2016-12-22

Retro review: Guns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion I & II - the ultimate edition

Band: Guns N' Roses
Album: "Use Your Illusion I" "Use Your Illusion II"
Style: Hard rock
Release dates: 1991-09-17
Origin: U.S.A.

Introduction:
Why do a retro review of two albums that are more than 20 years old you ask? Well, in all the reviews I've seen for these two albums, people have always complained about how there are much filler on each of these double-albums and that it would have been better to just release one album with all the good songs. But just really what are the the good songs from these albums? That's exactly what I aim to investigate in this review. With first going through each and every song off the two albums -that's 30 songs all together - and deciding whether they fit my final setlist and then present and evaluate my ultimate collection of UYI-songs. To make things more interesting, I've decided on a maximum of 15 songs and if I'm not entirely sure about a song, it will go in the undecided-pile and battle with another song in the end.
 Everyone onboard? Here we go!

USE YOUR ILLUSION I
1. Right Next Door to Hell
At the time the album was released, Guns N' Roses was amongst the largest bands on the planet and the anticipation for this album after the successes of "Appetite for Destruction" and "Gn'R Lies" was enormous to say the least. The choice to then place "Right Next Door to Hell" as an opener is questionable to me. It's not that the song is bad or anything, but it's just OK compared to a lot of the other 29 songs. It's a straight-up fast-paced rocker that wouldn't have made the cut had it been ready for the Appetite-sessions a couple of years earlier. I still enjoy it though, but I'm having a hard time trying to decide whether it should be on my ultimate edition.
Verdict: Undecided.

2. Dust N' Bones
A slow moving, bluesy track where Izzy provides lead vocals. Izzy's a cool cat and all but he's no Axl when it comes to the vocals. The song is alright I guess but it's overall mood actually feels distracting from the rest of the album.
Verdict: Nah.

3. Live and Let Die
A cover-song is next up, originally by Paul and Linda McCartney. What can I say, it's boring as fuck and has nothing to do on a Guns N' Roses-album even though it and it's "brother-cover" from the other Illusion (I'll get to it later), are some of the most famous songs by Gn'R. Astonishing if you ask me.
Verdict: Not a snowball's chance in hell!

4. Don't Cry (original)
One of the bands' most known ballads and one that I myself slowed danced a lot to back in my early teens. How does it hold up today then? Well, it feels very 80's* and most rightfully so. In other words, it hasn't aged like fine wine exactly, but as opposed to track #3, it is a classic and a must on the ultimate edition.
Verdict: Yes!

5. Perfect Crime
A fast-paced hard rock attack without any excuses. What could go wrong? Well, it's over almost even before it has begun and that's a complaint from my side. But on the other hand, a longer running-time would've probably made it boring. So there's no excuse not to have this along for the rid.
Verdict: Yes!

6. You Ain't the First
No. Just no. I'm sorry but apart from the very end of the second Illusion - this is by far the most dull song on all the albums. And it's not because I just like the faster songs, on the contrary! But this one has no build-up, no reward and is honestly a weak attempt at a campfire-song that never should've made it onto an actual album, despite it's short track-length.
Verdict: Fuck no.

7. Bad Obsession
This mid-tempo song with it's catchy groove is always a song I've hade a hate/love-relationship with. It's cringe-worthy at certain parts but still I cannot say I don't like it. I don't know why and for now, I'll let it fight it out with another song in the end.
Verdict: Undecided.

8. Back Off Bitch
This is a mid-tempo travesty written by Axl and that dude that more or less forced Slash out of the band. I thought it was crap when I was 13 years old and I think it's crap now - the only thing that is mildly amusing are the "woah-oh-oh-oh's". This song might have been a cool idea for an EP of oddities or something like that but it has no right whatsoever to fill up space on a Gn'R-album in my world.
Verdict: Hell no!

9. Double Talkin' Jive
An amazingly catchy and headbanger-friendly tune. For 1 minute and twenty seconds that is... Then comes one of Slash's most boring solos and then it's all over with that dull fucking fade-out. I don't know.
Verdict: Undecided.

10. November Rain
It's almost 9 minutes long. It's an over-bloated epic with so much pretentiousness that it only could've been written by one mr. W. Axl Rose. And surprise, surprise - it is. I love it, from the beautiful intro with the strings and the flutes, to the emotional vocal-delivery and the crappy rhymes all the way to the superb Slash-solo and the ballsy ending with yet another amazing solo and Axl sounding like only Axl can sound.
Verdict: Most definitely.

11. The Garden
This is a weird oddity. The verses are almost haunting and very effictive in their simplicity. Then comes the chorus with the old fart Alice Cooper and his boring voice. Totally lacks any emotion or feel. When you have one of the greatest vocalists of all time in your band, letting Alice Cooper sing on your song is a stupid idea.
Verdict: Undecided.

12. Garden of Eden
It's a short and quite stupid song, yet I enjoy it's simplicity and ferocious feel. My initial thought was a given on the ultimate edition but when I re-visit it again for the first in a long time, I'm not so sure. Damnit! I have to put yet another song in the undecided-compartment.
Verdict: Undecided.

13. Don't Damn Me
As far as I know, this one has never been played live. A monumental shame if you ask me since I find this to be one of the most (if not the most) underrated of all Gn'R-songs. Ever. It's so damn groovy, the lyrics and vocal-delivery is spot on and it always makes me long for a beer or five when I hear it. Yes, it's simple compared to many of the Illusion-epics but that's what makes it so good. As much as I love the epicness of Gn'R, once upon a time there was only this hard rocking band that had one album in their backpack. What I'm trying to say is, "Don't Damn Me" would've fit like a hammer upon a hamster on "Appetite for Destruction". Hard rock at it's finest.
Verdict: Oh yes!

14. Bad Apples
Along with #11, this is another odd song and it's bluesy feel is not really my cup of tea. The piano grooving is cool and all and there's not anything really wrong with the song, but in the end it's just too weak to be on an ultimate edition album.
Verdict: Nope.

15. Dead Horse
That acoustic intro is wonderful and always fills my heart with a warmth. The rest of the song isn't horse-shit either and even though it doesn't have a part that makes the hair on my arm stand, it wins a lot with it's overall catchiness.
Verdict: Yes.

16. Coma
This 10-minute epic is one of my favourite Rose/Slash-compositions and who could really disagree? It manages to be both catchy and epic at the same time and that slow tempo in the middle of the song always catches me off guard. I love it that we get a new build-up and it's almost like a new song starts even though we instantly recognize it. Alright, I'm blabbering now and should stop. It's a total "yes" from my side.
Verdict: Hell yeah!


USE YOUR ILLUSION II
1. Civil War
A cherished live-staple for the band as much as it is remembered as ex-drummer Steven Adlers last performance with the band before he was replaced by the human poodle Matt Sorum. It's not a surprise that it became a well-known song for the band, but compared to many of their other "classics" - this one still holds up very well today and is always a joy to listen to. It's not like hearing "Sweet Child O' Mine" for the 1000th time and just want to put a bullet in your head.
Verdict: Definitely.

2. 14 Years
Another quite bluesy and catchy number with lead vocals from Izzy and lots of piano, sort of like a combination between "Dust N' Bones" and "Bad Obsession". I have always had a soft spot for this one, but is it A-material? Not quite sure to be honest.
Verdict: Undecided.

3. Yesterdays
This was a released as a single and I assume it's one of the more known songs from this era. Strange, since it's not a very strong song in my opinion. There's nothing wrong with it but it's just a weaker and more uninteresting song than many others here. I feel kind of sad that it won't be included but I must be strict here and have a maximum of 15 songs.
Verdict: Sadly, no.

4. Knockin' on Heaven's Door
Here it is then, the ugly cover-brother of "Live and Let Die" from the other Illusion, this time it's a somewhat well-known Bob Dylan-track that gets the Gn'R-treatment. While neither cover is performed badly in any way and the band does a good job of making each song sounding like their own, it's just that they're so damn boring compared to so many Gn'R-originals.
Here's my thoughts:
In an optimal world, "The Spaghetti Incident" wouldn't be a boring punk-rock cover album. Instead, it would include "Live and Let Die", "Knockin' on Heaven's Door", "Nice Boys", "Mama Kin" and a collection of the band's other favourites, how about something by Queen or Hanoi Rocks? That would've been so much more interesting.
Verdict: Fuck no!

5. Get in the Ring
When I was 13, this song was the shit. And by that, I mean that I really loved this song. Much was of course due to the profanities uttered which I obviously learned by heart and still today are etched into my backbone. Today, "Get in the Ring" feels more like a half-finished song and a quite pathetic attempt from Axl to make the press seem like the really bad guys and himself like our lord and saviour. No matter how much I adore the man's rock n' roll aesthetics, phenomenal voice and often interesting lyrics - I cannot defend him when he spurts out crap like this.
Verdict: No.

6. Shotgun Blues
Some might lump this together with faster stuff such as "Garden of Eden" and the dreadful "Back Off Bitch" but I disagree. I think it's better than both those songs as it has a rough edge that feels closer to the Appetite-era and works in the same context as "Don't Damn Me" - while not being as good as said song. Difficult wheteher it should be included though.
Verdict: Undecided.

7. Breakdown
Now wer're talking. This is one of the more under-appreciated songs from the Illusion-albums and like "Don't Damn Me" and "Coma" before, there's no doubt in my mind whether this one should be included or not. It's a fantastic track that has so much going and yet it never feels like it's incomplete or distracting. In other words it feels like the band had different pieces that needed to be placed together in order to make sense. In the end, we got a perfectly laid puzzle.
Verdict: Hell yes!

8. Pretty Tied Up
"The perils of rock n' roll decadence". If you take the piano out of the equation, this one feels like it would've been right at home on "Appetite for Destruction" and even the lyrics takes one back to the bands' early days. It's a live-staple and a Gn'R-song that's made classic because of it's merits - not because it's immediately great - but because it's a good song that still holds up.
Verdict: Yes.

9. Locomotive
Some claim this one has elements of funk metal which I find weird and not exactly true. Anyway, along with "Breakdown", it is a long and winding song with many twists and turns and I think that the astute reader by now have understood that I really like those songs. "Locomotive" is no exception and it is a given.
Verdict: Fuck yeah!

10. So Fine
A ballad sung by bassist Duff McKagan in honor of the late Johnny Thunders with lyrics so embarrasing that I'd like to kill myself - does that sound like a keeper? If you answered "yes" - you're dead wrong.
Verdict: No way José.

11. Estranged
Some people claim that this is the finest moment from the post-Appetite version of Guns N' Roses and I am inclined to agree. It works as both a ballad and a monster of epic proportions and towards the middle and end it is so perfect that I remember having tears in my eyes when I heard this song the first couple of times in my life.
Verdict: Abso-fucking-lutely!

12. You Could be Mine
If I remember correct, this was one of the first single from the Illusion-albums and was used to promote a certain little movie called Terminator 2: Judgement Day. It is also in the category of "classics" and was played a lot during the Illusion-tours (and still today). It was written a long time ago, even before "Appetite", but it sounded very "modern" (at least for 1991) and would have sounded out of place on said album. It is a good track but I'm not all fire and flames about it and there are infinitely better songs here.
Verdict: Undecided.

13. Don't Cry (alt. lyrics)
Oh, come on! There's little to no point to include an identical song with different lyrics here. I understand that Axl was satisfied with both versions but this is bordering on idiotic. I remember a friend of mine owning the single with the original, alt. lyrics and demo version of the same song. That in itself just reeks of money-grabbing but to flesh out an already bloated double-album with an identical version is just retarded.
Verdict: No point.

14. My World
From what I understand, Axl and some other dudes (not Gn'r-members) we're quite fucked up on mushrooms when they decided to record this travesty. I guess that's fun and all but to include it on your bands' album without the other members' knowledge and the fact that it sucks donkey balls is something that only Axl can do. Megalomaniacs unite!
Verdict: Of bloody course not!


THE "UNDECIDED" - eight must be four
All in all, there were 8 songs that I didn't know whether they we're right for the ultimate edition. Lucky for me that 8 was the number, both that it was even so 4 could battle against 4 and because I realize I've chosen 11 already and 15 was my roof. So let's do battle!

Right Next Door to Hell vs Garden of Eden
Both songs are quite face-paced and furious rockers. What little advantage Garden... has in forms of lyrics and it's sing-along-factor, is destroyed by the fact that Right Next... is a more fleshed out and "complete" song than it's opponent. An easy victory when I think about it.
WINNER: "Right Next Door to Hell"

Bad Obsession vs 14 Years
Now this one is a lot tougher. Both songs are catchy and neither should be ashamed of it's existance. In the end, I think that the harmonica in Obsession... is a bit too annoying for my taste. It's not that it doesen't fit the song, it's just that I feel they overuse it. Plus 14 Years is a fine example of just how well Izzy's voice can work with Axl's, if he's just given a good song. "Dust N' Bones" is on the other side of the spectrum.
WINNER: "14 Years"

The Garden vs Shotgun Blues
As much as I do enjoy the overall weirdness of The Garden and the fact that it is so different from many of the other songs here, I cannot underestimate the power of Shotgun... It has more twists and turns than what one initially thinks and it's a powerhouse that I feel must be on the ultimate edition.
WINNER: "Shotgun Blues"

Double Talkin' Jive vs You Could be Mine
Now this is difficult. If only Double talkin'... was better crafted, skipped that boring outro and added something worthwhile there instead - it would have been an easy victory. On the other hand, the only real good thing You could... has got going is the part after the second chorus. The chorus itself actually drags the song down instead of lifting it. I am really torn between these two and in the end, I simply took a blind pick. I could've actually gone either way and I'm gonna miss You could... on my final tracklist but rules are rules.
WINNER: "Double Talkin' Jive"


USE YOUR ILLUSION - THE ULTIMATE EDITION:
FINAL TRACKLIST
1. Don't Damn Me
2. Breakdown
3. Pretty Tied Up
4. November Rain
5. Right Next Door to Hell
6. 14 Years
7. Perfect Crime
8. Don't Cry (original)
9. Locomotive
10. Dead Horse
11. Civil War
12. Double Talkin' Jive
13. Coma
14.Shotgun Blues
15. Estranged

This was a more difficult task than I first anticipated. Is this the ultimate edition for Use Your Illusion? For me personally, yes it is. Starting with one of the best Appetite-songs that wasn't on Appetite and ranging between soft ballads, hard hitting rockers and epic mastodonts. Sure, the two originals did the same but I believe that the order above is infinitely better and there are no unnecessary hauls inbetween. The decision to end with "Estranged" was of course an obvious one since the ending of the song leaves you exhausted, yet satisfied and is a perfect end to an album. I'm pleased.

EDIT:
As I finished writing these lines, I discovered that there is an official compilation album released by Geffen Records in 1998 simply called "Use Your Illusion". It of course includes the two crappy covers, both versions of "Don't Cry" (sigh!) and oddly enough "You Ain't the First" but no sign of "You Could Be Mine" which I thought would be a given. I guess it's a decent representation of the two albums but it doesn't dig deep enough. Like my "version" does ;-)

* = For those of you too young to remember or those of you that deny the whole, here's the deal:
The 80's as we know it - and by that I mean the fashion, the style, the attitude and much of the music - was born sometime around 1985/86 and died when grunge made it's debut in the mid-90's. In other words, when the two Illusions we're released, we we're pretty much knee-deep in the midst of unholy feathery boas, tight spandex, keyboard overloads, mullets, yuppies and glitter - fact!

2016-12-13

Top-7 of 2016

FOREWORD
A top-7!? Why the fuck would I only list seven releases from this year you ask? Well, the shameful reason is that I haven't had the time to listen to much new music this year. Work and other minor quibbles (such as life) have effectively gotten in the way. But in my own defense, not many of the bands I listen to have released much new music and even though I'm certain that my list lacks some major releases that I'd probably enjoyed had I heard them, I think it's safe to say that 2016 was nothing compared to 2015, as I still listen regularly to the first 7 of my top-10 list from said year. From this years' list, I can honestly only see myself spinning the first three on a regular basis. Anyway, here's my personal lackluster-list of the dreadful 2016.


7. Dark Tranquillity - Atoma
Style: Melodic death metal
Origin: Sweden
Melodic death metal - I've known you for so many years yet never really cared for you. Well, not really true if you can count At the Gates' monumental "Slaughter of the Soul" into said category. Nevertheless, I've tried to get why people like In Flames but failed, I've always though Soilwork was rubbish and a friend of mine introduced me to Dark Tranquillity in the late 90's. Now while I appreciated the music, it never stuck with me and "Atoma" isn't likely to do so either. But perhaps, just perhaps this album will make me dig deeper into the band's discography. Here's the thing though: DT for me has always been great musicians, interesting and thoughtful lyrics, good artwork, competent vocals (with a sober approach to the dynamics between clean- and growls) and sometimes melodies and hooks in the music that make me raise my eyebrows. The thing is that I never seem to come back to their music. It's honestly a mystery as to why, because just as the case is with Opeth, on the paper I should enjoy the utter fuck out of this band, but I just don't. There's something here that I cannot put my finger on as to why I cannot fall in love with this. Maybe I'm just too old now? Maybe I would have loved this if I actually heard "The Gallery" when it was released in the mid-90's? Hmm.... To be continued...


6. Myrkgrav - Takk og Farvel; Tida er Blitt ei Annan
Style: Black/folk metal
Origin: Norway
I remember back in 2005, when the one-man project Myrkgrav just had released it's demo and was about to unleash it's first full-length "Trollskau, Skrømt og Kølabrenning". The hype was enormous and you could cut the tension with an average-sized black metal-knife. The debut album was released and my reaction was kinda... "Wow - this is great! Well, this is sorta meh... This is alright. Okay. Where's my beer?" Ten years later, the sophomore fare-well album is released and my reaction is pretty much the same. Sure, the vocals are improved and the overall feel of the compositions also feel more coherent. But the thing is that it has been 10 years and although I still enjoy black/folk metal from time to time, my taste in music has changed and I demand so much more nowadays. Had this been released in the early 00's, I would have loved this album utterly, but now I just feel that it's a competent work that lacks that certain magic that I got from the first albums of Otyg, Lumsk and Ásmegin back in the days. Also, four instrumental tracks is at least five too many IMO.


5. Metallica - Hardwired...to Self-Destruct
Style: Heavy metal
Origin: USA
So what can I say that everyone else hasn't already said about the most anticipated metal album of 2016 from the planets' biggest (are they still?) metal band? I can tell you exactly what I feel about each and every song - that's what. The title track could at best be described as boring thrash metal but when James sings the chorus it goes beyond boring and quickly enters the embarrassing territory. But behold (behear?) children! It is by far the worst song off the album and as we enter "Atlas, Rise!" with it's Maidenesqué twin guitar-melodies and mid tempo comfort zone, I feel at home and can relax. "Now that We're Dead" is catchy and leaves a lasting impression even though it's honestly quite dull and almost nursery-rhymelike in it's execution. "Moth Into Flame" could've been the best track on the album due to it's interesting shifts in dynamics and unexpected riffs but those cringe-worthy lyrics cannot be excused. Still, it might be the best song I've heard from Metallica since 1991. "Dream No More" is sort of a mix between "The Thing that Should Not Be", "Harvester of Sorrow" and "Sad But True" - sort of like a combination of the most uninteresting songs from Master, Justice and the Black Album. Though boring, I'd rather listen to this one than the title track but the fact is that Metallica has never been good at making slow, heavy songs interesting and this is no exception. Next up is "Halo On Fire" and while being at least 3 minutes too long, is a competent semi-ballad with some interesting changes and catchy melodies. "Confusion" is a mish-mash of ideas that really shouldn't work on paper but it somehow does. Much of this has to do with some of the best Hetfield-riffs I've heard since 1988. The chorus drags things down but the song never becomes boring and it's one of my favourites on the album. "ManUnkind" is sort of the opposite, a boring rock n' roll-song with a chorus that's gets stuck on one's brain while still being annoying as fuck - impressive! Next up is "Here Comes Revenge" that easily has the best of the videos to any of the songs on the album. Musically, it has some interesting ideas combined with some really dreadful ones. With it's 7.17 minutes in running time, I feel that it could have been a great song with some editing (which can be said about many of these songs). Now it's just good. "Am I Savage?" is the song that I keep forgetting about and there's probably a good reason for that. It's the dullest of mid-tempo-dull I've heard in a long time. It's 6.29 and that's about 4 minutes too long. Now everyone knows that "Murder One" is the tribute to the late god that is Lemmy and lyrically it doesn't try to hide anything. Musically, it has nothing to do with Motörhead though and my initial reaction was a sound "meh...". But for some damn reason, this is the only song on the entire album that actually grew on me. Most of the other songs I could find something really cool or interesting immideatly but this one was just a huge "meh..." and I thought it was a missed opportunity. I don't know what happened with this song, why it grew so much on me, only to become one of my favourites. The closing track "Spit Out the Bone" seems to be everyone's favourite and I too can appreciate the frenzied thrash metal with great dynamics and melodies that it in fact is. But I have to say that it's 7.09 minutes could have been trimmed by one or two minutes and the song would have been even better.

All in all, it's a middle of the road-album to say the least. Yes, I find it to be way more interesting than "Death Magnetic" (2008) and the most coherent and interesting thing the band has done since "...And Justice For All" two decades earlier. But in 2016 I listen to more bands than Metallica and Guns N' Roses (which was the case in the late 80's/early 90's) and the competition is way too hard for "Hardwired...to Self-Destruct" to be able to stick out the way this album would've done in... say 1994. I'm surprised I liked the album as much as I did and I must say that I'm interested to hear what these soon-to-be senior citizens will come up with in the future.


4. Aenaon - Hypnosophy
Style: Avantgarde/black metal
Origin: Greece
The matter of fact that Greece - a completely retard metal country (apart from, let's say Rotting Christ) - could produce something like this is a mystery to me. I read somewhere online that this band was black metal with saxophones and that always makes me interested. Imagine Dødheimsgard without excessive blast-beats, Arcturus' more aggressive parts, a bit of Sigh-insanity combined with coherent and interesting song writing and you're quite close to what Aenaon does. It is progressive and avantgarde black metal with lots of twists and turns, though not as broad as the twists on Arcturus' greatest works in 1997 and 2002. "Hypnosophy" is a great avantgarde/black metal that manges to sound interesting and fresh even though some parts of it aren't thought-through completely. Definitely looking forward to what this band will produce in the future.


3. The Vision Bleak - The Unknown
Style: Gothic metal
Origin: Germany
I must've been high on crack/cocaine when I placed ze Germans in The Vision Bleak on second place on my top list of 2013 with their previous effort "The Witching Hour". It really hasn't aged well if you know what I mean and today, the only track I sometimes listen to is the catchy "The Wood Hag". "The Unknown" is infinitely better and way more thought-through. Sure, there are some lesser songs here such a "Ancient Heart" and "The Whine of the Cemetary Hound" but that is all made for with exceptional tracks such as the heavy-hitting "From Wolf to Peacock", the catchy (and very Tiamatesqé) "The Kindred of the Sunset", the sombre "Into the Unknown" and the dynamic "The Fragrancy of Soil Unearthed" - hell, even the bonus track "The Ghost in Me" is great! The only problem is, if you've heard The Vision Bleak before - you know exactly what to expect. And the band still doesen't come close to their magnus opus "Set Sail to Mystery" (2010).


2. In the Woods... - Pure
Style: Progressive metal
Origin: Norway
Before I get on to the actual music, I want to introduce my readers to a time of yore, to a dark mystic past called.... 1996... or was it -97? I really can't recall.
Anyway, back in 1996/1997 there were five different albums from five very different, yet somewhat alike, bands that really got me hooked on the music I listen to today. Four of those were (in no specific order):
My Dying Bride - Turn Loose the Swans (1993)
Therion - Theli (1996)
Tiamat - Wildhoney (1994)
Moonspell - Wolfheart (1995)
All some of the most well-known albums from each band respectively. And then there's was this odd little gem by a virtually unknown band called In the Woods... and their debut album "HEart of the Ages" from 1995. And yes, that's the proper spelling of the album-title since the band couldn't decide if the album should begin with "Heart" or "Art". Neat. The three dots after the band name is also correct. Moving on...
The only track I actually liked from said album was the epic title track and I still stand by that fact. In retrospective, it's kinda weird that only one song could affect me the way it did. A couple of years later, I discovered the band's second album "Omino" (1997) and that album made me a fan big-time. Around that time, the band had released it's third (somewhat hit-and-miss) album "Strange in Stereo" (1999) and of course chose to disband. Just like most bands do when I discover them. Fast-forward ca two decades and the band is back with what feels like the natural continuation of "Omino". It is avantgarde and weird at some points - yet never weird for the sake of being weird like some bands I listen to (hello Solefald!). Most of the times though, it's very atmospheric and almost Pink Floydian in it's execution - whilst never sounding like said band. When reading these lines, I get that that they make no sense, but perhaps that is for the best since ITW... really doesen't make much sense either. All I know is that I love their music and that "Pure" might be the best comeback I've heard in a long while. The title track, "The Recalcitrant Protagonist", "The Cave of Dreams", "Cult of Shining Stars" and "Mystery of the Constellations" are all great tracks on an album that really doesen't have any weak spots at all. Also, that cover-art is ace!


1. Darkthrone - Arctic Thunder
Style: Black/heavy metal
Origin: Norway
If #2 on this list had the one of the best cover artworks of 2016 - this one might be the absolute worst. It reminds so much of a photo I took with my phone back in 2003. The font of the title is also something that I used to add to my imaginary album-covers I made (don't ask).
Artwork aside, everyone and their mother knows of Darkthrone by now and their status is far beyond legendary in the metal scene. And that's not just the black metal-scene anymore - since the musical transition from black metal into punk/crust/metal territory that began in 2006 with "The Cult is Alive" the band has undergone change after change and their old-school heavy/power metal-album "The Underground Resistance" (2013) was IMO a great album with catchy and fun tunes such as "Valkyrie", "The Ones You Left Behind" and the epic "Leave No Cross Unturned". Now I understand there are many people that shun the band's latter musical pieces and claim that Darkthrone shouldn't be "fun". I get you people as well. I certainly do. I love me some "Under a Funeral Moon" and especially "Panzerfaust" every day as any normal person into black metal. "Transilvanian Hunger" can go and fuck off by the way.
But this is the present after all and while "Arctic Thunder" isn't black metal per se, it might be the closest the band has come to it's classic sound in 10 years or so. To be more precise, it sort of mixes the best pieces of it's predecessor with it's classics. To my ears, this is pure joy to hear and from the opener "Tundra Leach" via the title track to the superb closer "The Wyoming Distance", it is great from start to finish. My only complaint is that there might not be any song that sticks out from the pack. But who can really complain when Gylve and Ted delivers one riff after another that just screams metal? Well, I get it if you complain but I don't. That's the whole ordeal if you know what I mean...

2016-10-06

My Dying Bride - From Inferior to Prime: 12-10

This is my very personal From Inferior to Prime 12-10 feautring the uncrowned kings of all things tragic and miserable. I will list all proper full-lengths of My Dying Bride - that's 12 at the time these lines are written. I don't count "Evinta" as a proper full-length since it is more of an experiment. Naturally, the same rule applies to the two "Meisterwerks", "Trinity", EP's, demo etc.
Here's my personal ode to making miserable music.

#12. 34.788%...Complete (1998)

1. The Whore, The Cook And The Mother
2. The Stance Of Evander Sinque
3. Der Uberlebende
4. Heroin Chic
5. Apocalypse Woman
6. Base Level Erotica
7. Under Your Wings And Into Your Arms














I guess it's no surprise that I choose the experimental oddity that "34.788%..Complete" is, as my least favourite MDB-album. The band was going through some line-up changes at the time and the abscence of original drummer Rick Miah and long-time violinist/keyboardist Martin Powell is sorely missed on this album. But that doesn't mean that the album sounds dull in any way. On the contrary, it is a weird thing where no song sounds alike and where very few traces can be found of either the band's past nor it's future. Musically, it is still metal and it you can hear who's behind the microphone, so it's more the lack of violins and the lack of depressive lyrics that are the biggest change. There are hints of doom- and gothic metal here and there but the overall sound is hard to describe in "regular" genres so to speak. While not a bad album per se, it is easily the least emotional MDB has ever done, thus rending it so far from the rest of the band's discography. Some tracks, such as "The Stance of Evander Sinque", "Der Uberlebende" and "Apocalypse Woman" are interesting to hear from time to time but I cannot remember the last time I managed to sit through the entire album.

On an interesting sidenote, the only track that the band regularly has played live from this album is also the least interesting one; "Under Your Wings and Into Your Arms". It is a total waste of time and the one song from this album that I cannot find anything interesting at all about. It's an ok album but it's so far removed from what the band excels at - making miserable music.




#11. The Light At the End of the World (1999)

1. She Is The Dark
2. Edenbeast
3. The Night He Died
4. The Light At The End Of The World
5. The Fever Sea
6. Into The Lake Of Ghosts
7. The Isis Script
8. Christliar
9. Sear Me III














I vividly recall how the band praised this album before it was released and that they've upped the ante and gone back to their roots after the fan-backlash that "34.788%...Complete" was. The growls made their return for the first time since 1994 and we were promised dread, despair and doom. Is that what we got then?

Nah, not really.

For you see, while the songs are (mostly) long doom-metal songs, something is lacking in the song-writing department. I sincerly think this has to do with the fact that guitarist Calvin Robertshaw left MDB shortly after the previous album to work as the band's manager (if I am not mistaken). Anywho, the band certainly tries to find their old formula again but it just doesn't work properly. "She Is the Dark", the title track and "Into the Lake of Ghosts" almost gets there but most of the songs just drag along without any proper direction. This is especially true when it comes to the two songs "Edenbeast" and "Christliar" that just sound like forced attempts at playing doom metal and a far cry from what the band is capable of. Aaron Stainthorpe's growls are also very different from the band's past works and it sounds weaker and less inspired. "The Fever Sea" is an ok attempt at sounding death metal but comes off as quite dull and the less said about the truly awful song "The Night He Died" - the better.

In conclusion, "The Light At the End of the World" is not a bad album (none of them are) either but it does sound dull at some points, ok at other and sometimes forced. It was the first doom/gothic-metal album by the band when they only used keyboards and no violins and sometimes it feels like they are unsure of what to do with the keys, where ex-violinist/keyboardist Martin likely would've come up with some great violin-parts. Shame.




#10. As the Flower Withers (1992)

1. Silent Dance
2. Sear Me
3. The Forever People
4. The Bitterness And The Bereavement
5. Vast Choirs
6. The Return Of The Beautiful
7. Erotic Literature















I guess many of you readers feel it's a shame that I have the band's iconic debut-album so low on my list but again, this has nothing to do with the fact that it's bad or anything. It's just that MDB have released so many other good albums that their humble beginnings of doom just falls behind. After all, the band were young and inexperienced when they entered the fabled Academy studios for the first time to record "As the Flower Withers".

MDB 1992: Ade, Rick, Andrew, Aaron & Calvin
And to be honest, this album is most definitely a death/doom-metal album with very little gothic themes and 99% growled vocals as opposed to, let's say the rest of the band's discography. That makes the album stand out very much and one can hear that they hadn't discovered the true MDB-formula yet - that was something yet to come. Here we have a boring intro, a "classic" tune in "Sear Me" - which is more of an interesting curiousity rather than a great song, then follows MDB's most overrated track ever; the incredibly blatant death-metal failure that is "The Forever People". And then the album really grows with the two epics "The Bitterness and the Bereavement" and "The Return of the Beautiful" with my favourite song off the album placed inbetween; "Vast Choirs" - great and classic doom-metal songs all three of them. Closer "Erotic Literature" is nothing one should care about.

And that's that. Not much else to say than I've already stated; it is a vastly different album compared to the rest of the band's discography and I like it for what it is; a very youthful death/doom-metal album from one of my all-time favourite bands.

My Dying Bride From Inferior to Prime: 9-7
My Dying Bride From Inferior to Prime: 6-4
My Dying Bride From Inferior to Prime: 3-1

2016-09-22

Battle Monument: Metallica - Ride the Lightning vs Master of Puppets

Band: Metallica
Album: "Ride the Lightning" vs "Master of Puppets"
Style: Thrash metal/heavy metal
Release date: 1984-07-27 and 1986-02-21
Origin: USA

Tracklist:
1. Fight Fire with Fire                   1. Battery
2. Ride the Lightning                    2. Master of Puppets
3. For Whom the Bells Tolls       3. The Thing That Should Not Be
4. Fade to Black                              4. Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
5. Trapped Under Ice                    5. Disposable Heroes
6. Escape                                          6. Leper Messiah
7. Creeping Death                          7. Damage Inc.
8. The Call of Ktulu                       8. Orion

Introduction:
Today, I will be doing a bit of a different Monument-section. You see, I wanted to write something on Metallica and thought whether I should choose Lightning or Puppets as a Monument. But it seemed so dull and predictable and that's when I realized I could compare the two instead. After all, why shouldn't I? Both records have 8 songs and the track order is also very similar to each other. Astute readers may already noticed that I've switched places between "Damage Inc." and "Orion" and the reason for that is obviously that I want to compare as similar songs as possible. Seeing that "Orion" and "The Call of Ktulu" are the instrumental ones this only seemed natural. On a sidenote, I've always felt that "Damage Inc." and "Orion" should have switched places when it was time to release Puppets. Oh, well...

The band that everyone seems to love to hate these days (at least if you're a devout follower of Blabbermouth as I am) was once a universally acclaimed band that could do no wrong. It is difficult to comprehend in this day and age, but there was a time before "St.Anger", "Lulu", failed movie projects and dreadful symphonies when Metallica more or less ruled the metal-universe. And before that, the band was a bunch of teenagers that tried to play as fast as possible which they showed with their debut album "Kill 'Em All" (1983). After that followed what most people seem to hail as the band's best albums; "Ride the Lightning" in 1984 and "Master of Puppets" in 1986. And it seems that the most common belief is that the crowning masterpiece of the band's career is the latter album. I am here to uncover why that is and whether I agree or not.
So without further ado, I say let the unholy battle commence!

Album covers:
 The covers wont be included in the final score, because that would be unfair as fuck if you know what I mean. They're both kinda similar and one doesn't need to be Einstein to understand that they were made in the 80's. Both covers fits it's respective title and overall feel of the album so they're both equally good. But there's really nothing that sticks out and neither had any big impact on me as a kid. In other words - quite the opposite when compared to anything by Iron Maiden during the same era.
RATING:
6.5/10


1. Fight Fire with Fire vs Battery
Fast opening tracks, both beginning with acoustic guitars. If we I we're to rate them on the intro alone, "Battery" would easily win. It also the most "epic" of the two tracks whereas "Fight Fire with Fire" is more straight-forward and to the point. As an opener "Fight Fire with Fire" wins for me with it's raw fury. Also, I've never understood what is so good with "Battery"? Sure, the riffing is okay but the verses become tedious so fast with what James almost sounding like he's singing a nursery-rhyme. I fucking hate that. In my opinion, "Battery" is one of the most overrated songs in the band's discography and it has nothing to compete with if we're talking the third counterpart-song that is "Blackened". Also, there's no doubt that "We all shall die!" lyrically beats "Cannot kill the family, battery is found in me" by a mile or so.
WINNER:
Fight Fire with Fire


2. Ride the Lightning vs Master of Puppets
In my opinion, one of the best songs that Metallica has ever done is "Master of Puppets". It is an epic track with lots of twists and turns, amazing verses and an equally effective chorus. The interlude is also well written and it never feels as long as it actually is. The song "Ride the Lightning" has absolutely nothing to compete with when up against this monster. The '84 title track has one of the dullest choruses Metallica has ever written and when I listen to the song right now, I only really like the bridge-part where James screams "Someone help me..." etc. Easy win.
WINNER:
Master of Puppets


3. For Whom the Bell Tolls vs The Thing That Should Not Be
"For Whom the Bell Tolls" is the bass-driven monster of a song that made Clifford Lee Burton a well-known name in metal-circles. It is a mid-tempo beast that features some genuinely good songwriting, great vocals from James and bone-chilling lyrics about a man facing his death.
"The Thing That Should Not Be" is also a mid-tempo song and the lyrics are quite cool I guess since they're from H.P. Lovecraft. But that's where the comparisons ends. The latter song is so damn dull it makes it's 6:37 minutes seem like an eternity. Heavy? Yes, slightly but that doesen't help when the verses go nowhere and the chorus makes me yawn. Somewhere in the song, there are traces of what could've really been a great song but to be honest, the entire thing just feels like lazy songwriting compared to so much else we've heard with Metallica. They would do a similar thing two years later with the dreadfully boring "Eye of the Beholder".
WINNER:
For Whom the Bell Tolls


4. Fade to Black vs Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
This is actually the first song-battle where things become really difficult. Both songs are semi-ballads with lots of acoustic guitars and mellow verses. "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" has a chorus that is slowly being built up to and then goes all heavy. "Fade to Black" lacks a proper chorus but has a part that almost could be a chorus that also have slowly been built up to prior. I can't help but feel that "Fade to Black" feels a bit more "epic" even though they're quite similar in length and let's not forget the amazing ending to "Welcome Home (Sanitarium)" starting from the part where James sings "Fear of living on...". That part alone is fucking amazing!
All in all, both songs are great and even though they're similar to one another they manage to be different as well. If I was forced to choose - which I am right now - I'll go with "Fade to Black" since it is amazing from start to finish, whereas the other one is just "great" from beginning to middle - then it becomes amazing.
So far, it's 3-1 for the '84-record and things look grim for "Master of Puppets".
WINNER:
Fade to Black


5. Trapped Under Ice vs Disposable Heroes
Ouch, this is another difficult one. "Trapped Under Ice" is a thrash-metal anthem on it's own merits and even though I hate the guitar-solo in the beginning, the verses are ace, the chorus is stellar, the bridge is great and Lars' drumming is some of the best during his entire career. On the other side of the fence we have "Disposable Heroes", a song that is twice as long, much more epic, more twists and turns and arguably more interesting lyrics. If I had a hard time choosing a winner in battle #4 - it is nothing compared to what I had this time. Ultimately, the victory goes to "Disposable Heroes", but it is by the slightest margin.
WINNER:
Disposable Heroes


6. Escape vs Leper Messiah
Once more a tough battle ahead. This time it's due to the fact that we are arguably dealing with the least good songs on each album. Everyone knows Metallica wrote "Escape" as a potential radio-hit but nothing ever became of it. The song is sort of fast mid-tempo I guess which sounds weird but actually makes sense if you listen to it. There is nothing wrong with the verses whatsoever and I like the pacing. The chorus is a bit cringe-worthy though and I totally get why this song recieves so little love from both fans and the band. But the part with "See them try to bring the hammer down..." is cool as fuck!
On the other hand, "Leper Messiah" has no excuses as it wasn't written to please a wider audience. It is not a very exciting song but it isn't bad either. It's a cool mid-tempo verse with a boring pre-chorus and a chorus that is ok. And as usual, the song really picks up a lot when it's time for the bridge. It's weird that I find so many Metallica-songs that I consider quite "weak" have so many damn good bridges which just makes the hair on my arms stand straight up. Both songs are ok - nothing more, nothing less - but it would be fault by default if I didn't give the victory to "Leper Messiah".
WINNER:
Leper Messiah


7. Creeping Death vs Damage Inc.
Let's just get it over with ok? "Damage Inc." is a good song. A fast thrasher that has nothing to be ashamed for. It's lyrics might not be the best penned down by Hetfield but who cares when a song is this good! BUT... "Creeping Death" is the best song ever written by Metallica. Period. Amazing verses, amazing choruses and perhaps the best bridge I've ever heard in my life. End of story.
WINNER:
Creeping Death


8. The Call of Ktulu vs Orion
So, we're at the final battle and the two instrumental songs. The score is 4-3 to "Ride the Lightning" so "Orion" really has to win this if "Master of Puppets" shall remain the undisputed king. The tension is thicker than fog. Or not. Here we go

I rarely enjoy instrumental tracks whatsoever. The only two exceptions are tracks I've already ranted lots about on this blog earlier - namely "Perverse...Almost Religious" by Moonspell and "La Masquerade Infernale" by Arcturus. Both are short tracks, leaning heavy on keyboards and atmosphere alone. Both these Metallica-songs are long, droning tracks over 8 minutes each with just guitars, bass and drums. This cannot end well...

"The Call of Ktulu". It has a nice build-up and when the song goes heavy it's still sounding damn good! Then, nothing happens... After 2½ minutes I am already a bit bored and we still have more than 6 minutes to go. Kirk tries to do some fancy wah-wah stuff and Cliff also does what he can with his bass-wizardry but when the rythm goes on and on the same way for fucking forever - what little salvage is there left? The guitar solo in the middle of the song doesen't help either - I just want it to end.

"Orion" begins spooky as hell and I like that creeping feeling it evokes. When the heavy guitars begins, it sounds just like a verse to a regular song - such a shame that there are no vocals present. When something finally changes (after way too long) it is cool as fuck and I find myself nodding my head along to the music. Wouldn't you know it? Here comes Hammett with another boring guitar solo that tries to hide the fact that we've heard the same boring chugga-chugga verse from James for an eternity. Compared to "The Call of Ktulu" this one changes completely somewhere in the middle of the song and even though it's not the best thing I've heard from this band it is refreshing just to hear something new. But what in the holy hell are the lead guitars doing at 05.15!?? It sounds like Kirk is playing a lullaby or something. It is completely wrong for the song and just feels like he's playing what he's feeling at the moment. More soloing and more chugga-chugga. Sigh...

I am having a really hard time to pick a winner for this final battle and it's dissapointing that I had to end with the most boring parts from each records. Oh, well. After much consideration "The Call of Ktulu" somewhat unexpectedly wins. At least it is consistent and fits the album, unlike "Orion".
WINNER:
The Call of Ktulu


FINAL VERDICT:
Ride the Lightning 5 - 3 Master of Puppets


End ramblings:
And that means that "Ride the Lightning" is our winner. When I first started to write at the top of this blog-post, I was certain that this would be case. Then I started writing and the score became 4-4 as I thought "Orion" would win easily over "The Call of Ktulu" which wasn't the case at all (I hadn't heard either song in a long time mind you). On a sidenote, I find "To Live is to Die" to be Metallica's strongest instrumental track. Also, I first had "Trapped Under Ice" as a victor over "Disposable Heroes" but when I re-visited the latter song I realized how much stronger it is.

However, it was extremely tight between the two albums and I think they're both Monuments and worthy of their places in metal history. As I mentioned in the beginning, both albums are very similar but I get why "Master of Puppets" is hailed as the better of the two. Hetfield's vocals are stronger, all the instruments are tighter, the songs are more complex and the production is vastly superior. But sometimes I feel like the complexity goes too far (hello "Orion"!) and I love the simplicity of "Fight Fire With Fire". Furthermore, I like the crudeness of Hetfield's voice on "Ride the Lightning", I like how the playing sometimes isn't top notch (though mostly it is) and I find the slightly "colder" production fits the album like a glove. But above all, it has so many good moments on so many songs. If I were to pick stand-out moments on each album (I wont though, since we would be here all day) - I am certain that "Ride the Lightning" would win easily. For me that is. You're free to think that "Master of Puppets" is the better of the two. But you're wrong.

"Crystallized as I lay here and rest

Eyes of glass stare directly at death

From deep sleep I have broken away

No one knows, no one hears what I say"

2016-09-21

Retro review: Therion - A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming (1997)

Band: Therion
Album: "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming"
Style: Symphonic/Gothic Metal
Release date: 1997-05-16
Origin: Sweden

Tracklist:
1. In Remembrance
2. Black Fairy
3. Fly To The Rainbow (Scorpions cover)
4. Children Of The Damned (Iron Maiden cover)
5. Under Jolly Roger (Running Wild cover)
6. Symphony Of The Dead (new version)
7. Here Come The Tears (Judas Priest cover)
8. Enter Transcendental Sleep
9. The Quiet Desert
10. Down The Qliphothic Tunnel
11. Up To Netzach/Floating Back
12. The Fall Into Eclipse
13. Enter Transcendental Sleep
14. The Gates Of A'arab Zaraq Are Open
15. The Quiet Desert
16. Down The Qliphothic Tunnel
17. Up To Netzach
18. Floating Back

Therion is a band that I keep coming back to on this blog. I don't know if it's because of the backlash from angry fans I recieved after my review of their cover album in french or if it's because I have a sort of love-hate relationship with the band. Whatever the case might be, here's what I have to say about the band's eclectic "sort-of-a-compilation-album-but-not-really-anyway" - the oddity that is "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming".

During the late summer/early autumn of 1996, a friend of mine introduced Therion to me by playing the band's break through-album "Theli". I was 15 years old and never before had I heard heavy metal combined with keyboards and choirs the way said album presented. I fell in love with the mysterious world the band seemed to invoke and soon picked up "Theli"s predecessor "Lepaca Kliffoth" (1995) which during the years grew into becoming my all-time favourite album from the band. Anyway, the success of "Theli" saw the band touring for the album quite alot and the band probably felt pressure to follow up the success with something quite fast. Either that, or the record company Nuclear Blast smelt easy profit and forced the band to release something. In either case, the result became this weird anomality and as a blind fan-boy, I of course bought "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" blindly and probably looked like a big question-mark after the initial listen.

The first two tracks are leftovers from the "Theli"-recording sessions and I totally get why they we're left out of the final product. Both songs suffer a great deal in the song-writing department, they're less symphonic than the songs on the album and does not utilize any choirs whatsoever. The good parts are to be found in the vocal-delivery; both Dan "I'm-in-every-band" Swanö's baritones and Piotr Wawrzeniuk's underrated drunken-weirdo vocals fits like a smelly glove. Other than that, both "In Remembrance" and "Black Fairy" are underwhelming and sleep-inducing gothic doom metal songs that goes absolutely nowhere.

Next up, we have the covers. I've stated in a previous post about how the Scorpions-cover made me discover that band and although Therion's version comes nowhere near the brilliance of ze Germans, it is still a good effort. Then there's a cover of Iron Maiden's classic "Children of the Damned" and it's basically the same thing with this one. This version follows the original closely so it's a good effort there but it's fucking Bruce Dickinson that sings on Maiden's version which is why this version is inferior and pointless in the end. "Under Jolly Roger" actually manages to be a bit more interesting than the original, much thanks to the production and the much fitting vocals of Tobbe Sidegård (ex-Necrophobic). Since I am not a fan of Judas Priest, I haven't heard the original version of "Here Comes the Tears" so the only thing I have to say about it is that it is a very boring song with a lot of repetition towards the end. For some unholy reason unanswered, Therion decided to place an instrumental and shortened version of "Symphony of the Dead" from their second album "Beyond Sanctorum" (1992) between the Running Wild-cover and the Judas Priest-cover. Let me just say that the engima as to why they decided to do so is more interesting than the song...

...and now we have arrived at track 8 and this is where the truly bizarre things begin. Somehow, somewhere, some "artist" friend of Therion head-honcho Christoffer Johnsson decided to film and "direct" the most amateurish "avantgarde art-movie" I have ever witnessed. Notice that I use quotation-marks around some of the words here - that is because the entire thing I so questionable as to what "The Golden Embrace" (as the movie is called) really wants to be. Now I have seen the film and trust me when I say that you need your embarrassament-pillow close by. This guy anyhow convinced Christoffer to write the music for the movie and he of course obliged. So from what I understand, tracks 13-18 here are the original "movie-themes" and track 8-12 are the Therion-versions of some (not all) of these songs. That alone is questionable and weird but that's just how it is. If some of you are interested in enduring a long period of torture and decides to go and find this profound piece of shit-film, the first thing you'll notice is that the music doesn't fit with the images on your screen whatsoever. I'm assuming Christoffer had no idea what to expect from the movie and the guy who filmed it probably just wanted music he could use for free. The result is cringe-worthy to say the least. Like, when the camera slowly pans around a forest, one of the music-tracks come to an end and a new, very up-tempo song begins and then the movie decides to cut to a new frame. I seriously doubt this was done on purpose as I feel the "director" really just had no clue to what the hell he was doing.

I've rambled on enough about the film now. The music to the film itself (track 13-18) is not bad per se, it's just that it quickly becomes tedious background music and the keyboards and choirs sounds cheap and computerized. Also there are no vocals, apart from some "la-la's" and "oh-oh's". The Therion-versions of these songs (track 8-12) are basically the same with just some added guitars, bass and drums that really feels like they don't belong there. This is especially true when one listens to this album after just hearing "Theli" - the difference in quality is astoundishing.

No, "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" reeks as a rotten product of the greedy Germans over at Nuclear Blast whom scented more money from the success-wave of "Theli". Do yourself a favour and avoid this pile of dog-turd at all costs. Oh, and I forgot one thing; that cover is one of the worse Photoshop-vomits that I've ever witnessed.

Do you feel like you still need this album anyway? Contact me here and I'll list more reasons why you shouldn't.

2016-09-02

Metal Monument: Scorpions - Fly to the Rainbow (1974)


Band: Scorpions
Album: "Fly to the Rainbow"
Style: Heavy metal/Hard rock
Release date: 1974-10-07
Origin: Germany

Tracklist:
1. Speedy's Coming
2. They Need a Million
3. Drifting Sun
4. Fly People Fly
5. This is My Song
6. Far Away
7. Fly to the Rainbow









Introduction:
Ah, Therion. Not only responsible for giving Metal Monuments the most traffic ever with their agitated fan-outburst for my review of "Les Fleurs Du Mal" in 2012 (even composer/guitarist Christoffer Johnsson wrote some defensive words in the comment-section), but also for introducing me to Scorpions of the 70's with their cover of "Fly to the Rainbow" on their weird album "A´Arab Zaraq Lucid Dreaming" (which I really should do a retro-review of some day) back in 1997. Said cover was the first version of a Scorpions-song that I heard that wasn't a ballad about wanting celestial creatures, a ballad about winds or an 80's "hardrock-song" about rocking like a weather phenomenon. That Therion-cover got me so interested in how this (in most metal-circles) ridiculed German band sounded before they got all huge and commercialized. I picked up "Fly to the Rainbow" and, besides the title track, wasn't prepared at all for what I was in for.

What I got was not just a better version than the one Therion recorded. No, I got an album full of fantastic songwriting, memorable songs and a perfect mix of soft moments and more aggressive outbursts. "Fly to the Rainbow" became my introduction into the world of Scorpions and I soon discovered that the band made three fantastic albums after this one. But for now, let's just focus on these seven songs of German craftmanship (and it's unholy cover).

Album cover:
And we're off to the worst start ever when it comes to what I would like to call a metal monument. Scorpions aren't exactly known for having good album covers. On the contrary, they're known for some of the most repulsive covers ever. If you've ever seen the original cover to "Virgin Killer" (1976) or "Lovedrive" (1979) you know what I mean.
"Fly to the Rainbow" isn't repulsive like those two, it is just horrificly ugly-looking. I was hoping there would be something, a small detail or whatever, that I would find redeeming on this monstrostity of a cover. But there isn't. The entire picture just reeks: A boring concept, disgusting colours, bad execution and a motif that leaves so much to be desired. To make things even worse, the back of the album sleeve shows the band members names right on the ass of the airplane-weirdo.
So that's the cover then. One can only hope that things will improve from here on.
RATING:
0/10


1. Speedy's Coming (03.33)
Groovy heavy metal. Yes, it sounds very 70's and quite dated. But in a good way though. The production is top notch for it's time and each and every instrument can be heard clearly. I especially like bassist Francis Buchholz's sound. Guitar-mastermind Uli Jon Roth also get a brief time to shine in this short rocker. Vocalist Klaus Meine sounds a bit more aggressive on this song and not as emotional as he does on the rest of the album. The lyrics are as retarded as they usually are when it comes to Scorpions with lines such as "You like Alice Cooper, you like Ringo Starr, you like David Bowie and friends" Just...wow. As an opener, "Speedy's Coming" does the job perfectly as it's fairly short, doesn't loose tempo and has a memorable chorus. A nice opening but not one of the band's best.
RATING:
8/10


2. They Need a Million (04.50)
Oh my fucking god how I simply love those acoustic guitars in the beginning! Uli Jon Roth for president now! And compared to the previous song, Klaus sings with pure passion - the man surely has a very unique voice. When the intro is over, the song has a wonderful midtempo-pace with amazingly tight, almost march-like drums. Another solo from Roth, where the cozy 70's-synthesizers keeps up with his playing. Lyrically, we're still in moron's land: "I feel fine though I have eyes
To see my world and all it skits on ice". The band makes wonderful music but lyrically, there not exactly top-notch. It's more or less random words thrown together, but who cares when the music sends shivers down your spine and make the hair on your arms raise, right?
RATING:
9.5/10

3. Drifting Sun (07.40)
Now this is an oddity. The main vocals are handled by Uli Jon Roth and the man sure does have a ...uhm... strange voice I guess? Far away from the intense emotion of Meine's but still not bad. Well, he sound a bit weird to say the least, but it somehow works anyway.
Musically, this song is more classic 70's prog-like rock compared to the majority of material on "Fly to the Rainbow". It has a fairly lengthy part in the middle of the song which is very proggy, but without getting tiring on the ears, complete with weird effects on Roth's vocals. I like it, but it's a bit too bloated for it's own good.
RATING:
7.5/10

4. Fly People Fly (05.02)
To begin a song with a guitar solo is to tread a very dangerous road. But since it's Roth, it works. The man would never do a solo half-hearted. When Meine starts to sing, it's a joy for the ears, especially with the previous song in mind.
The song is a fairly standard semi-ballad that one easily could hold a lighter in the air to. But it's highly contagious chorus - which for once doesn't have dreadful lyrics, albeit a bit corny. All in all - it's a very good song with great performances.
RATING:
8.5/10

5. This is My Song (04.14)
I love the fact that the song begins with quite a long fade in. The way your ears are introduced to what just might be the best guitar melody ever left my jaw wide open the first time I heard it. After that comes a wonderful verse where the bass really stands out. The lyrics might be simple, but they're far from cringe-worthy and some of the best on this album.
I remembered when I heard the chorus for the first time in life, then I just capitulated. I know when I hear a great song and I cannot fathom how this isn't up there with the band's most known songs. It is so catchy that it should have been all over the radios in 1974. But alas, people are idiots and most will never hear this incredible song. The only minor complaint I have is that I find it too short, but that wont stop me from giving out a full score!
"Forever love everyday!"
RATING:
10/10

6. Far Away (05.39)
Again, we begin a song with acoustic guitars, this time with Meine going all "do-do-do, di-di-di". Well, it's better than some of their other lyrics that's for sure. The guitar-melodies are good but not as good as on "They Need a Million" and it also drags out a bit too long in my opinion. When the song finally errupts into one of Roth's less memorable guitar solos, it has been more than 2 minutes already on this 05.39-track. But again, we're in catchy-town and the vocal-melody works so well together with the guitars. The saddest thing about this song is that when there's roughly 50 seconds worth of music left, it changes completely and starts to build up to something. It sounds like a completely different song and one wonders what will happen. Well, the bloody thing just fades out! What should have been an amazing intro to some other song was in fact an outro to a song that's kinda bland compared to the rest of the songs here. We have a saying for this in Sweden: "Snuvad på konfekten".
RATING:
7/10

7. Fly to the Rainbow (09.32)
Wait a minute, the Therionized version I had heard doesn't start like this at all, what's this all about? Spanish guitars again, equally wonderful as those on "They Need a Million" - Uli Jon Roth does this so goddamn good. And then another guitar melody that is to die for. Meine's vocals is spot on and works so well in symbiosis with the guitars. When this "intro" is over is when the actual song begins and I can only assume that no guitarist in Therion at the time dared to try copying what Roth does here. I'm no guitar player but I totally get why. The song is about a 1000 times better than the version that I sort of enjoyed with Therion and that main melody is played to perfection by Roth. As the case was on "This is My Song", the lyrics here a quite simple but they never become as stupid as they do on the first two songs.
After about 5 minutes, the song slows down as Roth plays a very mellow solo as a dreamlike synthesizer dominates the background. Uli himself takes over the vocals in a long speech that is so damn 70's one cannot help but smile. After the speech is over, this epic concludes with a lengthy solo that is spot on. One of the best damn songs I've ever heard and the rating is a given.
RATING:
10/10

End rating:
Ok, so the entire album might not be a masterpiece but it's not particularly uneven either. All the songs are good and there's a flow whilst listenting to it in it's entirety. I'm not very much into 70's-rock otherwise, but those early Scorpions-albums are pure gold to my ears. I seldom care that much about guitar solos at all when I listen to music, but there are so many moments on "Fly to the Rainbow" when I'm absolutely blown away by Roth's craftmanship. The man is also a genius when it comes to infectious melodies. That, in combination with one of the best bass-players I've heard in heavy metal - the very underappreciated Francis Buchholz - makes this album such a magnificent opus in it's own. And let's not forget about the emotional vocal-deliveries from Meine either.
So if you're one of those people that has only heard songs such as "Wind of Change", "Send Me an Angel", "Rock You Like a Hurricane" or "Still Loving You" - forget about those! You have no idea what you're missing if you leave this album unheard based upon the 80's/90's-version of the band.
Oh, and thank you Therion. Without your version of the title track, I might never have listened to this album at all.
TOTAL SCORE:
8.5/10
"I lived in magic solitude,
With cloudy looking mountains,
The lake made out of crystal raindrops.
Run through space, 2000 years ago,
I've seen the giant city of atlantis,
Sinking into an eternal wave of darkness.
Shhh."

2016-09-01

Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 3-1

I was quite intrigued and later inspired by AMG's excellent "From Worst to Best"-section he did with Iron Maiden, that I decided to the very same with some of the bands who's discography I am familiar with (more so than Maiden anyway). So this is my extremly personal "From Inferior to Prime" (since I assumed AMG copyrighted that other sentence. Anyway, I'm not the least ashamed to borrow stuff this blantantly. Also, I now linked to the guy's site twice, so he should actually be glad.

This is my personal From Inferior to Prime 3-1 feautring the pride of Portugal. 

#3. Extinct (2015)

1. Until We are no More (Breathe)
2. Extinct
3. Medusalem
4. Domina
5. The Last of Us
6. Malignia
7. Funeral Bloom
8. A Dying Breed
9. The Future Iis Dark
10. La Baphomette












This album was graced with the fourth spot on my top-list of 2015 and I actually don't know what else to say apart from what I already said:
This is essentially a pop-album written with distorted guitars and growls in mind, and what a masterstroke that was. The album flows along like a river and it is easy to see (and hear) that the band actually wrote songs with an entire album in mind, instead of just writing one or two songs and then fillers for the rest of the album.

Not much has changed since I wrote those lines about half a year ago and I still think that "Extinct" is a damn fine album and a huge leap forward since the tedious "Alpha Noir/Omega White". I do wish the band would take more risks in the future and perhaps dazzle us with a bit more variated song writing instead of the verse/chorus/verse-formula. I totally get why this album has that formula and like I said, this makes the album flow nicely. But remember when the band wrote unexpected twists and turns in their music? Remember songs such as "Tenebrarum Oratorium I", "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)", "Vampiria", "An Erotic Alchemy", "Opium", "Abysmo" and "Magdalene"? Not a single chorus to be found on any of those and they're all amazing songs.



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#2. Sin/Pecado (1998)


1. Slow Down
2. Handmade God
3. 2econd Skin
4. abYsmo
5. Flesh
6. Magdalene
7. Vulture Culture (Gloria Domini)
8. Eurotica
9. Mute
10. deKadance
11. Let the Children Cum To Me...
12. The Hanged Man
13. 13









Fresh off from the success of "Irreligious" (1996), Moonspell probably felt that they stood before a lot of choices. Continue along the path they set with "Wolfheart" (1995) and explored further on "Irreligious"? Or do something different alltogether? The answer was the latter and even though I sometimes mourn this decision and wish they would have made Irreligious part II, the result wasn't bad at all. In fact, it was better than "Irreligious".

I assume that placing this album as my #2 favourite Moonspell-album is the biggest "shocker" on this list. It was their first album that barely had any growls at all (just a small part on "2econd Skin"), a much slower tempo, a lot less "black" and lot more "gothic" in the music overall. Still, what "Sin/Pecado" lacks in aggression, it gains from production-values, atmosphere and warmth. And while some songs such as "Handmade God", "Magdalene" and "Mute" follows a quite "safe" path in the song-writing department this does not mean less quality or more pop-like. OK, sometimes it borders on pop-music but it is done with so much confidence and skill that one seldom cares. When they do go into more diverse territories on songs like "Vulture Culture", "Dekadance", "Let the Children Cum to Me..." it's a wonder for the ears.

I really enjoy "Sin/Pecado" for what it is. Maybe I am a bit biased since I discovered and started listen to the band right after the release of "Irreligious", meaning I have listened to this album a lot and have fond memories from it. Even if that's the case, this is a great album that no Moonspell-fan should shun because of it's more "mellow" direction. Though nowhere near threatening the #1-spot in Moonspell's discography, it is an outstanding acchievement and an album that has no problems living up to the band's name.



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#1. Wolfheart (1995)

1. Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)
2. Love Crimes
3. ...Of Dream and Drama (Midnight Ride)
4. Lua D'Inverno
5. Trebraruna
6. Vampiria
7. An Erotic Alchemy
8. Alma Mater
9. Ataegina

You all saw it coming I suppose. The debut album from Moonspell is (and will probably always be) their crowning jewel. The sad part is that they will probably never manage to make something like this again. I guess the combination of youth and timing was what this album needed in the first place. It is an outstanding achievement that it is their debut album and that there's not one lackluster moment on the entire album. From the epic opener "Wolfshade (A Werewolf Masquerade)" to the bonus track "Ataegina" this album is the perfect combination of black- doom- goth- and folk-metal. It is as simple as that.

If you think that I didn't go deep enough on the details, rest assured that I will do something more in-depth on this album in the future - that is a promise.

So here ends my first From Inferior to Prime-section. Next up in this section will either be My Dying Bride, Tiamat or Borknagar. I'm also tempted of doing something on Metallica, which I (to my recollection) never wrote anything about on this blog.


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Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 12-10
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 9-7
Moonspell From Inferior to Prime: 6-4