Friday, October 30, 2009
Roxx Productions has DONE IT AGAIN! Bill and company have given us a brilliant release of a CLASSIC metal masterpiece. Ultimatum’s ‘Puppet of Destruction.' Originally released in 1998 for Rowe Productions, Bill has done us all a favor and had it re-mastered. And boy DOES THIS SOUND BRILLIANT!!!
I will say this; I have not heard the Rowe Productions version. I’m sure I’ll try to obtain it in the future to hear the difference. So now I’m sure you’re saying, “If you’ve never heard the original how are you able to tell that this is better?” That’s a legitimate question with a very simple answer. I own ‘Into the Pit’ and ‘Lex Metalis’ the most recent releases by Ultimatum AND THIS DISC SOUNDS LIKE IT WAS RECORDED THIS YEAR!!! The quality is so similar how could this have been recorded 10 years ago!
I understand vocalist Scott Waters has indicated that no re-mixing was done, just a remastering. Brutal crisp guitar tones, punchy pounding drums, solid thumping bass and a vocal wail that would scrape paint of my walls. Power/Thrash metal BRILLIANCE!! I must admit I really like this disc. How Ultimatum slipped passed my radar for so many years is a crime. With a sound akin to Exodus or Metal Church, Ultimatum just grabs you and forces you to go on a first class metal excursion.
Some of my favorite smash tracks include ‘Mortal Stomp’ (a classic!), ‘Never’, ‘Charged Power’ (crushing!). These are just a smattering of the delicious metal feast that awaits you on this release. It just begs you to come back again and again to get your fill. It’s like an all you can eat buffet, you keep going back for more. 'Repentance', 'Crosshope' hit you like a ton of bricks! sheesh!
Then if that wasn’t enough Bill and the Roxx crew have added 3 bonus tracks to boot! First up is the actual demo for the song ‘Never.’ Ultimatum’s cover of the Testament tune ‘Sins of Omission’ makes an appearance here. Like a steamroller that knocks you down flat, they barrel along reminding us of the power of old school thrash. Lastly we are treated to a 2008 version of ‘Mortal Stomp.’ This version was originally recorded for the Christian Metal Realms third compilation CD. ‘Mortal Stomp’ is just that. It pounds and grinds with a fabulous riff that blows doors!
Robert Gutierrez again shows why he deserves more recognition as a lead player. Even though Steve Trujillo plays most of the leads, Robert holds nothing back. Scott Waters just reminds me of Gary Souza. What else can I say? He delivers a strong vocal performance. Sean Griego pounds it out on the drums and Steve Trujillo is a shred o matic on the guitar.
I really am in a state of shock. When I heard this was a remaster of a 1998 disc, I was sorta guarded about it. I knew I wanted to hear it but I really wondered about the quality. All of those concerns were put to rest. This is a complete driving metal package. A nice inlay of photos and notes from Scott Waters and Bill Roxx. They both discuss the band and the story behind this album.
As a bonus for the first 100 pre-orders you also get the Ultimatum’s ‘Fatal Delay’ demo. You can hear the progression from there to now. That demo shows the initial threads of what was to come. A great piece of metal history. If you were fortunate enough to get it, it’s a true collectable. (I do believe at this point they're sold out.)
I did say this was a classic
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Mike Phillips has just released his debut solo album. You'll know him as the lead guitar player of Deliverance. This release is entitled ‘Mirror Within Mirrors’ and it’s a monster! With guest performances by artists such Jim Chaffin (Crucified, Fasedown), Mark Solomon (Crucified, Stavesacre), Jimmy Brown (Deliverance, Jupiter VI), Devin Shaeffer (Fasedown, Once Dead), Matt Davis (Oh Sleeper), Bill Bachman (Neal Morse) and Scott Waters (Ultimatum, Once Dead) this album is sure to please.
One of the strengths on this release is the different styles of MUSIC that appear here. Notice I didn’t say styles of METAL but MUSIC. Is there metal? Yes!! Are there vast acoustic pieces? Yes!! Are there elements of progressive/experimental rock/metal? Yes!! Are there moments of praise and worship? Yes!! One moment your mom could be listening with you and the next moment the kids down the street will.
Mike has assembled quite the array of influences and avenues to express them. This is a musical journey through the heart of an artist that refuses to be pinned into one genre or style. However throughout this disc Mike’s tasteful guitar playing is highlighted. There are many layers present that you really must listen to in order to appreciate what is before you.
Opener ‘All I Ever Wanted’ starts with a metallic bang, yet it is still unconventional. The melodies are there but not always what you might expect. The second and third tracks are long epic type pieces. Track two entitled ‘Mirrors Within Mirrors Part 1’has four different movements. Vocals are provided by Devin Schaeffer and Mark Solomon. Clocking in at over 9 minutes lots of musical terrain is covered in this first of two multi-movement pieces. Shaeffer really belts it out and commands your attention.
Track three entitled ‘Mirrors Within Mirrors Part II’ starts with an acoustic type intro before it starts a slow build. Clocking in at over 15 minutes it races through different time components and musical interludes. It reminds me of say Tourniquet or Believer in the technical department. However Mike is not afraid to show off some strong feeling in some of the different interludes as well. In the sixth movement of this song Jimmy P Brown provides a subtle but wonderful vocal performance that compliments this movement beautifully. In some ways these two songs remind me of 'Thistles' on Deliverance's 'As Above So Below' release.
The production is clean and powerful. The production highlights the elements of the performance without being a distraction. A fantastic acoustic guitar sound was captured that is warm and rich. One of my favorite pieces is ‘Always Remember.’ Stellar acoustic playing that reminds me of Eric Johnson at times. The type of song I would hear on a cold rainy day, with my coffee in hand sitting on my couch reading a book. There are many moments of musical introspection that lend themselves to a deeper spiritual plane.
If you’re hoping to find 60 minutes of blistering Fasedown/Deliverance style metal you might be sorrowly disappointed. There is metal here, no doubt about that (including a cover of Deliverance’s “It’s the Beat” with Scott Waters on lead vocal!) Yet if you’re looking for a musical adventure that takes many alternate paths this release is for you. A piece of mature art for mature people.
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Coming from the mighty Menchen Metal Machine in the city of sin, Las Vegas; comes The Seventh Power. I grew up near San Francisco which Vegas has NOTHING on as far as sin goes! HA! This disc is the groups second release entitled ‘Dominion and Power,’ on Retroactive Records. Bill Menchen brings Robert Sweet (drums) and bassist Rod Reasner and gives us another fantastic metal platter.
On this release Bill not only plays a tasty guitar but brings a unique vocal performance as well. With a tonality that reminds this listener of Ozzy, The Seventh Power shines brighter than the aforementioned vocalist. Even tho the vocals here lack strong dynamics it works. The vocal is processed a bit, but it’s almost monotone. Johnny Cash was montone and I own many of his discs, so I wouldn’t let that deter you from checking this out.
‘Dominion and Power’ has catchy melodies, and powerful music. From the title track to ‘King of Kings’, ‘Everlasting Fire’ and ‘Raise m High’ Menchen and crew take no prisoners. No song here is over four minutes and thirty seconds. So your not gonna get long epic tunes, but quick punchy and catchy songs for a generation with a short attention span. This is good heavy metal like early Saxon or early 80’s Priest. Bang yer head in wonder!
Robert Sweet (yes that one!) provides a solid backbone to this attack, like the wishbone that holds it all together. He hits the grooves and plays those pots and pans like only Robert can. He really adds to the feel of these songs and locks very well with bassist Rod Reasner. Both of those guys make sure Bill doesn’t go off into orbit with his guitar assault. As I’ve already mentioned Bill’s guitar playing is very good and tasty. Like I’ve not heard in a long time.
Lyrically this release is very straightforward in its Christian message WITHOUT cliché. I appreciate that because Bill does provide a creative way to speak about Jesus without insulting my intelligence (thanks bro!!). I don’t buy discs for the words, but when they’re done right I enjoy it that much more.
The production is strong. Pounding drum tones, crunchy clean guitar parts and some thumpin’ bass guitar. No mud here with a large sound to boot. Score!! I find myself singing along and playing that good ole air guitar, fun stuff.
Make sure you add this release to your buy list and Santa’s wish list…. Blessings !
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Lament come to us from Mexico with their Bombworks Release ‘Through the Reflection.’ This is a special edition of their 1999 release ‘Through the Reflection’ and their 1995 demo entitled ‘El Valle de la Decision.’ The 1995 release the band was actually called Beheaded. ‘Through the Reflection’ was originally released on the Finnish label Little Rose Productions. It’s been out of print for years but sees the light of day once again.
Upon receiving the disc itself the tag on the front said ‘… for fans of Dark Tranquility, Manowar, and Mortification. Well after giving this several spins I’m at a loss as far as the Dark Tranquility and Manowar comparison. Perhaps more disappointed actually because the material I have by Dark Tranquility I really like. This disc really has a lot more in common with Mortifications ‘Triumph of Mercy’ period to these ears.
I really had a hard time following and remembering the melody lines or ‘hooks’ that should grab you. In some ways the music is almost under powering on this release. The way it was mixed downplays a lot of the power and energy that is here. It’s not very even, and the bass really dominates the soundscape, like Mortification. For me, I like to hear a dominate guitar that drives things along. In this case it’s as if the bass and the guitar have flipped roles. Everything has a quality sound, but the drums and guitar are more in the background, while the vocals and bass dominate things.
Lament brings a lot of elements that are unique. They’ve tried to incorporate some musical elements of their Hispanic heritage to bring a different vibe at times. It can become quite effective. Abel Gomez has a rather hardcore style vocally on this release, while he bashes away on the drums. Iram Gomez plays an effective bass guitar and Edmundo Mondragon has some nice guitar parts.
The added bonus of their four song demo while they were called Beheaded is quite a bit different. Heavy guitar parts, deep death metal grovels and fast songs. Sounds like it was recorded on a four track, but heck it was a demo made in 95! Real pounding stuff.
For me I can hear elements that could 'Throught the Reflection' an outstanding release. The musicianship is there and the lyrical element is very powerful. No doubting the heart of these guys. If you are a completist or already a fan of Lament I sure this will be a fine addition to your collection. I just had a hard time getting my head around it.
According to the bands official website they are working on new material. That sounds exciting let’s hope they have someone who can bring the best out of these guys.
Roll down the windows or throw the top down and CRUISE!!! When I put in this re-issue from Retroactive Records, I was instantly taken back to summer 1987 (June 27 to be precise) in Riverside, Ca. White Throne was in its infancy, but ‘Soldier’ the metal band I roadied for (Hey Guys!) Was invited to play the first HIS Festival put on by Keith Miles (former Holy Right, Final Axe vocalist) ….
It was at an old movie theater. Outside temperature easily hit 105 degrees; you think I jest… no way!! The air conditioning unit was not working up to snuff and Whew!!!! Well after hearing bands like Deliverance, Contagious, Messiah Prophet, and Eternal Ryte and after Solider played here comes this band wearing armor costumes! They played some excellent songs, fabulous melodies and phenomenal guitar playing. Not to mention a monster bass player (Hi Dave!). Yeah, in a round bout way I’m speaking of Guardian!
Before Guardian cruised the Miracle Mile with the Power of Love trying to catch a Bottle Rocket a Buzz was started in Orange County. First Watch was the first full length release by this So Cal quartet. Originally produced by Oz Fox this record did quite well for Guardian. It sold 30,000 units it’s first month. This is full on 80’s melodic metal/hard rock.
Guardian’s music was always a bit more sophisticated than say a Poison or Bon Jovi, even tho they have much more in common with say a Dokken or the heavier side of Stryper. With no disrespect intended to the post First Watch Guardian crew; this disc to me is the apex of Guardian Mach 1 (or 3 I suppose if you count Fusion and Voyager. But who’s counting!!).
Great melodic anthems like ‘Rock in Victory’, ‘Livin for the Promise’ and ‘Kingdom of Rock’ make this re-release a true treat. Speaking of ‘Kingdom of Rock’ when Guardian played the Omni the second time, post armor in support of First Watch, I will always remember David Bach and me making eye contact during the chorus of KOR. He was ‘singing’ with the sampled chorus and just smiled at me… Big and wide... Dave do you remember the time Jimmy and I hung out with you at your home in Tustin? Great memories.
The re-mastering is handled by the incomparable J. Powell at Steinhaus. Bro it sounds FABULOUS! Greater clarity and added punch in all the right places, it just makes it all sound so alive. Oz Fox’s production is given a proper enhancement that makes it all sound so dirty, gritty, nasty and ROCKIN! Crunchy guitars, punchy drums, slingin bass and clean vocal melodies, yes indeed.
We are even treated to the two long lost classics from the original California Metal release in 1987. ‘Spiritual Warfare’ and ‘Marching On’ appeared here first. ‘Marching On’ would go on to appear on First Watch, but ‘Spiritual Warfare’ just disappeared. Nice to hear it here.
For me this isn’t only a nice return to memory lane, but another important part of metal history. The label that Guardian was signed to, Enigma, went belly up not too long after the release of this album. Needless to say, First Watch kinda disappeared and become very collectable.
First Watch is a must for those who like their metal encouraging, well written and marching on…
(Hey Dave I remember those pics of 'Fusion' with the helmets!! or was it Voyager? am I a fan boy or what!! You guys provided a young 20 something a very encouraging outlet. thanx)
Friday, October 23, 2009
Angel 7 released “Black and White” in 2006 on the Bombworks label. Some real intense black/death metal is to be found here. On this release Angel 7 was a two man project, I don’t know if I’d say ‘band’. However upon looking at their website it appears they’ve added a second guitarist. Powerful guitars, screaming double bass and vocals that sound like a cement mixer.
Nikolay Kiriljuk (guitars) and Slava Malinin (EVERYTHING else… drums, vocals, keyboards, bass...!) made up Angel 7 at the time of this release. Hailing from the Ukraine these Brothers in Christ put it all out on the table. I do mean ALL, they hold nothing back.
There is absolutely no misunderstanding where their allegiance lies. Some of the lyrics from their the second song “New Heavens Above the New Land” are as follows ‘But in ruthless war with Satan/ You cannot remain one/ There will be New Heavens/ Above the New Land/ And the True Savior/ There will be with you.’ If they sound a little disjointed it’s because Angel 7 sing everything in Ukrainian.
However the package comes with English translations of the lyrics. Having said that I think you’ll find even if you don’t understand the language fans of extreme metal will dig this. After all the music of Heavy Metal can cross racial/ethnic/religious lines not too mention lines on a map! There are some very melodic arrangements that make their way through all the bombast. You won’t find many clean vocals here, but put intense vocal overkill. Slava adds some keyboard touches that are very nice. There are also many solos where Nikolay just lets it all hang out.
When songs such as ‘New Heavens Above the New Land’, ‘Until I Have Not Died’ and ‘The Eternity Calls’ come on it’s clear that Slava and Nikolay know how to put the pedal to the proverbial floor and kick in the afterburners. The disc does move right along at a pretty fast clip, there are even three instrumentals that add some atmosphere and dynamics to this release.
The production is very good, a little too much on the upper end frequencies (which is probably a mastering issue). Yet everything seems to sound evenly spaced and clear. Fans of intense death/black metal should snatch this disc up immediately.