Archive for February, 2012

February 28, 2012

Album 0017: Helloween – Unarmed – Best Of 25th Anniversary

Release Date: 2009
Genre: Power Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Dr. Stein (04:00)
2. Future World (04:13)
3. If I Could Fly (03:29)
4. Where The Rain Grows (05:11)
5. The Keeper’s Trilogy (17:07)
6. Eagle Fly Free (03:51)
7. Perfect Gentleman (04:20)
8. Forever And One (Neverland) (04:25)
9. I Want Out (04:22)
10. Fallen To Pieces (03:28)
11. A Tale That Wasn’t Right (04:48)
12. Why? (03:35)

Total Length: 01:02:51

This album is a collection of redone songs the band did in new styles to reinvent the songs. It’s a really neat idea instead of a basic ‘best of’ album. I couldn’t believe this version of Dr. Stein when I first heard it. It’s so amazing, the big band atmosphere translates so well for this song, and the arrangement is amazing. It’s unreal. Hell, I would even say I prefer this to the original. The only complaints against it kind of apply to the whole album. The vocals have this odd phasing on them for some reason, and the whole album isn’t done big band style. That’s not to say it needed to be, but very few other interpretations on this album reach the level of this song. Future World is actually one of my favorite songs from the band, and this style is kind of just a slower acoustic version, which isn’t terribly interesting.

If I Could Fly takes full use of the opportunities for more production this album provided. The song is sort of similar to the original, but they just added so many neat layers with the keyboards. Where The Rain Grows actually sort of takes a country approach, of sorts. I like what they did with the chorus, but the verse is just boring. The Keeper’s Trilogy is most definitely the centerpiece of the album, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the very idea of making this track caused this entire album to happen. It is a mix of the three Keeper songs from the band’s history, and is just fantastic. It uses a 70-piece orchestra mixed with the band’s usual drumming and vocals, but not heavy guitar or bass. It is a different mood the band has never explored before and it works fantastically. My favorite part is the middle section, but it is all fantastic.

I have a similar view of Eagle Fly Free as I did with Future World. The original was brilliant, but this one is just okay. I do give more credit to this song though, I do enjoy the arrangement and the female vocals. Perfect Gentleman definitely gets a country vibe in here, and it works as a sort of funny thing. The slower pace of the song feels a bit sluggish though. Forever And One (Neverland) is a song where I’d say this new version improves upon it. It’s similar, but the added production here makes it soar. I Want Out is yet another one where I feel they took the wrong approach with it. It’s still a good song, and that shows, but I prefer the original and this one doesn’t capture that feel.

Fallen To Pieces is the song I’m most unfamiliar with, and it sounds pretty good here. I enjoy it. A Tale That Wasn’t Right is a fantastic way to end the album (the last track is a bonus track). This is the only other song they chose to use the orchestra on, and it is well worth it. This feels like something from a Disney movie, to be honest. Andi Deris’ singing on it is great as well. The combination of both just really gets to me, and it builds so well. The original is very different in pace and tone, but I think I like this one better. Why? gets more a rock vibe, and has some cool instrumentation. I enjoy this song, but it actually feels like it is: a bonus track.

In the end, I really do love this album and am glad it exists. It’s much better than some regular ‘best of’ album. I only feel like there were some missed opportunities in this. A few of the songs are absolutely brilliant, while some others simply feel like replacing the electric guitars with acoustic guitars. If the album had been just a bit more expansive and exploratory it would have been unbelievable.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

February 27, 2012

Album 0016: Savage Circus – Dreamland Manor

Release Date: 2005
Genre: Power Metal

Tracklisting:

1. Evil Eyes (06:58)
2. Between The Devil And The Seas (05:25)
3. Waltz Of The Demon (06:56)
4. Tomorrowland (06:27)
5. It – The Gathering (06:15)
6. Beyond Reality (05:23)
7. When Hell Awakes (07:34)
8. Ghost Story (07:05)
9. Born Again By The Night (05:16)

Total Length: 57:19

This band is sort of an offshoot of Blind Guardian, formed when the drummer parted with the band, citing ‘musical differences’. This album is what he believed the band should have been doing, and it certainly shows. The drumming, guitar work, vocals, and overall composition was similar to past Blind Guardian. In fact, it’s still an evolution, so this could have been a different path that that band could have taken. Let’s get on with the review with that ground work laid, then.

Evil Eyes was pretty clearly picked as being the song to introduce the band, because it’s got a good pace, shows what the band is set out to do, and is just pretty fantastic. Between The Devil And Seas showcases my main issue with this album even this early on. Most of the songs really do sound the same. I hesitate to say this, but it almost seems like laziness on the part regarding production. This album is well produced, and the songs are well written and played, but they do sound pretty similar. They could have kept all that by changing up how the guitars sound, or adding a few more keyboard parts, etc. That said, this song does have a very cool chorus, and a neat bridge part with a faux-harpsichord.

Waltz Of The Demon offers up a different song structure, and benefits from that. It does however stretch on a bit too long, and could have used with some trimming. I do enjoy the vocals though, they seem fairly heartfelt in their cheesiness at times. Tomorrowland is the first track I can’t really care for. It’s got the same ideas as the previous songs but not utilized as well, which goes back to what I said in the last paragraph. It – The Gathering is pretty similar in that vein. I can’t say too much about it, it has some cool vocal moments but it can’t save the song from being long and uninteresting.

Beyond Reality differs itself by being more of a ballad. It focuses on the acoustic guitars and straight melody, and it shines because of that. I do wonder if that’s only in the context of this album though. When Hell Awakes may be the worst offender. The longest track on the record and all I can say positive about it is that I sort of like the instrumental section. Ghost Story nearly trumps it though, but just happens to be shorter. At least things turn around at the end with Born Again By The Night, saving this album from a distasteful end. The verse and build up to the chorus really is the fantastic, and the main riff is engaging and fun. It also gets a few style points for having very brief harsh vocals. I’ll be honest, I would love this album if it was an entire album of the first 3 songs and this song. But it’s not, and for that it mostly stands in memory as mediocre.

Final Rating: 6.5/10

February 17, 2012

Album 0015: The Vandals – Oi! To The World

Release Date: 1996
Genre: Punk

Tracklisting:

1. A Gun For Christmas (03:01)
2. Grandpa’s Last X-mas (02:10)
3. Thanks For Nothing (02:08)
4. Oi! To The World (02:46)
5. Nothing’s Going To Ruin My Holiday (02:24)
6. Christmas Time For My Penis (03:16)
7. I Don’t Believe In Santa Claus (01:33)
8. My First X-mas (As A Woman) (02:41)
9. Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairies (01:19)
10. Here I Am Lord (02:17)
11. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S (01:43)
12. Hang Myself From The Tree (04:28)
13. Overture (03:57)

Total Length: 33:45

A Gun For Christmas has a fun intro, and is a nice exercise in songwriting for the band. It’s still their sound, but different in a way the band hadn’t done before. Grandpa’s Last X-mas is fun and oddly I’m pretty sure a lot of people can relate to the lyrics. Thanks For Nothing is alright, it’s one of the harsher songs on here style wise. Oi! To The World is pretty much a classic, I really the idea of unity that was gaining traction in southern California bands at this time.

Nothing’s Going To Ruin My Holiday is just brilliant, I love the production and lyrics on this one. Christmas Time For My Penis is just great. The arrangement is great and their brand of comedy definitely works here. I Don’t Believe In Santa Claus works pretty well and is sort of a parody in itself. My First X-mas (As A Woman) is another fantastic song, a pretty good representation of why I love this album.

Dance Of The Sugarplum Fairies starts a trio of covers, this one is just fantastic. Here I Am Lord is one of the band’s few forays into ska territory, and it’s just funny. C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S is just filthy but still fun. Hang Myself From The Tree may be the best song on here overall. The arrangement is just as good as previous songs, and everything is melancholy while still retaining the feeling of Christmas. Overture is something that was added to the album later and is a fun ending piece that gathers all of the melodies together.

I just love this album. Every once in a while a song here or there will annoy me, but the rest of the album makes up for it. Its short length also works in its favor, I just like listening to it and enjoying it and then it’s gone.

Final Rating: 8.5/10

February 15, 2012

Album 0014: The Planet Smashers – Unstoppable

Release Date: 2005
Genre: Ska

Tracklisting:

1. Unstoppable (03:09)
2. Bullets To The Ground (02:36)
3. Do No Wrong (02:41)
4. Cool Your Jets (04:02)
5. Raise Your Glass (01:52)
6. Here Come The Mods! (02:42)
7. Blank Stare (03:06)
8. Giants (03:34)
9. A Revolution Song (03:47)
10. Police The Nation (02:39)
11. Bad Mood (02:12)
12. Trip And Fall (02:42)
13. This Song Is For You (02:46)
14. Looking For A Cure (02:20)

Total Length: 40:06

Unstoppable is a fun opening track. It’s not as catchy as some of their previous opening tracks, but not a bad song. Bullets To The Ground starts off heavy for… some reason. I don’t really like the effects used on the guitar, but the chorus is fun enough. I like the production on Do No Wrong, but the song itself isn’t that interesting to me. Cool Your Jets is a very good, laid back song. I always enjoy the more reggae-type offerings from this band.

Raise Your Glass shows the biggest influence from producer Chris Murray, and is a quick little song that’s just plain fun. Here Comes The Mods! is a great track, just a perfect representation of what I like about this band. Blank Stare is the obligatory instrumental track, and it’s just decent. Giants is a slower-paced song and mostly cool, I just feel like Matt’s voice is a bit weak on it. A Revolution Song is just middle-of-the-road, nothing great or bad about it. Police The Nation is in the same vein, to be honest.

Bad Mood is a fun idea but kind of a throwaway song. Trip And Fall is a fantastic song, the vocal line is great and I love the rhythm. This Song Is For You is an alright song, could have been better. Looking For A Cure is a great song unlike anything else they’ve done. Just really cool and makes me wonder why these guys don’t get more attention. This is nowhere near the best Planet Smashers album, but still has some good tracks that I enjoy.

Final Rating: 7/10

February 1, 2012

Album 0013: The Lonely Island – Turtleneck & Chain

Release Date: 2011
Genre: Rap/Comedy

Tracklisting:

1. We’re Back! (01:50)
2. Mama (02:00)
3. I Just Had Sex (02:47)
4. Jack Sparrow (03:08)
5. Attracted To Us (01:52)
6. Rocky (02:33)
7. My Mic (00:23)
8. Turtleneck & Chain (02:44)
9. Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde (02:27)
10. Trouble On Dookie Island (02:10)
11.Falcor Vs. Atreyu (00:29)
12. Motherlover (02:50)
13. The Creep (02:39)
14. Watch Me Do Me (00:27)
15. Threw It On The Ground (02:39)
16. Japan (02:31)
17. After Party (02:53)
18. No Homo (02:03)
19. No Homo Outro (00:41)

Total Length: 39:04

We’re Back! is a pretty good intro, but is kind of disorienting. Mama is really fucking good, they are able to imitate rude 13 year olds so well. I Just Had Sex is, well, it’s just so heartwarming. I can’t stand Akon otherwise (same with T-Pain on I’m On A Boat) but it just works so well for this song. I’m sure there’s something I am just missing from rap in general, as the only kind I like is either comedic (Lonely Island, Weird Al, Adam Sandler) or very old and emotional (The Message).

Jack Sparrow is really cool but the intro annoys me, when Bolton is talking about his big, sexy hook. I also really love their, uh, beats. Like the little synths in the background. These guys put a lot of effort into the music. Attracted To Us may be my favorite track. It reminds me of some music my friend makes, and I just love it. Wish they did more songs like this, and less like a later track. Rocky is very meh, but I like the ending line.

My Mic is a fun little interlude, though it can’t beat The Old Saloon on Incredibad. Turtleneck & Chain is a song that’s better in idea than execution. The lyrics are funny, but the actual song annoys me. Shy Ronnie 2: Ronnie & Clyde is fun, for Ronnie being shy, “boner alert”, and the ending. Trouble On Dookie Island is almost the only song on here I can’t get into in any sense. Falcor Vs. Atreyu is funny like the first time. Motherlover is so damn good. They may as well just have Timberlake join them and make it a four piece. The Creep is pretty good, but the video definitely makes it. The song by itself is just okay.

Watch Me Do Me is funny a little bit longer than Falcor, but still wears its welcome pretty quickly. Threw It On The Ground is funny, but the music could have been better. The track works a lot better as a video as well. Japan was pretty funny, and got funnier over time. The lines about dumping shit in the river is great. After Party is the other song I can’t really get into, other than the one recurring joke line. No Homo is like Threw It On The Ground. Good idea, but I don’t like the music. No Homo Outro is a weird thing that doesn’t have much of a purpose.

I really enjoy listening to this, it makes for a quick 40 minutes or so. When this album is good, it’s really good. However, unlike Incredibad, there are some songs that I just can’t really get into.

Final Rating: 7/10