Album Review – Iron Maiden / Powerslave (1984)

Exactly 30 years ago, the world would witness the birth of the best Heavy Metal album of all time.

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Iron Maiden_PowerslaveRecorded from February to June 1984 at the famous Compass Point Studios in Nassau, Bahamas, and released on September 3, 1984, Powerslave is much more than just a milestone in the Heavy Metal universe. You can disagree with me and start all that blah blah blah about how this or that album from Black Sabbath or Metallica, or even another Iron Maiden album like The Number of the Beast, is better than Powerslave, but I’m sorry, nothing really compares to this album. Powerslave is by far the most complex, complete, exciting and powerful album of all time, and anything I say about it won’t be enough to describe this 50-minute Heavy Metal masterpiece’s grandiosity.

Steve Harris, Adrian Smith, Bruce Dickinson, Dave Murray and Nicko McBrain were at the peak of their musical creativity and inspiration, delivering their fans unique songs about the Ancient Egypt, the experiences of a sailor from a famous English poem, the pleasures and honor of a duel, an aircraft battle during the Battle of Britain, and more. All songs have wonderful instrumental parts, together with clever and meaningful lyrics, making them some of the most requested by all Maidenmaniacs around the globe for any live concerts, best of albums, top 100 Heavy Metal songs, weddings, birthday parties, Bar Mitzvahs, funerals, prom nights, or anywhere else good music can be played.

Well, the album kicks off with my favorite song of all time in any music genre, Aces High, which still gives me the chills every time I listen to it. “Run, live to fly, fly to live, do or die / Run, live to fly, fly to live, Aces High”, sings Bruce perfectly while Steve Harris “gallops” his bass like a wild beast. Not only that, you can feel the battle going on in the air with the lyrics, and the solos are among the best the band has ever produced thanks to majestic performances by Adrian and Dave. Do I need to say it sounds even more splendid live?

There’s no better way to continue the album than with another all-time classic, 2 Minutes to Midnight, a song that has an unparalleled starting riff that even a newborn baby can easily recognize, and amazing lyrics that make reference to the Doomsday Clock. Then comes Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra), one of the few instrumental songs the band has ever produced, with total highlight to the beautiful job done by Steve and Nicko. Flash of the Blade keeps the bar high with its outstanding riffs and speed, while The Duellists is in every fan’s dreams of seeing it being played live by the band in any of their world tours. This is another one of my top Maiden tracks of all time, especially due to its incredible rhythm led by Steve and Nicko. Iron Maiden even tried to replicate this type of sonority with more contemporary songs like “Fallen Angel” and “Montsegur”, but it seems the fans didn’t like the new songs that much. Then we have Back in the Village, another song with amazing riffs, although it’s considered the least favorite of the album by many fans.

Iron Maiden 1984The last part of the album is simply awesome: Powerslave is one of those cases of a song that should be turned into a movie due to its excellence in telling the Ancient Egyptian history during its 7 minutes of pure Heavy Metal. Its initial drums are superb, the lyrics are perfect, the chorus is wonderful (“Tell me why I had to be a Powerslave / I don’t wanna die, I’m a God, / Why can’t I live on?”), as well as every other part of the song. Seeing Maiden playing this song live is an unforgettable experience in the life of any person. And last but not least, we have another Heavy Metal masterpiece, the one and only Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Inspired by the amazing poem from British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge called “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, this 13-minute song has one of the most elaborate lyrics in the world of music, different tempos, a beautiful narration in the middle taken directly from the original poem, and all musicians showing us why “Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya, no matter how far”. As I mentioned before, nothing I say will be enough to describe the magnitude of this song or the entire album.

“One after one by the star dogged moon,
too quick for groan or sigh
Each turned his face with a ghastly pang
and cursed me with his eye
Four times fifty living men
(and I heard nor sigh nor groan),
With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,
they dropped down one by one.” 

SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE (1772-1834)

Iron Maiden World Slavery Tour

World Slavery Tour 1984-1985

If you think that’s all, you’re completely wrong. Iron Maiden is not a regular band, as they add a lot more than just the music to their work. Powerslave follows its predecessors with another unmatched front cover showing the band’s most celebrated “member”, Eddie the Head, this time inspired by the Ancient Egypt and perfectly representing the content of the album, designed by master Derek Riggs. It’s impossible not to fall in love for it, don’t you agree? And if you get the 1995 reissue, you’ll also enjoy the songs from the bonus disc, especially their cool  version for Beckett’s Rainbow’s Gold.

Finally, right after the release of Powerslave the band went on their longest and most memorable tour of all, The World Slavery Tour, which began in Warsaw, Poland on August 9, 1984 and ended only in Irvine, U.S. on July 5, 1985 (187 shows in total), culminating with the launch of another masterpiece, the live album Live After Death. I have no idea of how many bands have been influenced by Powerslave or by Iron Maiden’s entire career, but I know that none has ever been able to deliver something so mighty and unique as Steve, Bruce & Co. did with Powerslave. UP THE IRONS!

Best moments of the album: Aces High, The Duellists, Powerslave and Rime of the Ancient Mariner.

Worst moments of the album: None. Powerslave is perfect.

Released in 1984 EMI

Track listing
1. Aces High 4:29
2. 2 Minutes to Midnight 6:00
3. Losfer Words (Big ‘Orra) (Instrumental) 4:13
4. Flash of the Blade 4:03
5. The Duellists 6:06
6. Back in the Village 5:03
7. Powerslave 7:12
8. Rime of the Ancient Mariner 13:42

1995 Reissue Bonus Disc
1. Rainbow’s Gold (Beckett cover) 4:57
2. Mission From ‘Arry 6:42
3. King of Twilight (Nektar cover) 4:53
4. The Number of the Beast (live) 4:57

Band members
Bruce Dickinson – lead vocals
Dave Murray – guitar
Adrian Smith – guitar
Steve Harris – bass guitar
Nicko McBrain – drums

Album Review – Tristania / Widow’s Weeds (1998)

It’s from Norway the most remarkable Gothic Metal album of all time.

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WidowsWeedsGothic Metal has always been and will ever be a very tricky subgenre of Heavy Metal, especially in terms of originality, because it can bore you at the blink of an eye. I, for instance, do not consider myself a true Gothic Metal fan, as I prefer a lot more heavier and faster material like traditional Heavy Metal, Thrash Metal, Death Metal, and even Hard Rock rather than any Gothic music. However, once in a while there’s a band like Tristania that breaks this barrier and gains my respect in the world of heavy music.

After their self-titled EP Tristania (1997), it was time for this Norwegian Gothic Metal band to release in 1998 their first full-length album called Widow’s Weeds, which in my opinion is the best Gothic Metal album of all time. In fact, Widow’s Weeds cannot be considered only Gothic Metal, as it contains elements of many other subgenres of heavy music such as Symphonic, Death and Doom Metal, which explains why this album is so difficult to understand, and consequently so delightful.

Widow’s Weeds is a tsunami of obscure themes and dark lyrics, all full of the most uncomfortable emotions such as depression, sadness and madness, and of course everything is wrapped up by a very precise and dense musicality. Do not expect to hear crazy riffs and solos, or even fast drums with lots of double bass, but lengthy and slow songs where all instruments together form a complex sonority, in parallel with Vibeke Stene’s angelic voice and Morten Veland’s roars.

Right after the intro Preludium…, the band shows all its powerful musical range with the beautiful Evenfall, by far the most amazing composition of their entire career. Vibeke’s performance in this song is awesome, as well as the drums by Kenneth Olsson, and the final result portrays perfectly how pleasant sadness can be when transformed into music. The following track keeps the bar extremely high: Pale Enchantress can be considered another of the band’s classics, a lot faster than the previous one with great melancholic lyrics (“Enchanting all my dreams / A beauty and her flood of tears / Nightfall embrace my heart / Mesmerized and ravendark”).

December Elegy and Midwintertears are examples of what I previously said about the trickiness of Gothic Metal, as both can easily make you feel bored due to their length and lack of speed or changes in rhythm. However, they’re pretty good songs, it’s just that they’re not tailored for MTV or radio. On the other hand, even the more skeptical heavy music lovers will enjoy the next two tracks: Angellore has many interesting goth elements from the 80’s that match perfectly with the band’s style, with the addition of Østen Bergøy doing the clean vocals, and the final result was so good that it was probably the reason why he joined the band full-time from 2001 until 2010; while My Lost Lenore is considered by many Tristania’s biggest masterpiece. Here we have not only Vibeke and Morten doing a superb job, but above all the talented Einar Moen on his synth and piano giving a huge boost to the song.

tristania7The (almost) last track, Wasteland’s Caress, is for me the weakest of all tracks, and the outro …Postludium ends this amazing album, unless you have the special edition which contains two excellent bonus tracks called Sirene and Cease to Exist. The front cover of the album simply summarizes how dark and mysterious the music by Tristania is, fully complemented by the band’s sinister outfits.

Unfortunately, there have been way too many changes in the band’s lineup and musicality until today, provoking an immense drop in the quality of their material. Maybe if Vibeke Stene and of course Morten Veland, the mastermind behind Tristania’s eerie and mesmerizing music and currently with Sirenia, were still with Tristania, the whole story would have been a lot different. Nevertheless, based on Tristania’s most recent albums, I don’t believe we’ll see anything close to Widow’s Weeds again.

At least there are some good news about Vibeke returning to the world of heavy music after years of privation, and when she actually returns she deserves a special “Metal Chick of the Month” post for her and one or more reviews of the music projects and/or bands she joins in a near future. She’s a truly underrated musician, and I hope she comes back kickin’ ass as she used to do in her years with Tristania.

Best moments of the album: Evenfall, Pale Enchantress, Angellore and My Lost Lenore.

Worst moments of the album: December Elegy and Wasteland’s Caress.

Released in 1998  Napalm Records

Track listing

1. Preludium… 1:09
2. Evenfall 6:51
3. Pale Enchantress 6:31
4. December Elegy 7:31
5. Midwintertears 8:32
6. Angellore 7:16
7. My Lost Lenore 6:23
8. Wasteland’s Caress 7:40
9. …Postludium 1:12

Limited edition bonus tracks
10. Sirene 3:22
11. Cease to Exist 9:17

Band members
Vibeke Stene – vocals, choir
Morten Veland – harsh vocals, guitars, choir
Anders H. Hidle – guitars, choir
Rune Østerhus – bass
Einar Moen – synths, programming
Kenneth Olsson – drums, choir

Guest musicians
Østen Bergøy – clean vocals on “Angellore”, choir
Pete Johansen – violin
Hilde Egeland, Marita Herikstad, Hilde T. Bommen – choir

Album Review – Matanza / A Arte do Insulto (2006)

Learning Brazilian Portuguese can be a lot easier and more fun with this awesome countrycore album.

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A+Arte+do+InsultoWith less than 3 months to the 2014 World Cup, lots of soccer fans from all around the world are probably heading to Brazil pretty soon and, of course, are trying to learn some basic words and sentences in Brazilian Portuguese (well, the original Portuguese from Portugal might be helpful too) in order to have an even better experience during the event there. However, if you really want to mingle with the locals, you’ll need more than a simple “por favor” (please) or “obrigado” (thank you), and Brazilian Countrycore band Matanza can help you out with that.

This very talented band from Rio de Janeiro plays an awesome mix of heavy music, hardcore, punk and country, being highly influenced by sacred monsters such as Johnny Cash, Motörhead, Slayer and The Exploited, and adding a huge amount of irony and sarcasm in their lyrics about women, alcohol, violence and human ignorance. After two excellent full-length albums (Santa Madre Cassino, from 2001, and Música para Beber e Brigar, from 2003) and a tribute album composed in its entirety by heavy versions of many classics from Johnny Cash called To Hell With Johnny Cash, from 2005, Matanza released A Arte do Insulto in 2006, or “The Art of Insult” if translated to English, considered their best album until today by the fans.

The title-track, A Arte do Insulto (The Art of Insult), is pure hardcore that will teach you a vast cursing vocabulary for you to use whenever you meet a Brazilian, while Clube dos Canalhas (Scoundrels’ Club) reminds us men what it really is to be a man. The next track is also mandatory for anyone that wants to party in Brazil:  O Chamado do Bar (The Call of the Bar) has some awesome fast riffs and is perfect for some insane circle pits. Sabendo Que Posso Morrer (Knowing I Can Die), a song that talks about love, and Quem Perde Sai (Who Loses Leaves), focused on the pitfalls of poker, are also pretty good fast songs that showcase all the talent of the band’s musicians, as well as the amazing Meio Psicopata (Half Psychopath) with its funny lyrics.

matanzaThe album continues its feast of black humor and bad mood with the classic Eu Não Gosto De Ninguém (I Don’t Like Anyone), an excellent hardcore song with one of the most acid lyrics I’ve ever seen, and the slow-paced O Caminho Da Escada e Da Corda (The Way of the Ladder and the Rope), which despite its cool lyrics is not as exciting as the previous songs. Then we have another great example of what countrycore is with Ressaca Sem Fim (Endless Hangover), the intelligent Tempo Ruim (Bad Weather), and Quem Leva A Sério O Quê? (Who Takes What Seriously?) which is pretty much filler. The last two tracks are pretty cool:  both Whisky Para Um Condenado (Whisky for a Convicted) and Estamos Todos Bêbados (We’re all Drunk) are some kind of funny tribute to alcoholism, with the last being even funnier due to its “pirate song” atmosphere.

Regarding the musicians, I would say the heart and soul of the band are the guitar player Donida (who wrote pretty much all the songs from A Arte do Insulto), and especially the lead singer Jimmy London. Although he was born in Rio, he doesn’t look like a “carioca” at all, resembling a lot more with a metalhead from Ireland, and his voice and attitude add a lot of value to the music of Matanza. And finally, the album art is simple but very effective, inspired by sexy saloon dancers, alcohol and guns, a constant in all of their albums.

Do you understand now how Matanza will help you during the World Cup? It’s heavy music with lots of sarcasm, bad words, and the perfect soundtrack for partying and having some drinks at a pub, which is pretty much everything you’ll be doing in Brazil, right? Or are you going to tell me you are planning to get there just to support your national squad?

Best moments of the album: A Arte do Insulto, O Chamado do Bar and Eu Não Gosto De Ninguém.

Worst moments of the album: O Caminho Da Escada e Da Corda and Quem Leva A Sério O Quê?

Released in 2006 Deckdisc

Track listing
1. A Arte do Insulto 1:51
2. Clube dos Canalhas 3:01
3. O Chamado do Bar 2:06
4. Sabendo Que Posso Morrer 2:19
5. Quem Perde Sai 2:32
6. Meio Psicopata 2:18
7. Eu Não Gosto De Ninguém 3:53
8. O Caminho Da Escada e Da Corda 3:00
9. Ressaca Sem Fim 3:08
10. Tempo Ruim 2:43
11. Quem Leva A Sério O Quê? 2:50
12. Whisky Para Um Condenado 2:22
13. Estamos Todos Bêbados 3:32

Band members
Jimmy London – vocals
China – bass
Fausto – drums
Donida – lead and rhythm guitar

Album Review – Grave Digger / Tunes of War (1996)

Don’t forget to grab your sword and shield before listening to this masterpiece.

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Tunes_of_warIt looks like the end of the 90’s was a special period for concept Heavy Metal albums: we had the perfect Cruelty and the Beast, which I talked about a couple of months ago here, and another masterpiece from the German Power Metal band Grave Digger, the album Tunes of War. I guess I don’t need to say how awesome an album entirely dedicated to Scotland and its struggle for independence from England can be, right? It was also the first album in the band’s trilogy of concept albums inspired in the medieval times which was continued by Knights of the Cross (1998) and Excalibur (1999).

I had the pleasure to talk to all members of the band during a special acoustic performance at a Heavy Metal pub in São Paulo (Brazil) back in 1996, one day before their full gig for the Tunes of War tour. They explained me how the album was created, all the ideas they had, their trip to Scotland to better understand the country’s history and so on, and that’s probably the reason why Tunes of War is so good and precise: it follows the true facts that happened between the 11th and the 18th centuries with the Scottish clans, and all the horror, blood and death in their path for freedom.

Tunes of War starts with THE BEST intro of all time, The Brave,  a mighty Heavy Metal version of “Scotland the Brave” (or “Alba an Aigh”, in Gaelic), considered by many the unofficial Scottish national anthem. There’s no way a regular person won’t feel inspired and ready for war while listening to it. What the band did with this song was amazing, and a perfect intro to one of their best songs of all time, Scotland United. It’s an instant classic with a chorus tailored for any army in the world (“United, united we stand / United, forever and ever!”). The next song, The Dark of the Sun, also has a strong melody with its lyrics exalting the Scottish warriors, while William Wallace (Braveheart) has one of the most furious riffs I’ve ever listened to in my life, and as you can see its dedicated to the life of the great William Wallace, one of the main leaders during the Wars of Scottish Independence who was spectacularly portrayed by Mel Gibson in the Oscar-winning masterpiece Braveheart (which I saw for the 1000th time this week).

Grave_Digger-Tunes_Of_WarIn The Bruce (The Lion King), the band shows a very obscure side, almost as if they were a Doom Metal band, getting back to their traditional Power Metal with The Battle of Flodden. Then comes a very beautiful but sad ballad, called The Ballad of Mary (Queen of Scots), where we see Chris Boltendahl’s voice in a completely different way. By the way, this song has such dark and melancholic lyrics that it might suddenly make you cry especially if you can feel all the pain in it. The Truth, Cry for Freedom (James the VI) and Killing Time are considerably short songs, but very effective in the whole storyline, and all amazing for any of the band’s live performances.

The last few songs are kind of paradoxical: while Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching) is just perfect with its amazing riffs, lyrics, and one of the greatest chorus in the history of Heavy Metal (“The clans are marching ‘gainst the law / Bagpipers play the tunes of war / Death or glory I will find / Rebellion on my mind!”), Culloden Muir sounds quite boring if compared to all other songs. There’s still an outro called The Fall of the Brave, which in my opinion perfectly represents the end of a battle with all the corpses and blood on the war field, and if you have the special edition you’ll be able to enjoy three of Grave Digger’s old classics, all excellent for a beer and some mosh pits: Heavy Metal Breakdown, Witchhunter and Headbanging Man.

Grave Digger has always had wonderful front covers (take a look at this one from Heart of Darkness, for example), and in Tunes of War it’s no different. Regarding the lyrics, as I said, they are all profound and tell the whole story in the best way possible. Of course, nothing would be possible without Grave Digger’s awesome musicians, especially their leader and founding member Chris Boltendahl, owner of a unique voice in the world of Heavy Metal.

To sum up, a brilliant concept album from one of the greatest Power Metal bands in the world, and by far their best album of all time. Only Iron Maiden’s The Clansman is more brilliant than the songs from Tunes of War, but it’s just one song anyway. Moreover, this winter in Canada has been one of the worst of all time, with frigid temperatures and extremely stressful morning and evening commutes due to all the snow, ice storms and freezing rain, so why not getting ready for this “ice cold battle” on the streets enjoying this great album in your car? I definitely will.

Best moments of the album: Scotland United, William Wallace (Braveheart) and Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching).

Worst moments of the album: Culloden Muir is the only song that is not totally awesome in the whole album.

Released in 1996 GUN Records

Track listing
1. The Brave (Intro) 2:23
2. Scotland United 4:35
3. The Dark of the Sun 4:33
4. William Wallace (Braveheart) 5:01
5. The Bruce (The Lion King) 6:58
6. The Battle of Flodden 4:06
7. The Ballad of Mary (Queen of Scots) 5:00
8. The Truth 3:50
9. Cry for Freedom (James the VI) 3:17
10. Killing Time 2:53
11. Rebellion (The Clans Are Marching) 4:05
12. Culloden Muir 4:08
13. The Fall of the Brave (Outro) 1:56

Special digipack bonus tracks
14. Heavy Metal Breakdown
15. Witchhunter
16. Headbanging Man

Band members
Chris Boltendahl – Vocals
Uwe Lulis – Guitars
Tomi Göttlich – Bass
Stefan Arnold – Drums

Album Review – Cradle of Filth / Cruelty and the Beast (1998)

This is how any band in the world should record a concept album.

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410309-300Today is my birthday and I was thinking about which classic album that has helped define my musical taste should be reviewed. I could go for one of my favorite albums of all time, which would be Iron Maiden’s Powerslave, Judas Priest’s Painkiller or Slayer’s Reign in Blood, but instead I chose something more complex and unconventional: Cradle of Filth’s Cruelty and the Beast, a unique concept album dedicated to the legend of the serial killer Elizabeth Báthory, the “Blood Countess” from Hungary who tortured and murdered hundreds of young women in the 16th and 17th centuries, and who many believe used to bath in the blood of her victims to rejuvenate her skin like if she was a vampire. The story itself is inspiring enough for a really dark Heavy Metal album, and no other band rather than Cradle of Filth would have been capable of creating such a masterpiece.

I love the intro Once Upon Atrocity, not only because I’m totally fond of obscure intros like this one, but also because the thrilling transition to the amazing Thirteen Autumns and a Widow is beyond perfect. And what can I say about this song? Despite being probably too heavy and heinous for most of our society, it’s a mesmerizing chef d’oeuvre that no other band is capable of doing (not even the current Cradle of Filth is anymore).The drums and keyboards are terrific, providing the song a unique atmosphere. Then comes one of the band’s most famous tracks, Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids, which is not as fast as the first song, but it’s also excellent and has some very good riffs.

Cradle+of+Filth+Cruelty+and+the+BeastBeneath the Howling Stars was the first song I’ve listened to ever from Cradle of Filth, and until today it makes my day a lot better when I listen to it. From its horror movie-like intro in the keyboards to the chorus, it’s a perfect fit for the soundtrack to apocalypse. I know Dani cannot reach the same high-pitched notes anymore, but it’s still great to listen to this song and I hope the band adds it back to their future setlists. The next track, Venus in Fear, is an instrumental song that is not recommended at all to listen to with your parents or your little sister, while Desire in Violent Overture is another musical typhoon from this Extreme Metal band from England.

The Twisted Nails of Faith is one of my least favorite ones, which doesn’t mean it’s not a furious track (it’s not just as brilliant as the others), followed by what can be considered an “Extreme Metal Opera” called Bathory Aria: this 11-minute insanity starts in a melancholic way with Benighted Like Usher, evolves into a storm with A Murder of Ravens in Fugue, and finally ends with a poem-like part called Eyes That Witnessed Madness. I REALLY would like to see them playing this live one day, that would be a dream come true. The album ends with another instrumental song, Portrait of the Dead Countess (this one you can listen to with anyone around you, no problem), and the fast and heavy track Lustmord and Wargasm. And if you’re still alive after this infernal tsunami, it means you enjoyed it and you’re ready to listen to everything again and again.

All musicians in this album are awesome (including the guest musicians) despite none of them being with the band anymore except for Dani Filth, the mastermind behind Cradle of Filth. Well, he’s the main reason why Cruelty and the Beast is so good, because without him it would be just a regular album. Although Dani’s trademark voice was not as high as in their previous albums, he was singing like a demon, adding a lot of violence and despair to the musicality of the whole album. Not only that, the lyrics in Cruelty and the Beast are also as creative, evil and wonderful as always, this time even better due to the whole storyline involving Countess Bathory as the main character, and the front cover and the rest of the album art are the perfect finishing touch for it.

Cradle_Of_Filth-Cruelty_y_The_Beast_(Limited_Edition)-Frontal

Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition front cover

If you’re lucky enough to find the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, you’ll be amazed by their superb covers of Iron Maiden, Venom and Sodom, bands with a high influence on Cradle of Filth’s music. The only bad thing about this bonus disc is the mix version for The Twisted Nails of Faith: I don’t like when a Heavy Metal song are mixed into some generic electronic song, and this one is not different from that.

Anyway, if you love Extreme Metal and a good story, you must listen to Cruelty and the Beast. Cradle of Filth might not be the best Heavy Metal band in the world, but this album helped redefine extreme music for sure and destroyed all the remaining boundaries between music and art for good.

Best moments of the album: Everything in this album is gold, but if I had to choose only a couple of songs they would be Thirteen Autumns and a Widow, Beneath the Howling Stars and Bathory Aria.

Worst moments of the album: None, unless I can choose a song from the Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc, then I would say Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix).

Released in 1998 Music for Nations

Track listing
1. Once Upon Atrocity (Instrumental) 1:43
2. Thirteen Autumns and a Widow 7:14
3. Cruelty Brought Thee Orchids 7:18
4. Beneath the Howling Stars 7:42
5. Venus in Fear (Instrumental) 2:20
6. Desire in Violent Overture 4:16
7. The Twisted Nails of Faith 6:50
8. Bathory Aria (Benighted Like Usher/A Murder of Ravens in Fugue/Eyes That Witnessed Madness) 11:02
9. Portrait of the Dead Countess (Instrumental) 2:52
10. Lustmord and Wargasm (The Lick of Carnivorous Winds) 7:30

Koch Records’ 2001 two-disc edition bonus disc
1. Lustmord And Wargasm (The Relicking of Cadaverous Wounds) 7:58
2. Black Metal (Venom cover) 3:27
3. Hallowed Be Thy Name (Iron Maiden cover) 7:10
4. Sodomy & Lust (Sodom cover) 4:47
5. Twisting Further Nails (The Cruci-Fiction Mix) 5:33

Band members
Dani Filth – lead vocals
Stuart Anstis – guitars
Gian Pyres – guitars
Robin Graves – bass
Lecter – keyboards
Nicholas Barker – drums

Guest musicians
Sarah Jezebel Deva – backing vocals
Danielle Cneajna Cottington – backing vocals
Ingrid Pitt – Lady Bathory’s narration on ‘The Twisted Nails of Faith’ and Bathory Aria’s ‘Eyes That Witnessed Madness’

Album Review – Fight / War of Words (1993)

An amazing Heavy Metal album from a totally awesome band that unfortunately doesn’t exist anymore.

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Fight_-_War_of_WordsWhen the Metal God Rob Halford (the best Heavy Metal singer of all time) left Judas Priest back in 1992, no one knew what was going to happen to him or to the band. Fortunately for most of his fans all around the world, he formed the amazing band Fight in 1993 and recorded one of the most underrated Metal albums of the 90’s, War of Words.

How can someone not get completely addicted to an album that starts with two masterpieces such as Into the Pit and Nailed to the Gun? These two songs are more than perfect, with the Metal God reaching his famous powerful screams and the rest of the band simply kickin’ some serious ass. In my opinion, they’re better than almost anything Halford or even the Priest have produced since then, except for Resurrection (which might be a good topic for a future post).

After this incredible start, War of Words keeps delivering some excellent material: Life in Black is a very nice slow and heavy tune, while Immortal Sin is another instant classic with its great riff and chorus; the title-track, War of Words, has another great performance by Halford, while Laid to Rest can be considered the darkest track of the whole album. Then we have one of the least memorable tracks, For All Eternity, which is not bad but becomes boring after two minutes, and the hit single Little Crazy that made even people that knew nothing about Halford or didn’t enjoy Metal at all sing along with our Metal God.

fightThe last part of the album is a little weird if compared to anything Halford had previously recorded in his career, with a sonority that reminds me of some more modern Thrash Metal (something that didn’t even exist in the beginning of the 90’s). If you listen to the songs Contortion, Kill It and Vicious today, you’ll think they’re from a brand new band, not from a group from the 90’s which had one of the most iconic classic Metal singers of all time. My favorite one from these three tracks is undoubtedly Kill It, especially due to its pretty simple but cool chorus. Reality, A New Beginning closes the album, and I personally don’t understand what the band wanted with this song. It is extremely boring compared to the rest of the songs.

Maybe the front cover is the weakest part of the album, because even a 5-year old kid can do something better using only pen and paper, but in this case I don’t care about it due to the high quality of the music. And of course, great songs can only come from real musicians: Halford is the Metal God, there’s nothing else any mere mortal like me can say about him; Russ Parrish (or if you prefer, Satchel from Steel Panther) is a very talented guitar player, as well as Brian Tilse, and they both produced awesome riffs and solos in this album; Jay Jay also delivers some great bass lines;  and Scott Travis, the drummer that has been giving more speed and power to all Priest songs since joining the band in Painkiller, does an amazing job here too.

In summary, if you have never listened to War of Words, you have no idea of what an amazing Metal album you’re missing. Fight might be a long-gone band today, but the music they produced during their short life was pure fuckin’ Metal.

Best moments of the album: Into the Pit, Nailed to the Gun, Immortal Sin and Laid to Rest.

Worst moments of the album: For All Eternity and Reality, A New Beginning.

Released in 1993 Epic Records

Track listing
1. Into the Pit 4:13
2. Nailed to the Gun 3:38
3. Life in Black 4:34
4. Immortal Sin 4:39
5. War of Words 4:29
6. Laid to Rest 4:40
7. For All Eternity 4:42
8. Little Crazy 3:49
9. Contortion 4:35
10. Kill It 3:30
11. Vicious 3:11
12. Reality, A New Beginning (includes hidden track “Jesus Saves”) 13:18

Band members
Rob Halford – vocals
Brian Tilse – guitars
Russ Parrish – guitars
Jay Jay – bass
Scott Travis – drums

Album Review – Cannibal Corpse / Vile (1996)

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome Mr. George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher.

Rating3

VilecannibalcorpseThe year of 1996 was excellent for heavy music fans, with bands like Sepultura, Slayer, Pantera, In Flames and Stratovarius launching some unique albums, and of course we also had the ferocious Vile from Death Metal icons Cannibal Corpse, this time with a fresh new singer, George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher. Although some old diehard fans didn’t enjoy the change, in my opinion Chris Barnes always sounded like a desperate gorilla choking on his own vomit screaming for help, while Corpsegrinder added more dynamism and creativity to the band’s music.

Devoured By Vermin opens this musical massacre at a very high level, showing what to expect from the rest of the album. This quickly became my top Cannibal Corpse song of all time, even better than their most acclaimed classic Hammer Smashed Face, and even after listening to what was going to be the original version before Barnes left I still prefer the official one the band re-recorded with Corpsegrinder on vocals.

cannibalcorpse1996promophoto1The following three songs keep on “destroying” our necks and bodies: Mummified in Barbed Wire, Perverse Suffering and Disfigured, especially this last one, are perfect for any circle-pits or for a heavy workout at the gym after a stressful day at school or work. With Bloodlands the band seems to give a break to all the insanity with a heavy but slow song, just to get back as fast and destructible as possible with the amazing Puncture Wound Massacre and the instrumental Relentless Beating. The album continues with another great song for a horror movie soundtrack, Absolute Hatred, the violent Eaten from Inside (which has some awesome riffs and solos), and the short but complex Orgasm Through Torture (what a beautiful name). The last song, Monolith, is nice but sounds too generic compared to the rest of the album. Nothing that makes Vile less amazing, though.

There’s not much to say about the totally brutal and gruesome lyrics, or about the insanely evil front cover (if you’re a pussy, go for the censored version of it). Those are trademarks of one of the heaviest bands on Earth and make the final material even better. The guitar players do an excellent job and I’ve already said what I think about Corpsegrinder, but let me focus on Paul Mazurkiewicz and Alex Webster. Paul is not a simple drummer, he’s a ruthless human jackhammer, while Alex is a beast that makes anyone completely forget about Cliff Burton after listening to his demented and unmatched bass lines.

You can say whatever you want about the band with Barnes or Corpsegrinder on vocals, as each fan of the band has their own reasons to prefer this or that guttural style, but one thing is certain: Cannibal Corpse’s Vile kicks some serious fuckin’ ass and is mandatory in the collection of anyone who appreciates some brutal and extremely technical high-quality Death Metal.

Best moments of the album: Devoured By Vermin, Disfigured and Puncture Wound Massacre.

Worst moments of the album: Bloodlands and Monolith.

Released in 1996 Metal Blade Records

Track listing
1. Devoured by Vermin 3:13
2. Mummified in Barbed Wire 3:09
3. Perverse Suffering 4:14
4. Disfigured 3:48
5. Bloodlands 4:20
6. Puncture Wound Massacre 1:41
7. Relentless Beating 2:14
8. Absolute Hatred 3:05
9. Eaten from Inside 3:43
10. Orgasm Through Torture 3:41
11. Monolith 4:24

Band members
George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher – vocals
Rob Barrett – guitar
Jack Owen – guitar
Alex Webster – bass
Paul Mazurkiewicz – drums

Album Review – Teräsbetoni / Metallitotuus (2005)

The best Manowar album of all time not recorded by Manowar. And what’s even better, it’s entirely sung in Finnish.

Rating2

metallitotuusAs any normal person in the world, I developed a passion for a country very different from my own many years ago: the Republic of Finland. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? And I had some very good reasons for that, because especially in terms of music and drinks, Finland is way better than Brazil. So I started studying Finnish and saving money for the “trip of my dreams”, which finally happened in the beginning of 2006. I was able to see the snow for the first time (which now that I live in Canada doesn’t seem to be that cool anymore); I tried lots of different types of beer, vodka and other typical Finnish drinks; I made some really good friends; I saw Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and Lordi live, as well as a theatrical play with Tarja Turunen; and went to a heavy karaoke where I saw a guy singing an amazing song called Metallisydän. Wait, what the hell was that song? What band was that?

Then the next day or the other one (of course I don’t remember exactly when), I went to a nice pub called On the Rocks, and there was this cover band playing some classics from Queen, Rolling Stones etc., when they played another powerful heavy song in Finnish called Taivas Lyö Tulta from that same band, and that was more than enough to make me ask a guy at the pub the name of the band and run to a record store the next day to buy their album. This is the story of how I discovered the Power Metal band Teräsbetoni (“Reinforced Concrete” in English) and bought their debut album, the almost perfect Metallitotuus (“Metal Truth” in English), one of the best, if not THE best, Power Metal album of the past 10 years at least (and a million light-years better than anything Manowar has produced since Louder Than Hell).

terasbetoniThe album starts in the most powerful way possible with a track that has the same name as the band, Teräsbetoni (Reinforced Concrete), which could easily be used as the Finnish National Army’s anthem. It’s impossible not to compare each part of the song with some old Manowar classics, and I’m pretty sure that was the band’s original intention. The next track is one of my favorites: Älä Kerro Meille (Don’t Tell Us) has an amazing riff and the lyrics have that message about the fight for freedom and making your own decisions. Then comes my top Teräsbetoni track of all, not only of this album: Taivas Lyö Tulta (Sky Strikes Fire) is the perfect “battle track”, with a superb chorus that even if you don’t know a single word in Finnish you’ll start singing it as soon as you listen to it. This is a masterpiece that could have been a Manowar classic in a parallel world, if Manowar hasn’t become the most arrogant and laziest band in the world of Heavy Metal.

The following tracks might not be as good as the first three, but they’re very interesting in terms of riffs and rhythm: Vahva Kuin Metalli (Strong as Metal) and Silmä Silmästä (Eye for an Eye). Then comes another instant classic called Metallisydän (Metal Heart), a beautiful ballad I heard for the first time at that heavy karaoke I mentioned and that until today makes my “metal heart” beat stronger, and the funny Orjatar (Slavewoman), which in my opinion was some kind of tribute (or joke?) to Manowar’s Pleasure Slave. Anyway, it’s an awesome tune for all headbanging girls of the world.

The last part of the album keeps the energy level up with the fast and heavy Tuonelaan (To the Underworld); the title-track Metallitotuus (Metal Truth); another of my favorites Voittamaton (Invincible), which has the most Manowar-ish riff and drums of all (it sounds a lot like Fighting the World); and the interesting Teräksen Varjo (Shadow of Steel). The ONLY crappy song of all is the last one, Maljanne Nostakaa (Raise Your Cup), not due to its instrumental which is fairly good, but the singing done by Arto Järvinen makes you skip this track and go back to the beginning of the album. It’s simply mediocre.

digipak

Metallitotuus special digipak front cover

The front cover is a piece of junk (albeit not as bad as this one, and besides you can be lucky to find the special digipak version anyway), Jarkko Ahola oversings 99% of the time, and their Manowar-ish lyrics didn’t add much to my limited Finnish vocabulary, but I don’t really care about those minor details. Metallitotuus is pure Heavy Metal, and a very exciting album to listen to at any occasion.

Teräsbetoni, as well as many excellent European bands, are really underrated in North America.  Add to that the fact they do not sing in English and are in an indefinite career hiatus and it seems absolutely impossible to see them one day playing live here in Canada. Anyway, despite all that, it’s a band definitely worth listening to, which has recorded some very good albums with Metallitotuus being their biggest masterpiece. Let’s just hope they get back in action, and that for the power of Odin they somehow come to Toronto for at least one single concert.

Best moments of the album: Taivas Lyö Tulta, Älä Kerro Meille, Metallisydän and Voittamaton.

Worst moments of the album: Maljanne Nostakaa, mainly due to the horrible singing as I mentioned before.

Released in 2005 Warner Music Finland

Track listing
1. Teräsbetoni 5:54
2. Älä Kerro Meille 3:29
3. Taivas Lyö Tulta 3:21
4. Vahva Kuin Metalli 3:02
5. Silmä Silmästä 3:41
6. Metallisydän 5:27
7. Orjatar 3:11
8. Tuonelaan 3:33
9. Metallitotuus 4:30
10. Voittamaton 3:50
11. Teräksen Varjo 4:32
12. Maljanne Nostakaa 6:05

Band members
Jarkko Ahola – lead vocals, bass
Arto Järvinen – guitar, vocals
Viljo Rantanen – guitar
Jari Kuokkanen – drums

Album Review – Helloween / Walls of Jericho (1985)

Happy, Happy Helloween” revolutionize music with the first Power Metal album of all time.

Rating3

walls-of-jerichoMany Heavy Metal bands such as Iron Maiden and Judas Priest already had pretty solid careers when Helloween started back in the 80’s, yet they became heavy music pioneers too when they released Walls of Jericho, the first Power/Melodic Metal album in the history of music. By the way, they have also made a lot of people confused ever since about the spelling of “Halloween” (with “A”) vs. the name of the band (with “E”).

Although Walls of Jericho was originally launched in 1985, this review also includes the extra songs added to the 1988 CD Edition from the 1985 EP/mini-LP Helloween and from the 1986 EP Judas for a very simple reason: they’re too good to be left out. Those extra songs are Starlight, Murderer, Warrior, Victim of Fate, Cry for Freedom and Judas, all very fast and heavy songs that at the time they were launched were a synonym for innovation in music. My favorite ones are Starlight and Victim of Fate, especially the first one with its unique intro and amazing riffs.

The intro to Starlight was taken from the movie Halloween III, and because it was so cool it became some kind of anthem sung by the Helloween fans before, during or after their live performances.

“Happy, Happy Helloween, Helloween, Helloween!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Silver Shamrocks!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Helloween, Helloween!
Happy, Happy Helloween, Silver Shamrocks!” 

Of course, the “Silver Shamrocks” part is usually substituted by some generic “oh oh oh oh” by the crowd, but that doesn’t make the song less cool. Due to its great success, the same rhythm was used to generate the intro Walls of Jericho (with no lyrics, though), which opens all Helloween concerts until today.

Then comes one of the top moments of the entire album: Ride the Sky is powerful, it has some crazy riffs and solos, and the lyrics are excellent to sing especially live. The following tracks are not marvelous, but are very consistent and add a lot of value to the album, like Metal Invaders (despite its stupid name). And finally we have what I consider the best songs from the album: Heavy Metal (Is the Law) has those Manowar-ish lyrics, chorus and attitude, while How Many Tears is the most perfect Power Metal song I’ve ever heard in my whole life.

helloween01All band members were amazing in Walls of Jericho, mainly the amazing guitar, singer and composer Kai Hansen and the drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg (R.I.P.). Unfortunately they’re no longer with the band, but at least Helloween still has Michael Weikath and Markus Grosskopf to keep alive the flame of the most influential Power Metal band in the world. And let’s not forget that we also have another great band now, Gamma Ray, which is pretty much Kai Hansen playing the same type of music from Walls of Jericho since his departure from Helloween.

In summary, Walls of Jericho is a revolutionary album that has never been mainstream, nor will ever be, but that is mandatory for all music fans that enjoy fast riffs and solos, superb guitar duos, and songs with a lot of energy. Moreover, if you’re a metalhead and you don’t know if the correct spelling is “Halloween” or “Helloween”, follow my advice and always write it with “E” even when you’re talking about the celebration. It’s a lot more badass this way.

Best moments of the album: Starlight, Ride the Sky, Heavy Metal (Is the Law) and How Many Tears.

Worst moments of the album: Reptile and Gorgar.

Released in 1985 Noise Records

Track listing
1. Starlight* 5:17
2. Murderer* 4:26
3. Warrior* 4:00
4. Victim of Fate* 6:37
5. Cry for Freedom* 6:02
6. Walls of Jericho / Ride the Sky 6:45
7. Reptile 3:45
8. Guardians 4:19
9. Phantoms of Death 6:33
10. Metal Invaders 4:10
11. Gorgar 3:57
12. Heavy Metal (Is the Law) 4:00
13. How Many Tears 7:15
14. Judas** 4:43

* Originally released in the 1985 EP/mini-LP Helloween
** Originally released in the 1986 EP Judas

Band members
Kai Hansen – vocals, guitar
Michael Weikath – guitar
Markus Grosskopf – bass
Ingo Schwichtenberg – drums

Album Review – Sepultura / Roots (1996)

“Sepultura do Brasil” changed the world of music with the most creative Thrash Metal album of all time.

Rating2

Sepultura_-_RootsThe year of 1996 was a very special year in my life: it was my last year in high school, I finally turned 18, I was dating the most beautiful girl of the entire school, and in terms of music I saw Maiden live for the first time as well as some other awesome bands such as Helloween, Manowar, The Ramones, and my countrymen from Sepultura. I used to love listening to Beneath the Remains, Arise and Chaos A.D., but they simply blew my mind with the most innovative Thrash Metal album of all time: Roots.

Every relevant Thrash Metal band in the world has at least one unique album that redefined that music genre somehow, like Bonded by Blood from Exodus or Reign in Blood from Slayer. In the case of Sepultura, it was Roots that made them reach the top of the charts and become a reference for all future Thrash Metal bands. There were so many new elements in this album that I could spend hours writing about each one of them, but I’ll focus on the most important one in my opinion, which was Max Cavalera’s voice. He brilliantly turned his voice into a musical instrument, reaching some insane notes and sounding more violent than ever, changing the way many other guttural singers used their voices from that year on. Check out at the end of this post the video for Roots Bloody Roots, Sepultura’s all-time classic, and you’ll be able to see how his voice fully integrates with the other instruments giving a special punch to the whole album.

Sepultura-RootsThe most famous songs from Roots are Roots Bloody Roots, of course, Attittude with its amazing riffs and lyrics, and my least favorite one Ratamahatta (the lyrics don’t make any sense at all, it’s just a bunch of stupid disconnected Brazilian words, with a guest musician that makes me want to vomit just by hearing his name). However, you must pay attention carefully to the rest of the album because there are so many good guitar riffs, lyrics and percussion that will make you listen to Roots non-stop for weeks. You’ll find heavy and violent tracks, such as Straighthate, Spit, Cut-Thorat and Dictatorshit; some songs that were unimaginable for a Thrash Metal band before that like Lookaway (with the crazy Mike Patton as a special guest) and Ambush; and some material that doesn’t even sound Metal, but are extremely important for the album concept: Jasco and Itsári, this one being recorded with an aboriginal tribe in Brazil called the Xavantes. All songs connected, all representing a sad and violent side of Brazil. And the front cover is just amazing, perfectly summarizing the whole album in one single image.

My version of the album (which was probably the one released only in Brazil) had two great covers for Celtic Frost’s Procreation of the Wicked and Sabbath’s Symptom of the Universe, this one also featuring in that good Sabbath tribute called Nativity in Black. If you don’t have these two songs in your version of Roots, you should go after them.

There are very few things that make me proud of being Brazilian, and Sepultura and Roots are part of this “selected” group. This album is so great that it has not only changed Thrash Metal, it has changes music in general. Sepultura do Brasil! Um, dois, três… VAI!

Best moments of the album: Roots Bloody Roots, Attitude, Straighthate and Born Stubborn.

Worst moments of the album: Ratamahatta and Endangered Species.

Released in 1996 Roadrunner Records

Track listing
1. Roots Bloody Root 3:32
2. Attitude 4:15
3. Cut-Throat 2:44
4. Ratamahatta 4:30
5. Breed Apart 4:01
6. Straighthate 5:21
7. Spit 2:45
8. Lookaway 5:26
9. Dusted 4:03
10. Born Stubborn 4:07
11. Jasco (instrumental) 1:57
12. Itsári (instrumental) 4:48
13. Ambush 4:39
14. Endangered Species 5:19
15. Dictatorshit 1:26

Band members
Max Cavalera – vocals, rhythm guitar, 4-string guitar, berimbau
Igor Cavalera – drums, percussion, timbau, djembe
Paulo Jr. – bass guitar, timbau grandé
Andreas Kisser – lead guitar, sitar, backing vocals