Savatage

Hell – Curse and Chapter Review

Hell – Curse and Chapter Review

“There’s an interesting history behind Hell. As a part of the original NWoBHM, they were close to releasing an album alongside contemporaries like Saxon and Iron Maiden, but bad luck and personal tragedy brought them low and derailed their best laid plans. Though they never made it past the demo stage, they were influential in the scene and championed by folks like producer and former Sabbat guitarist Andy Sneap. So taken with their old demos was he, that he encouraged the members to reform and give it another go with him on guitar, which resulted in 2011s Human Remains opus. That platter featured some ancient tunes loaded with NWoBHM flair and a noticeable Mercyful Fate influence, and while the music was highly enjoyable, I struggled mightily with the delivery of front man David Bower, which was overdone, uber-theatrical and at times, very cheeseball parmesan.” Now that they’ve had some time to sort things out, can Hell deliver some metal for the ages or are they still suffering from Drama Overload Disorder? Steel Druhm has the prognosis.

Warbringer – IV: Empires Collapse Review

Warbringer – IV: Empires Collapse Review

“With Hallow’s Eve in the air and the holiday season just around the corner, I feel safe looking back on 2013 and saying it wasn’t the greatest year for metal. It’s certainly true that the better stuff seems to be coming out on the back-end, but overall, it has been a lean time for top-notch albums. This is especially true for the rethrash/thrash genre, with very few albums jumping out and smacking me in the gob. Keeping true to form, the better stuff is seeping out now, with solid releases from Death Angel and Toxic Holocaust and now, a winner from Warbringer. IV: Empires Collapse sees these California rethrashers take a big step from the effective, but somewhat generic Bay Area Thrash sound exhibited on Worlds Torn Asunder by adding a host of classic metal influences along with punk and blackened twists.” October was a good month for rethrash and it looks like Warbringer wanted to end things on a high note with their latest slice of speed.

Newsted – Heavy Metal Music Review

Newsted – Heavy Metal Music Review

“By now most of you are familiar with the dysfunctional soap opera that led Jason Newsted to jump ship from Metallica prior to their execrable St. Anger album. Anyone who watched the shockumentary Some Kind of Monster can see why he bailed and most probably wonder why he didn’t beat copious amounts of Danish ass and kick over the Hetfield Table™ on his way out the door. Since his exodus, Jason has shown himself to be a productive and versatile musician’s musician, recording with Voivod, playing with Ozzy Osbourne, keeping his Echobrain project running and finding time to launch his eponymous solo project Newsted.” Jason Newsted has this solo thing going on and finally released the debut album. Steel Druhm gives you the lowdown as Lars and James download it illegally out of spite.

Oliva – Raise the Curtain Review

Oliva – Raise the Curtain Review

“I’ve been following Jon Oliva’s career since I was a wee metal lad. I loved the classic Savatage albums like The Dungeons are Calling and Hall of the Mountain King and while I didn’t enjoy their eventual metamorphosis into a Broadway-like, show tuney act on later albums like Gutter Ballet and Handful of Rain, I always had a soft spot for Oliva’s singing. I also enjoyed a lot of the Jon Oliva’s Pain material even though it could be inconsistent. It was somewhat of a surprise to see him appear with this new eponymous act, but apparently Mr. Oliva felt the new moniker was more appropriate since this features music written by his deceased brother and former Savatage bandmate Criss Oliva.” A tribute album to a fallen brother is about as metal as it gets and Jon Oliva sure knows his metal. Join Steel Druhm for the red carpet review.

Colossus – Wake Review

Colossus – Wake Review

I’ve spent the last few minutes trying to stick a label on Wake. Not that it matters anyway and, to be honest, watching MTV on mute while listening to “Ruinbuilder” with my headphones on is a valid alternative to tiring out my brain. Ms Germanotta is out of sync in this peculiar, extemporary world of mine as she moves about trying to keep up with the pace imposed by the nervous beat of a Swedish drummer. This unrepeatable choreography slowly fades into the background as Niklas Eriksson’s vocals, sometimes reminiscent of Savatage’s Zachary Stevens and Jon Oliva’s melancholic elegance, boldly sets the record straight with the opener “A Stir from Slumber”.

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.