Ronnie James Dio – This Is Your Life (Tribute)

NEW RELEASE

“I’m letting them pick what songs they wanna do in the way they wanna do it.” Wendy Dio

THIS IS YOUR LIFE_0001VARIOUS ARTISTS:  Ronnie James Dio – THIS IS YOUR LIFE (2014 tribute CD)

No preable from me: we all know how great Dio was.  Let’s get to the tracks.

Anthrax kick off the festivities with a slamming “Neon Nights”.  The storming opener couldn’t have been in a better slot.  Not only is Charlie Benate heavy as shit, but the guitar solos are mental.  Joe Belladonna handles the powerful vocal ably.  Rob Caggiano is still in the lineup indicating this isn’t brand new.  I suspect it was recorded at the same time as last year’s Anthems EP.

The guys that never get respect, Tenacious D, tackle the difficult second slot.  No worries there; they chose “The Last In Line” which Jack Black sings with no difficulty.  Uncle Meat has said it before:  Jack Black is one of the best singers he’s seen live.  “The Last In Line” proves his pipes, although some may not like his exaggerated, humorous vocal enunciation.  Kyle Gass plays a cute recorder solo in lieu of guitar, but there’s not enough K.G. on this track.  Brooks Wackerman kicks the drums in the ass.

And speaking of drums, Mike Portnoy is next with Adrenaline  Mob.  They demolish “Mob Rules”, although singer Russell Allen is certainly no Dio.  He is completely overshadowed by Portnoy and the shredding of Mike Orlando.

Corey Taylor, Satchel (Russ Parish) and friends  chose “Rainbow In the Dark” as their tribute to Ronnie.  This has always been such a fan favourite, and a personal one as well.  It is difficult to imagine anyone but Ronnie singing it.  While Corey Taylor is not at all like Ronnie James Dio, you can tell he loves this song.  It bleeds out of his performance.  He does it in his own rasp, and it works.

The incredible Lzzy Hale and Halestorm are up next with another Dio classic, “Straight Through the Heart”.  There is no denying the talents of Lzzy Hale, but her powerful pipes are almost too much.  Perhaps she overpowers the song, rather than simply fueling it.  Halestorm fans will love it, but I think Lzzy maybe should have reeled it in a bit.  Or, maybe I just need to get used to it.  “Straight From the Heart” does sound better after a few listens.

Biff Byford (Saxon) joins Motorhead on lead vocals for Rainbow’s “Starstruck”.  There’s a bit of that Motor-slam in it, but if I didn’t know who it was, I never would have guessed Motorhead.  You can hear Lemmy on backing vocals, but weirdly, he’s not credited on bass.  Nobody is, but you can hear the bass clearly and it sounds like Lem.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE_0004

I’m a little sick of the Scorpions doing ballads, but I admit that “Temple of the King” (another Rainbow classic) is stunningly good.  One might almost mistake it for a Scorpions original.  It has that regal Scorpions bombast to is, but Matthias Jabs’ lead work is just sublime.  He’s an underrated player, absolutely.  You can tell he’s a Blackmore fan.

An oldie from 1999, Doro’s cover of “Egypt (The Chains are On)” is excellent.  It’s cool to hear female singers like Doro and Lzzy Hale sing Dio.  Doro’s impressive pipes have always been astounding.  Her version of “Egypt” is a little over the top compared to Dio’s, but that’s cool by me.

Killswitch Engage…hmm.  “Holy Diver” starts great, super heavy, with some perfectly acceptable, melodic vocals.  Then it all goes down the toilet at the bridge.  That’s when it turns into hardcore shouting and blast beats…sorry, not on this song, thanks.  I can listen to that stuff in moderation, but don’t sully “Holy Diver” with it.  Fortunately the guitar solos are great, sounding like an Iron Maiden outtake from Powerslave.  Shame about the growling and shouting.  Skip.

“Catch the Rainbow” is a great song, and Craig Goldy plays guitar on this cover.  He’s ex-Dio himself, and he’s backed by his former Dio-mates Rudy Sarzo, Scott Warren and Simon Wright.  (Hey, that’s also 1/3 of Tateryche!)  Glenn Hughes sings, but this song sounds out of his scope.  His bluesy slant doesn’t work for me.  Sorry Glenn, you’re still awesome!

I find it strange that two more ex-Dio members (Jimmy Bain and Rowan Robertson) chose to cover Black Sabbath.  But who cares!  They covered “I”, perhaps the greatest song from Dehumanizer (1992)!  On drums is Brian Tichy, with Oni Logan (Lynch Mob, Dio Disciples) singing.  It’s a perfectly authentic version and I love it.  It’s absolutely thunderous, and I love Jimmy Bain’s bass sound.  Always have.  Of all the vocalists on This Is Your Life, it is Oni Logan that comes closest to nailing Dio’s vibe.  Considering he’s in Dio Diciples, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I didn’t expect it though, based on what I knew of Logan from Lynch Mob.  He fits “I” like a glove!

I was disappointed in Rob Halford’s version of “Man On the Silver Mountain”.  It’s true that Halford did replace Dio in Black Sabbath for two shows in 1992.  However, having owned a bootleg video of that show since that time, I knew that Halford’s and Dio’s styles didn’t really mesh.  This is no different; I don’t think his voice works with the song and it unfortunately shows off the places where Rob’s voice has weakened.  What is cool though is that the band (all ex-Dio:  Doug Aldrich, Vinnie Appice, Jeff Pilson and Scott Warren) take it to a swampy bluesy Whitesnake-y place for the intro.  You can definitely hear Pilson covering the high notes in the chorus.

Finally we arrive at the mighty Metallica.  Snicker if you like.  If Metallica do one thing really well, it’s covers.  If they do two right, it’s covers and medleys.  The “Ronnie Rising Medley” is entirely made up of parts of Rainbow songs.  “A Light In the Black” bleeds into “Tarot Woman,” where the vocals begin.  It’s safe to say if you don’t like Metallica, you won’t like this.  If the opposite is true, I think you’re in for a treat.  Metallica do these classics in their own style, just as they have in the past when covering Maiden, or Mercyful Fate, or Thin Lizzy.  Simply add Lars’ thuds, James’ growl, and some standard Metalli-licks, and you’ve got a medley that is enjoyable through its near-10 minute run time.  Having said that, the weak point is definitely “Stargazer”, which is gutted of all its majesty.  They do much better with “Kill the King” which is fucking perfect.  They include the entire song in their medley!

Fittingly, the album ends on a ballad:  Dio’s own somber “This Is Your Life”, performed by the man himself in 1996.  I did not like the Angry Machines album, but if there was one song I would have picked as a highlight it would be “This Is Your Life”.  Performed only by Dio and Scott Warren on piano, it is unlike anything else in Dio’s canon.  The lyrics speak of mortality:

This is your life
This is your time
What if the flame
Won’t last forever?

This is your here
This is your now
Let it be magical

What a way to end a great album.  As much as you can “miss” a person you have never met, I do miss Ronnie James Dio.  In many ways he’s been my friend for 30 years.

4.5/5 stars

As a nice added touch, the liner notes include photos of just about every performer on this CD with Ronnie!

Of  note:  the Japanese edition has a bonus track by Dio Diciples:  “Stand Up and Shout.”  It also has Stryper’s version of “Heaven and Hell” from their 2011 album The Covering, which I reviewed here.

REVIEW: Anthrax – Anthems (2013)

ANTHEMS COVER

ANTHRAX – Anthems (2013 Megaforce Records)

Anthrax have recorded some of the most entertaining covers of the last 30 years.  Many of them have appeared as hard to find B-sides or bonus tracks.  Anthems is Anthrax’s new covers EP, readily available, and a welcome addition to a metal lover’s collection.

As if they needed to show off how well they could play, the EP kicks off with “Anthem” itself, a Rush cover, and a stunning one at that.  Joey Belladonna’s voice strains to reach the highest of notes, but he hits ’em.  This is one dead-on accurate Rush cover, not an easy thing to execute.  And it’s heavy as balls.

“T.N.T.” is a blast.  Again, this is not an easy song to cover, because it is so indelibly linked to AC/DC and Bon Scott.  Incredibly, Anthrax do so with as much accuracy as they did Rush.  Joey sounds perfectly in his element paying tribute to Bon.  Up next is “Smokin'” as performed by Boston.  Like a chameleon, suddenly Joey is in Brad Delp’s shoes.  As great as the entire band is on Anthems, at this point, it is Joey that is blowing me away the most!  What’s also cool about “Smokin'” is that the lengthy organ solo is intact, performed by Canadian Fred Mandel (ex-Alice Cooper).  An extended keyboard solo with Anthrax?  Smokin’!  (No kidding though, it’s great.  Like it or lump it!)

We all know Joey Belladonna is a huge Steve Perry fan.  It is a joy to hear him having a chance to pay tribute to his hero on “Keep On Runnin'”.  Scott Ian proclaims in the liner notes that “On paper, Anthrax covering Journey may seem weird,” but he reminds us that “the song just fucking rocks”.  Charlie Benate ensures this with surgically inserted blasts of drum fury.

“Big Eyes” is a Cheap Trick song I had somewhat forgotten about.  It has a monster groove and yet another fantastic lead vocal.  Anthrax bring the song to its knees.

“Thin Lizzy is arguably the most underrated and under appreciated band of our time,” says Scott in the liner notes.  Amen brother!  But he also points out their paradoxical great importance and influence.  Scott reveals he’d like to do an entire record of Lizzy covers.  Phil Campbell of Motorhead plays the solo, as per the Live and Dangerous version.  I love hearing Joey do the “Hey you, good lookin’ female! Com’ere!” line.  So much more menacing than Phil Lynott!

From Anthrax’s most recent record, Worship Music, comes “Crawl”.  I am on the fence with this song, as all I can think of is Soundgarden.  “Fell On Black Days”.  Can you hear it, there in the first minute of the song?  (Maybe it’s their Soundgarden cover, eh?)  Also on the EP is the remix of “Crawl”, which was previously only available on the Japanese version of Worship Music.  So this purchase worked out well for me.  I had been putting off buying Worship Music until I could find a reasonably priced Japanese import.  I prefer to get all the bonus tracks, so with Anthems now in hand, I can just pick up the domestic Worship Music and be done with it!

As a nice touch to collectors, Anthrax released this EP with six different covers.  I pre-ordered this thing from Amazon, so I didn’t get the luxury of picking my cover art.  If I did, I might have chosen the Rush or Journey versions.  What I got was the Cheap Trick cover, but I think I like it best anyway.

5/5 stars