The pile continues to grow which means I have an excuse to have a continuing sound-track to anything I do in the flat and out. There is quite a bit of diversity in this lot from the laid-back acoustic groove of Shaw-Blades to the balls out old-school thrash of Toxik.
Halford: Metal God Essentials Volume 1
Now that Rob is back in Judas Priest, working on an album based on the life of Nostradamus, it is probably a good time to remind people of his solo career between stints in JP. All but the most ardent of Halford fans would admit that Rob's solo career has been patchy at best, especially his "cousin it" industrial bollocks with Two. Some say his band, merely called Halford, produced some of his best solo tracks. The opener "Resurrection" and the rather Maidenesque "Made in Hell" quite amply demonstrate this. The latter has some amusing lyrics that are typical of his double-entendre songwriting style.
The 15 tracks on this CD are a good reminder of the talent that is Halford when he is firing on all cylinders. If you are a fan of Judas Priest and resisted getting the Halford stuff out of loyalty, then this iTunes based (or via Halford Music) set might be a good idea. I thoroughly enjoyed this.
Leaves Eyes: Vinland Saga
Yes, I know I am a bit behind the times reviewing this set. But, at least, I have the pleasure of the enhanced version with its bonus track "Amelie" (new version) and "Heal" plus a video (Viking Wuthering Heights) for the cracking track "Elergy", an interview, and a making of clip. The Viking theme and Mrs Krull's lovely ethereal voice make for quite a pleasant heavy ride. They are set to have a new album out soon, one has to wonder how they are going to top this rather impressive CD. This is the sensitive, but not too much, side of the whole Viking metal genre. I found it the perfect accompaniment for reading Beowulf which I reviewed last week.
Sirenia: Nine Destinies and a Downfall
No, not the sequel to Four Weddings and a Funeral, but the new album from Sirenia a bloody impressive nine song collection of goth rock that sounds to me like Evanescence done properly with someone who can really sing. The only fault I have with this CD is that "the bonus" with the special edition is a bleeding poster, the radio edit of the track "My Mind's Eye," and video for said song.
The singer of this band works well with the name of the band with her clear siren vocal qualities. This is a bit lighter than say Leaves Eyes or Tristania but it certainly has enough of an edge to make it of interest to goths and metallers. Well worth seeking out.
Now I loath cover albums, finding them to be a lazy way to milk the fans for a few more bob. If I wanted to hear the songs, I would find the originals and listen to them. It's a rather sad trend in some older bands.
Of course, when Tommy Shaw and Jack Blades do it, they make an effort to make things special. This is a jolly good album from two extremely talented people but it still leaves me wishing they would release another set of original stuff. That said, they do a great version of "Your Move" by Yes, not an obvious choice for a cover and approved by Jon Anderson himself.
Putting two Paul Simon compositions on here seemed a bit much, it has to be said, but their cover of "California Dreaming" is quite interesting. I think my preferred tracks on here are their covers of "Dance with Me" and "Dirty Work" but to be honest I see no point at all to this album. To me its one for completists only and I rather doubt I will ever listen to it again. If you like a cover album then this is probably one of the best you will ever hear.
Therion: Gothic Kabbalah
Just when you thought this lot couldn't get any more majestic, orchestral and operatic in their dark pomp, they pull something like this out of their hat. Not only is a themed album, hence the title, but it plays itself over two CDs. Now, the subject is deep, spiritual and dense but that does not mean Therion can not make the tunes as catchy as stink, almost sounding poppy at times. On "Son of the Slaves of Time" the male vocals sound always Joe Lynn Turner-esque while the female soprano vocals have a poppy sensibility that is almost Abba-esque. Then the next minute, as on "Adulruua Redibiba", they go all out prog-tastic ala Yes.
This band truly knows how to use all the voices we are born with plus the full compliment of symphonic and metal sounds. I could go on, but it seems pointless. This is one of the top metal albums ever made, an album that even puts Opeth's Ghost Reveries to shame. Not many bands could be called genius without a snicker, but Therion are truly geniuses of operatic metal. It does not get any better than this.
Toxik: World Circus and Think This
These two albums, part of the Roadrunner re-issue series, are very much a tale of two singers. Toxik played progressive/almost jazzy thrash, which you could argue was rather ahead of its time. The only trouble with World Circus is their dire singer at the time, who has ironically rejoined. His screech overshadowed the quality of some of the track therein. Included are several bonus tracks.
What might be of interest, is the rather good follow-up. With a new singer Charles Sabin, who shares a vocal style with Steve Rothery of Marillion, there is less distraction from the cleverness of the band. Tracks like "War NJN 8/In God" clearly show the skill of the band. As with the former there are a couple of live bonus track. This CD stands the test of time far better and it's clear to show its influence on modern technical metal.
Well, that is your copious lot for this week. While I dive back into the pile next to me please be safe, rocking, and catch live gigs if you can.