Thursday, 25 March 2010

Yngwie Malmsteen - 'Brothers' Live With The New Japan Philharmonic

I have recently bought a Japanese import DVD of this show, and am absolutely floored by it. Yngwie seems to be having such a great time with the perfomance, and hearing his playing in this setting really does cast a whole different light upon it.

I'm a huge fan of the guy, but I've never seen this show before, despite having heard about it for so long. It really is something unique, and while some may think that the mixture of distorted guitars and a full orchestra doesn't work, it works perfectly on this release.

I shall add a full review once I've been able to absorb the full thing properly. Needless to say, it is incredible.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Ratt - 'Best of Me' video

Ratt are back (again), but this time with the closest we'll ever get to the original lineup. Their new album sees a return to their classic sound, and on the strength of this rather marvellous tune, it looks like they've come up with something very cool indeed. The hook to 'Best of Me' is guaranteed to get stuck in your head. Good to have them back.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Gamma Ray - 'To The Metal' (2010)

I needed this in my life. Look at that cover and that title. Bliss. Does the new album from Germany's finest exponents of uplifting, melodic metal do the title and cover proud? Hell yes. This is a magnificent album from a band that are one of the most reliable acts in metal. You always know that when you buy a Gamma Ray album, you are getting value for money. I certainly did when I purchased this album today.

I got the digipak version with a 'Making Of' bonus DVD, featuring an 80 minute documentary on every aspect of the album's creation. I actually watched the DVD before I listened to the album, which was fascinating as a big fan of the band- seeing the music come together and the stories behind each track was wonderful, which may well have made my first spin of the album itself even more enjoyable.

The band come across as very likeable throughout the DVD, as well as remarkably relaxed and open about their recording process and their career thus far. Kai Hansen (Lead vocals/guitar) is a long-standing hero of mine, and watching the master at work with Herman, Dirk and Daniel was a delight. As the DVD ended I slipped the album on and took in the fruits of their labours.

What's the album like? It's a pleasure. A sheer pleasure from start to finish. While there are all of the elements that typify the Gamma Ray sound (the precise riffs, the huge choruses and Kai's very distinctive voice), there is also something else going on too. There's something a little progressive in each song, some chances taken, which is very cool indeed.

On other songs things are deceptively simple (such as the anthemic title track). I've listened to the whole thing three times through, and at present my favourite track has to be the opener, 'Empathy', with its infectious rhythm and soaring chorus and lead work. Note must be made of the awesome 'All You Need To Know' as well, which features Michael Kiske on guest vocals! There are some more subdued elements too, such as the sombre 'Shine Forever' and 'No Need To Cry', both of which are gorgeous.

While some people may see it as business as usual for Gamma Ray, to the ears of the fans it is clear that this new album is a powerful new chapter in the Gamma Ray story, and with a thick and heavy production and some of the most memorable songs the band has created since, well, the last album, you would really have trouble finding a melodic speed/power metal album that is this good anywhere else right now. To the Metal indeed. I think a toast is in order.


GAMMA RAY - 'Empathy'

Saturday, 13 March 2010

The ludicrous joy of the Vinnie Vincent Invasion

The Vinnie Vincent Invasion are a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. I have the first album on vinyl and the second on tape, and they still get an airing on a basis that is slightly more regular than is healthy. Love him or loathe him, there's no denying that Vinnie Vincent and his insane (not to mention slightly sloppy at times) guitar playing summed up an era of hard rock excess that the scene hasn't really had ever since.

Sure, the tunes were cookie-cutter rock and the solos were so OTT as to be almost comedic (well, they were on the first album. On 'All Systems Go' the histrionics had been reined in a bit), but those albums were a ton of fun and still pack some punch today.

The above video is for the lead track from the self titled debut album, and is noteworthy as the vocalist in the video, Mark Slaughter (who went on to find greater fame with the Slaughter band), is actually lip synching to a different singer, namely original vocalist Robert Fleschman.

I adore the Vinnie Vincent Invasion albums. They have some superb songs, such as the immaculate 'Back On The Street' on the debut and 'Ashes To Ashes' and 'Love Kills' on the second opus. It's a shame the third album by the Vinnie Vincent Invasion, recorded in 1990, remains unreleased to this day, as more lightspeed guitar solos are always a good thing. We miss you, Vinnie!

Friday, 5 March 2010

The Runaways Movie

I'm actually quite curious to see this, even though it has Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning in it. The story of The Runaways is one of rock music's more interesting tales, and is one that hasn't been covered all that much in the decades that followed their groundbreaking escapades.

Granted, I am sure there are sensationalized moments throughout the film, but that tends to be the way with many biopics. The casting seems to be pretty strong (the girl they have playing Lita Ford looks uncannily like Lita did in those days), and while there have been some lukewarm reviews of the film, I'm eager to see how it turned out.

Joan Jett is one of rock's real icons, and the stories surrounding the formation of The Runaways and their escapades and notoriety should hopefully make for compelling viewing. Then again, the film could have been completely screwed up and make a mockery of one of the most interesting bands from an exciting period in rock music's history.

Either way, the trailer looks like we're in for an entertaining ride. Now, how about someone makes a UK-centric film about an all-girl rock band and tells us the turbulent (and just as interesting) story of Girlschool?

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Steve Vai's 'Now We Run': A Thing of Beauty

Steve Vai has the right idea- post pretty much the entire live 'Where The Wild Things Are' DVD on YouTube and let the music and performance be its own advert. It's worked as well, with the DVD and Blu Ray sets both being big hits.

This video, for 'Now We Run' is a marvellous thing, showcasing an incredible backing band around Vai's marvellous guitar playing. I absolutely adore this performance, and these siz minutes alone should make any fan want to go and get the full thing. Vai certainly knows how to put on a brilliant show, with nary a dull moment.

While a lot of people will always say that 'Passion And Warfare' is his best album, that does vai a little bit of a disservice. 'Passion and Warfare' is indeed a classic album, which I love dearly, but the rest of his catalogue is just as, if not even more, compelling.

This live set is a pretty much perfect overview of his music and the glorious way he performs. The addition of two live violins to his band works extremely well, adding a much greater level of interaction between Vai and his other musicians. The set is incredible value for money, very uplifting (one of the things I love about his music) and extremely inspirational. Check out this video, then go and see what you can create yourself.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Whatever Happened To Sinergy?

Whatever happened to the band Sinergy? This is a question that occurred to me today as I put on their last album, 'Suicide By My Side' today for the millionth time since its 2002 release.

The band featured Kimberly Goss (Ancient/Dimmu Borgir etc) on some incredible lead vocals and some bloke called Alexi Laiho (You might have heard of him from some random metal act called Children of Bodom) on lead guitar along with Marco Hietala (who then joined NIGHTWISH), and they played some truly splendid trad metal.

Another album was written, yet it never saw the light of day. One minute there are updates from Kim about the band heading into the studio, and then...nothing.

Sure, Alexi (Kimberly's ex from many years ago) would no longer be a part of the band thanks to the soaring success of Children of Bodom. Checking out the band's Myspace page (the bio says': 'new album in 2007' at the end of it, and the page has not been logged into since 2008), it would seem that the band has vanished altogether.

This is a shame, as with that last album they were onto something very special. The arrangements were very exciting, the musicianship incredible, and the vocals of Goss had developed a massive amount from previous efforts. It's such a shame when bands with so much promise and talent just disappear. What is Kimberly Goss up to now? I do hope that we'll hear that voice again.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Theatre of Tragedy To Split

After nearly 17 years in existence Theatre of Tragedy has decided to call it a day and close down. This has not been an easy decision to make and we have thought about this for a long long time. We finally agreed to this during the production of our latest album "Forever is the world".

Wow. This is sad news for fans of the long running band. I interviewed Hein from the band for the magazine last year and he did mention how hard it was balancing the band and real life. It's a sad moment for fans of Theatre of Tragedy's music, but at least they are bowing out with dignity and leaving behind some great music. They certainly had a difficult career, but it has been a rewarding one for fans and and alike. Check out the most recent album, "Forever Is The World" for the bittersweet legacy they leave behind.