The Horror Show
Released June 26 2001
The sixth studio release from Iced Earth is the perfect album to review for Halloween, since the core of the record is all homage to classic monsters and horror movie icons. The album features drummer Richard Christy’s debut and the only appearance of bassist Steve DiGorio (from the band Sadus). This release is considered straight forward and deviates a bit from the thrash formula of previous releases; opting for more power metal based compositions and allowing singer Matt Barlow a chance to push his multi-layered vocals to the forefront of the album.
The majority of the songs centre around classic monsters like the Wolfman, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Mummy and a few modern incarnations like Damien (from the Omen) thrown in for good measure. The tapestry of monsters forces the song writing to come across a bit uneven, especially when you include a cover of Iron Maiden’s Transylvania. There are of course other interpretations here with lyrics centering on The Phantom of the Opera, Jekyll and Hyde, Jack the Ripper and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Not a bad collection of monstrous beings to cull songs from, but coming across a bit uneven by most critics’ standards.
I can’t say I am 100% on board with this release, but obviously the general consensus here is the concept is interesting, despite lacking that ‘horrific” edge for most of the songs. You would think with a solid line-up of players on this release – we would have a strong contender given the album title and the choice selection of monsters, but sadly that wasn’t the case.
I’m giving this release a respectable 7 out of 10 and will point out that tracks like “Wolf”, “Damien”, “Jack” and “The Phantom Opera Ghost” are all solid songs, but the standout track here is Iron Maiden’s “Transylvania”.
Released October 4 1993
The third studio release from Sweden’s famed death metal outfit Entombed took an extreme turn stylistically with this effort from 1993. The band decided to move away from their death metal roots and adopt a mid-tempo groove style they termed “death ‘n’ roll”. For fans of their first two landmark albums (Left Hand Path and Clandestine), this was a shocking turn of events. Although still exhibiting a dark vibe to their core sound, the new style divided fans over the direction the band was taking and some even went on to say they sounded more like Pantera. Obviously, the new direction gave the band more commercial viability and it gave Earache a chance to strike up a deal with Marvel Comics to use the character Wolverine on further pressings for the album cover.
That decision did not help the band’s cause though, when Marvel wanted the CD heavily edited to drop the track “Out of Hand” from the album and the audio samples were subsequently removed for fear of possible legal action over unlicensed use. The band lifted the samples from films like Flatliners and Hellraiser III and it helped to give the songs that extra edge. With those changes in tow, the album still went on to find success by getting ranked at # 494 in Hard Rock Magazine’s book of the 500 greatest Rock & Metal Albums of All Time and it was also declared the best Death Metal Album in 1994 by Guitar World.
My Favorite tracks on this release are: “Eyemaster”, “Wolverine Blues”, “Demon”, “Full of Hell”, “Hollowman” and “Out of Hand”. This album gets a respectable 8 out of 10 and despite some of the stylistic flaws, this release still ranks up there as a classic Entombed album.
Released Summer of 1988
The breakthrough album for Canada’s Killer Dwarfs was on their third release Big Deal released in the summer of 1988. It was their first signing to a major with Epic Records and of course the album’s title is play on the big deal they signed for this release. The band is known for their offbeat sense of humor, hence the name Killer Dwarfs; but it was their penchant for writing hook-laden songs coupled with the sweet melodic voice of vocalist Russ Dwarf; to really define their sound and look.
On this release, the band received much recognition throughout Canada and the United States; making way for the single “We Stand Alone”. Filmed in Toronto during the month of March in 1987, the video received major play on Much Music and MTV, allowing the Dwarfs major exposure to metal audiences across North America. An even greater testament to the band’s popularity came when Iron Maiden requested they go on tour with them during their Seventh Son epic extravaganza jaunt across many major cities.
There are some that say this release lacked the spirited energy of their first two albums, but the production was greatly improved and it was the first time the Dwarfs worked with a big time producer. It definitely showed on tracks like “Breakaway” and “Desperadoes” and I can’t forget the superb track “Power”. Obviously this is a solid record from start to finish and it proved this quirky little band from Oshawa, Ontario had more up their sleeve in years to come.
Favorite tracks are: “Breakaway”, “Desperadoes”, “Power”, “Startin’ To Shine”, “Tell Me Please” and “We Stand Alone”. I’m giving this a respectable 8 out of 10.
Vinyl records collectors
Released March 25 1991
The fourth studio release from these Brazillian thrashers is arguably the finest moment of their career. The musical style is slotted into the death/thrash category, following a similar vein as previous release Beneath the Remains. This time out though they started experimenting a little with the inclusion of Industrial music, hardcore punk and Latin percussion; injecting that into their core sound. Obviously the band was open to non-metal influences; allowing for slight nods towards bands like Ministry and Einstürzende Neubauten; pushing samples and sounds effects into the mix. The touch of Latin percussion and tribal drumming can be heard in the track “Altered State”, plus “Subtraction” and “Desperate Cry” contain strong punk influences.
The band traveled to Florida to record at the famous Morrisound with legendary death metal producer Scott Burns. Roadrunner pumped in $40,000 to up the album’s production values and affording members likes Igor a chance to experiment with his drumming technique. The groove-ladden approach to rhythms was certainly instrumental to the overall sound on Arise, but also affecting the next several releases to follow. Once recording was done, the band would embark on their longest tour to date spanning a total of two years; joining the likes of Sadus, Obituary, Heathen and Sacred Reich; then wrapping the year up with Morbid Angel and Motorhead. The second year of touring saw the band finding themselves on huge tours with Ozzy and Ministry/Helmet, giving the band a wide range of exposure on the metal scene.
Arise was favored heavily in the music press and it was the first Sepultura album to enter the Billboard charts at 119. It went gold in 1992 and sold over a million copies the following year; ultimately proving this to be the most adored release in their discography over the years.
Favorite tracks: “Arise”, “Dead Embryonic Cells”, “Desperate Cry”, “Altered State” and “Infected Voice”. I’m giving this a stellar 9 out of 10.
Somewhere In Time
Released September 29 1986
We’ve reached the 30th anniversary for Iron Maiden’s 6th studio recording and man I must say this one is a pure epic. This album directly follows the extremely successful Powerslave/Live After Death albums and subsequent world tour, so the band had to really dig deep to come up with something uniquely special to rival the previous two releases. Many fans were surprised to find the band employing synthesisers for the first time and it lead to the beginning of the progressive period in Maiden’s career.
You will find themes of space and time on this release, obviously marking a change in their sound with the use of the synthesisers to go along with the new musical direction. The most interesting aspect of this period really revolves around singer Bruce Dickenson’s mental state and feeling burnt out from the World Slavery tour. He proposed a number of more acoustic based songs, which bassist Steve Harris outright rejected. In doing so, this gave guitarist Adrian Smith the chance to truly shine and take centre stage in the writing department. Adrian wrote both singles “Wasted Years” and “Stranger in a Strange Land”, proving his worthiness in the Maiden camp.
It was also the most expensive album to record, as they chose locations in the Bahamas, The Netherlands and finally NY for the mixing portion of the album. The other unique fact about this release is the incredible cover design; featuring artwork from the one and only Derek Riggs. Most of Maiden’s previous album covers were depicted with Eddie in a simple scene, but what you got with Somewhere in Time was a wraparound cover featuring a cyborg infused Eddie. Presumably inspired from the film Blade Runner, the cover cleverly makes references to Iron Maiden albums and songs, so you get a cover filled with splendid imagery and perhaps the best album cover ever designed by Mr. Riggs.
As for the tracks on this release the standouts are: “Caught Somewhere in Time”, “Wasted Years”, “Sea of Madness”, “Heaven Can Wait” and “Stranger in a Strange Land”. I’m giving this album a perfect score of 10 out of 10 and I think most fans will agree this to be the most complete album of the band’s discography.