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Music Reviews: Minuetum, Stratovarius, The Acacia Strain, Andrew WK, Magica, Various

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Nothing like listening to some brazen metal and a touch of blues in the lead up to a good ole summer thunderstorm. We got a whole mess of metal goodness to behold.

CD Reviews

Various: This is the Blues Vol 3 & 4

Like the previous two collections this is a great intro for blues newbies with tracks written by all the blues greats. Along for the ride are some great players who really appreciate the blues they are playing. This is a case of love of the blues rather than yet another compilation to appear on.

Tracks on here come from the likes of Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Peter Green and Willie Dixon. As with the last set you get to hear Mick Taylor, Jeff Beck, Gary Brooker, Jack Bruce, Ian Anderson, Ken Hensley, Snowy White, Billy Sheehan, Roy Z, Greg Bissonette and Rory Gallagher doing their best to give the songs their due. As with the last two, each disc is sold separately. I think we can assume that there will eventually be a box set for those wishing to give the lot when we hit gift giving season.

Those of you who are hard core blues fans probably have several versions of every track on here. However what better way to introduce the budding blues fan in your life to some great blues tunes. This is quality stuff without a doubt. And there would be no heavy rock and metal without these bunch of tunes.

Minuetum: Haunted Spirit

A bunch of Greeks doing power metal, melodic power metal at that. They have Timo Tolkki of Stratovarius fame, handling the mixing and mastering. This should result in a stellar slab of European melodic power metal. Alas, that is not the case in fact there is little of note on this release. There are not really any songs that jump about at you and grab you. In fact there is at least one ill-advised song that makes you cringe. Not sure it got passed the producer, but the singer sounds flat and his pronunciation comical. That particular song is almost painful to listen to at times.

That said the musicianship is solid and workmanlike which is necessary for this sort of release. The tunes are not bad as such, it just the song-writing never gets things over the also-ran category of a very crowd field of power metal. The band need to sit down and start writing some decent songs first before releasing another effort.

There is a decent amount of promise on this album, but not much delivery. If they can’t hack it in English maybe the band should try singing in their native language. There are plenty of cliché ridden power metal releases its take a bit more than that to get noticed these days.

Stratovarius: Polaris & Infinite reissues

Now many bands re-release their album when they start catching fire in a new market. Not many bands are this bloody generous however. That said this band has a reputation for being a class act all around. It should surprise no one that no only are there “extras”, but each of these has a full CD of material to accompany it.

Infinite’s second discs has seven tracks, two fewer than the full CD. Three new tracks, a couple of live tracks and two demos. Not surprisingly the new tracks were Japanese release singles. So now you don’t have to pay over the odds to get all your Stratovarius.

The really impressive second disc is with Polaris. It’s called Polaris Live and it’s a fourteen track live album from the tour of the album. This is a 75 minute release of the band in all their live glory. Anyone who has held off buying Polaris, but a fan of the band would be a fool to pass this one up.

Both these releases are chock full of extra material to add to the high quality power metal produced by the band. Polaris is certainly value for money and Infinite probably is as well. Would anyone expect anything else from this band?

The Acacia Strain: Wormwood

Currently on tour with the likes of Cancer Bats, Bleeding Through, Underoath and As I Dying these guys very much fall under the “modern” metal tags. This band have gone through a myriad of band members that has kept things up in the air. At one point the band had a three guitar attack ala Iron Maiden, however I suspect the result was rather different.

One cool thing is that guitarist DL is experimenting with playing an 8 string guitar. Its for bottom end, but I am betting that only the most anal guitar obsessive can tell the difference. For the rest of us as they don’t do solos its hard to tell what guitars are there at all. In the end this is screamo vocally chugging metal guaranteed to piss of parents and befuddle older metal fans. Is it any good, I suspect it is if you like this sort of thing. And I even detect a weak if discernible catchiness in some of the songs.

Modern metal fans and maybe a few death metal nuts will eat this stuff up. It does nothing for me, but I can certainly tell the band is good at churning out what they do. Those looking for solos, melody or understandable vocals need to move along.

Andrew WK: Close Calls with Brick Walls & Mother of Mankind

This is a two-CD set comprising his so-called “lost third album” and an odd & sods release. Andrew WK fans will be pleased as they get a whopping 39 tracks from Andrew WK. Everyone else, who probably only know AWK for the song “Party Hard” will wonder why its necessary. The word Party shows up quite often in his lyrics. Quite why anyone but his most obsessive fans needs twenty-one tracks of rare and unreleased is something to ponder.

There is interesting bits on the two discs like Andrew channeling Roxy Music’s Brian Ferry at times. As you would expect there are also forays into various punks types and whatever takes his fancy. The stand-out track on either CD is a song called “Pushing Drugs”. The first CD was only available in Japan and South Korea, and only now available stateside.

If you are looking for more from WK than is already out there this might be for you. I can’t really find the attraction for the passing admirer of the guy. Interesting thing is that you can tell the guy has a variety of musical influences and is not a one trick pony. As he says “Party Hard”.

Magica: Dark Diary

They are Romanian, which is obvious when the lead singer does some spoken words bits. Despite the accent there is no sense of comedy about it and it works. Magica peddle a strong brand of melodic power metal that satisfies in the right places. There is less of the goth or epic grandiose of bands like Within Temptation or Nightwish. This is more female-vocal led/male-female duets brand of power metal. While the vocals are not operatic they are high and atmospheric. Ana Mladinovici is certainly not a growler.

Yes, the final track “Dear Diary” is a bit of misstep that will muster a smirk, but overall this a strong release from a competent band. This is less about Wagnerian symphonies trussed up as metal and more a woman fronting Iron Maiden. Its good to see the band have not been tempted to drift into the more poppier goth tinged symphonic epic metal that we hear so much of. While this might not be the most original album it is a refreshing break from “frock metal.”

As you would hope with any band Magica continue to improve with each release. This is a solid release from a talented band doing their own thing.

Something for everyone, but certainly good stuff for a soundtrack to your next thunderstorm. Stay rocking and safe whatever you get up next week.

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About Marty Dodge

  • http://trinimansblog.blogspot.com/ Triniman

    I agree with the comments about Stratovarius’Polaris/Polaris Live.