I have another interesting set of reviews for you this week, with the highly vaunted return of two major acts producing mixed results. Overall, it's a pretty nice selection for you all.
Evanescence: Open Door
After reading various dire reports on this album before release, I was not sure what to expect. I lowered my expectations for this sequel to the huge hit that was their debut. With the departure of Ben Moody, this is very much an Amy Lee-fest and I think it suffers from it greatly. There are times when the band does not sound as together as it did on the debut CD and Amy's singing is more whingeing than it is melodic. It was clever to put the two best tracks up front, the rather good single "Call Me When You are Sober" and "Sweet Sacrifice."
Ms. Lee, alas, has used her personal problems too much on this album and one does get a bit tired of it by the end. It's not a rubbish album, but there is far better of this sort of thing out there in the form of Lacuna Coil and Within Temptation. Since Evanescence's first cracking debut, a lot of goth pop fans have discovered there is other fine material out there. Sophomore blues maybe, but this album does not really cut it completely in '06.
Kamelot: One Cold Winter's Night
Power metallers Kamelot are not shy about venturing into female goth/pop world that seems to be so popular these days. It will be no surprise the two standout tracks on this live 2 CD set, recorded in Norway, are the frankly amazing – "The Haunting" and "Karma." "The Haunting" is as good as anything produced by Nightwish or Within Temptation. Kamelot is yet another band showing music can be heavy, melodic, and beautiful all at the same time.
I think this set is, without a doubt, essential for fans of the band, and probably for anyone who likes Scandi-powerprog. It is expertly played catchy music that puts a serious smile on your face. I just wish they would have left out the bleeding drum and keyboard solo, but, then again, that is why we have a forward button. This lot could be huge all over very soon. Quality stuff like this deserves all the ears it can find.
Meatloaf: Bat out of Hell III
You knew it was coming, especially when you knew Steinman had already written the thing and released some of it on his solo album, Bad for Good. But was it worth the wait? Well, yes and no. It is quite obvious in several places a female vocalist has been brought in to help up the ante on the tracks. Don't let the fact that Celine Dion had a big hit with "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" sway you, this version is far better than her torch song. Its male versus female vocal battling brings out the best of the song.
"What about Love," another track Meat sings with a female vocalist, is also rather good to my ears. Some of the remaining tracks are less good and I am not that keen on the opening track, "The Monster is Loose." I would probably say the second outing of the Bat was better overall than this. Very much a mixed bag, certainly, but not a horrid album by any means.
Rattlesnake Remedy: Magic Man
This is awesome, heads down rock 'n' roll from a bunch of upstarts not too far away from awesome proper British rockers The Answer, Glyde, and Roadstar (formerly known as Hurricane Party). They hail from Birmingham, a notorious source for proper heavy rockers from Black Sabbath to Judas Priest. RR plays heavy rock that combines the best of Aerosmith and Led Zeppelin with a dash of AC/DC. It puts a smile on your face and a tingle in your dinkle. This lot have gigged all over the U.K. to rave reviews and are on yet another foray into this great land. I should be seeing them in December, if not sooner.
There isn't a duff track on this debut, from the title track to such awesome tracks as "Angel's Eyes" and "Payin My Dues." This is proper English rock for proper rockers… no messin' or dodgy outfits. It is pretty much an essential purchase for all.
Riot: Army of One
Riot, in one form or another, has been around for 30 years this year and they show no signs of slowing down. Back with one of their most impressive albums for many years Mark Reale and Co. have produced a wonderful selection of heavy rock tracks that clearly live up to their well-respected pedigree.
Mike DiMeo (now also in Masterplan) aptly handles the vocals with his Coverdale-tinged soulful voice. Still big in Japan and beloved by many a heavy rocker in the U.S., this album deserves lots of listens. I have waived off reviewing it so I could continue listening to such tracks as "Knockin at My Door" (which has oodles of swagger and attitude) while "It All Falls Down" is an equally quality track. "Alive in the City" evokes Aerosmith at their best with a nice Riot twist. This is quality stuff from a classic American band.
Ruffians: Desert of Tears
Imagine Black Lawless fronting a combination of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden and you get some idea of what this band sounds like. Like Riot, Ruffians have a long history of almost making it but bad luck got in the way. The Bay area band plays metal more akin to New Wave Of British Heavy Metal than thrash, and this album proves they still have the chops.
Check out "Running Blind" and the title track if you don't believe me. There is a reason this lot are signed to a German label as Europeans will simply eat this stuff up. It's classic sounding heavy metal played with aplomb. What the hell else do you need, anyway?
Angra: Aurora Consurgens
Brazilian thrashers are well known, but not many know Brazil produces quite a nice crop of prog metallers as well. Angra is probably the best known and this new album is no exception to their range of decent output. With influences that range from Rush to Dream Theater with a twist of Megadeth, the band tends to wear them on their sleeves but not to a detrimental effect.
This is deep and meaningful stuff played with a Brazilian sense of occasion. "Ego Painted Grey" demonstrates their ability to produce epic music without sounding pompous or overblown. "So Far So Near" has a definite samba feel in background,, which adds a wonderful twist to the genre. A quality release from a band that gets better with each outing.
Well there are your reviews for this week. I hope you all have a howling good time on All Hallow's Eve next week. As always, stay safe and support live music where ever you might be.