rob trujillo

REVIEW: Metallica – Death Magnetic (Coffin Box)

METALLICA – Death Magnetic (2008 Vertigo Coffin Box)

“What don’t kill ya, make ya more strong!”

Like many bands these days, Metallica decided to release a boxed special edition of Death Magnetic to make a little extra cash.  And also like a lot of other bands, this “coffin box” edition was crazy expensive. To me the deciding factor wasn’t all the bells and whistles (and there are a lot of them) it was the inclusion of the exclusive CD Demo Magnetic. This disc includes 10 demo tracks, unfinished and otherwise unreleased versions of the final Death Magnetic songs.

There were only 2000 copies of this made, so if you didn’t pre-order, chances are you gotta pay the late tax.

Contents:

  • Death Magnetic CD (the digipack version, identical to the retail release)
  • Demo Magnetic CD
  • The Making of Death Magnetic DVD
  • Four imitation guitar picks (made of flimsy plastic, not actual guitar picks)
  • Exclusive T-shirt
  • Exclusive bandana
  • Backstage pass with lanyard
  • A card with a download code for a free show
  • Coffin-shaped poster

Death Magnetic is, unfortunately, one of the most famous victims of the Loudness Wars.  Why put time and effort into production only to drown it all out in the mastering?  Apparently the version of Death Magnetic that was used in the video game Rock Band 3 was mastered “normally”, and is far better.  This CD has punch though, I’ll give it that.

On its own the album is worth 4 stars.  Mastering aside,  It is an above-average collection of typical Metallica rockers. Gone are the nu-metal tendencies of St. Anger and that was the correct move. Clearly, Metallica were reaching back and trying to write riffs that sound like the late 80s and that’s also fine.  Metallica are not Dream Theater.  They do what they do, and they do it quite well.

Expect typical Metallica riffage, barking Hetfield vocals, the usual Lars drumming, some tasty solos from Kirk, and slamming bass from Robert.  That is what Metallica do.  It’s not a bad album and some of these songs are damned near as good as the old days.  You’ll love “Broke, Beaten & Scarred”, “That Was Just Your Life”, and “The End of the Line”.  A favourite song for sheer chorus reasons is “All Nightmare Long”. The demo version (called “Flamingo”) is also really decent.

If you’re a diehard Metallica fan, the kind who owns Fan Cans, then you’ll want this box set for the exclusive music. It’s sure to become a rare collectible.

4/5 stars

 

 

 

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – Live at Budokan (2002)

OZZY OSBOURNE – Live at Budokan (2002 Sony)

Ozzy’s last paint-by-numbers live album was almost two decades ago.  In actuality, you really only need a live one with Randy Rhoads and you’re golden.  But if you’re in the mood for downtuned Ozzy songs, Live at Budokan might be the way to go.

While the new rhythm section of Mike Bordin (Faith No More) and Rob Trujillo (Metallica) do have a positive impact on the sound, Zakk Wylde is tiring.  His constant divebombing all over Randy’s composition “I Don’t Know” just rubs the wrong way.  Then it’s an unremarkable song called “That I Never Had” from Down to Earth.  The most enjoyable thing about it is actually Zakk’s backing vocal.

Ozzy spaces out old songs with new ones so sleep doesn’t take you too soon.  “Believer” is a nice inclusion, since we’ve never had a version of it with Zakk on guitar.  There’s a novelty to it for that reason, so it’s notable.  A crap new song called “Junkie” acts as filler before “Mr. Crowley”.  They used to have an acronym in Star Trek that they would paint on pipes and conduits on the Enterprise:  “GNDN”.  Goes nowhere, does nothing.  That’s “Junkie”.  And “Crowley” just drags.

The last of the new songs here is “Gets Me Through”; the single, you know the one.  The one with the hilariously unimaginative lyric “I’m not the kind of person you think I am, I’m not the Antichrist or the Iron Man”.  We sure do miss Bob Daisley’s lyrical touch.  “Gets Me Through” might be the most paint-by-numbers of any Ozzy track since Zakk joined the band.

Get ready for a whole shit-ton of No More Tears stuff, as Ozzy rolls out four of ’em.  The title track is still great and doesn’t strain Ozzy as much as the earlier songs.  “Mama I’m Coming Home”, well sure, it has its fans.  “I Don’t Want to Change the World” is still a yawn and “Road to Nowhere” fares well.  The crowd sure loves ’em, those familiar hits.  They go nuts for “Crazy Train” which just doesn’t sound right tuned down like this.  Same with “Bark at the Moon”.  Ozzy closes with the only Sabbath track on the disc, “Paranoid”.  The double tracked vocals are obvious and annoyingly artificial sounding.  It’s cool hearing the Faith No More style of drumming all over it though.  Mike Bordin is a tremendous talent but was he the right guy for Ozzy Osbourne?

As the most unessential of all Ozzy releases, Live at Budokan should really be the last one to add to your collection.  If you care, it was available with two covers:  red printing, and black printing.  For extra pain, you could also go for DVD.  Best track:  “Believer”.

1/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Metallica – “Lords of Summer” vinyl & download singles (2014)

img_20161120_080611METALLICA  – “Lords of Summer” (2014 Blackened Record Store Day single, additional download versions)

This past Friday, Metallica ended the eight-year long wait for a new album and put out the sharp-edged Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.  If you go for the deluxe edition (a measly $16!) then you’ll get the full 78 minute studio album and a bonus CD (to be reviewed later) with another 14 tracks.  That’s another 79 minutes of metal for a grand total of $16.  The value is insane.

Cast your minds back to 2014.  Metallica, embarking on a summer tour, released a new single called “Lords of Summer”.  The concept of “Lords of Summer” was pretty simple.  It’s a song about touring season, and it was one of the new pieces of music that the band were working on for the next album.  Ultimately, a slightly shorter and re-recorded “Lords of Summer” was included on the bonus CD for Hardwired.  The vinyl single (Record Store Day, limited to 4000 copies) has the original “First Pass Version” (8:20).  This was also made available via download.  If you’re already familiar with “Lords of Summer” then this is the version you know.  The “First Pass” is not as polished as Hardwired, but similar in direction with the same focus on metal riffs and melody.  Like much of the album, “Lords of Summer” careens from riff to riff blasting away at different tempos.  While not one of Metallica’s most remarkable songs, it has some cool individual riffs cooked up within it.

For the sake of completion, we should also discuss the “Garage Demo Version” of “Lords of Summer”.  This was included as a bonus track with Metallica’s official live downloads from that tour.  It was first played in Bogota Columbia, March 16 2014.  The “Garage Demo” (also 8:20) is different recording from the “First Pass”; very similar but even rougher.  Fans familiar with Metallica’s usual demos know that they are often so rough that the lyrics are not yet in place.  This time, the song was already fully formed in its demo stage.

The Record Store Day vinyl single contained a bonus live version, recorded in Rome on July 1 2014.  By that time the band had been playing it all summer, so it’s tight.  Kirk’s solo is drowned out in the mix, but of course you can hear the drums loud and clear.  Compare this to the version in Bogota, which captures the song played live for the first time ever.  The arrangement is the same, but it’s still coming together in Bogota.  The Roman version demonstrates that practice makes perfect.  But why stop there?  There are a total of 33 different live versions available for download on Metallica’s site!

There is one last bonus, which is the etched B-side on the Record Store Day vinyl.  Admittedly it looks pretty…but it’s just an “M”.  It’s minimalist cool, but what happened?…they couldn’t afford to etch the etallica?

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For this review, we listened to the following:

  1. “First Pass Version” (8:20, available as single download or on vinyl Record Store Day single)
  2. “Garage Demo Version” (8:20, available with purchase of a concert at LiveMetallica)
  3. July 1, 2014, Rome Italy (8:48, available on vinyl Record Store Day single or for download at LiveMetallica)
  4. March 16, 2014, Bogota Columbia (9:18, available for download at LiveMetallica)

With 31 more live versions online, plus the new album version at 7:09, there are in total 36 official versions of “Lords of Summer” out there to consume.  Happy hunting.

3/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (2016)

Note: This is a review of the 2CD album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.  A review of the third bonus CD will follow at a later time.

scan_20161119-2METALLICA – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (2016 Blackened)

The ever-polarising Metallica are back.  This time, Metallica may have finally released an album that pleases everyone.  Amazon averages are remarkably high.  Fans seem to be willing to forgive past mis-steps.  Hell, Metallica are even back on Napster in 2016!

With Hardwired…To Self-Destruct being a long musical journey, it will naturally take time to absorb.  It’s easy to imagine that you could review this album a year from now and have a whole new set of thoughts to share about it.  Ultimately, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is mostly strong throughout with few moments that drag.  It does play a tad on the long side, not even including the third bonus CD.  At 78 minutes, the album proper is actually only about as long as Load.  The difference in the listening is that Load was a very diverse album of rock stylings, but Hardwired is full-on classic sounding Metallica through its entire length.  There are a few back alleys previously unexplored, but all solidly within the realm of heavy metal.

The direction is not that dissimilar from Death Magnetic, just refined.  There are many traditional metal riffs, Maiden-esque and sweet.  You will discover several album highlights.  There is only one track, “Am I Savage?”, that hasn’t hit the mark yet.  Current contenders for favourite songs include “Hardwired“, “Atlas, Rise!”, “Now That We’re Dead” and closer “Spit Out the Bone”.  Jessie David, metal specialist at 107.5 DaveRocks, says “Murder One” is her outstanding track.  “It’s killer,” she warns.  Each listener will likely add their own to this list.  It is probable that every single track will have its fans, because none of them suck.

Many will want to know how the album is sonically — is it overdriven?  The “loudness wars” took their toll on the last album.  The best way to answer that is visually, so check out the waveform of “Hardwired” in Audacity.

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It’s pretty loud, but not quite as bad as Death Magnetic.

Hardwired…To Self-Destruct will continue to evolve in the ears of listeners as time goes on.  A provisional rating may change at any given time.  But there is no question that Metallica are still able to stir the molten iron souls of fans with great new songs and performances.  They are Metallica, and that seems unlikely to change.

4.5/5 stars

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REVIEW: Metallica – “Hardwired” (2016 single)

METALLICA – “Hardwired” (2016 single)

YES!  Now this is what I’m talking about.  Metallica haterz can leave the room now, because there is nothing here they will enjoy.

“Hardwired” is the first single from the forthcoming album Hardwired…To Self Destruct due in November.  There’s plenty here for the fans to sink their teeth into.  A very punk-like metal track, “Hardwired” is promising.  Even Lars sounds on top of it. The drums are one of the hooks of the song.  Jaymz drops an F-bomb for that street cred, but what matters most is that this is pure rock.  Call it metal, call it thrash, whatever — doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that Metallica are rocking the fuck out with a great, heavy and blazingly fast track. I love how Jaymz just spits out the words. “We’re so fucked — shit out of luck.” Metallica’s worldview is just as rosy as it was in 1984!

I don’t think anybody reasonably expects Metallica to turn back the clock, or discover some crazy new direction with this album. Fans will dig it, haterz won’t listen with an open mind, but where the single could succeed is bringing in young metal fans who might never have bought a Metallica album before. It sounds just as energetic as a new band.

As it was with Death Magnetic, the new album will be available in a variety of formats including deluxe box set.  The last single, 2014’s “Lords of Summer”, will be on one of them.  Get ready for another onslaught of Metallica.

4/5 stars

TALLICA

TRACKLIST

Disc One

Hardwired
Atlas, Rise!
Now That We’re Dead
Moth Into Flame
Am I Savage?
Halo On Fire

Disc Two

Confusion
Dream No More
ManUNkind
Here Comes Revenge
Murder One
Spit Out The Bone

Disc Three (Deluxe Edition Only)

Lords Of Summer
Riff Charge (Riff Origins)
N.W.O.B.H.M. A.T.M. (Riff Origins)
Tin Shot (Riff Origins)
Plow (Riff Origins)
Sawblade (Riff Origins)
RIP (Riff Origins)
Lima (Riff Origins)
91 (Riff Origins)
MTO (Riff Origins)
RL72 (Riff Origins)
Frankenstein (Riff Origins)
CHI (Riff Origins)
X Dust (Riff Origins)

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: Metallica – Six Feet Down Under Part II

Yesterday we examined Part I of the Six Feet Down Under EPs.  Click here if you missed it,

METALLICA – Six Feet Down Under Part II (2010 Universal)

Unlike the first Six Feet Down Under disc, Part II was not taken from bootleg sources. The fidelity here is much better, making this an immediately more enjoyable listen. Whereas the first EP released Australian Metallica recordings as far as back the Justice days, this EP was taken solely from Metallica’s most recent Aussie tour.

The track list is quite good:  “Blackened”, “Lightning”, “Horsemen”, “Sanitarium”, “Puppets”, “Justice” (which was also on the first EP), “Fade to Black” and “Damage Inc.”  How could you possibly go wrong?  I found “The Four Horsemen”, performed in breakneck, heavy delivery to be the highlight.

TALLICA SIX FEET_0005You’ll notice all the songs are oldies.  They are all over 20 years old, with nothing from the Black album or beyond. That’s because these tracks were selected for release by the fans!  The fans have spoken, and this is the Metallica EP they wanted to buy. Personally, I prefer a more varied lineup. While I’m sick to death of a lot of the Black and Load album material, it would have been nice to get some recent stuff from Death Magnetic too.

The performances are, as expected, pretty sloppy at times. Hey, it’s Metallica.  We all know Lars is a sloppy drummer.  I get it.  Still, the energy and adrenaline is there, and that’s what makes a Metallica concert special. Since these tracks were pulled from several concerts in Australia and New Zealand, you have to assume the band picked the versions that they liked best.

Packaging wise, this one lacks the little liner notes. However, the cool part is, it comes in a double CD digipack designed to house both Part I and Part II in the same case. Remember back in the early 90’s, when bands would do that with CD singles? I love this little retro touch.

My only complaint once again is the price. Like the last EP, this is not cheap. You have to remember this was released for Australians in Australia. Lots of bands do exclusive releases for certain territories all the time, it’s not a Lars cash grab, and I’m sure most of the money you’ll pay goes straight to the retailers and importers. If you’re a devoted fan you’ll pick this up, and if you’re a resourceful one you’ll figure out how to get it at a reasonable price. If not, there’s lots of live Metallica available out there for peanuts.

I find these two releases (plus a third EP from 2010, Live at Grimy’s which I own on 10″ vinyl) to be a really cool retro treat. Some of us still like to buy CDs and limited editions. That’s who this stuff is for, and I’m really happy Metallica remember their roots as rock fans and collectors themselves.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Metallica – Six Feet Down Under EP

First of a two-part Australian Metallica EP extravaganza!  And check out KamerTunesBlog for an awesome Metallica discography series

METALLICA – Six Feet Down Under EP (2010 Universal)

This Metallica EP for Australia only, Six Feet Down Under, will be of limited interest to casual fans. The EP (the first of two for Australia) is a decent tour souvenir for those fans, but for fans in Canada or elsewhere who will have to pay much higher prices, this is mostly just a collectible.  The sound quality varies wildly.   The tracks were selected as songs that were not often (or ever) released as live B-sides before.

TALLICA SIX FEET_0003The oldest tunes from ’89 (“Justice” and “Beholder”) are from audience bootleg sources, and are very rough. I have heard much better bootlegs.  The idea was to give fans rare tracks recorded in Australia, so this really is something geared towards collectors.  I’s hard to critique the tunes beyond sound quality, because it’s not like you can really discern bass parts or cymbals and so on.

The ’93 tunes are “Through The Never” (extremely sloppy, especially on the rhythm guitar) and “The Unforgiven”. These songs sound a lot better. “The Unforgiven” in particular is a very nice version. Metallica had started recording their shows via soundboard by now.

Then we jump ahead to the ReLoad tour. Personally, I really liked Load, but I wasn’t very hot on ReLoad. I was still excited to hear live versions of “Low Man’s Lyric” and “Devil’s Dance”, but quite frankly, they sound uninspired.

From 2004 we have a really cool live version of “Frantic”, one of the best tunes from St. Anger. Whether you like it or not will depend on how you feel about St. Anger. I liked this version. Wisely, Metallica decided to include only one St. Anger tune. The other tune from 2004 is “Fight Fire With Fire” which is, once again, very sloppy. But hey, at least you know it’s live.

There are liner notes included as per most Metallica singles and EPs. This just explains the purpose of the EP and the sources of each track.  Sounds like something you’d be into? Then go for it. If you’re not intrigued, don’t plop down the big bucks if you’re buying it on import.  I will say that Metallica aren’t ripping the fans off; this “EP” is 52 minutes long.  By way of comparison, Diver Down by Van Halen is 28 minutes.

3/5 stars

Come back tomorrow for a look at Six Feet Down Under Part II.

REVIEW: Metallica – St. Anger (bonus DVD, 2003)

Happy long weekend, Canada!
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METALLICA – St. Anger (bonus DVD, 2003 E/M)

Ahh, the much-maligned St. Anger! When I first reviewed St. Anger back in 2003, I pointed out that some Metallica fans are suffering from “Highschool Syndrome”:

Highschool Syndrome: “The band doesn’t sound the same as they did when I liked them in highschool, therefore they are sellouts and I don’t like this album.”

A staunch critic must remember something before they brand St. Anger a sellout. An album recorded this harshly, with songs this aggressive by anyone else would get zero airplay. How is that selling out?

Perhaps by “selling out”, some fans are referring to the lack of solos and the alternative, downtuned sounds on St. Anger. Unfortunatly, the lack of solos is really a mistake. Kirk Hammett did record at least one very cool and appropriate solo for this album; check out the movie Some Kind Of Monster for a glimpse at that. Hammett felt that the cutting of guitar solos was a mistake and so do I. As Hammett said in the movie, “Having no solos dates the album to THIS time (2003)”.

The production by Bob Rock was definitely the wrong direction. He was overcompensating for what was perceived as overproduction on Load, Reload and Black. The band probably should have taken a production direction like Garage Inc. (heavy, but conventional) instead of pushing the envelope like they did.  The sound he created was so harsh that it is actually headache inducing for me to listen to St. Anger in one sitting. (And this is selling out?)

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The songs contained herein are by and large pretty decent. The title track was brilliant, with a great video to match. My personal favourite is the fast and furious “Frantic”, the melodic “Sweet Amber”, the angry “Shoot Me Again” and the epic “All Within My Hands”. There are ample time changes and musical adventures going on here, which harken back to the ambitiousness of Justice, while not sounding like old-school Metallica.

The lyrics, mostly introspective, are not my cup of tea. Some may call them brilliant, some may call them psycho-babble trash. Whatever they are, it is the first time that Hetfield didn’t helm them and they were written by the entire band. Truly, they’re not that bad when you’re banging your head at full speed, but most fans want to hear Metallica raging against something other than themselves.

The CD comes with a cool booklet, and of course the bonus DVD: all of St. Anger, recorded by the Hetfield / Ulrich / Hammett / Trujilo lineup, in order, in the studio. (Bob Rock played bass on the album.)  At the time, a freebee like this was a bigger deal.  They were obviously trying to placate pissed off fans after the fallout of Napster.  There was even a code to download an entire live show of your choice. Basically, you are getting the value of three albums in one, for the price of a single CD.  Not bad.

Yet, St. Anger was a hard album to love, and few people did. It is the sound of a fractured band piecing itself back together and experimenting with some interesting directions. It could have been better.  It’s an important album in the sense that, this was a huge turning point.  The band were basically reduced to two guys (Kirk and Lars) for months on end while James was in recovery.  We all know the story.

From that point of view, it’s an interesting listen.  Music had changed, Metallica were trying to lead and play catch-up at the same time, so it seemed.  I think you have to give them credit for attempting something new, sometimes those albums end up classics 20 years down the road.  There are enough good riffs and solid songs on St. Anger to come back to it once in a while.

Besides, if you want a band to sound the same album after album, why would you listen to Metallica?  AC/DC are still around, you know.

3/5 stars

Don’t count Bob Rock out — his work with the Tragically Hip has been excellent!

REVIEW: Ozzy Osbourne – “Flying High Again” (2011 Record Store Day exclusive single)

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OZZY OSBOURNE – “Flying High Again” (2011 Record Store Day exclusive)

Here’s something of an underappreciated item.  Everybody knows that Ozzy and Sharon re-recorded the drums and bass on Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman back in 2002.  In retrospect this was a shrewd move despite the fan backlash.  In Lucas-esque fashion, it enabled them to restore the original versions for much-hyped reissues in 2011.  To usher in these new/old releases, Record Store Day shoppers were able to buy a replica original “Flying High Again” single.

Both the reissue and the original 1981 single featured the B-side, “I Don’t Know”, recorded live at an unspecified gig.  Like Diary of a Madman itself, this B-side had its bass and drums re-recorded in 2002.  It is difficult to hear the differences, but listen to the bass tracks right around the 2:10 minute mark.  Where Bob Daisley plays lots of interesting harmonics, the re-recorded version has Rob Trujillo hitting the lows.  The bass parts are very different.

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The credits on the 2002 edition of Diary indicate all tracks, “live” one included, were remixed with new bass and drums.

When Diary was reissued in 2011, it did not include this B-side, but instead an entire (different) concert on a bonus CD. Therefore the original version of the “I Don’t Know” B-side remains a vinyl exclusive.  Cool.  I am not sure why this was not advertised on the single sleeve or in the media.  In fact, I’ve owned this single for two years without putting 2 + 2 together.  The “Flying High Again” vinyl single is the only place you can get the original, untampered “I Don’t Know” live B-side!

For that reason alone:

5/5 stars

But is this worth $12 as per the price tag?  That’s one thing that bugs me about these singles today.  I understand that manufacturing costs have changed and it’s a niche item, but still!  $12 for one song.    One song, because they were going to sell us all “Flying High Again” itself on the Diary reissue, as advertised on the front.

Price: 2/5 stars