Judas Priest Back In A Big Way On Redeemer Of Souls

Courtesy:  Epic Records

Courtesy: Epic Records

Judas Priest’s new album Redeemer of Souls is one of the top new hard rock and metal albums of 2014. As a matter of fact, it is, in this critic’s eyes (and ears) a contender for the top spot on said list. The only other album that can even come close right now to vying for that spot is Black Label Society’s Catacombs of the Black Vatican. What makes Redeemer of Souls such a top notch album despite its slightly touchy production is its mix of music and lyrics. Musically, this album has been likened to previous hit Priest albums including: British Steel, Nostradamus, and Painkiller just to name a few. That it could be compared in such positive light to so many other of the band’s releases is a statement in and of itself. Lyrically, it covers some interesting themes throughout the course of its thirteen tracks and sixty-two minutes. One of those themes is of standing up for what one believes. That topic comes in the album’s fourth track ‘Sword of Damocles.’ Another interesting topic is that of the tribute paid to the fans of sorts in the album’s lead single ‘March of the Damned.’ Late in the album, front man Rob Halford and his band mates cover an interesting topic in ‘’Hell & Back.’ The topic in question is one of the band’s survival through the years. Or it would seem so at least. Regardless, its lyrics and music together make for one more prime example of why Redeemer of Souls is one of this year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums. That argument is made even stronger through the two songs noted before it and through those pieces not noted. Altogether, this album is proof that Judas Priest is still one of the most dominant forces in the world of hard rock today.

Judas Priest has proven without a shadow of a doubt on its new album that it is still one of the most dominant forces in the world of hard rock today. It has done so through an album that is easily one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums in Redeemer of Souls. One example of why this album deserves such recognition comes early on in the album in the form of ‘Sword of Damocles.’ Musically, it is a full on, rocker that comes across as being about false leaders and standing up for one’s own beliefs. As audiences will hear, front man Rob Halford sings here, “When men lead by words that are false as they preach/Fatality waits in the wings/Surrounded by fools behind walls that are breached/Beware of the jester that sings.” Right there, audiences are led to infer that Halford and company are singing about said false leaders. And those leaders don’t necessarily have to include religious leaders, either. They can include political leaders, too. Halford and company go on to sing, “Stand tall/Rise up/Stay strong/Fighting your enemies/Truth will find its reward/If you live and die by the sword/The whispers can’t hide when the tongues are let loose.” Listeners might get from this verse a message of not giving up against certain insurmountable odds. They come across as telling audiences don’t just give in like sheep to the words of those false leaders and to stand up to said leaders and those that would harass an individual for having views other than their own. This could very well be the wrong interpretation. It is merely the interpretation of one single critic. If it is at least somewhere in the ballpark though, it once again serves as solid proof of why this record is one of the year’s top two new hard rock and metal albums.

‘Sword of Damocles’ is just one many examples of what makes Redeemer of Souls one of the top new hard rock and metal albums of 2014. With its mix of adrenaline-fueled music and thought provoking lyrics, this song is an instant hit. The album’s lead single, ‘March of the Damned,’ is just as solid a choice for a single. As guitarist Glenn Tipton explains, this song is simply about the fans that come to the band’s shows. There’s no deep, hidden message for the religious right wingers to hunt for. It is for all intents and purposes a tribute to those fans. Halford sings against the song’s driving guitars and drums, “Can’t stop us/They don’t know why/They try/Can’t hurt us/We’ll never die/We are on the march of the damned…We know what’s at stake/Won’t take your mistakes/Won’t break us/We’ll never fall/That’s all/It’s over/Just watch us crawl.” Referencing Tipton’s statement about the song again, these lyrics illustrate quite well exactly what he was saying. They come across as a collective statement from the band’s fans saying that they don’t care what anyone says. They are fans for life. It is easy to see why this anthem was chosen as the album’s lead single. It’s a powerful statement from an album that could be the last from one of metal’s most legendary bands.

‘March of the Damned’ is a powerful statement from the members of Judas Priest. It puts expertly into words the devotion of the band’s fans regardless of their fans’ ages. It’s especially fitting that there’s no telling whether or not this will be the band’s last album, especially considering that some years ago, Halford and his band mates said they were through touring. Yet once more the band has in fact hit the road in support of another album. Speaking of being on the road, ‘Hell & Back’ will have audiences wondering if perhaps this tour will be the band’s last. Halford ruminates on the band’s past here, singing, “Still in the land of the living/Rocking the home of the brave/Staying alive and still kicking/Ain’t got no need to be saved/Out of the fire and into the black/We’ve been through it all/We’ve been to hell and back.” The song’s musical side is not the high-powered, straight forward piece that the previously noted songs prove to be. But set against the song’s lyrics, one can clearly see the song’s chorus and verses play out clearly in one’s own mind. That clarity will again lead one to wonder about the band’s future after this album and tour. If it proves to be the last for the band on both counts, then this song will have proven to be one more powerful statement from the band. And along with each of the album’s other songs—both noted and not—it is one part of a whole that is easily one of the top two new hard rock and metal albums of the year.

Judas Priest will kick off the U.S. leg of its tour in support of Redeemer of Souls this fall beginning Wednesday, October 1st in Rochester, NY. The band’s current tour schedule is listed online along with all of the latest news from the band at http://www.facebook.com/OfficialJudasPriest, http://twitter.com/judaspriest, and http://www.judaspriest.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Judas Priest Announces New Fall Tour Schedule

Courtesy:  Epic Records

Courtesy: Epic Records

The members of Judas Priest made a big announcement over the weekend.

The members of the veteran hard rock band announced Friday that the band will hit the road this fall in support of its upcoming 17th overall album, Redeemer of Souls. The band will tour in support of Redeemer of Souls beginning Wednesday, October 1st in Rochester, New York. The tour will see the band crisscrossing the country throughout fall and winter, eventually winding down Tuesday, November 18th in Salt Lake City Utah. This is a major announcement from the band’s members as it had alleged that the band would not tour anymore after its previous tour and would instead focus primarily on new music.

Information regarding special fan pre-sales, merchandise bundles, and more are expected soon. Fans can keep up with all of the latest news regarding the noted ticket sales and more online now at http://tickets.judaspriest.com. The band’s most current tour schedule is listed below.

“REDEEMER OF SOULS TOUR 2014″ DATES:

Oct-01 Rochester, NY Main Street Armory

Oct-03 Hammond, IN The Venue at Horseshoe Casino

Oct-04 Louisville, KY Louder Than Life Fest at Champions

Oct-09 Brooklyn, NY Barclays

Oct-10 Atlantic City, NJ Harrah’s

Oct-11 Mashantucket, CT MGM Grand Theater at Foxwood’s

Oct-14 Lowell, MA Tsongas Center at UMass

Oct-15 Allentown, PA PPL Center

Oct-17 East Rutherford, NJ Izod Center

Oct-19 Detroit, MI Fox Theatre

Oct-24 Baltimore, MD Pier Six Pavilion

Oct-28 Duluth, GA The Arena at Gwinnett Center

Oct-30 Hollywood, FL Hard Rock Live Arena

Nov-06 Allen, TX Allen Event Center

Nov-07 Austin FunFunFun Fest

Nov-10 Los Angeles, CA Nokia

Nov-12 Phoenix, AZ Jobing Arena

Nov-13 Highland, CA San Manuel Casino

Nov-14 Las Vegas, NV The Pearl

Nov-16 San Jose, CA City National Civic

Nov-18 Salt Lake City, UT Maverik Center

Fans can also keep up with all of the latest news from the band online via its official website and Facebook page at http://www.judaspriest.com and http://www.facebook.com/OfficialJudasPriest. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Dagger’s CM Debut Is Pure Rock At Its Finest

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

The self-titled debut record from The Dagger is a solid first effort for the Stockholm, Sweden-based four-piece. The Dagger isn’t the first band to ever take listeners back to rock’s golden era. But it still has done something special on its debut that other bands of its ilk (E.g. Horisont, The Sword, Gypsyhawk) have not done. What it has done on its first full effort for Century Media Records is crafted an album that exhibits one of the widest swaths of influences to date from any band of its kind. That’s one part of what makes this record one that purist metal heads will appreciate about this album. Also noteworthy about the album is its overall production values. That, too will be discussed shortly. And last but far from least are the lyrical themes that run through the album. All three factors together make The Dagger an album that any purist rocker and metal head will enjoy just as much with each listen.

The Dagger’s debut record is a good addition to the library of anyone that is a fan of The Sword, Horisont and Gypsyhawk. Much like those bands, The Dagger takes listeners back to the golden era of rock on its Century Media Records debut. As much as it carries a sound similar to those bands, it actually takes things a step further on its self-titled debut. Instead of focusing primarily on one specific classic rock sound, the members of The Dagger—Jani Kataja (vocals), Fred Estby (drums), David Blomqvist (guitar), and Tobias Cristiansson (bass)—exhibit influences from a rather wide swatch of veteran bands. Those bands include the likes of Judas Priest, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, and even Deep Purple among others. Such a wide array of influences having been exhibited here, it makes the album one of those rare albums that is actually worth listening through without skipping a single song. That’s truly saying something, especially in an era when audiences seem to be increasingly downloading single tracks from the likes of iTunes instead of purchasing entire albums. Taking this into consideration, it shows that The Dagger’s debut record could very well be one that older audiences will appreciate just as much as younger audiences. To that extent, it shows great potential for this record.

The sound crafted by the members of The Dagger on the band’s self-titled debut is the most important factor in the overall enjoyment of this record. The band doesn’t stick to just one influence, even in taking listeners on a trip back in time to the golden age of rock. It exhibits all of its many classic rock influences. Just as important to the album’s success as its sound is the album’s production. The separation that was formed between The Dagger and other “modern classic rock” bands thanks to The Dagger’s extensive background of influences is made even wider thanks to the album’s production values. Painstaking efforts were made to not only bring out the band’s veteran influences, but to make the band’s album sound like it was itself a product of rock’s golden era. From Blomqvist’s powerhouse guitar playing to the almost hollow sound of the drums made popular in the 1960s and 70s to Kataja’s own vocals, and even Cristiansson’s bass work, each part was given special attention. When all four parts came together, those behind the glass exhibited expert talent, crafting an album that sounded like it came right from the era of so many great garage rock style bands. Credit is most definitely to be given in that area. It wonderfully compliments a sound from the band that is already impressive on its own.

The songs that make up The Dagger and the production values that make the album even richer are both integral parts of the album’s success and enjoyment. They are but part of the whole, though. There is still one more factor to consider in the album’s enjoyment. That factor is the variety of lyrical themes that run through the album. As [Fred] Estby noted in an interview with Terrorizer magazine, the influences behind the songs’ lyrical themes come from a number of sources. Those sources include the news, novels, and even lyrics from contemporaries such as Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, and Blue Oyster Cult. That means that unlike so many rock bands out there, The Dagger tries its best to avoid the standard themes of relationships. Rather the themes on this album vary just as widely as the band’s musical influences. It’s a breath of fresh air, considering just how many bands even in today’s world of hard rock and heavy metal base their songs on that standard fare. That factor, alongside the album’s overall sound and production values make this record, once again, one that any purist rocker and metal head will enjoy just as much the fiftieth time around as the fifth.

The Dagger will be available in the U.S. Tuesday, July 22nd and June 30th in Europe.  It will be released both domestically and internationally via Century Media Records. The Dagger is currently scheduled to perform live September 18th and 19th in Stockholm Sweden as part of Close-Up Magazine’s Close-Up Baten Festival. Until then, audiences can keep up with the latest news and more from The Dagger through its official Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/daggerofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Judas Priest Debuts Lead Single From Upcoming Album

Courtesy:  Epic Records

Courtesy: Epic Records

Legendary rock band Judas Priest has officially released the lead single from its upcoming album Redeemer of Souls.

The band has released ‘March of the Damned’ to radio stations across the country. It is also available for download via all digital sales providers. And along with the download of the single, fans can pre-order Redeemer of Souls now online via iTunes at http://smarturl.it/redeemerofsouls-albm. Fans can check out the new song in its entirety now along with introduction from Glenn Tipton online via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HJhm2vZFj2k&feature=youtu.be.

Redeemer of Souls will be available Tuesday, July 15th via Epic Records. It will be available both in standard format and as a deluxe expanded edition with five bonus tracks. Tipton explains about expectations for the band’s seventeenth (yes, seventeenth) full length studio release stating, “Sometimes in the past we may have come under fire for being too adventurous musically – so we have listened!! From start to finish ‘Redeemer of Souls’ is 13 songs of pure classic Priest metal!!”

More updates on Redeemer of Souls and news from the band is available online now at http://www.judaspriest.com and http://www.facebook.com/OfficialJudasPriest. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

The Dagger Reveals Cover Art, Track Listing For Debut Album

Courtesy:  Century Media Records

Courtesy: Century Media Records

Swedish metal act The Dagger recently signed a deal with Century Media Records. The band’s self-titled debut album is slated to be released June 30th in Europe and July 22nd in North America. The album will be released via Century Media Records both overseas and in North America.

In anticipation of the upcoming release, the band has released the cover art for its album as well as the video for its lead single, titled ‘Ahead of You All.’ The song conjures thoughts of Judas Priest and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal during the 1980s. Audiences can hear the song now online via YouTube at YouTube: http://youtu.be/wLFKpWMjVec and via SoundCloud at https://soundcloud.com/centurymedia/the-dagger-ahead-of-you-all.

The Dagger also included a song titled ‘Dark Cloud’ as the closer for its upcoming self-titled debut. Audiences can hear an early version of that song now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imbk-v_1myE. That early version was originally released on a 7” through High Roller Records. The album’s complete track listing is noted below.

The Dagger track-listing:
1. Ahead Of You All
2. Call Of 9
3. Ballad Of An Old Man
4. Skygazer
5. Electric Dawn
6. 1978
7. Dogs Of Warning
8. Nocturnal Triumph
9. Inside The Monolithic Dome
10. Dark Cloud

The Dagger is currently scheduled to perform live September 18th and 19th in Stockholm Sweden as part of Close-Up Magazine’s Close-Up Baten Festival.

Jani Kataja leads The Dagger on vocals. He is joined by David Blomqvist (guitar), Tobias Cristiansson (bass), and Fred Estby (drums). More information on The Dagger, its upcoming self-titled album and eventual tour news is available online at http://www.facebook.com/daggerofficial. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

This Is Your Life Is Not Just Another Throw-Away Tribute Album

Courtesy:  Rhino Records

Courtesy: Rhino Records

Tribute albums are a dime a dozen. So many tribute albums are released each year that one can’t help but feel that the labels that release them care more about their bottom line than about actually celebrating said artists being given tribute. That being the case, one can’t help but wonder why This Is Your Life, the new tribute album to iconic rock front man Ronnie James Dio, would be any different from those records. The answer to that is not a simple one. One reason that this tribute album stands out is the list of performers and bands that recorded songs for the compilation. It’s a who’s who of hard rock from the past, present, and even future of the genre. Another reason that this compilation stands out is its track listing. This record boasts some of the most beloved songs of RJD’s career. And last but definitely not least important to consider in this record is the fact that it isn’t just a means for the label distributing it to make money. It actually doubles as a fundraiser for RJD’s Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund. So it’s actually a record crafted to essentially help give back. How many bands, artists, groups, etc. can say that they have crafted an entire album simply to raise funds for charity? That–along with the list of songs and performers, bands, etc. on this album–makes This Is Your Life an album that stands well above the rest of the otherwise throw-away albums claiming to be tribute albums.

Courtesy:  Rhino Records

Courtesy: Rhino Records

The primary aspect of This Is Your Life that makes it stand out against all of the other tribute albums out there is the list of performers drafted to record songs for the record. The list of performers drafted for this record is a who’s who of hard rock’s past, present, and even future. It wasn’t just a mish-mash of bands, artists and groups tossed together. Everybody tapped to record for this tribute record is either a counterpart to RJD or someone that grew up idolizing him and his talents. Veterans such as Anthrax, Motorhead, Scorpions, Biff Byford, and Rob Halford perform alongside younger acts such as Adrenaline Mob, Killswitch Engage, and Halestorm over the course of the record’s fourteen total tracks. That collection of bands and artists singing Dio’s hits is in itself a musical history lesson. It introduces younger audiences that might be more familiar with the latter grouping of bands and artists to the veterans and to the music of Dio. To that extent, This Is Your Life quickly earns major points. Even more points come from the sampling of Dio’s music in question chosen for this compilation.

The list of bands, artists, and groups tapped to record RJD’s music for This Is Your Life is in itself a major boon for the record. As noted, it isn’t just a mish-mash of bands, artists, and groups. It is a collection of bands, group, and artists that played alongside Dio during his career, and those that have come since, growing up with the music of Ronnie James Dio. In short, it’s a collection of individuals that have the utmost respect for Dio and his music. Speaking of that music, the songs chosen to be included on this record are another part of the whole that makes it so enjoyable for listeners. Every song on this record is a classic in its own way. From the more well-known pieces such as ‘The Mob Rules’, ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘Holy Diver’ to slightly lesser known songs such as ‘Straight Through The Heart’, Egypt (The Chains Are On’, and ‘Temple of the King’ This Is Your Life does quite the job of chronicling the career of a man that was and is still even in death, one of the greatest vocalists and performers in the history of hard rock.

The music and performers chosen for This Is Your Life are both key components of the success of the album. As important as they are to the success of the record, there is still one central aspect of the recording that makes it so worth picking up. That aspect is the fact that a certain portion of the sales of the album will go to benefit Dio’s Stand Up and Shout Cancer Fund, which was established by Dio’s wife Wendy Dio. Bands, groups and artists go out on tour every year or they take part in fundraising concerts. How many artists can say they were part of a recording project that was also meant as a way to pay tribute to one of their own, too? It’s just like bringing home a hard rock festival without having to pay the exorbitant prices for tickets, souvenirs, sodas and more. And at the same time, audiences that purchase the album will actually be helping to fund an organization that works to research and promote awareness of cancer, as well as educate people about early detection in hopes of one day stopping it.

This Is Your Life is available now in stores and online. It can be ordered online via Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Ronnie-James-Dio-This-Your/dp/B00IACUO8S/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1396440364&sr=1-1&keywords=dio+this+is+your+life and can be downloaded via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/ronnie-james-dio-this-is-your/id829325064.

More information on Ronnie James Dio, This Is Your Life and other RJD releases is available online at http://www.facebook.com/OfficialRonnieJamesDio and http://www.ronniejamesdio.com. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Don Jamieson Is As Irreverent And Funny As Ever On His New Comedy Album

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Don Jamieson, co-host of VH1’s hit show That Metal Show will release his new full length comedy album Tuesday, March 18thHell Bent For Laughter, Jamieson’s second full length comedy album, was recorded in December 2013 at Uncle Vinnie’s Comedy Club in Pleasant Beach, New Jersey.  Despite recording his show close to the new home that he tells his audience that he and his wife had bought, neither The Garden State nor its embattled governor are off limits to Jamieson in his show.  It’s just part of what will have audiences laughing uproariously.  Jamieson also goes after politicians, certain pop acts, and even some of his favorite rock bands of all time in his act just to note a little of what audiences can expect in this performance.  Regardless of whether it be for any of the noted material or that not noted, there is enough in this recording to have anyone laughing, even when they know they should be ashamed to be doing so.  It is a laugh riot and a must hear for anyone that needs a good laugh.

Don Jamieson covers so much ground in the show recorded for Hell Bent For Laughter.  He obviously has plenty of music related jokes and jokes related to That Metal Show.  But that’s not all he hits in his show.  Jamieson also justifiably gets plenty of laughs when he tells his audience about having bought a house in New Jersey with his wife.  Those laughs are thanks to jokes about his bad luck in the timing of having bought the house and about the cost of mortgage payments.  He laughs as he tells his audience that anyone that’s renting should keep doing so.  From there, he goes on to make jokes about embattled New Jersey governor Chris Christie, Christie’s potential run for the presidency, and of course his weight and weight loss.  It’s just one of a handful of moments throughout the show when Jamieson really shines in this show.  Audiences will agree when they hear his jokes for themselves.

Gov. Christie isn’t the only politician that Jamieson goes after in his latest comedy release.  He also goes after Vice President Joe Biden and how little people actually see him versus how much people see President Obama.  He makes a sharp joke about how much Biden spent on room service in one night at a hotel room at one point.  He really shows with both this joke and those aimed at Christie his ability to branch out and cover more than just music.  It shows his abilities as apolitical satirist as well as media personality, which bodes well if he ever decides to step away from his day job.  On an even deeper level, the fact that he would go after both a Republican and Democrat means that no one can even begin to accuse Jamieson of supporting one side or the other.  He gives equal time to both sides.  Anyone with any knowledge of how the media works will appreciate that reference.

The laughs that Jamieson gets with his political pot shots don’t stop there.  He also goes after some of the biggest names in pop culture as part of his act.  Those names include the likes of Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston, and even One Direction.  He basically accuses Lady Gaga of being a cross-dressing male.  And in terms of Whitney Houston, he shows just how irreverent he can be.  Some might even call his joke at Houston’s expense walking a very fine line.  It’s not the only time at which he walks that line, either.  Audiences will find he walks that line quite a bit throughout this set.  Getting back on topic, in going after One Direction, that joke is so off color that this critic would get in a lot of trouble for even beginning to repeat it.  It is something that audiences will have to hear for themselves to appreciate.   They’re not the only acts to taste Jamieson’s comedic venom so to speak, either.  He spreads the love, even making jabs at some of the biggest names in the rock industry.  Metallica, Motley Crue, Judas Priest, KISS, and Guns N’ Roses all get their moment in Jamieson’s set.  From calling Motley Crue Motley Karaoke thanks to how Vince Neil handles live shows to a crack about Metallica working with Lou Reed to jokes about songs from KISS and Judas Priest, Jamieson leaves no stone unturned.  He shows that he can get audiences laughing even in making jokes related to his regular day job even on these topics.  It shows that whether it be music, pop culture, politics, or even more blue material, Don Jamieson can entertain any audience.  And audiences will agree on this when they pick up Hell Bent For Laughter Tuesday, March 18th.  It is definitely a recording that will have anyone laughing nonstop.

Jamieson will hit the road beginning next Friday March, 14th for a stand-up tour to support Hell Bent For Laughter.  Audiences will get to hear some of his material when he kicks off his tour at the New Hope Cinema Grill in New Hope, Minnesota.  He will be joined by his co-hosts of That Metal Show on a handful of his upcoming live dates.  Fans can get a full rundown of Jamieson’s upcoming live appearances online now at http://www.donjamieson.com, http://www.metalblade.com/donjamieson, http://twitter.com/realdonjamieson, and http://www.facebook.com/donjamiesonofficial.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Black Utopia Re-Issue Another Hit For Sherinian

Courtesy:  Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Courtesy: Armoury Records/Eagle RockEntertainment

Derek Sherinian’s second solo album Black Utopia is an interesting work from this world renowned keyboardist.  There is so much to say about this record and not enough space or time to go into everything.  So instead of rambling, we’ll hit on the main points of what makes this album just as enjoyable for Sherinian’s fans the second time around as it was in its original release.   The first aspect of this album that makes it so enjoyable is its sequencing.  That is to say the order of the songs.  The second factor that listeners will appreciate (especially those that might be hearing the album for the first time) is the A-list guest stars that agreed to be a part of this album.  The third factor in the success of the album’s re-issue is the reworked liner notes.  All three of these factors together make Black Utopia an album that any Derek Sherinian fan will appreciate just as much in its new re-issue as they did in its initial release some ten years ago.

The success of Black Utopia is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The album’s sequencing greatly exhibits the understanding of and appreciation for music possessed by both Derek Sherinian and co-producer Simon Phillips.  The pair treat Black Utopia as if they were creating a set list for a live show.  The energy of the songs rises and falls just enough throughout the course of the album’s nine tracks to keep listeners fully engaged.  That energy rises and falls just enough within the context of the songs themselves to make the energy in the transitions between songs even more impactful.  It shows on a deeper level, the pair’s understanding of and appreciation for their craft.  The resultant effect is one the makes this album one of those rare albums that listeners will want to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song. It’s just the starting point of the album’s success, too. And that’s saying something.

Black Utopia’s success is thanks in large part to its sequencing.  The sequencing of the songs would be moot without the music crafted by Sherinian and the guest musicians that make appearances on this album.  That is the second factor in this album’s creation that makes it a success.  Sherinian invited some of the biggest names in the business to join him on this record.  And it’s a good thing they accepted his invitation.  Among those major names are the likes of Simon Phillips (The Who, Judas Priest, Gary Moore, etc.), Zakk Wylde (Ozzy Osbourne, Black Label Society), Al Di Meola (Return To Forever, Chick Corea), Yngwie Malmsteen, Billy Sheehan (Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big) and others.  Their talents are well shared throughout the record.  The whole group teams up on the album’s opener for what is without a doubt one of the album’s absolute best works.  Malmsteen puts on a virtual clinic with his shredding, while Sherinian himself manages somehow to mix in a touch of jazz/fusion at one point, adding even more flare and substance to the song.  And the combination of Zakk Wylde, Simon Phillips, Tony Franklin and Jerry Goodman on ‘Nightmare Cinema’ is incredible.  Sherinian’s etherial keyboard part set against Phillips’ drumming early on perfectly illustrates the song’s title.  It establishes quite the eerie vibe.  The eventual addition of Wylde on guitar adds even more depth to the song as it progresses.  It is simply something that must be heard in order to be fully appreciated.  The same can be noted of the album’s remaining tracks.  Sherinian  and his fellow musicians come together on each song to show just why their addition to Black Utopia is such an important part of the album’s overall success.

The who’s  who of musicians recruited to record Black Utopia alongside Derek Sherinian is just as important to the success of the album as its sequencing.  Without the talent of the musicians in question, the sequencing would not be all that important to discuss.  Thankfully that wasn’t the case here.  And because it wasn’t the case, it leaves only one remaining factor to note of this re-issue.  The factor in question is the updated liner notes included with the album.  This time out, Black Utopia includes an article crafted by journalist Joe Lalaina, of Guitar World magazine.  Lalaina outlines the album in his own words.  Sherinian’s own thoughts on Black Utopia are also included as a follow-up to Lalaina.  Listeners will take special interest in Sherinian’s comment about working with Brian Tichy (Something Unto Nothing, Ozzy Osbourne, Billy Idol).  He notes that it was his friendship and working relationship with Tichy that led the pair to work together on this album.  There’s also mention of his excitement of working with both Yngwie Malmsteen and Al Di Meola.  One of his comments in particular regarding this can’t be repeated here.  But it will most definitely have listeners laughing.  It’s the finishing touch to an album that any hard rock fan should hear at least once now that it has been re-issued by Armoury Records.  More information on this and other albums from Derek Sherinian is available online at http://www.dereksherinian.com.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Of Conquest Is A Surprisingly Entertaining High Seas Hard Rock Epic

Courtesy:  Adrenaline PR

Courtesy: Adrenaline PR

Odds are that many American metal audiences have never heard of Scythia.  That all changes here and now.  Anyone that is a fan of Trans-Siberian Orchestra, Judas Priest, In Flames, and even Dream Theater will enjoy the latest release from the Canadian power/prog rock band.  Of Conquest, the band’s fourth full length studio release, offers audiences even more adventure from the four-piece.  Stylistically speaking, this new record presents a sound that fans have come to know from the band’s previous records.  In terms of its content, the band has offered its fans something new once again.  Instead of delving into the world of warriors, wizards, the band has opted this time for a high seas hard rock epic.  Those that might be new to the music of Scythia will enjoy this record first and foremost of its musical content.  While this record boasts a sound similar to Scythia’s previous records, the sound stands out because of its hybrid qualities.  This will be discussed later.  The story presented in Of Conquest is just as certain to entertain any pure blooded metal head that is open-minded enough to give the record a chance.  In giving it a chance, said audiences may very well themselves find this new record to be one of their own favorite rock albums.

The musical side of Scythia’s new record is relatively similar to that of the band’s previous records.  On the surface, it comes across as another power/prog rock record, stylistically speaking.  But a deeper listen reveals something even more intriguing. The band’s sound is actually a subtle hybrid sound.  While the power/prog element comes out above others, there are also some obviously Swedish metal influences, too.  That’s obvious in the performance of lead guitarist/vocalist Dave Khan and even drummer/backing vocalist Celine Derval.  As a matter of fact, if one were to listen to this record without knowing that Derval was a member of the band, one would swear that the screaming female vocals that are interwoven into certain songs were that of Arch Enemy vocalist Angela Gossow.  Speaking of Arch Enemy, Dave Khan’s prowess on the guitar is just as impressive as that of Michael Amott and other fellow Swedish shredders.  It just goes to show the influence of Swedish metal on the rock world.  Some might consider it musical heresy, but Khan’s own vocals are even on par with the likes of Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson and others.  Considering that this band released its debut album only four years ago, that is saying something.  Audiences that give this new record a chance will be surprised to find themselves agreeing with this comparison, too.  The positives of Of Conquest  don’t end here, either.  Just as noteworthy with this latest release is the album’s lyrical side.

Scythia has given its audiences a new story with each one of its previous releases.  Those releases have been steeped in fantasy and legend somewhere along the lines of perhaps Amon Amarth and others, only toned down.  There is still plenty of myth on Of Conquest.  But this time, the myth is used in a high seas hard rock opera of sorts.  This album presents a young protagonist that decides to take to the high seas in the late 1500s.  At first things seem great.  But it doesn’t take long before the young unnamed subject finds himself on quite the adventure.  From getting caught in an unforgiving storm to battling a kraken to facing some unspeakable figures late in his journey, he has great odds to face.  Making the story all the more interesting to take in is the fact that despite the band’s hybrid hard rock/metal sound, Khan actually sings his way through each “chapter” of the story.  So it’s actually possible to understand what is going on without a dire need for a lyric booklet.  Don’t misunderstand that statement.  Lyric booklets are always a nice addition for any artist’s album, regardless of genre.  It’s just that easy to understand the story.  And that is the final piece of what makes this album a surprisingly enjoyable record.  The band currently has no live events planned.  But fans that want to hear the band live or those that want to check out the new album when it is released can keep up with the band online at http://www.scythia.ca and http://www.facebook.com/scythiametal.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Rob Halford Joins 5FDP On Stage In Birmingham

Photo Credit: Robert Lawrence

Photo Credit: Robert Lawrence

Fans of Five Finger Death Punch got a special treat this week.  While performing in Birmingham this week, 5FDP was joined on stage by legendary metal front man Rob Halford.  The Judas Priest front man joined the band on-stage in Birmingham, England for a performance of the ‘Lift Me Up.’  ‘Lift Me Up’ comes from the band’s recently released album The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 1.  It went on to reach #1 on the U.S. Active Radio Chart after its release this year.

Audiences can check out a clip of Halford performing with 5FDP online now via YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TCPXbLj-QgQ&feature=youtu.be.  Included with the clip is an interview with 5FDP guitarist Zoltan Bathory.  Bathory explains in the interview how the collaboration with the legendary vocalist came to be and the importance of Halford joining the band on-stage.

Five Finger Death Punch recently released The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 2 to the masses.  Since its release, the album has reached #2 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums Chart.  Its lead single, ‘Battle Born’ has been at #1 on the Active Rock Radio Chart for two weeks straight.  The song’s video premiered online at USAToday.com on October 1st.  It is available online now at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyA1GL1touw.  The video for the near four-minute song is comprised primarily of footage of the band on tour.  The band is currently wrapping its European tour. It will be in Ukraine tonight before moving on to Russia tomorrow and next Tuesday and Wednesday.  After next Wednesday’s show, the band will take some much needed time off before heading on the high seas for the annual week-long “Shiprocked” cruise from January 26th – 30th.  5FDP’s fans can get all the latest tour news and more on the band’s official website, http://www.fivefingerdeathpunch.com and its official Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/fivefingerdeathpunch.  Fans can also go to the band’s official website to order both Volume 1 & 2 of the band’s new album, The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell.  To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at http://philspicks.wordpress.com.