Album Review: Paradise Lost – Obsidian (Nuclear Blast Records)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

While I must admit I haven’t paid as close attention in recent years to bands like Paradise Lost (although I did briefly revisit them in 2015 to review their new effort at the time, The Plague Within), the band still holds a special place for me. Almost immediately after putting on Obsidian (their sixteenth full-length overall), I was propelled back to listening to such brilliant albums as Draconian Times or Icon while I was still in high school.

“Darker Thoughts” starts off the album hauntingly, and provides appropriate insight for what’s to follow. “The Devil Embraced” and “Hear the Night” are two of the album’s definite strongest tracks, while  “Fall From Grace” and “Ghosts” make up the rest of the singles released so far.

With so many mainstream options being constantly produced for the masses on a daily basis, it’s easy to overlook much of the unknown/underground bands out there. But if you can open your mind enough to try something new, you might find actually discover something truly worthwhile.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Advertisements

Album Review: Dennis DeYoung – 26 East, Vol. 1 (Frontiers Music srl)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

Former Styx frontman Dennis DeYoung is back with his long-awaited latest solo album, (his first of new material in over a decade). And although the title states “Vol. 1,” it almost feels like a “goodbye” of sorts (hopefully I’m way off on that one, though).

In all honesty, 26 East, Vol. 1 doesn’t start off as strong as it could; album opener “East of Midnight” is more or less just there, while “With All Due Respect” manages to be catchy, yet reaches near cring-worthy levels lyrically in an attempt to be timely. But things quickly turnaround, with tracks like “A Kingdom Ablaze,” “You My Love,” and “Damn That Dream” all invoking the true spirit of DeYoung’s usual m.o. There’s even a brief throwback to Styx classic “The Best of Times” in the form of “A.D. 2020” thrown in for good measure.

But the album reaches its definite peak with “To the Good Old Days,” a bittersweet duet with Julian Lennon that’s as much a tribute to The Beatles as it is a look back on DeYoung’s entire life/career. Whether you’re a die hard fan of his music or not, DeYoung has undoubtedly left a legacy in that’s nothing short of amazing. And if this is to be his swan song, there’s definitely worse ways to go out.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Huey Lewis and The News – Weather (New Hulex/BMG)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

Admittedly I’m a little late reviewing this one (about three months, give or take), but considering it’s been 10 years since the last time Huey Lewis and The News actually released an album (2010’s covers album Soulsville), and even longer since their last album of original material (you have to go back to 2001 for that), I figured I’d make an exception here.

Weather breezes by rather quickly (it’s a brief seven tracks), but it contains all the usual trademarks found on a Huey Lewis and The News record.  “While We’re Young,” “Her Love is Killing Me,” and “Remind Me Why I Love You Again” all echo back to simpler times. And even if there’s not much public demand for new music from these guys in our current, instant gratification/image obsessed society, the tracks here are still worthy of putting alongside anything else in the band’s lengthy catalogue.

While I was still very much just a kid during the band’s peak in the mid-1980’s, I can vividly remember their albums (alongside a host of other popular acts at the time) being present and playing at many of my parent’s neighborhood block parties back then, and of course I knew them (as many other kids my age did at the time as) as the band from Back to the Future. I’ve since grown to appreciate their music (and many others from their era) even more since those days, even going to see the band in concert with my wife back in 2014. There’s just something about the ’80s that remains enduring to this day, and even if Huey Lewis and The News aren’t quite as respected as they once, I’m glad they’re still active in some capacity in 2020.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review: Testament – Titans of Creation (Nuclear Blast Records)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

Testament have honestly never been at the top of the list for me as far as bay area thrash bands from the early ’80s (that also includes the likes of Metallica and Exodus) go, but I still maintain a certain level of respect/appreciation for them. On their thirteenth studio effort, they’ve come one step closer to finally winning me over completely.

Sure, there’s some run-of-the-mill, generic stuff (“WWIII” and “Children of the Next Level” come to mind, although the latter does have a fairly entertaining, animated music video that goes along with it), but there’s still more than enough heavy, epic riffs to pacify the average headbanger. Tracks like “Night of the Witch” and “Dream Deceiver” (my personal favorite) pack enough punch, and should fit nicely in future set lists (whenever that may finally be).

Overall, Titans of Creation isn’t bad listening material for old-schoolers looking to kick back with a few cold ones on a Friday night, but not a whole lot more than that.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Album Review: August Burns Red – Guardians (Fearless Records)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

Believe it or not, I sometimes forget just how much I absolutely love metalcore until something comes around to remind me of the fact. Last year it was Killswitch Engage’s Atonement that did the job; this year it’s August Burns Red that are putting the genre back to the forefront of my radar with their ninth studio album.

Intricate guitar work, epic breakdowns, and a healthy balance of clean/screaming vocals are abound throughout. Tracks such as “Paramount,” “The Narrative,” and “Empty Heaven” (my personal favorite) are as crushing as ever, while singles like “Bones” and “Defender” are sure to be mainstays in the band’s set lists for years to come. There’s simply no reason not to check this out if this type of metal has ever been a source of motivation for you.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Witch Taint – Sons of Midwestern Darkness (Tee Pee Records)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

Finally, extreme metal has its own brutal version of Steel Panther in the form of Witch Taint (let’s just hope the joke doesn’t get too old too fast as it has for S.P., though). And before any black metal purists cry about how non-black metal they think the band and album are…lighten up!

Videos for the tracks “Are You Ready (To Black Metal),” “Sons of Satan,” and the just-released “Death to Death Metal” (the latter being my personal favorite of the trio) teased the album up until now nicely. Other tracks maintain the sense of humor throughout (there’s short comedy bits n between many songs), while actually containing some fairly epic metal riffs at the same time (“We Are Your New Gods” and “Viking Heaven” would easily fit elsewhere on many a metal album with more serious lyrics). There’s even a pseudo-ballad in the form of “Ready For LVV” that’s downright hilarious.

Comedians Dave Hill and Phil Costello fit perfectly together in their roles as Lance “The King of Black Metal” and Matthias Backwards, respectively. And while the band’s music might have more in common with Tenacious D than it does Belphegor, it’s a welcomed breath of fresh air in a time when we could all use a laugh. Hopefully Witch Taint are able to stick around for awhile, but without over-saturating their own market too much (as previously mentioned), either.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Brian Posehn – Grandpa Metal (Megaforce Records)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

There’s no doubt that many of us old-time headbangers can relate to a title like Grandpa Metal, the latest release from comedian Brian Posehn. But although the humorous subject matter may be centered around seniors, most of the lyrics are just your typical, juvenile fare far better aimed at the likes of my 13-year-old kid.

That’s not to say the album’s a total waste; Posehn actually assembled a host of impressive metal royalty to guest on Grandpa…, including Scott Ian (Anthrax/S.O.D.), Kim Thayil (Soundgarden), Steve Souza (Exodus), Chuck Billy (Testament), Michael Starr (Steel Panther), Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), and the late Jill Janus from Huntress, who all add to the overall fun of such songs as “New Music Sucks,” “One Quarter Viking, Three Quarters Pussy,” and the title track. Even Weird Al makes a brief yet amusing appearance at one point. There’s also a few surprisingly inventive covers that work in the form of “The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?),” as well as a fairly epic rendition of Ah-Ha’s “Take on Me” that’s definitely worth checking out.

Sorry to say that some tracks do just fall flat (“Monster Mosh” and “Big Fat Rock” are actually kind of embarrassing), and Posehn’s voice isn’t always enough to carry many of the songs. If you’re not looking for anything too serious that’s up the same alley as Ian’s less-than-serious S.O.D., give it a try; just don’t expect to be blown away.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Album Review: Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man (Epic Records)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

It may have taken him some time, but the Godfather of Metal himself, Ozzy Osbourne, has finally unleashed his twelfth studio album. To say it was worth the wait would be an understatement.

It was apparent last November when the world received first listen to the album via the cryptic “Under the Graveyard,” that old Ozzy had put something truly special together here. Granted, most of the singles released since haven’t been as impressive; “Straight to Hell” is somewhat generic, the ballad “Ordinary Man” (featuring Elton John) a tad predictable, and “It’s a Raid” (with Post Malone) somewhat of a strain itself.

But it’s the non-single tracks that pack the heaviest punches (isn’t that usually the way though?) – “Scary Little Green Men,” “All My Life,” and “Holy For Tonight” all echo the epic levels of forgotten classics in Ozzy’s catalog such as “Devil’s Daughter (Holy Wars)” or “No Bone Movies.”

Although longtime guitarist Zakk Wylde might be missing in action here, there’s plenty of other rock icons that more than make up for his absence; Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Duff McKagan and Slash of Guns N’ Roses (among others) all make appearances throughout.

I don’t mean to get too sappy, but for as long as I can remember, Ozzy has been there almost like a second father of sorts to me; the first riff I ever learned to play on bass was “Crazy Train,” and the second concert I ever attended was Ozzy, both doing a solo set, and performing with a reformed Black Sabbath, in 1997. I can’t remember a time when his music was not deeply ingrained in my mind, and I’m glad he’s still making music comparable to his most classic of material.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Album Review: Anvil – Legal at Last (AFM Records)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

At first glance to the cringe-worthy cover of this latest effort from everyone’s favorite Canadian metalheads Anvil (their eighteenth overall), one might not expect much. But these canucks have actually compiled another catchy, straight-forward collection of crowd-stompers.

Most of the tracks here are short but effective. The title number/lead off single kicks things off appropriately, giving listeners a fair representation of just what they’re in for. “Nabbed in Nebraska,” “Bottom Line,” and “Said and Done” are all also worthy anthems in their own respective rights.

Doubtful it’ll win any album of the year awards, but compared to their last two releases, it’s a definite step up. Worth cranking it if you’re looking for some good old-fashioned, head-banging escapism.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Album Review – Blue Oyster Cult: Hard Rock Live Cleveland 2014 (Frontiers Music srl)

Advertisements

By: Jesse Striewski

Blue Oyster Cult have always been terribly underrated in my book, and I tend to forget just how much I actually like them until I go back and give their music another listen. I was fortunate enough to catch the band live once a few years before this album was recorded, and I was reminded just how good they are live after listening to this.

Although somewhat puzzling why they chose to wait six years to release the audio for this live effort, the quality here is top notch. All of the expected hits are of course here, including “Burnin’ For You,” “Godzilla,” and “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” But aside from the usual suspects, the tracks that stick out most are the ones you’re not likely to hear on the radio anytime soon; “The Red and the Black,” “Shooting Shark,” and a 10-minute rendition of “Then Came the Last Days of May” are all stellar. But hands down the track that sticks out the most goes to the epic “I Love the Night.”

I would have liked to have seen a few more of my personal favorites make their way in here as well, including somewhat forgotten classic “Joan Crawford,” and the slightly more modern “See You in Black.” Still, there’s seventeen nearly flawless tracks found here, and very little to complain about.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars