Savatage

Circle II Circle – Seasons Will Fall Review

Circle II Circle – Seasons Will Fall Review

I’ll run the risk to my metal cred and admit I was a pretty big fan of late period Savatage. Albums like Edge of Thorns and Handful of Rain were so loaded with pre-Trans-Siberian Orchestra bombast and cheese-wizardry, they were nearly impossible to resist (despite my occasional snickers at the unhealthy Velveeta factor inherent therein). One of the big selling points was Zak Steven’s impressive vocal work. Though I always had a soft spot for the ten-pack-a-day rasp of Jon Oliva, Stevens breathed new life into the Savatage sound with his deep, powerful delivery and dramatic leanings. When he split off to form Circle II Circle, I wanted to be a big supporter, but too often the mix of mid-tempo hard rock/metal just didn’t push my buttons the same way. After five albums of material in the same vein as Jorn Lande‘s solo albums and the Allen/Lande project, only Watching in Silence and Burden of Truth stood out, with the rest feeling like tepid exercises in mundane writing and generalized malaise. Now comes platter number six, Seasons Will Fall.

Theocracy – As The World Bleeds Review

Theocracy – As The World Bleeds Review

Here’s a band I bet most haven’t heard of and some actively avoided due to their “christian metal” tag. Well, its time you heard of them and stopped worrying about such silly tags. However, for those diehard, anti-christian, pagan warriors of Wotan, try replacing “christian metal” with “white metal” or “good metal.” Okay, that probably didn’t help AT ALL but the point is, Theocracy is a really good band and their third album As The World Bleeds is an exceptional dose of progressive power metal. Once a one-man project helmed by Matt Smith, Theocracy is now a fully functioning band and these altar boys can really play! Sounding like a mash-up of Avantasia, Axenstar, Balance of Power, Eden’s Curse and Shadow Gallery, they deliver hyper-polished, super-slick, technical, proggy power with a ton of melodic hooks and a fair amount of heavy edge to boot. Songwriting is first-rate, musicianship is very impressive and heck, God will appreciate you listening to it. When was the last time you hordes of miscreants could honestly say that? Yeah, that’s what I thought, sinners! In all seriousness, this is a great power metal album, regardless of religious inclination. If you dig melodic metal, follow Steel Druhm through the desert of this review and he’ll deliver you to the Angry Promised Land.

Hammers of Misfortune – 17th Street Review

Hammers of Misfortune – 17th Street Review

Few obscure, under-ground bands find the level of respect and reverence that San Francisco’s Hammers of Misfortune has. These avaunt-garde weirdos have been doing things their way since 2001 and slowly building appreciation and acclaim along the way. Deftly defying genre tags and easy (lazy) categorization by reviewers like myself, they’ve churned out a uniquely progressive amalgam of NWOBHM, folk, doom and ’70s rock. So unusual is their sound, the only truly comparable band is sister/brother act Slough Feg, with which they’ve swapped influences and members over the years. It’s a pretty safe bet if you like the Feg, you’ll dig what the Hammers are cooking too. Of the two, the Hammers were and are the weirder, more experimental outfit and under the leadership of guitarist/vocalist John Cobbett (ex-Slough Feg, ex-Ludicra), they’ve traveled some strange roads but always packed truckloads of melody and quirky charm. After an overly long wait since 2008’s Fields/Church of Broken Glass, we’re finally treated to their fifth album 17th Street and its a reassuring blast of sonic strangeness, musical eccentricity and refreshing innovation. Although not crushingly heavy or shockingly aggressive, its plenty metal, hugely melodic, catchy and most importantly, original! If that doesn’t sound good to you, go read my diatribe about black metal.

Hell – Human Remains Review

Hell – Human Remains Review

Wow, yet another reminder that you can’t always judge a metal album by the cover. By looking at the artwork for Hell’s debut Human Remains, I bet most would expect a death or thrash bonanza. Well, a mighty big ass surprise would await upon spinning this thing! This is NWOBHM style metal by a British band that was part of the 80’s new wave but unable to land a record deal, despite adoring fans and supporters like Lars Ulrich. After founding singer/guitarist Dave Halliday killed himself in 1987, it seemed Hell had run it’s course. Fear not, for long time fan, friend and mega-producer Andy Sneap (Sabbat) has come to the rescue, convincing them to reform for another shot at metallic glory. With the surviving members together again along with new vocalist Dave Bower and Mr. Sneap as a second guitarist, we finally get that long awaited debut. So how do a bunch of songs that have been mothballed since the 80’s sound in 2011? Well, despite some great moments and obvious potential, its not a complete success. Allow me to elaborate.

Avantasia – Angel of Babylon Review

Avantasia – Angel of Babylon Review

Tobias Sammet, the voice of Edguy and mastermind behind Avantasia, clearly doesn’t mess around when it comes to self-confidence and ambition. Few artists would have the sheer cojones to undertake as daunting of a project as a double album with over 2 hours of music featuring no less than 19 guest musician. That however is exactly what he serves up with The Wicked Symphony and this album, Angel of Babylon (being Parts II and III of The Scarecrow trilogy respectively).