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Music DVD/CD Review: Alter Bridge, Voivod, Pagan Metal, Marillion, and W.A.S.P.

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As my pile of review DVDs persist, I thought it might be apt to do another collection for your giving needs. I am sure there is something in this lot to satisfy any hard rocker in your life.

Alter Bridge: Live from Amsterdam

I took some shtick for being rather harsh on the over-rated Creed last week. In the review I said I was looking forward to seeing this live DVD from Alter Bridge as I thought they would better deliver the goods. After viewing it, I feel vindicated. Now how is that possible considering Alter Bridge is made up of one half of the current Creed and 2/3rds of the original version?

It's down to front-men, ladies and gentlemen, Myles Kennedy is by far better than the Creed singer. He has a better voice, stage presence and can play as well as he can sing. It's no wonder the guy was rumored to be part of the Robert Plant-free Led Zeppelin and has appeared to be considered to replace Scott Weiland in Velvet Revolver, maybe even Tyler in Aerosmith. The guy has a four-octave range and just oozes personality like a proper front-man.

Rather than having a couple of decent tracks, everything on here just bleeds class and talent. This is not post-grunge, it's just proper hard rock done very well by a great band. The DVD has no extras, but the gig is long and good enough to satisfy your Alter Bridge fix.

This is a great release and well worth the investment whether you are a die-hard Alter Bridge fan or just a hard rock fan looking to see what all the fuss is about.

Voivod: Tatsumaki

This is a celebration of the early albums from the band in tribute to Piggy. Piggy died having his wish to play Japan unfulfilled; this gig is to make up for that. Interestingly, sometime Voivod bassist Jason Newsted, is not on hand, instead their original bassist Away has resumed his role. The gig was filmed in Japan in 2009 to a packed club of enthusiastic Voivod fans.

For a change there is some useful extras including an interesting interview with Dave Grohl about his love for the band. Dave worked with Away on his Probot project and has been a long time fan of the band. There are three tracks recorded live in Quebec this year to round out the bonus bits. Not that you really need anything else besides the original gig. Voivod can still deliver some uber-clever, heavy music that is as much King Crimson as it is Venom.

If you are a Voivod fan you will no doubt want this release. The sound is great, the band is on top form and the camera work is apt. This Voivod release is just what you would expect from such a quality band. They may be a bit of muso/metal trainspotter in-the-know band, but there is a reason they are so beloved. Check out this DVD and get a bit of a taste of why that is the case.

Pagan Metal: A Documentary

This is a two hour long documentary on the emerging scene that is “pagan metal” with some rather interesting interviews with purveyors of the various types of pagan/folk metal. There are interviews with bands from Finland to Ireland. Some might be fascinated to hear that many people involved in this aren’t necessarily keen or understand why they are lumped in with rest of the bands of genre.

The key thing seems to be a band that is metal and includes various folk or “traditional” music elements from their country. Now many outside observers would have a hard time finding the “folk” element to some of these band’s music. While others like Flintroll made it fairly obvious. The interviewer asks both daft and clever questions. I especially enjoyed his questions about traditional instruments and whether or not they were used in the studio/on tour. Quite a few of these bands use local musicians to play the harder instruments and then replicate them via keyboards on the road. They do seem to be able to take some, like accordions and fiddles, on road with them.

Generally the interviews are fascinating and there is enough music interspersed to make the film and enjoyable one. You get a bit of sense of the parts of the world these people hail from. With any luck this documentary might get more people interested in the genre. These bands have made an effort to do something different with metal only to be rewarded with success in their native lands and beyond. .

CD Review

Marillion: Less is More

I thought it would be good to sneak in a wee CD review in this column. It's rather the opposite of most of what else is here. Marillion are a great progressive band in the mode of Genesis, and by that I mean they are quintessentially English. They just exude the English country-side from every pore. This is very stripped down, hence the name, and the band even touches their acoustic side. Steve Hogarth voice really rises to challenge and reminds everyone that he is a great vocalist perfectly suited to the band.

As with most of Marillion’s output this just secretes quality from the opening track to the end. To sweeten the pot, they include a couple of live tracks. So not only do you get a stellar album, there is a decent amount of tracks to keep the value for money.

It’s a wonderful collection of tracks that work nicely when you are in your mellow mood. Most rock band’s acoustic albums are for fans only, this one should expand Marillion’s fanbase. Acoustic albums for rock bands sometimes don’t work, this one is an exception. Enjoy the beauty that is Marillion stripped down. The perfect antidote to the chaos that is the holiday season.

WASP: Babylon

Blackie and company are back with one of their best releases since their peak. Their most solid release since The Headless Children and one that stands up to multiple listens. WASP can always manage one good track or two per album, but this one is pretty solid every track. It's nominally based around the four horsemen of the apocalypse, which is made fairly obvious by the cover. That said, Blackie has made sure that the songs work on their own as well as part of the package. They even manage to produce a decent cover of the Deep Purple classic “Burn,” Lawless and his band make it their own.

“Babylon’s Burning”, the title track, has got all the elements of a great WASP song. And there are nods on here to other great metal songs about this sort of thing like “Number of the Beast” by Iron Maiden. Lawless seems to be taking the baton from other bands who have handled the song and put his own take on it. There is an LA feel to the whole thing which is kind of fun. However, unlike many LA denizens, Blackie can get all introspective and get away with it.

If you have always had a soft spot for WASP, and who doesn’t, then this might be the release that brings you back to the band. A solid metal concept release that works as a whole and in parts.

That is your lot for the week, I hope there is something here for you or your giving needs. Stay safe and check out any live music that you can find.

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