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PiercingMetal’s “Best Of Decade” 2000-2009: Music and Video

Since starting up the website we have tried our best to maintain an annual list of what we felt was the most stand out of music releases, videos and live concert events. It’s generally a daunting task since being a reviewer of these wide scoping mediums you really have to keep it maintained as the year progresses along. This year the task would be much more involved and intense because it was also the end of the decade and closed out on a very amazing number of years in the Metal realm. Initially I had added the previous ten years views at the end of the “Best Of 2009” thoughts but realized that this was better presented as a standalone piece. That would allow me to keep it as something special of its own and allow for easier digestion and research into the picks. Having been to a lot of shows and listened to a lot of music that was submitted in addition to that which was purchased I did my best at giving a tip of the hat to some of the things that we could recall as being of significant importance on the Metal and Hard Rock scene over the last ten years. I’m going to break this up into two parts and start with the music and videos. I hope you enjoy it.

PiercingMetal.com’s Top 10 CD Releases Of The Decade: 2000-2009:

Are you kidding me? You actually expect me to define only ten releases for an entire decade when the last five years of my life have been spent reviewing music…..do you people realize just how many albums that comes out to when you add it all up? OK, so even though I am closing in on 1000 actual CD reviews for the website, I will give a quick nod to ten of the albums that I found very appealing to my Metal and Hard Rock ears. You know what, since this is a big occasion and only happens once every ten years I will give you even more than CD preferences and add to the mix some of the DVD’s that I found to be noteworthy and make this whole thing a little more worth reading. Please understand that we did NOT offer up a top to bottom ranking on this list and just wanted you to be aware of some of our favorite releases from the decade that spanned from 2000-2009. Enjoy.

Kamelot “Ghost Opera” (SPV Records): The mighty Kamelot followed up their astounding “Black Halo” CD with this album and while they had already snared me with that release, this one signed the paperwork in blood.

KISS “Alive” Boxed Set (Universal Music): You’re probably screaming at me for including a CD boxed set that compiles all three existing KISS “Alive” recordings and offers up a long missing fourth one and if you are too bad about you. I found these albums inspirational, well at least the first two, and to find all of it put in one handy place with a superb booklet I could find no fault in this and it truly was one of my favorite items over the past ten years.

The 69 Eyes “Devils” (EMI Music): For me this ranks as one of the Decade’s best because it was an album that opened the band up to an entirely new fan base since it was the first of the bands catalog to be available in this part of the world. It would be followed by the full back catalogue but without this one they still might have been a best kept musical secret from Finland. My own first go at the band came via “Blessed Be” and the track “Brandon Lee”, so while a few years late to the party still a fan since that time.

Unexpect “In A Flesh Aquarium” (The End Records): This band defies description more than it does not and shows just how much room there is in modern Metal music. Take Progressive, Black Metal, Jazz and blend it up for this tasty musical cocktail. Diversity thy name is Unexpect.

Metallica “Death Magnetic” (Warner Music Group): Love it or not based on the “production” that some experts are lambasting, this was the album that showed us all that Metallica could still kick our ass with a Metal album. Now Rock and Roll Hall of Famers and MTV Icons, they chose to no longer take the role for granted and pummeled us.

Nightwish “Wishmaster” (Century Media Records): This 2001 release would be the album for the band that would somehow spark my own interest in reviewing albums and concerts so how could it not be on my list of best of the decade.

Porcupine Tree “Fear Of A Blank Planet” (Atlantic Records): Really just an incredible album and one that broke a lot of new fans for the work. Congratulations Mr. Wilson.

Marillion “Marbles” (Racket Records): This album proved to be that Marillion still had what it took to impress and inspire me and what came afterward made me question this once again found trust. Oh well.
Continue reading PiercingMetal’s “Best Of Decade” 2000-2009: Music and Video

Revisiting “Metal Edge” Magazine: The CD Reviews – Part 10

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.
Continue reading Revisiting “Metal Edge” Magazine: The CD Reviews – Part 10

Revisiting “Metal Edge” Magazine: The DVD Reviews – Part 5

These video overviews were originally written for Metal Edge Magazine when I was a contributor to their DVD reviews section back in 2006. 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 to also showcase just how different writing for a major publication was when it all came down to it. 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 we go with the final group of DVD Reviews.

Therion: “Celebrators Of Becoming” (Nuclear Blast Records)

If you are someone who listens to Operatic/Symphonic Metal then the name of Therion should strike a chord of instant respect in you. Without the efforts and influences of Therion there is a good chance that bands like Nightwish and Within Temptation would have never been able to come about. This DVD set arrives as the perfect compliment to the bands World Tour of 2004-2005; it gives the ardent fan more than enough Therion to absorb but more importantly gives the new acolyte a perfect tool to see how the band does what they do best. “Celebrators Of Becoming” is a hefty package as well, holding strong at four fully loaded DVD’s with 2 CD’s to close it out. To better understand how deep this is we have broken down the contents to better focus on what is inside. DVD1 is a full concert from Mexico City done in 2004 and brings you front stage to the band of today in performance for a rabid level of Metal fans. Most of the material focused on the “Lemuria/Sirius B” release along with a healthy dose of back catalog. DVD2 is the Tour Report disk and loaded with sound checks, solos and a presentation of 30 songs as they were performed in 16 countries. I enjoyed the animated menu of this disk as you hop about to the toured locations to watch the particular song. DVD3 features both a Wacken Open Air Festival performance from 2001 as well as the bands promotional videos. It was great to see another concert that was not done at the same time as the first DVD to offer better understanding of the group over time and videos, well, more bands should release their own on DVD’s of this nature. DVD4 is a historical journey disk and it takes viewers back as far as 1989 where you see the band performing brutal and intense Metal as opposed to what they became. Released in a deluxe and standard package, it also comes with the concert performance from DVD1 on CD audio only. The artwork and booklet are superb on this issue and feature extensive liner notes from Christofer Johnsson. It is also loaded with tons of amazing photos and gives the viewer something nice to look at. It is sure to become one of the most referred to DVD’s in your library.

Various Artists: ”Family Values Tour 2006” (Firm Music)

In 2006, Korn would return to headlining the tour that they started back in 1998 and the resulting Family Values Tour would be a triumphant effort as a result. This mega-event that focused on Metal, Rap and Hard Rock would once again place the Nu-Metal giants on the stage with support from such staple acts of today as The Deftones, Dir En Grey, Flyleaf, Deadsy, Stone Sour and 10 Years. The trend in releasing both a CD and DVD of the event would continue as well and this film is the perfect way to enjoy some of what happened at these shows. As you can imagine, Korn receives the largest presentation on the video and even performs their monster track “Freak On A Leash” with Stone Sours Corey Taylor. They sound great and really show a good amount of what they are like in a full concert, but with only five selections the viewer will be left wanting. The film showcases some new talent as well with 10 Years, Dir En Grey and Flyleaf. Each of the bands truly excellent at the level of music they bring to the table, but with only a couple of songs to enjoy you are left with a strong curious sense and perhaps a little bit annoyed if you did not grab one of the tickets when they came to town. 10 Years has a strong Perfect Circle/Tool thing happening while Dir En Grey is a growing sensation from Japan. I liked their energy but was not crazy about the little bit of self mutilation the singer took part it by making himself bloody as he performed. Stone Sour was an act that I would have liked more songs from as this band that features both Corey Taylor and Jim Root from Slipknot are killer in concert and provide a different edge with this. The Deftones also rocked but by now the tease of two tracks gets worn. It includes a great bunch of interview segments and while some of the portions are shown during the breaks between each band, they have a full section for you to watch which is much more comprehensive. They make sure to talk to a couple of the characters from Korns stage show as well which adds to the overall amusement of the program. This is a great way to get a glimpse inside the FVT with Korn and Friends and next time don’t miss the show.
Continue reading Revisiting “Metal Edge” Magazine: The DVD Reviews – Part 5

“Live Gothic” by Therion

Artist: Therion
Title: “Live Gothic”
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: 8/6/2008
Genre: Progressive Symphonic Metal
Rating: 4.5/5

Always an impressive idea in the musical sense the one and only Therion have paused between studio albums to deliver to us “Live Gothic”, an album that captures the band onstage and focusing on their previous studio epic “Gothic Kabbalah”. Those who have known about the band are already aware of the very big production that they put on and this combination double CD and DVD film bring you right into the crowd at a spectacular show performed in front of a diehard audience in Warzaw, Poland. The release that this tour supported had a very stage performance feeling to it, and I don’t just mean in the quality of its songs but also in the manner in which I felt it was being delivered. To me this was as much a Symphonic Metal album as it was something akin to the Broadway stage so when it was announced that there would be a live DVD film for it I was rather excited. The performance while done in support of the “Gothic Kabbalah” album only features six tracks from the release and chooses to mix up a wider number of songs from the bands earlier years. This appealed to me as I was a latecomer to what they could do in their music so hearing any older track performed live was quite the treat. Fans know that the core membership of Therion is Christofer Johnsson (guitar/core composer), Kristian Niemann (guitars/keyboards), Johan Niemann (bass/acoustic guitar) and Petter Karlsson (drums) and these players are always joined by a company of singers and sometimes additional musicians as necessary.
Continue reading “Live Gothic” by Therion

Therion @ Highline Ballroom (11/1/2007)

Therion is always an interesting musical experience and their return to NYC was highly anticipated. The show also featured Aesma Daeva and took place at the Highline Ballroom. We made sure to document the proceedings for your Metal viewing pleasure so scroll past the logo to learn and see more about the show.

Logo - Therion

Artist: Therion
Venue: The Highline Ballroom (New York, NY)
Opener: Aesma Daeva
Date: 11/1/2007
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

For much the world’s Metal community, the band Therion is the primary reason that the whole Symphonic Operatic Metal genre started in the first place and when you listen to their music its easy to see how this could be the case. Originally begun as more of a Death Metal band they began to introduce orchestrations and choirs into their sound about fifteen years ago and when you listen to how their albums progressed over time it becomes quite an interesting Metal study. Had they not undertaken this approach in their composition I think that we would have seen a very different Symphonic Metal genre or one that did not begin to manifest itself as early as it ended up doing with their input. Therion had only visited New York once before and the appearance was at B.B. King Blues Club. It would be the full band along with a four member choir and a soprano vocalist. The show was quite good but the band was a little restricted in movement based on the number of players and the space available amidst all their gear. This evenings show would be at the recently opened Highline Ballroom and given the venues larger stage would make this a lot more interesting in my opinion. Therion would also bring with them the band Aesma Daeva from Minneapolis.
Continue reading Therion @ Highline Ballroom (11/1/2007)