These album overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their “Hear Us Out” CD reviews section back in 2006-2007. With the magazine wrapping up publication a few months ago, I decided to add them to the context of our PiercingMetal presentation. I felt that by doing this I would not only be raising the horns in remembrance of the magazine but would also be able to showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. Since “Hear Us Out” notations were usually “100” words in length, these posts will feature several reviews each until we run out of them. The freelance writing tenure at Metal Edge Magazine was discussed on THIS LINK so please check that out when done. Here are the reviews, so “Hear Us Out”.
Staind: ”The Singles: 1996-2006” (Atlantic Records)
With Staind, Aaron Lewis and company most certainly dished out the Melancholy with their major label debut “Break The Cycle”. It was an album whose lead single actually owed some level of popularity based on Fred Durst’s (Limp Bizkit) initial interest in them. Durst had performed the song “Outside” with Lewis on the Family Values tour before the albums release in 2001. The performance built an interest and buzz that kept until the album hit. As a band Staind laid down the radio friendly Alt-Metal with apparent ease and this hits collection is a great way to remember their finest moments from the span of their releases. “BTC” has four presentations on the album, and sadly the studio version is omitted to include the acoustic pairing with Durst. While it’s a good version I am sure that many fans would prefer to have had the darker and heavier studio cut included. Other highlights include the hits from “14 Shades Of Grey”, an album that found the group a little more mainstream as they sang tributes to fallen friends and their family as well. A touching track is “Zoe Jane”, Lewis’ daughter. It was an album that showed there was also light inside the once dark and brooding band. In addition to the main hits there are several acoustic numbers and among them are covers of both Pink Floyd and Tool. The songs show that there is added passion to this group and it’s an interesting manner to hear a Tool song in the first place. Floyd generally translates well acoustically and on this I found the classic track “Comfortably Numb” to be just a little more ominous. I enjoyed Staind as a band, and felt that they strived to be different from the crop of Seattle Sound bands that the decade had just closed us out from. They used elements of this melancholy and angst to a great effect with a dose of Hard Rock that worked out very well in the end. As a result this band has far more memorable tracks than many others would from this same time in music history. Don’t believe me? Name three Limp Bizkit hits……see, I told you so.
Static X: “Cannibal” (Reprise Records)
There are not many bands that sound like Static X nor are there many who are able to infuse the level of Techno-Industrial vibe into Heavy Metal music as good as they do. For over 13 years, they have been continually impressing and surprising their fan base with what they can do and with their fifth recording “Cannibal” – they show that they stand poised to repeat the process once again. Led by Wayne Static, Cannibal finds the group also with their fifth different lineup in terms of the recording of the new music. The changes however, mark the return of their original guitarist Koichi Fukuda who now joins Oshiro (drums) and Campos (bass) to complete the four-piece Industrial Metal Masters. Despite the lineup shifts the listener will still find the aggressive and powerful sound that makes Static-X such a special band to the world of music and truly second to none against those who use this style. The assault begins right away with the title track “Cannibal” – a song that is a not so subtle hint at the overall assault that is looming on the other tracks. This is a heavier release than I every remember them delivering and they use their unique elements to success and make songs like “Chemical Logic” a form of “Techno-Thrash”. When it gets to “Forty Ways” they use the feel of Disco meets Rave music and give a number that you just know is going to have the audience on the feet jumping as they perform it. Static himself seems to be in top form once again as he screams in rage repeatedly and delivers his point with determination and intent. The listeners will find a very “live” sounding record instead of an over-processed piece and the reasoning was for it to maintain the level of an “in your face” album as opposed to sounding too bland and over-produced. They succeeded here as you feel the need to make this a louder and louder listen on your stereo and I continually felt my head bopping and foot tapping in time with the songs as I played it the first time around. This album welcomes new friends while at the same time embraces the old ones. If you like Metal coupled with a solid groove then this is for you, there will be “No Submission” this time. While never truly away, Static-X has returned.
Stolen Babies: “There Be Squabbles Ahead” (The End Records)
Join me on a trip to the beer halls of the insane where the performers tonight are the Stolen Babies, an Avant-Garde/Gothic/Metal Cabaret fronted by Dominique Persi. The group is interesting, fascinating and very mystifying and their debut release shall leave you scratching your head even after several listens. Sadly, the visual side of the group is lost on audio, but photos prove they are a must see group with the shades of Alice Cooper meets Torch Singer meets Metal band. Bands like this prove their defiance against convention and leave you thinking when its all passed by. Fans of Oingo Bongo and Bungle will eat this up.
The 69 Eyes: “Angels” (Caroline Records)
The Helsinki Vampires have returned with “Angels” on their side. Dwellers in the dark are sure to be pleased with the sequel to Devils as the band continues dominating new territory. This is more upbeat and uses less melancholy as they search for “Perfect Skin” and will “Never Say Die”. Pure Glam-Sleaze finds you here and Finland’s Apocalyptica visits on “Ghost” to mix it up. Fist-pumping and jumping is found on “Rocker” where Jyrki acts his Idol meets Danzig role. It’s a great jumping on point for those who are catching up and the tour with Cradle Of Filth has surely added to the fan base. “Got Goth?”
The 69 Eyes: “Blessed Be” (Cleopatra Records)
If there is one album to own by the Helsinki Vampires then this is the one that is a must have. It’s the CD that finds them fine-tuning their brand of Gothic Hard Rock & Roll to perfection as they grow just a little darker musically and also blend some harder veins of Metal into the music. Stellar tunes like anthem “Brandon Lee” and “The Chair” become instant favorites while “Gothic Girl” firmly cemented their place in the cold, dark hearts of vampiresses everywhere. Originally released in 2000 this is the perfect time to jump on board thanks to Cleopatra’s re-issues.
The 69 Eyes: “Framed In Blood: The Very Blessed Of The 69 Eyes” (Cleopatra Records)
The 69 Eyes are one of those overnight sensations who have been around for more than ten years. Finally available in the States, their back catalog comes care of Cleopatra Records and all the more children of the night can come onboard. “Blessed Of” is a great way to be introduced to the group and includes some great tracks like “Brandon Lee”, “Gothic Girl” and “Wasting The Dawn”. Leader Jyrki 69 has a deep and resonant voice that will enrapture the listener and the band simply rocks. Time to catch up on some quality Gothic Hard Rock, its moody but fun stuff. Got Goth?
Therion: “Gothic Kabbalah” (Nuclear Blast Records)
Once again, Therion defy conventional musical boundary and bring to life their next epic. With Gothic Kabbalah, the four lead vocalists present, two male and two female will immediately enrapture the listener – and this gives such an intense feel across the already dramatic music on the CD. The release is not as over the top in Symphonics as Lemuria/Sirius B was, yet at the same time this is intensely dark and foreboding in some of its riffs and structure. The group shows that continual experimentation can still be fresh and exciting even after 20 years. For fans of Nightwish and Epica among others.
Thor: ”Devastation Of Musculation” (Smog Veil Records)
All Hail the return of the Mighty Thor who returns to us with “Devastation Of Musculation”. On the premise of his new recording Thor has said that “people are under pressure to achieve the impossible everyday and trying to make sense of these desperate measures is what this album is all about”. The album continues his quest to bring tales of bravery and strength in the face of adversity. It’s all about believing in one’s own power to face any obstacle and a positive way of thinking in terms of Hard Rock music where so much of it focuses on the dark. Thor is not a Rob Halford level vocalist but those who have heard him know that he is constant in his efforts to hold high the powers of the Rock – you don’t listen to his music to find expanding Power Metal but instead a return to a simpler musical time and subject matter. This is a fun album musically and it might surprise the skeptics a little. This CD entertains and in a world that so sorely needs heroes isn’t it nice to know that Thor walks among us? Raise the hammer high.
To-Mera and their incredible blend of Progressive and Gothic Metal will probably be one of the most unique bands you will find yourself listening to in a long time. The group is fronted by the beautiful Julie Kiss (ex Without Face) who along with Lee Barrett, Tom MacLean, and Hugo Sheppard form this mixed English/Hungarian sensation. They are a group that takes a collection of elements that are most often found in bands such as Opeth, Yes and Nightwish and deliver you a result that is a truly magical musical discovery. Kiss is a powerful, but yet haunting singer whose voice will at times remind the listener of Simone Simons (Epica) and perhaps even Annie Haslam (Renaissance). Vocally she glides over the intricate webs created by the band with ease and make songs like “Phantoms” and “Born Of Ashes” absolutely incredible and repeat listens. There is a level of technical proficiency that the band demonstrates that is not often associated to the Gothic sound and this display of prowess in songs such as “Dreaded Angel” and “Parfum” could very well change the way that this genre is accepted and perhaps even the way this music gets created by other bands in the future. This is surely is a refreshing change from the often too-brooding and melacholy displays into sorrow that standard Gothic is best known for. The Progressive angle is wisely used and makes the Goth turn upward a notch, perhaps even finding favor in the minds of the often stoic Prog-head. They are a group that can play their instruments and on every song they reinforce this talent in the ears of the listener as they show you just what they are capable of. I would venture to guess that an exciting future awaits this band and that Julie Kiss stands ready to become a force of influence for those who are fans of this type of music. She has an Operatic style that is probably going to draw some Tarja comparisons as well, but I think she bears her own kudos. With “Transcendental” To-Mera is daring to show that Metal music can always be something that excites you, and is a far more adventurous form of music that the mainstream resources would ever have you believe. To-Mera shows that they are a musical force of nature on their Candlelight debut. You would be best-advised to pay attention to what they are saying.
Additional chapters in this series of “Revisiting Metal Edge Magazine” will be posted across the span of a couple of weeks. Please stay tuned for the next batch of summaries and let us know what you thought of these items down in the comments section below.
Stolen Babies: http://stolenbabiestheband.com/
The 69 Eyes: http://www.69eyes.com