Winter keeps threatening to show up here on the North East coast, good thing I have some good metal to keep me warm.
Ozzy Osbourne: God Bless
This is quite the Blu-ray release with the entire documentary plus a bunch of extras. The main feature really says nothing new that anyone following Ozzy’s colorful life has not heard a myriad of times. Think of it as an extended Behind the Music with the swearing kept in. Of course you have all sorts of metal luminaries and even Paul McCartney shows up to pay tribute to Black Sabbath’s Ozzy years. The sections of the movies are what you would expect. It contains his early days, with some touching scenes of him looking at old photographs and remembering. Then there is a chapter on his Sabbath years, his first family and then several about his post-Sabbath days. The bitterness in the voices of the children of his first wife is quite palpable and there is no holding back their anger. Daughter Kelly Osbourne is not exactly bitter-less in her observations of growing up with her addict father.
What is most missing from this whole package is the lack of music. We get snippets of his career in music, but it is mostly about the saga that is his personal life. Watching Ozzy warm-up his voice is amusing for sure. Instead of a live gig with “clean” Ozzy, we get a Q&A with Jack & Ozzy, eight deleted scenes and a bit about the Tribeca Film Festival. That is not to say this is not an enjoyable trip through the sordid life that is and was Ozzy. It makes it clear why scientists are studying the guy for his ability to survive all of what he has put his body through.
Can’t see much replay value but I can think of worst things to give as a stocking stuffer for your favorite Ozzy/Black Sabbath fan. Still, a keen heavy rocker is left wondering why vocal power-house Ronnie James Dio has popped his clogs while Ozzy is still around.
I had heard rumors this was a great return to form for Dave Mustaine and company. It rather wondered if it was hype or grounded in reality. Let’s just say the return of his partner on bass Dave Ellefson has given the band the proper kick up the arse. The fact that Mustaine seems to be channeling the tea party movement’s angst just adds to the attraction. I mean there is a track called “We the People” which seems to be a tea party rally put into music. Much of this album is what was best about his early albums, reinvented with a touch of post-millennial angst. It’s the angry observant Mustaine driven by the purpose of expressing the frustration we all feel.
Granted, there are a couple of tongue-in-cheek tracks like “Public Enemy Number 1” (which could easily have been recorded as an outlaw country song) the first single and “Deadly Nightshade”. The title track is a cracking bit of classic Megadeth. Mustaine, of course, picked a great time to release such a strong thrash metal masterpiece. His former band has just released a much-panned album Lulu with Lou Reed, which has infuriated their fans. While Metallica has released what their hordes of fans consider their worst album, Megadeth has released something that is entirely capable of holding place with Megadeth’s ’80s classics. When was the last time you heard of a Megadeth album without one stinker on the entire album? Yes, this release is indeed that good.
Mustaine has managed to get a bit of nostalgia flowing while releasing damn good tracks. Almost every track would fit easily onto Peace Sells… or of a similar vintage. Mustaine has managed to show all the neo-thrash bands that he is still king of the genre.
Riot: Immortal Soul
The opening track “Still Your Man” sounds like prime Iron Maiden in the late ’80s and that is not meant in a bad way at all. The next track “Riot” is pure New York attitude meddled into power metal music. It’s amusing that it has taken the band so long to write a song with the name of their band as its title. If Twisted Sister ever played power metal this is what their anthem would sound like. The screechy vocal style could have been irritating but it’s all in perfect proportion. This is a serious power metal release that can hold its own with anything released by the European purveyors of the genre. Riot and Iced Earth, both with new albums right now, are the American standard bearers of the genre. Riot seem to have this knack for fusing European power metal with the West Coast of the U.S.’s power thrash.
While this might not live up the much adored albums of their early career this is certainly an excellent release. The production is solid and the song-writing is excellent. Lead vocals take a bit of getting used to but for the most part they are measured. There is enough here to please old Riot fans and possible new converts. It’s really a good time to be a power metal fan isn’t it? Yet another release to grab a hold to while you are reeling from the latest release from Metallica. Riot are back doing what they do best.
Wizard: of Wariwulfs and Bloutvarwes
Oh boy, a band that mostly peddles power metal has gone on all “Twilight” on us. Well, not exactly. This is still heavy metal, just the subject matter is less epic battles and more supernatural beings. Now many metal bands have tried this particular brand of subject matter and made fools of themselves. Most of the time it’s because the band takes it far too seriously. This suffers from a bit of that, but not too much. The subject matter has obviously been beat to death by bands like Cradle of Filth and their ilk. So it would take quite a bit to raise this above the merely decent. There is nothing wrong with metal on here but it just does not really move the listener.
Much of the music is thrashy metal with the singer screaming daft lyrics like a fool. It has been done before, and far better is probably the most accurate feeling about this band. There is really nothing on here that the listener would find memorable or a stand-out track. It’s not bad. It is just not that great. It is really too bad as their last release Thor was quite the Nordic spectacle of metal. Unless you are a fan, you might want to skip this one.
Iced Earth: Dystopia
Shaffer’s band is back with a solid slab of American power metal. It is strong selection of angst filled goodness. A bit ironic that two such releases come within weeks of each other. The fact that Shaffer has often been compared to Megadeth’s leader Mustaine makes it all the more amusing. Both men have a singular vision in what they want from their output. That vision leads them down some dead-ends but there is never any wonder how they got there. There were fans who were not that keen on the band’s recent epic explorations of moments in American history.
The fact the band has been switching vocalists quite a bit has not helped either. The latest man on the vocals is Stu Block, formerly of melodic death metal band Into Eternity. The great thing about the guy is that his range suits the music on here quite well. The title track is quite the highlight and introduction to what is one show here. With any luck he sticks around as frontman for the band as they seem to have found someone who works well in the framework of the band.
All in all, this is an enjoyable release from the American power metal stalwarts and a consistently good record. Depending on what you think of the last few records, it’s either a return to a more classic sounding Iced Earth or a continuation of the epic musical journey of Shaffer.
Iron Savior: The Landing
First thing that struck me about this release is the song “Heart of a Hero,” which would not sound out of place on a Styx album of yore. Granted, it is one of the heavier songs, but still, it is pomp perfection. Then the band follows it with a hard rock party anthem in the form of “R U Ready” that could have been penned by the Scorpions pre-“Winds of Change”. The name checking of a myriad of classic rockers is a nice touch.
In short, this band seems to be stretching their wings a bit and not just sticking to the power metal template. As you would expect with this band’s releases, it is a solid collection of music that never diminishes in quality. Hell, they even pull off a decent power-balled in the form of “Before the Pain” that never dips in the naff.
Because of the influx of a bit more variety, this is quite an enjoyable listener. It does not, as is the case with some power metal releases, all blend together into some power metal cacophony. This is a strong release from the band which I have been enjoying quite a bit. The whole thing comes across as a solid release. While it might not be ground-breaking in any way, there is enough meat on them bones to make for an enjoyable listen.
Well that is your lot for this week, stay safe and rocking out there.Powered by Sidelines