Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Led Zeppelin reunion rumors... again

Every six months, it seems, we hear that the surviving members of Led Zeppelin are in talks to reunite and go on tour. So, here we are again. With yet another greatest hits package on its way ("Mothership" - 24 tracks hand picked by the guys), there's no time like the present to cash in on the brand and go on tour. Wonder if the drummer's last name will be Bonham?

40th Anniversary: Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Sgt. Pepper'sJune 1st marked the 40th anniversary of the release of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" by The Beatles. The album is considered by many to be "the greatest rock record ever made" and considered by everyone else to be "one of the greatest rock records ever made".

To celebrate, you can check out the anniversary web site.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Set List for new Genesis tour

As you may have heard, Phil Collins has re-united with Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford (along with Chester and Daryl) to go on tour as Genesis for the first time since 1992. Here's the set list:

Behind the Lines / Duke’s End / Turn It On Again
No Son Of Mine
Land of Confusion
In The Cage / The Cinema Show / Duke’s Travels / Afterglow
Hold on My Heart

Home by the Sea / Second Home By The Sea
Follow You Follow Me
Firth of Fifth / I Know What I Like

Throwing It All Away

Drum Duet / Los Endos
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight / Invisible Touch

I Can’t Dance
Carpet Crawlers

US Dates are coming up this fall (here are a couple local ones to some readers):
Oct. 6 - Denver, CO Pepsi Center
Oct. 9 - San Jose, CA HP Pavilion
Oct. 10 - Sacremento, CA ARCO Arena
Oct. 12 - Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Bowl
Oct. 13 - Los Angeles, CA Hollywood Bowl

Friday, July 27, 2007

Metal Rules

Sorry for not posting for so long. Been busy with real life. Now it's time to talk Metal.

I was playing the train game online with Rich the other night and we were talking about some of the metal bands I've been listening to lately and he asked me to send him a list. So y'all get to see it, too. As some of you know, I was a metal head in high school and then spent the next 15 years after that in pursuit of the perfect power pop music (even though it had already been found at the start of those 15 years - Jellyfish). Anyway, come 2005 and I realize that you just can't take the Metal out once you've got it in you. So here's what's been spinning here lately, Metal-wise:

Porcupine Tree - In Absentia (2002); Deadwing (2005); Fear of a Blank Planet (2007): I am forever indebted to Dave R. for introducing me to my new favorite band. Besides the albums I mentioned, there's an extensive back catalog. They're not entirely metal... more like Progressive Rock Fusion with Metal elements. At times they can rock very hard and at other times play some of the most beautiful music I've ever heard. If you only hear one track: "Blackest Eyes" from In Absentia. For a perfect example of the beauty in their music, check "Lazarus" from Deadwing. Cool recent interview with Steve Wilson:.

Dream Theater - Octavarium (2005); Systematic Chaos (2007): These two latest albums from the kings of Prog Metal are pretty different from each other, but both of them are really good. Octavarium is criticized by certain members of the fan base as being too soft with references to Coldplay and U2 influences. I don't see it. "Panic Attack" is probably the most kick ass song I've heard from 2005. The new album opens up with a completely amazing first 5 minutes. The middle section of the album will need to be listened to more to absorb it, but the bookend tracks (which are actually part 1 and part 2 of one epic song) are great, heavy and technically amazing Prog Metal.

Kamelot - Ghost Opera (2007): I'm not speaking specifically about the new album here, but this band is really growing on me. They sound like Scandinavian Power Metal, but are actually from Florida. They've been around for something like 12 years already. Any of the last four albums are worth a listen. There's some really fast, sometimes progressive, always powerful metal here. Their vocalist is great, too. Reminiscent of some of the great voices like Geoff Tate and Bruce Dickinson, but without going too far into the "Hey, I could also be an opera singer!" moments that some of the Scandinavian guys like to do.

Candlemass - These guys made a name for themselves in the '80s as being the absolute heaviest metal band on earth. Think Black Sabbath, but much heavier, thicker and about 100 times more gloomy. Epic Doom Metal at its best (their first album is titled "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus"). The reason I note them here is that just back in 2005 they got back together and put out a self-titled album. I haven't gotten too far into this album, but I remember the first track "Black Dwarf" being incredible. I just found out that after the 2005 reunion, Messiah Marcolin (vocalist) left again. There's a new album out this year with a different vocalist called "King of the Grey Islands", but I haven't heard it yet.

Symphony X - I once cataloged these guys in my brain rather quickly as "yet another new Prog/Power Metal band". So then I never took the time to get into any of their albums. But... Oh My Goodness! The newest album, Paradise Lost completely blew me away! This is currently my heavy rotation disc. It's stuck in the CD player in the car (I've been making lots of trips to Lowes lately). If you've spent any time with European Prog, Power or Symphonic Metal, you might have noticed the trend of bands that are early in their careers using that cheesy synthesized orchestra sound to try and orchestrate their ambitious epics. While the idea might be great, the cheesy sounding synth orchestra completely ruins the experience. Not so with Paradise Lost. This thing opens with an instrumental overture-type of thing that uses, what sounds like, an aggressive, huge, real orchestra and then launches into some of the fastest, crunchiest, heaviest riffing ever. It's awesome! The whole album (except one power ballad) is fast, aggressive, and, literally, heart pounding to the core. This must be listened to loud! I can't remember the last time a metal album blew me away so hard that I thought I might get injured listening to it. And, again I was surprised to find that this European sounding band was from the States (New Jersey).

Megadeth - has become interesting to me again because a few years ago, Dave Mustaine found Jesus. And also because Megadeth has broken up and re-grouped several times. The newest album "United Abominations" is the second one since Mustaine's "conversion". He's firmly planted his sites on all things political and "current events". No more skull and devil music, just very biting commentary on the state of things with some kick ass riffs and solos. I can't say that either of these are exciting me as much as Symphony X or Kamelot, but if you ever were a Megadeth fan, you need to check out the last two albums (the prior one being called "The System Has Failed").

(This is getting long and I've been working on it off-and-on for a few days. In the interest of time, I shall be more brief going forward)

Manowar - Still around, still the self-proclaimed Kings of Metal has a new album out this year that begins an "album cycle" in which each album will be dedicated to a different god of war. This year's album is called, simply, "Gods of War". Haven't heard this one yet, but the lead reviews at that Amazon link are not promising.

Ozzy's new album has 10 tracks, 4 of which are worth repeat listens: "I Don't Wanna Stop", "The Almighty Dollar", "Silver" and "Civilize The Universe".

Adagio - I've got "Sanctus Ignis" from 2001. This is really good symphonic metal with a really interesting all-instrumental cover of "Immigrant Song". From allmusic: "A good many bands seem to be intent on merging classical/symphonic styles with heavy metal. This group does a much better job than many at it. The central reasons that their music seems more immediate is that they appear to have a genuine interest in the classical end of things"

Diablo Swing Orchestra - "Butcher's Ballroom". This is bizarre and must be heard to be believed. The three words in the name of the band are not just random... they are purposeful. This is dark, devilish swing music done heavy metal style with a beautiful female operatic vocal and demonic growling to boot. It sounds absolutely ridiculous the way I describe it, but it's actually good. I can guarantee you haven't heard anything like this. There's also an outrageously preposterous back story created for the band going back to 1501 in Sweden. Read it here. While there, listen to Balrog Boogie.

Avenged Sevenfold - you may have heard of (they've been pushed heavily at mainstream outlets). Actually good.

Narnia - This is good power metal with some progressive tendencies. It's a Christian band if that makes a difference for you. Nothing stellar really stands out, but all their albums were keepers for me.

Balance of Power - Another good, but not quite stellar, Christian Power/Prog metal band. Lots of promise. I'll be keeping tabs on them.

Atomic Opera's "For Madmen Only" came out in 1994 and really sounds just like King's X. So give that a shot if you're jonesing for some more of that sound. The first song "Joyride" is awesome and at least two others are really good ("Blackness" and "New Dreams"). From allmusic: "The third and least well-known band to emerge from Texan producer Sam Taylor's prog-metal stables (the first and second were King's X and the Galactic Cowboys, respectively)."

Here are some other bands that I intend to check out soon:
Thalion (symphonic metal)
Dragonland (from allmusic's review of their "Starfall" album: "a total throwback to the old-school power metal of the '70s and '80s — and this grandiose, elaborate effort (which is full of stereotypical dungeons-and-dragons lyrics) gets a great deal of inspiration from progressive rock as well"
Dragonforce ('80s style Power Metal)
Frameshift's "An Absence of Empathy" (Prog Metal with Sebastian Bach on vocals)
Shadow Gallery (more prog rock, than metal)
Stratovarious (prog metal)
Royal Hunt (prog metal)
Freedom Call (melodic, prog-tinged German power metal)

Ok, there you go. Knock yourself out and let me know what you like.