Thursday, March 31, 2016

Blaze Bayley - Infinite Entanglement

Iron Maiden has launched quite a few solo careers with varying degrees of success. Bruce Dickinson spent a few albums finding his sound before putting out two classic albums that rank alongside some of Maiden's best. On the opposite side of the spectrum you have Paul DiAnno, whose own greatest hits album last year was 90% songs from his brief stint fronting Iron Maiden. Somewhere in the middle is Steve Harris' British Lion, which sounds less like a classic Steve Harris album and more like an average rock band that happens to feature Steve Harris, almost like he did it as a favor to a friend.

And then we have Blaze Bayley, the replacement singer who fronted Iron Maiden at the low point of their popularity and sang on two of their most polarizing albums (though I'll defend The X Factor 'til my dying breath.) And while Blaze can't boast any single album to rival Accident of Birth or The Chemical Wedding, he's has a solid solid run of five albums, peaking with The Man Who Would Not Die and Promise and Terror. Then there's The King of Metal, which is the saddest kind of album you can come across: deeply personal at a dark time in his life, clearly an intended magnum opus, but bland as hell in execution.

So where does that put his latest effort, a sci-fi concept album called Infinite Entanglement?

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Amon Amarth - Jomsviking

Amon Amarth, the band that basically invented "viking metal" is back, and for their 10th studio album, they've upped the ante and gone full viking. Jomsviking isn't just a collection of songs about vikings though; it's the band's first concept album. Jomsviking allegedly tells the story of a young man whose love is married off to another man. In his anger, he kills a man, and is exiled for his crime. He joins up with the Jomsvikings and swears revenge on those he believes wronged him. But when he returns (in "A Dream That Cannot Be"), he finds out that the object of his love has moved on and is very happy with her current situation. I say "allegedly" because a good 80% of the time, you're not paying any attention to the lyrics of any given Amon Amarth album. I'm just relaying what Amon Amarth frontman Johan Hegg has said in interviews about this album.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Anthrax - For All Kings

Anthrax occupy an interesting place among thrash metal's big 4. While Megadeth, Metallica, and Slayer's careers are marked by higher highs and lower lows, Anthrax can be counted on to put out decent album after decent album. Following that trend, For All Kings offers no surprises. For anyone who's heard Worship Music, this review is halfway to writing itself.

The album starts with a brief intro track, Impaled, which builds tension nicely into the first proper song, You Gotta Believe. A few things stand out on this track that hold true for more or less rest of the album. The riffing feels more like traditional heavy metal with a thrash influence. Jon Donais fits right in as Rob Caggiano's replacement on guitar, and I'd have never noticed Caggiano's absence if I hadn't already known from following the buzz around the last Volbeat album. Frank Bello's bass is as simple and effective as ever. Joey Belladonna's voice has aged well, or at least he knows how to work with his limited range instead of letting his age show. But that was already evident on Worship Music.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Sunburst - Fragments of Creation

Fragments of Creation is the kind of album every reviewer hopes to stumble on: a band with minimal pedigree coming out of nowhere with something that sounds like seasoned veterans at their career peak.

The opener, Out of the World, sets the tone nicely for the whole album with a riff that sounds like a streamlined mix of Symphony X and Dream Theater, both circa 2007. And as soon as Vasilis Georgiou's vocals come in, I can't help but feel right at home. Many will call him a Roy Khan clone, and the similarly is more uncanny here than ever, but without Roy Khan to fill that role anymore, it's a welcome title to live up to. It helps that the band takes that similarity in an unconventional direction, sounding less like Kamelot and more like a heavier, modernized version of Khan's previous band, Conception.