virus

REVIEW: Randy Piper’s Animal – Virus (2008)

ANIMAL

RANDY PIPER’S ANIMAL – Virus (2008 Locomotive)

Randy Piper — not a household name, but astute (or old) metal fans will know the name from the first two W.A.S.P. albums.  He had no writing credits on the W.A.S.P. albums, so I wondered what his band Animal would sound like.  Chris Holmes, after all, has been known to drop a stinker album so why not Piper?

Whether by nature or design, Piper’s Animal at first sounds a hell of a lot like early W.A.S.P. on 2008’s Virus.  I tend to think this is more by design, since producer/guitarist Chris Laney has writing credits all over the place too.  Whatever the case may be, singer Rich Lewis evokes a young Blackie Lawless with his raw vocal stylings.  The riffs tend to be very W.A.S.P.-like in spots.  Then there are moments such as the dual guitar harmony outro on “Can’t Stop” that sounds nothing like W.A.S.P.

One song that sounds very little like W.A.S.P. is “Don’t Wanna Die”.  Even though I can hear The Who at the beginning, and Blackie Lawless is heavily influenced by The Who, this sounds nothing like Blackie.  Rich Lewis morphs his voice into something more individual with power to spare.  His own voice starts to shine through on this pop rock number.  But before the album is in danger of sliding into pop territory comes the song “Crying Eagle” which has more in common with Iron Maiden than W.A.S.P.  Then, “Unnatural High” has the tinkling ivories of a Savatage song.  Incidentally, that’s an awesome song.

The first song that I’m not really into is track 6, “Judgement Day”.  Maybe it’s the “circus music” intro or the return to overly-W.A.S.P.-like songs, I find it a bit of a drop after the excellent “Unnatural High”.  It does boast a solid chunky riff and some cooling rolling drums.  “Who’s Next” is a bit of a low as well.  It’s boasts some adventurous melodies but I’m just not feeling it.

Next up is the elephant in the room:  “Zombie”.  This is not a song about zombies, but in fact a Cranberries cover.  The first time I heard it, I didn’t know it was coming, and I was sitting there thinking, “Cool sounding song, sounds familiar somehow.”  Then a second later I realized what it was.  So that initial impression remains with me.  I see it as a really cool, dark metal song in this version.  Maybe that’s the way it always should have been.  If you can imagine W.A.S.P. meets “Zombie” (yes, such a thing can exist) then you might appreciate this song.

“Shoot To Kill” isn’t a standout song, but it does have a pretty good chorus.  I don’t feel that the chorus fits the pounding riff, but the guitar solo is catchy and cool.  The album ends with the very W.A.S.P.-ish title “L.U.S.T.”.  This is a really cool song, with loads of melody and great vocals by Rich.  It has a W.A.S.P. flavour to it, but with elements that Blackie never would have come up with.

I always like to give a little more info with my reviews, like background on the album or band, but I don’t have any.  Jon from E-tainment News & Reviews knows a lot more about these guys, so I hope you don’t mind if I let him take it from here:

When this album finally came out, Randy had grown his ego huge and as he drinks like a fish he’s gotten paranoid, accusing Laney for taking all the profits for the 1st album, leaving him with nothing. Only there were no profits, Laney had actually borrowed money to make these albums and if it hadn’t been for the fact that Laney worked as a producer and engineer at Polar Studios alongside Lennart Östlund (who has worked with Stones, Zeppelin and ABBA), the album wouldn’t have sounded as good as it did.

It does sound good.  3.75/5 stars.

Tracklist:

  1. Cardiac Arrest
  2. Can’t Stop
  3. Don’t Wanna Die
  4. Crying Eagle
  5. Unnatural High
  6. Judgement Day
  7. Who’s Next
  8. Zombie
  9. Shoot To Kill
  10. L.U.S.T.
Advertisements

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – “Virus” (1996 single) / Metal For Muthas (1979)

Part 23 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!  Continuing where we left off with Best of the Beast, we’re also taking a glance back to the past…

IRON MAIDEN – “Virus” (1996 two-part CD singles)

Last time, I was talking about Maiden’s first-ever greatest hits set, Best of the Beast.  But there was also the single to be had, “Virus”.

Much like other UK singles, “Virus” was released in two parts each with its own B-sides and cover art.  If you bought the first, you also got a box with 5 postcards and space to store the second disc.

The first disc contained the (unadvertized) single edit version of “Virus”.  I can happily live without the slow, boring, goes-nowhere first three minutes of that song.  At least the single edit only has the up-tempo part of the song.  I recall when the single came out, a few of us had grumbled that Maiden seemed to be losing it…

The B-sides on this first single were the previously released covers, “My Generation” and “Doctor Doctor”.  You could get these tracks on the previous single, “Lord of the Flies” from The X Factor.  Having said that, these are great versions, among the best covers Maiden have ever recorded in this writer’s opinion.  “My Generation” is of course the Who classic.  Maiden breathe their original punky sensibilities into this one, and it rocks like nothing that actually made it onto The X Factor!  “Doctor Doctor” is a beefed up version of the classic UFO song, and my preferred version.

The second disc was the really, really special one.  It had the album version of “Virus” (all bloody 6:15 of it, ugh) but it also has the ultra rare “Sanctuary” and “Wrathchild” from the 1979 compilation album, Metal For Muthas! When I had first picked up the single for “Virus”, I didn’t even know these recordings existed.  Collectors rejoice!  These tracks were previously unavailable anywhere else but Metal For Muthas, and this is the first CD release.

“Sanctuary” and “Wrathchild” both feature Paul Di’Anno on vocals, and are from the short-lived Maiden lineup of Di’Anno, Steve Harris, Dave Murray, Tony Parsons, and Doug Sampson.  This represents one of Maiden’s earliest recordings.  There are more from this lineup, but we’re not going to talk about those for a while yet…

Do I need to mention that these two tracks are just pure smoke of the early-Maiden variety?

A quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that there is a 12″ single release of “Virus” as well, this one with the two missing Soundhouse Tapes tracks that weren’t on the Best of the Beast CD.  Adding to “want” list!

I found the cover art of the “Virus” single to be a little lacklustre, particularly the one in the petri dish.  Like, really?  It didn’t scream to be made into a cool poster for my wall.  There were some cooler things on the postcards including one by Derek Riggs.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Best of the Beast (1996 2 CD edition)

Part 22 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Best of the Beast (1996)

I’m not sure what prompted Iron Maiden to put out their first greatest hits disc in 1996, but at least they did it in style.  Originally available as a limited edition 2 CD book set, it was pretty extravagant packaging for the time.   My only beef is by the nature of such packaging, the paper sleeves will always scratch your discs, 100% of the time.

This album was also available in a standard edition single disc, with the songs in a different running order.  I don’t have that one so I’m not going to talk aboot it.

The 2 disc version, perhaps to emphasize that Blaze Bayley is the current Maiden vocalist, starts at the present and then rewinds all the way back to the beginning, closing with The Soundhouse Tapes!  An interesting approach indeed.  As a listening experience I’m not sure that it works that well.

Since we’re starting at the present, the album kicks off with a new song.  “Virus” is 6:30 of same-old same-old X Factor Maiden, but not as good as anything on that album.   It drags and drags for three minutes before finally kicking into gear, but it is otherwise repetitive and boring until then.  Lyrically, it is another attack on the sicknesses in society, much like “Be Quick Or Be Dead” and “Justice of the Peace” were.

Then back in time one year, to “Sign of the Cross”, the dramatic 11 minute epic from The X Factor, as well as “Man on the Edge”.  (I would have preferred “Lord of the Flies” to “Man on the Edge”, but perhaps “Man” was the bigger single of the two.)

To bridge into the Fear of the Dark album, a new live version of “Afraid To Shoot Strangers” is featured, with Blaze Bayley singing.  It’s a good live version, but it’s immediately obvious that Blaze is no Bruce.

Bruce takes over on the next track, “Be Quick Or Be Dead”, and we’re back in the saddle.  Singles (including the popular live version of “Fear of the Dark”) and album tracks are counted down from 1993 to 1986’s Somewhere In Time album, ending disc 1 with “Wasted Years”, a great closer.  My beef here:  I would have preferred the single “Stranger In A Strange Land” to the album track “Heaven Can Wait” (but I know the Heavy Metal OverloRd doesn’t agree with me!)

Disc 2 is the glory years, if you will, everything from Live After Death to the beginning.  It begins with the epic “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, a ballsy move for a greatest hits album, and the live version at that.  Chasing it is the live single version of “Running Free”.  Then we count them down, all the singles from Powerslave to “Run To The Hills”, plus “Where Eagles Dare” and  “Hallowed Be Thy Name” thrown in for good measure.

Then it’s the Di’Anno years, which are given an unfortunately brief expose.  “Wrathchild”, from Killers  is one of the best songs from that era, but the only included track from that album.  Maiden’s first epic, “Phantom of the Opera” and the single “Sanctuary” represent the debut Iron Maiden.  Finally, an unreleased track from The Soundhouse Tapes sessions (“Strange World”), and the rare Soundhouse version of “Iron Maiden” close the set.  To read my review of The Soundhouse Tapes and these tracks, click here.

There was also a 4 LP vinyl edition available, with 7 extra tracks:  “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son”,  “The Prisoner”, “Killers”, “Remember Tomorrow”, an exclusive live version of “Revelations” from the Piece of Mind tour, plus the final two songs from The Soundhouse Tapes, “Prowler” and “Invasion”. You can read a story about the 4 LP edition by clicking here.

And there you have it, Maiden’s first greatest hits set, with lots of the hits and plenty of rarities thrown in for the collectors.  I confess that I don’t listen to it often, and this time for this review was the first time in roughly two years.

The cover art was once again by Derek Riggs, doing a sort of mash-up of his (and nobody else’s) Eddie’s.  It’s a suitably glorious piece of art for such a monument of metal.  The inside of the book is loaded with concert dates, lyrics, liner notes, and chart positions, as well as more Eddie’s and photos!

I still want to talk about the single, “Virus”, but I think that it should get an article of its own.  Check back soon for that!

Curiosity: the cover features an ad for the never-to-be Iron Maiden video game, Melt!  Maiden did eventually release a video game, but we’re not going there yet….

For the 2 CD edition of Best of the Beast:

4/5 stars