Thursday, November 30, 2006

The countdown starts Friday

Tomorrow I start my countdown of the top ten hard rock/metal albums of 1986 with the album I have at number ten. I will be doing one per day for the first ten days of the month. I may be posting twice a day at times as I may throw in a few other topics during that time period so I won't bore everyone to tears. I did a countdown last year for 1985 and I gave hints each day what album was coming the next day. Of course last year there were maybe two people reading my blog. I will probably still try to give hints this year. So the album I have ranked as the tenth best of 1986 will be out Friday. The hint is they are from Belgium.

**Do you keep top ten lists of albums, bands, shows or anything like that?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Break the tie

I started a Vote for a review on Sunday and currently the numbers are this:

Lizzy Borden-Visual Lies has 5 votes
Dokken-Back for the attack has 5 votes
Faster Pussycat-s/t has 2 votes

I think a lot of regular readers have voted, but a few have not. So if you not already voted then feel free to vote now. If it is still a tie by Friday morning then I will do a tiebreaker. I think that I would throw out a trivia question and the first person to answer correctly would get to pick between the bands that are tied to decide whose album I will review.

Favorite Christmas special?

Since I will be spending almost the first two weeks of December doing my awards for 1986 I decided to toss out a Christmas topic now. If you were a kid in the 1970's then you lived for the Christmas specials that would come on once a year. Back then if you missed them then you had to wait another year to see them. Now they are on DVD and you can watch them at anytime. So which one of these is your favorite:

A Charlie Brown Christmas
How the Grinch stole Christmas
Rudolph the red nosed reindeer

**And if you have a favorite besides these then tell us what it is.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Dragonforce-Inhuman Rampage, 2006

I checked this out at the library and listened to it once and it was all like a big blur so I listened to it again and tried to really pay attention to what was going on. Now there are a few ways I could approach this review. I could do the Green eggs and ham method and just say "I do not like them, Sam-I-am". That doesn't explain a whole lot though. I could take the inflexible old metalhead approach and say "these whippersnappers don't make power metal like the bands did back in my day!". That doesn't really explain my reasons enough either. So how about I ask a question about this album and that question is "what's the point?". As in what's the point to playing power metal so fast? Now I like some power metal like Helloween and Gamma Ray. The thing is these bands had influences like Iron Maiden, maybe Deep Purple and Judas Priest plus they added their own sounds and they built or added to the genre of power metal. Dragonforce appear to have taken what other power metal bands have done and just speeded it up. A lot of their supporters talk about their talent and I think there is some there, but largely it's just a big whirlpool of sound with a few bits of comprehensive music thrown in. Plus the music goes so fast that the singer just sounds awkward at times trying to chime in and keep up. I tried hard to focus and find something more, but it didn't happen. Back in the 80's there were bands like Death, Possessed, DRI and Napalm Death that started out playing just really fast, but they progressed beyond just speed. Also those bands were playing death, grindcore, hardcore or a mixture of those. I think those styles better lend themselves to playing very fast because it goes along with the aggressiveness of those styles. Power metal is not really aggressive, it's more about anthems and it's hard to sing along when the music is just buzzing past plus this is their third album. I feel that I gave this one a chance and ultimately I have to proclaim it as a stinker. I am glad to see some kind of metal coming out of England, but they are just not that good. There are and have been some good doom and stoner bands like Cathedral, Orange Goblin and the great Electric Wizard who have all hailed from England in recent years. However because Dragonforce have caught on largely due to their novelty of being fast, if somehow hearing Dragonforce gets younger fans to seek out other real power metal bands then this band may have made a contribution in that matter. So it's time for me to return Dragonforce to the library and go listen to some Helloween.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Iron Maiden-A matter of life and death, 2006

If you are a great band then there tend to be higher expectations. Is that fair? Maybe not, but that's the way we fans can be. Maiden were the best metal band of the 80's with every album being great or almost great. Yet in the 1990's they stumbled as No prayer for the dying just seemed like the band was lost or wore out. Fear of the dark in 1992 was better, but still had several filler tracks and seemed a bit soft at times. Then Bruce left and we got two albums with Blaze Bayley at the helm. These albums just seemed watered down and way off track. Then finally Bruce and Adrian returned and we got Brave new world in 2000. Okay, it was good although not great yet we were just glad they were heading in the right direction. In 2003 they finally got close to being great again with Dance of death. Now here we are three years later with a new album, so what did we get? Well, for my money I got everything I wanted and more. The first thing almost every reviewer talked about first with this album is the length of the songs. Yes, six of the ten tracks are over seven minutes in length. However, they don't seem that long because it's not how long a song is as much as what the band does during the time. Maiden manage to do so much on this album yet make it seem effortless. Too many older bands either repeat their past or try too hard to to reinvent themselves. Iron Maiden have taken the sound they established in the 80's, but built upon it and forged a new direction. We still get similar churning bass lines, the layered guitars (yes, three of them, Nicko's ever changing drum beats and quite honestly Bruce Dickinson sounds more amazing here than he has in say the last 15 years. We get all that yet somehow the band's approach to their songs is a little different. There is much more of a build-up in each song yet it's done in a seamless fashion. To me the tracks here are more emotionally charged than normal. I got chills up my spine during half the tracks to be honest with you. Almost every song starts out very simple and builds up to a boil. They truly are masters at knowing how and when to punctuate parts of songs to get the most from them. At this point in their career, I imagine these guys didn't have problems coming up with enough material, but instead they probably had to narrow down what to use. It was an album that took a few listens for me to really determine what I thought. That's mainly just because there was so much go on during this album. My final word is that I think it is another amazing chapter in Maiden's legacy and maybe their fifth or sixth best album. My only real complaint is that I had to wait three years for it to come out. Here's hoping the next one is out in two years!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

What's coming up?

There are two parts to this week, that being the November part and the December part. So here are the topics for the November part.

It came from the pages of Hit Parader
Iron Maiden-A matter of life and death review
Dragonforce-Inhuman Rampage review

Then starting on December 1st I will begin my countdown of the top ten hard rock/metal albums of 1986. I have been working on this list since August. Back then I picked 22 albums from 1986 that I thought might make my top ten and I listened to each one and narrowed it down. So from December 1st-10th I will countdown my top ten with my top album being revealed on the 10th. Then on the 11th I give out the not so coveted "Golden Turd" award for 1986. I started doing this last year and it goes to a band who did a bad album that was disappointing in some way. However on the same day I will also do a new award which is the "Biggest Improvement" for 1986. Then on the 12th I will conclude the awards for 1986 with the five best and five worst album covers of the year.

Doing this top ten is a fun project and it allows me to really examine and compare albums. Over the last two years I have found that these things always happen.
1)A band I initially think will make the top ten doesn't
2)A dark horse always slips into the top ten
I will warn you that 1986 was much more a year for speed metal and heavier bands than it was for hair metal. In fact only one band that could be classified as hair metal made my top ten for 1986, but it will likely be different when I do 1987 next year. I hope you will enjoy my top ten or at least tolerate my ramblings about the past.

***With Christmas fast approaching, what do you want for Christmas?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Vote for a review

For the first 20 year album review of 2007 I have decided to do a vote for a review. Vote for the album you would like me to do and the one with the most votes will be reviewed in January. The theme is LA bands and here are the choices.

Faster Pussycat-s/t
Lizzy Borden-Visual Lies
Dokken-Back for the attack

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Being thankful, the music edition

I am thankful for my family, my health and my job. However, I am also thankful for music. I was going to list ten music related things that I am thankful for, but in my thinking I began to realize that some of these are people and some are things. So I will list five musical artists that I am thankful for and five other music related things that I am thankful for. Here are the artists

-Lemmy:The symbol of perseverance in music and I mean all music not just metal. Kicked out of Hawkwind, he started Motorhead and began a style that was not real popular in the beginning. He has been through line-up changes, first album got shelved, label problems, health problems and all the changing music fads that have gone around him. Yet Motorhead kept going and continue to keep cranking out solid music.

-Jeff Scott Soto:His current position in Journey shows that hard work pays off. He has spent twenty years taking whatever gig he could to make a living and did a good job at whatever it was. He never grumbled and stayed the course building up a reputation as a great talent, a solid live performer and someone who was easy to work with.

-Celtic Frost: I am thankful that they proved that a band can do a comeback album and it not only be great, but actually break some ground. They released their first album in 15 years and it's probably the second or third best album of the year.

-Steve Vai: Actually he did an album last year and just toured a little this year. However I came to the realization that he is a true guitar hero. He is not only talented and I have known that for twenty years. He is a guitar hero because he is not full of himself (like Yngwie), he doesn't rest completely on his past (like Eddie), he doesn't attempt styles that he can't handle (like George Lynch) yet he plays what he wants and it's always interesting.

-Iron Maiden: It's almost like the 1990's never happened for them. The last three albums have marked a new chapter for them and to me each album has been better than the one before it. They continue to progress yet be true to their past. They are one of the few old guard metal bands still making music that's relevant.

Here are five other music related things I am thankful for:

-eBay: There are some poor sellers, but plenty of good ones too. You can get some things cheap and easier than years ago thanks to eBay.

-Vinyl still being made: I have not bought too many new albums in recent years, but I am glad that some bands still put their works out on vinyl. It is just such a great classic format that it's good to see it still around to some extent.

-Indie metal/hard rock music labels: Labels like Metal Mayhem, Perris, Escapi and Wounded Bird who are releasing and re-releasing a lot of hard rock and metal artists who are not going to get touched by the majors. They also release quality products at fair prices. It's labels like these that help keep the scene alive.

-Metal news sites: Sites like Blabbermouth, Brave words and bloody knuckles and KNAC deliver news, reviews and more. Remember how long it took to hear metal news when it was just magazines? It's great to read the news and keep up with stuff daily.

-Music bloggers: People who write music blogs, read them and comment on them help keep interest going. It's great because it's being done for the love of the music and an interest in sharing and hearing the views of others.

That's what I am thankful for.

What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Writing band logos

I remember around 1983 I was riding in the car with my parents through West Virginia after we had dropped my brother off at college in Kentucky. On a huge rock off to the side of the interstate I saw a Krokus logo painted in red spray paint on the rock. It was huge and it was honsetly well done. I wondered how this person had time to get it done and make it look good. I wasn't listening to Krokus at the time, but I tucked the name away because the logo made an impression on me. Okay here are some semi-related questions and I am not promoting this, but just curious.

1-Have you ever spray painted a band logo somewhere? If so then what band?

2-Did you ever write a band logo on a book? (I mean the book not a remmovable cover)
If so then what band was it?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Bang Tango-From the hip, 2006

Bang Tango released two great albums in Psycho Cafe (1989) and Dancin' on coals (1991). So vocalist Joe Leste is the only original member left in this band and two of his three band mates here are also in his other band Beautiful Creatures. I hesitated in buying this one due to the fear that it would be this band in name only and that the music wouldn't be able to touch the band's prime. Well I was partially correct in that it doesn't touch the band's prime. There is none of the funk that Bang Tango managed to use so well, the pace changes are not as frequent as Leste does not have the range he once had. However it's an energetic enough attempt that is at least in the same vein as the band's earlier albums. I think that Bang Tango established their own sound years ago, but a large part of this album sound like other bands including Faster Pussycat and maybe Guns and Roses at times. I don't think there was a need for that because I think the Bang Tango sound could still be built upon and sound good. Yet there are a few tracks that capture that sound to some extent. Ultimately it's a decent album overall. I have listened to it several times and will continue to listen to it for a while. However, a part of me wonders if any of these older hard rock (hair metal) bands can still manage to put out a great album because it has been some time since an artist whose prime was in the 80's or early 90's has a done truly great album. Then again I do admire Joe Leste to some extent for continuing to play the kind of music he likes and has been doing for most of the last 17 or so years.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Album reviews for 2007

Since I started this blog I have done one review per month of an album that is twenty years old. In fact that was the main project that inspired me to start this blog. Well, since the New Year is just weeks away I have been figuring out what albums I will review in 2007. I don't just pick albums I like because I like a challenge. So I try to pick ones I like, ones I didn't like and ones I am not sure of and then I give them a good listen and try to be objective. I also try to pick different styles as well so hopefully it's a decent mix. So here are the 1987 albums I will be reviewing in the New Year listed in no particular order.

Alice Cooper-Raise your fist and yell
Def Leppard-Hysteria
Guns and Roses-Appetite for destruction
Anthrax-Among the living
Deep Purple-House of the blue light
Frehley's Comet
Armored Saint-Raising Fear
Dio-Dream Evil
Helloween-Keeper of the seven keys pt. 1

The other three albums will be determined by elections where I will offer three choices and the one with the most votes gets reviewed. I did this during 2006 and it seemed to work out well so I will try it again.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

What's coming up?

It's a holiday week so probably not people will be reading blogs this week, but here are the topics that I hope to have out this week.

-It came from the pages of Hit Parader
-Bang Tango-From the hip review
-Iron Maiden-A matter of life and death review ( now that the dust has settled, I will share my view on this one)
-Ten music related things I am thankful for (this will probably be up Wednesday as I won't post on Thursday

and maybe one or two more.

***Here are some questions for you.
-What's the last band shirt you bought?
-What's the last CD you bought or downloaded?
-What was the last music related article you read (either online or in print)?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The sound of white noise and Whoppers?

I just saw this over at Blabbermouth.

"If you have missed the voice of ARMORED SAINT/ex-ANTHRAX singer John Bush, start listening for John Bush voiceover on Burger King TV commercials, which should start airing for the holiday season. The first spot is for a Burger King credit card stocking stuffer, while the second spot is in conjunction with Xbox. ARMORED SAINT played a number a European and U.S. dates over the summer, some of which were taped for the band's upcoming live DVD. It is not presently clear if plans exist for the group to begin work on a new studio album. ARMORED SAINT's last CD, "Revelation", came out in 2000 on the Metal Blade label. "

Whitesnake-Slide it in, 1984

After the break-up of Deep Purple in 1976, vocalist David Coverdale recorded a solo album and then decided to form his own band called Whitesnake. He went through numerous band members over the next few years. Generally the first few Whitesnake albums were not quite as hard rock as the material that Coverdale did with Deep Purple in the mid-70's. However, by 1984 I think that either the band or the label saw the rising metal scene and figured that maybe it was time for Whitesnake to join in. The album starts off with the title track and it's a good representation of the overall sound of the album. It's a straight forward hard rock tune with little build-up, but certainly solid enough. Next up are the two radio songs "Slow and easy" and "Love ain't no stranger". Slow and easy is about what you think it is about and again it's just a good, simple yet solid hard rock song. "Love ain't no stranger" is a slow song, but not sappy as the band pulls quite a bit out of this track. Lyrically they aren't breaking any new ground and it may even be a bit silly at times, but the music is so strong that it doesn't matter that much. A few years later, the band would be known for their videos and Dave Coverdale was often accused of ripping off Robert Plant. However, the truth that Coverdale has a very good rock voice and you can't take that away from him. It's obvious that he puts his voice to good use on this album. Songs like the Gambler, Standing in the shadow and the great Guilty of love are good examples of how strong this band could be. I think this album is a good blend of the kind of hard rock that was prevalent in the late 1970's and the kind of hard rock that was starting to take hold in the 1980's. I don't think a lot of other bands were doing that style at the time. This is the album that this band should be remembered for. Oh and as a teenage boy I giggled at the dirty album title.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Current playlist

Lately I have been listening to these:

Slayer-Show no mercy
Trixie-Lift you up and Shelter
Bang Tango-From the hip
The Exploited-Troops of tomorrow
Captain Beyond

***What are you listening to?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Slayer-Show no mercy, 1983

I always heard an unconfirmed story that Slayer were playing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest covers until they saw Metallica playing in a club around 1982. Like I said it's unconfirmed, but Slayer's debut is a bit like a cross between Metallica's debut Kill 'em all as well as Judas Priest, Raven, Venom and maybe a little bit of Maiden here and there. However there are two things that set prime Slayer apart from the pack. One is attitude and this album brings that across. The other of course is Dave Lombardo and although his style is more basic here than later on, you can still here how fast he can change the beat and that's a huge plus. Show no mercy might be a bit like Anthrax's debut "Fistful of metal" in that both are good albums, but both bands went in somewhat different directions after their debuts. Show no mercy is actually far more riff based than Slayer would be on their next two albums. Maybe they were listening to a lot of NWOBHM stuff at the time. Having said all that, I must say that I think this is Slayer's most underated album and hold on to your hats, but I think this is a better album than Metallica's Kill 'em all. I didn't think that back in the 80's and maybe not even in the 90's, but I am sure of it now. I think this album is not always appreciated by Slayer fans because most people got into Slayer during Reign in blood or South of heaven and those albums are way different than this disc. The songs here are far more structured than the band's later work as songs like "Evil has no boundries" and "Die by the sword" come across almost like anthems, well perhaps anthems for the apocalype. The structure of the album is the whole thing that makes it what it is. It is very tight for a debut with everything being very distinct and too the point. The band knows where they are going with the song and they lead you there easily. It's not as heavy as the rest of the albums the band did in the 80's, then again no one else was a whole lot heavier in 1983. Much like Metallica's Kill 'em all and the largely forgotten Heavy metal maniac album from Exciter, Show no mercy was a ground breaker. Not like Reign in blood yet this was one of the three really good speed metal albums to emerge in 1983. The production was sharp as well and allows the album to sound pretty good today. My favorite tracks include Evil has no boundries, Fight 'till death, Face the slayer, Tormentor and the title track.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Battle of the bands' results

I thought that there were only 11 match-ups, but actually there were 12 during 2006. So here are the results of all of the battle of the bands I did here on my blog. I am retiring this feature and will have a new feature to take it's place in 2007. Here are the results with the band with the higher amount of votes on the left and the number of votes are after the band's name.

-Black Sabbath 9 Iron Maiden 5
-Anthrax 9 Megadeth 6
-Deep Purple 9 Scorpions 4
-Dio 7 Ozzy 2
-Motorhead 7 Judas Priest 3
-Slayer 11 Pantera 4
-WASP 4 Motley Crue 1
-Dokken 10 Whitesnake 2
-Twisted Sister 7 Ratt 4
-Dream Theater 6 Queensryche 3
-Kiss 8 AC/DC 6

-Aerosmith 6 Alice Cooper 4

Hopefully I will have my review of Slayer's Show no mercy up tomorrow.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The big turkey

As Thanksgiving approaches it's time to think of something concerning this great holiday. No, not what to give thanks for, but rather about turkey. This year I decided to reflect upon the year and decide who was the biggest turkey of the year so far. At first I considered Queensryche for doing their Operation Mindcrime 2 because it was an obvious cash-in and not a very good album. However they generally have received positive reviews for the live shows supporting the tour. So they are at least giving their fans what they want live so I tried to think of someone else. I immediately thought of an obvious target of one Axl Rose. Okay they are playing shows for the first time is years which is something. However he once again promised an album and once again it's not out. Yes, he played most of the shows that his band has been scheduled, but he's 44 years old and still acting like he's a spoiled rock star. Yes, other people have done that when they are older too. However Axl has done nothing in well over ten years and nothing worthwhile in 15 years. It's a slap in the face to hard working musicians for this joker to emerge from his abode and suddenly expect us to care. So Axl, here's your big turkey award for 2006.

***Who do you choose?

Sunday, November 12, 2006

What's coming up?

This week I hope to have the following out:

-It came from the pages of Hit Parader
-The Battle of the bands results for all 11 battles from 2006
-Slayer-Show no mercy review
-Whitesnake-Slide it in review

and maybe one other topic.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Rush-2112, 1976

I am afraid that both my kids and myself have been sick the past few days so that's why I had not posted.

I probably saved the best for the last as I close out Canada Rocks week with the fourth album from Rush. The debut album had a definite Led Zeppelin influence. After that release the band changed drummers and Neil Peart came it which signaled a huge change in the band's lyrics. They also began to develop their own sound over the next two albums as they incorporated a hard rock sound, but had a very progressive approach to it. In looking at the case for this one, you will notice the title track has chapters and the overall song is over twenty minutes long. So it a concept song and then you have five other songs after the title track. The first thing I think when listening to the Overture is "how can only three guys create this many sounds?" and that's a question that I ask several times during this album. The whole 2112 song is like progressive hard rock sci-fi epic if that makes any sense. Each of the seven chapters of the title track are very distinctive and all are impressive. I think Rush make me think that's not as much what you play as it is how you play it. The band play a few basic parts, but they are highly effective because they know how to switch from a basic part to a complicated part and how to really get the most of out every note and beat they play on this album. After the title track we get five more songs and all great or near great. The last two Tears and Something for nothing are the ones that impressed me the most. Tears is a ballad I guess or as much a ballad as these guys would play. I just think the whole arrangement of this song is brilliant. Something for nothing on the other hand is a classic 70's Rush rocker. Geddy Lee's are all in your face and the song is big and flowing. A great way to end a great album. I remember listening to 2112 on my walkman around 1988 and watching the sun rise and it was just an amazing experience as both the music and the sunrise made me feel so alive. This album still makes me feel very alive because it is just so vibrant.

***That's going to wrap up Canada Rocks week. I will be back to the normal stuff on Sunday.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The differences between the metal scenes in Canada and the U.S.

When I first set out to do Canada Rocks week I knew that I wanted to do something besides just reviews. My knowledge of Canadian bands and the metal scene there is just what I read in magazines. So I decided to ask some bloggers who were from Canada and were metal fans. I asked them this question-"What do you think are the differences between the metal scene in Canada and the United States?" I have decided to list their responses in their entirety and then I will add some thoughts.

DPTH International writes a blog called Psychotic Philosophy. He said-
My first thought on this is that Canada has like 1/10th the population that the United States has which translates into 1/10th the revenue. Music, Television and Film industries are not nearly as well supported as the US, meaning if a Canadian musician, band or actor really wants to succeed, they need to break into the United States. There just isn't enough money in Canada to sustain a decent career. On another note, I find Canada is like an after thought when it comes to tours and album releases. All kinds of bands will tour the US, but won't breach the border until a couple albums in and several tours later. Or so I see it. Maybe I'm not looking hard enough. For instance, Blind Guardian essentially did their "Nightfall In Middle-Earth" tour in Canada 4 yrs after the album came out. And the same can be said for Trans-Siberian Orchestra who only added some Canadian dates to their Christmas tour a few years after the release of their second album. Again, it simply comes down to money. So, in the end, I'm not complaining so much as observing, but with the US's larger population, there is more of a market for all varieties of music. I'm not saying it's easier for bands in the US either because US bands are up against Canadian bands who are also vying for record deals and tours, so in fact it's probably more difficult. To me, though, despite a strong Canadian support for metal music we still have to filter it through the United States before we can enjoy it.

The Mule writes a blog called Difficult Music. He said-
As for the differences between the music scene in Canada and theStates, here are a few:1. The music scene is smaller here, which makes sense because we have1/10 the population of the States.2. It's way harder to tour across Canada, because, again, we have 1/10the population, but it's scattered across a larger land mass than theStates!3. The Canadian music industry has to take measures for self-preservation, or else it'll be swallowed up by the American musicindustry. For example, radio stations here have to play 35% Canadiancontent to ensure that Canadian artists get exposure and sales. (see ). This has been successful, enabling a lot of mainstream artists to gain success hereand abroad. Some groups, like The Tragically Hip, are successful enough in Canada that they don't even need to tour or sell records anywhere else.When you apply this situation to metal, these differences don't have much of an effect, in my opinion. Metal's always been a very small, very international community, and it doesn't really matter what country a band hails from. So Canadian metal has always been a great export. Instead of really commercial bands like Loverboy (who clearly aimed to"make it" in the States and tailored their music for that purpose), you had bands like Anvil, Exciter and Voivod who did things on their own terms and became legends around the world, even if they were pretty much unknown in Canada. The "unknown in Canada" trend continues to this day. Here in Vancouver, you hardly ever heard about Strapping Young Lad. It's only in the last couple years that they've got some coverage in the mainstream local media. Same with Annihilator. Yet both bands are huge around the world! Canadians in general are great at observing other cultures and shapingwhat they see to their own ends, and this is what Canadian metal did with the NWOBHM (Anvil), thrash (Voivod, Exciter, Sacrifice), and death(Cryptopsy) scenes. In just about every type of metal there's some Canadian band that's on the cutting edge. I don't think a Canadian band ever invented a well-known genre of metal (except Rush, who probably invented prog-metal, much to their chagrin), but there's at least one Canadian act that's world class in any given sub-genre.Canada also has Quebec, which is a unique culture unto itself, as youprobably know. There's more of a European sensibility, which is why the lion's share of great Canadian metal has come from Quebec.

Both of the people I asked thought of the population difference first and that is a big difference that effects bands who come to play and where. I think back to concert shirts that were for a band's North American tour and you would normally have a huge list of U.S. dates and a handful of Canadian ones. I don't there are a lot of differences in influences because metal is and has always been fairly international. Metal bands from Canada in the 80's could just as easily be influenced by the same bands as a band in the U.S. I think it helped that labels like Noise, Megaforce and Metal Blade didn't see a band's location as being a problem so some truly deserving bands got signed and their albums were distributed here. I think that being on the same continent we tend not to see bands from Canada as being that different unlike bands from Europe or Japan. There are cultural differences, but they are neighbors. Thanks to these two great bloggers for sharing their thoughts on the matter. Feel free to add your own thoughts and opinions.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Annihilator-Never, neverland, 1990

Who is the most well known solo metal artist who is from the states? I guess Dio comes to my mind first. What about the UK? I think of Ozzy. Germany? UDO or Doro. What about Canada? Well, perhaps this band would count. Mainman Jeff Waters was (and is) the lead guitarist, main writer, played bass on a number of recordings, produced and even took a stab at singing in the late 90's for his band Annihilator. This was their second lp and already they had a new singer (something that would be common during the band's now 20 years plus career). Even though this was done in 1990 and speed metal had been big for a few years, Waters and his band manage to bring quite a few sounds of their own. Many speed/thrash bands of the time were trying to copy the bay are sound or Slayer or Kreator, but during their first two releases Annihilator really created their own sound. The first thing that struck after listening to this album today was the amount of riffs. Jeff Waters is like the man of 1,000 riffs. You could pick anyone of these songs and the amount of riffs that are here may be three times the amount of the average speed metal. Of course quantity doesn't matter if you don't know how to organize it. Water's writing is stellar here as the riffs work to build a dizzying attack. The band knows when to be complex and when to plow ahead and that's not something every band knew or could pull off. I remember buying this and Slayer's Seasons in the abyss the same day back in 1990. Slayer was the main one I wanted to I listened to it first and was let down, but then I was quickly blown away when I put this album on. Tracks like Road to ruin and Stonewall just tear along with unbelievable tightness. The title track might be the most complex song here and it works just as well as the rest of the album. Just to let you know the band has a sense a humor they throw in Kraft dinner which is a tribute to macaroni and cheese. Silly topic, but they approach the music with the aggressiveness as any other track. Former Omen vocalist Coburn Pharr is the singer here and he was probably my favorite Annihilator vocalist. I really like his gruff barking style mixed in the tightness of the music. Unfortunately the band spent most of the rest of the decade experimenting with various styles that never came close to this album or the debut. In recent years they have gotten back to a heavier sound though. A very good album worth hunting down if you have never heard it.

***Canada Rocks week continues tomorrow with the topic of what's the difference between metal and hard rock in the United States and in Canada?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Triumph-Thunder Seven, 1984

Triumph were one of those bands that I heard here and there on the radio a lot in the mid-1980's. However, I didn't know anyone who owned any of their albums for me to borrow and it was actually several years until I heard a whole album by them. Too often known as "that other power trio from Canada", Triumph to me slowly built up their skill in the late 70's, but came into their own in the early to mid 80's. At times they hit a progressive sound, but more often than not they are closer to being a very polished hard rock band. However they do it very well and this album mixes things up just enough to keep it from being too standard. The instrumentals Midsummer's Daydream and Little Boy Blues allow the band to show they still have an edge. While the vocal short Time Canon allows the band to something very different from what people expected even if it's just for a minute or so. I think most of the is album is melodic without being sappy and not all bands who attempt to do this type of hard rock can do that. Tracks like Spellbound and Rock out, roll on have some elements of standard hard rock of the time, but the band was quite honestly more talented than a number of other bands. They have their own touches thrown in, you just have to listen. Triumph may be subtle to a point, but that what's worked for them and I think they were certainly a solid hard rock whose best album (this one) and most of their albums still hold up pretty well.

***Canada Rocks week continues with Annihilator's Never, neverland.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Exciter-Long live the loud, 1985

I decided to kick off Canada Rocks week with the third album from this band. Back in 1983 Exciter's debut Heavy Metal Maniac was considered one of three important speed metal debuts to come that year. The other two were Metallica's Kill 'em all and Slayer's Show no mercy. Yes, I kid you not that in 1983 these guys were mentioned in the same breath with those other two. History now shows us that by 1986 Metallica and Slayer were on their way to the big time and Exciter were beginning to slide. However between 1983 and 1986 Exciter recorded four lps and an ep. I think each of the first three albums saw the band improving and working towards a peak. The peak was this album because it saw the band playing with a power and confidence that they only showed in places on their other album. The band at this point was a trio with the drummer handling vocal duties. A rare thing for metal bands it seems. The band plays early style, straight forward speed metal. The album opens with a big thick instrumental called Fall Out which ties right into the title track which is good fast song. The next four tracks are fairly fast and they just go right ahead with little build-up, but lots of nice clean, heavy riffs and screaming vocals. After that we have Born to die which has a very different sound to the guitar. Much more fuzzy and muted during the medium paced part and then the song speeds up. The last track Born to die is fairly slow, but the band squeezes everything they can out of it. Exciter had a fairly unique sound to be honest or at least at this point in their career they did. If you like Anthrax or Judas Priest then I think you might very well like them. They never got to be that big and this may have had to do with their style,where they were from or the fact they changed record labels frequently. However I think they made an impact and their prime albums still hold up. Not every speed metal band from the 1980's can say that. After 1985 the band went through several line-up changes and eventually broke up in the 90's. However the original guitarist later resurrected the band and they continue pushing on today releasing an album every few years and playing shows.

***Canada Rocks week will continue with another album review on Monday (I hope). Likely it will be Triumph's Thunder Seven if I get a chance to listen to side of the album by then.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Canada Rocks week

That's right, this month's theme week is Canada Rocks. The idea first hit me when I realized that I have only reviewed two albums by Canadian artists. One was Sheavy's Republic and that may have been late last year. The other review was Exit stage left by Rush which I did for Live album week. For this week I have planned reviews of the following:

Triumph-Thunder Seven
Exciter-Long live the loud
Annihilator-Never, neverland

Plus I thought about what is the difference between the hard rock/ metal scenes in the U.S. and Canada? Well, I have never been to Canada so I have no clue. However I do read a few blogs by some metal fans who live in Canada so I e-mailed them and two of them actually responded. So I will a post about the differences between the metal scenes in the two countries and it will include parts of the responses I got from two great Canadian music bloggers. Hope you enjoy the week and it will kick off tomorrow.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Metallica-Master of Puppets, 1986

Background- Metallica had released their debut Kill 'em all back in 1983 and immediately got quite a bit of notice on underground circles. So much so that they signed a major label deal with Elektra. This resulted in their second effort Ride the lightning which saw a much more masterful approach to the band's writing. They had developed an even greater following including some mainstream fans and they were starting to get mentioned in the big metal magazines. So by early 1986 there were murmurs in some circles that the new album was going to be good. So let's see if it was.

1)Battery-An acoustic intro comes on and then the opener slams into gear. The riffs are tight, fairly heavy and semi-fast overall. What sets this song apart isn't just the speed, but the bands ability to change pace and slow down and pick back up without losing any steam.

2)Master of puppets-I love the opening riff and you can tell the band knows it good one and they use it to it's fullest. The song moves along nicely with all the instruments chiming in and Hetfield's barking vocals carrying it along as well. Even more so than Battery, the band show how easy they switch pace and then jump back to the fast part. They did this with ease and it's one of the main things that set them apart from other speed metal bands of the time.

3)The thing that should not be-Comes on at a medium-slow pace. I like the lyrics about an ancient evil, but for me this song just doesn't do enough. It's decent at best and it might largely be that it has to follow two great songs. I did hear a live recording of it once and the band improved it be making it a bit heavier.

4)Welcome home/Sanitarium- Comes on slow and has a slower part and medium paced part. Might be one of if not the best example of Metallica making a song heavy. It's simple in some ways, but so effective and the vocals are all that they should be and more for this song. The riffs flow and are all in the perfect spots.

5)Disposable heroes-Oh, yes this is a killer indeed. A fast song that flies on but makes an impact. Again the band pulls everything out of every little note, word and drum beat. This album isn't just content with tossing out a quick fast song and fleeing the scene. They were able to longer songs without losing any power because the song structure on almost every song was just so incredible.

6)Leper Messiah-This track emerges at a medium slow pace and is very deliberate. It's more interesting than "The Thing that should not be", but not one of the best tracks on the album. It just seems a bit one dimensional compared to most of the album. The biggest plus might be the vocals which are both biting and extremely to the point.

7)Orion-The instrumental comes on with a nice fade-in. It's never really complicated, but the whole have a real handle on the tones and the pace. Just a nice song that gets the most out of every note.

8)Damage Inc.-Straight ahead fast thrasher that just comes on and moves along nicely. Used to be my favorite of the fast songs, but I probably prefer Disposable heroes and Battery now. Still a good song and a nice closer because it reminds me you of how heavy and real this album can be.

Verdict/Final word-This was a huge album for the band and instantly a huge album for the whole metal scene. The album reached number 29 on the billboard charts and that's without the benefit of a video or much radio play. Getting the opening spot for Ozzy was a huge boost though. This album brought speed metal (at least a few songs) to the mainstream and people saw it could be a good thing as Metallica were coherant rather than noisy. The band was also overall brilliant in both their writing and execution of the music. The rough chugging of their debut Kill 'em all seemed ages away at this point as the band sounded both smooth and powerful at the same point. They were truly doing something that was at least partially new at the time and they were doing it very well. They were one the bands that helped start the speed metal scene and now they were spreading it and building on it. Sadly bass player Cliff Burton died in a bus accident in the fall while the band was on the final leg of their tour. To me this was the last great album the band did as they went on in other directions, some decent and some not. I do indeed think that this album is just as great as it was twenty years ago because everything about it works. Probably one of the best and most important metal recordings of the decade although I think Ride the lightning is just a hair better.

***Next month's 20 year old album review will WASP's Inside the electric circus.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Battle of the bands

This is the last battle of the bands as I will not be doing one in December and I will replace it with a new feature in January. I saved a big one for last. For me the best band in heavy metal boils down to two choices. It's the bands I have ranked as one and two on my favorite band list. It's the creators against the band who ruled metal's biggest decade (the 80's). So it's:

Black Sabbath vs. Iron Maiden

A thought one indeed. I am probably going to be on the losing side, but I will choose Black Sabbath. I love Maiden and they had a stretch of seven great or near great albums in the 80's. Still it's Sabbath big heavy sludge and those first six albums that really do it for me. They do so much for the genre and they kept building on what they started. They also got into doing some odd songs that really worked just as well as the straight forward ones. I never tire of either band, but I prefer Sabbath.

So who do choose?

***Later this month I will search the archives and find the results of all of the Battle of the bands and list them in one post.