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.
Practice What You Preach
Released August 4 1989
The summer of 89 was winding down when I first picked this album up and I must say the third studio release from Bay area thrashers Testament proved to be a major step up. Firstly, the lyrical content was all about politics and societal issues; placing more emphasis on subjects like freedom of choice, political corruption, hypocrisy and the effects of greed and avarice. The album also provided a more mature sound, toning down the frenetic thrash of the first two releases in favor of streamlining their sound; but still retaining some of their youthful ferocity. The title track became a hit and was heavily featured on MTV, along with “The Ballad”. Many of these tracks have become a continual staple in their live shows, all except “Confusion Fusion” which has reportedly never been played live.
Practice What You Preach received favorable reviews at the time, and in October 89 they embarked on a tour with Annihilator and Wrathchild America. The second leg of the tour took place January 1990 supporting both Mortal Sin and Xentrix. The band would also go on to perform with Savatage, Nuclear Assault and Dark Angel later that year. The album entered the Billboard charts at 200, peaking at number 77 and remained on the charts for 12 straight weeks. They would later go on to record Souls of Black shortly after.
Some of the track highlights include: “Practice What You Preach”, “Envy Life”, “Blessed in Contempt”, “Sins of Omission” and “The Ballad”. I am giving this is a respectable 9 out of 10 and I will say this is a pure thrash masterpiece.
Released April 10, 1990
In 1990, young thrash stalwarts Death Angel released their third effort to much acclaim on the band’s first and only major studio recording. Most critics dubbed this release their finest moment and I must say this to be fairly accurate for the time. The music is polished and mature sounding for a thrash band finding their place in the pantheon of thrash bands of the period. The album produced strong singles with “Seemingly Endless Time” and “A Room With a View”, getting tons of play on MTV’s Headbangers Ball. For my money’s worth, the songs are catchy and more controlled than the band’s previous two efforts and much of this should be attributed to the guidance of veteran music producer Max Norman.
Unfortunately, tragedy would strike the band later in the year, when drummer Andy Galeon suffered a critical injury when their tour bus crashed, halting the remainder of the band’s tour. In fact Andy was out of action for more than a year, prompting singer Mark Osegueda’s exit from the band and effectively ending Death Angel. The band would later reunite in 2001, supporting Chuck Billy’s (Testament) Thrash of The Titans benefit concert and that would prompt the band’s proper reformation for more studio recordings and touring, continuing into the next decade.
As for the some of the best tracks on this release: “Seemingly Endless Time”, “Veil of Deception”, “A Room With a View”, “Stagnant” and “Disturbing the Peace” are all solid efforts. I’m giving this release a substantial mark of 9 out of 10.
The Razor’s Edge
Released Sept 24, 1990
In 1990, AC DC undertook their most publicised world tour in support of the band’s eleventh studio recording, The Razor’s Edge. The album was considered a comeback release of sorts, reaching # 2 on the US Billboard 200 and going multi-platinum with over five million copies sold in the US alone. This was definitely a major feat for the band; spawning successful hits like “Thunderstruck”, “Are You Ready” and “Money Talks”, and was produced by Bruce Fairbairn.
Despite the success of this release, almost everyone in the band was going through personal issues. Singer Brian Johnson was unavailable for several months while he finalized a divorce, drummer Simon Wright left to record with Dio (Lock Up the Wolves) and was ultimately replaced by Chris Slade (Manfred Mann). Even guitarist Malcolm Young was taking time away from touring to recover from a severe bout of alcoholism. Luckily, the band was able to call on nephew Stevie Young to fill in temporarily, while Malcolm got his shit together.
Thankfully, none of the behind the scenes turmoil disrupted the band’s tour, as this period produced AC DC Live Collector’s Edition album as a live version. Many considered this one the best live albums ever recorded by the band. It was also during this tour that the band headlined Monsters of Rock, which was eventually released on DVD as Live at Donington.
My favorite tracks on this release are: “Thunderstruck”, “Fire Your Guns”, “Money Talks”, “The Razor’s Edge”, “Are You Ready” and “Got You by the Balls”. I’m giving this album a solid 9 out of 10 and I consider this album the best release of their 90’s recording period.
A short film review by P.J. Griffin
A while back, I wrote an article about the boom of online horror shorts that are scaring up…well, the scares, on the World Wide Web. I had been getting into the medium for a year or so prior to writing said article, but the final push towards motivating me to do such a piece was when I was sent Alfredo Abaunza’s film Family. It was a lot of fun and had so much spirit that I was inspired not only to write about it, but also to check out what else the filmmaker had done. I saw several other fantastic shorts of his and recently had the good fortune of being able to take a look at his latest. It was a more psychological style film called Nothing but Ants.
The viewer begins the experience with the loud sounds and visuals of an everyday crowded public area, contrasted by the stark quiet of the opening credits spliced in. It makes a bold, strong statement that what we are about to witness is serious and rooted in realism. Right off the bat I felt a sense of unseen danger; the chaos among the normally mundane.
From there, Nothing but Ants takes the viewer on a journey surrounding a day in the life of a young man. As with any short work, to explain too much would be to give away most of the project. I will say that the film gives the viewer a thorough and introspective look into the character’s mind in an impressively short time. It does this while still keeping the audience at bay and separated from the primary person of interest. We are shown what he has to deal with, how he is seen by others. His true state and inner turmoil are only shown to us in glimpses.
The use of locations provides a feeling of both intimacy and legitimacy. The subway, the landscapes, and the outside atmosphere all give the film an ominous feel that carries throughout. The tension builds in such a way where every moment starts to take on its own sinister tone. The music and dialogue are both minimalist, which only accents how strongly they work together. The acting and editing also compliment each other wonderfully and help the film itself leave an impression.
To give away much more would only unravel the tightly wound scenario, but I will say that it’s a film you may find yourself wanting to revisit once it’s all over. It is a thrilling piece that shows the broad talents of the filmmaker. It ends on a bold note, solemn and perfectly in line with the overall feeling of the project.
Nothing But Ants has been entered into several current festivals and will soon after be available to view online. It’s a project that I recommend checking out when possible. It’s a consistent piece of suspense that will stay with you once the final credits have rolled.
Released April 7 1987
In 1987, Whitesnake released its most successful album selling 8 million copies in the US, thus going platinum eight times over. The album also landed at No.2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 8 on the UK charts; spawning the hit “Is This Love” and an even bigger hit in “Still of the Night”. Joining David Coverdale for the album was guitarist John Sykes (Blue Murder and Thin Lizzy), bassist Neil Murray and drummer Aynsley Dunbar. The album also spotlighted another major hit in “Here I Go Again” – which also featured additional guitar duties from Dutch player Adrian Vandenberg. Keyboard players Don Airey and Bill Cuomo were also brought in for additional duties to help bolster the overall sound of the album.
Unfortunately due to personal differences that Coverdale had with his band mates, he let them all go just after the completion of recording. For the new line-up, Coverdale reached out to guitarists Adrian Vandenberg and Vivian Campbell (from Dio), then enlisting Rudy Sarzo on bass and Tommy Aldridge on drums. The new line-up toured in support of the album and also all appeared in the videos for several of the songs featured from the album.
The album features several great tracks. Songs like: “Crying in the Rain”, “Still of the Night”, “Here I Go Again”, “Is This Love” and “Children of the Night” are all pure rock classics. I am giving this album a solid 8 out of 10.