‘Quantum Leap’ Is A Largely Successful New Offering From Gus G.

Courtesy: AFM Records

Firewind founder and guitarist Gus G. is quoted from a recent interview as saying of his new album, Quantum Leap, that he “didn’t make it with the intention of it being the next one in the cycle of solo albums.  It was more of a case of, ‘What else is there?’ I needed the creative outlet.”  One of so many albums created during the downtime forced on acts by the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences will be glad that he crafted the album regardless.  That is due in large part to its general presentation, which will be discussed shortly.  While the album’s general presentation makes the record a strong new offering, the recording is not perfect.  The production in the live content detracts from the presentation to a point.  This will be discussed a little later.  Speaking of production, the production of the album’s first half offsets the impact of the production in the album’s second half and makes the album that much more enjoyable.  The end result of this is that the album in whole proves to be one more of the year’s top new rock and hard rock/metal albums.

Gus G.’s new solo album, Quantum Leap is a mostly successful new presentation from the veteran guitarist.  That is due in large part to its general presentation.  The general presentation finds the 18-song record divided into two separate discs.  The first disc is composed of 11 original new songs that the guitarist (formally known as Konstantinos Karamitroudis) crafted during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The second disc is composed of seven live tracks, at least two of which are covers (one a Thin Lizzy cover, the other a Dire Straits work).  The live songs were all from a concert that Karamitroudis held in 2018 in Budapest.  Two of the songs – ‘Fearless’ and ‘Cold Sweat’ – were featured in his 2019 digital-only EP, Live in Budapest.  The other five songs are other performances featured in the concert, but just not in the EP.  Ironically, the other two songs from the EP are not featured among the live songs in this bonus live material.  Sure, it would have been nice for audiences to have had those songs, for a total count of nine live performances, but at least audiences get seven.  To that end, audiences cannot complain too much.

Getting back to the topic of the main record, the material that makes up its body is both new and archived material that Karamitroudis had stored away unfinished from however long ago.  Karamitroudis composed and recorded most of the instrumentation in this record, save for the drums.  He was joined by drummer Vincent Velasco for the recording.  Velasco’s work is solid throughout and offers just the right musical “spice,” too.  Just as interesting is that Karamitroudis was quoted during an interview promoting the album, that he had to step back from his typical approach (IE lots of extensive guitar solos and work, really in-depth arrangements).  Instead, he allowed himself to write and create more freely.  The result is wonderful.  There are songs that fit just as well here on any Firewind album (E.g. ‘Demon Stomp,’ and ‘Enigma of Life’) as would fit on one of Joe Satriani’s albums.  The more Satriani work comes in the form of the album’s opener, ‘Leap Into The Unknown’ and ‘Not Forgotten.’  There is even some hint of influence from fellow guitar virtuoso Marty Friedman peppered in through songs, such as ‘Force Majure’ and ‘Exosphere.’  As if all of that is not enough, the sort of “new agey” approach and sound of ‘Night Driver’ with its keyboards, is a throwback to that familiar hair metal sound of the 80s.  It will appeal to specific audiences in its own right.  Simply put, the works crafted for the album’s main body are diverse and unique from one another throughout its run.  The wide appeal that it will certainly generate couples with the appeal from the record’s companion live material to make for even more engagement and entertainment.  In other words, audiences get the best of both worlds here in the best way possible.  They get a new, impressive studio recording, and a healthy compliment of live material in lien of a live performance, since the COVID-19 pandemic put Karamitroudis’ live plans on hold.  Keeping all of this in mind, the album’s general presentation creates a strong, solid foundation for the record.  Of course while the album’s general presentation is undeniably important to its appeal, the album is not perfect.  There is a slight issue raised as a result of the live material’s production.


The production is slightly problematic because of the lack of balance in the instrumentation and vocals.  The vocals in the live show were performed by Dennis Ward (Pink Cream 69, Unisonic).  Maybe it is just this critic’s own hearing, but it seems throughout the songs with vocals, Ward’s performance is washed out by Gus G.’s work and that of drummer Johan Nunez (Firewind, ex-Kamelot).  Ward’s vocals sound so distant, as if his mic was not turned on.  Whether that was accidental is anyone’s guess.  Regardless, it forces audiences to turn up the volume and listen closely to be able to hear Ward.  This is disappointing, but is not enough of a dent to make the live material a failure.  That is because not every song has vocals.  To that end, the album’s live material still helps play into the album’s success, despite the one noted concern.

Considering that the production in the album’s live material is not enough to doom the record, there is at least one more item to note here to the record’s positive.  That item is the production of the album’s primary content.  As noted already, Karamitroudis admitted in an interview promoting his new album, that he had to take a new, unfamiliar approach to composing and performing in Quantum Leap.  That approach included not only taking different approaches in the songs, but also making sure that each part works well with each other.  That is because so much is still going on in each song.  Ward, who also mixed and mastered the album, deserves his own share of applause.  He clearly paid painstaking attention to each instrument’s place within each arrangement.  He made sure that every part complimented the others and balanced each song in whole.  That work and that of Karamistroudis came together and made the album in whole just as successful for its aesthetics as for its content.  When this and the album’s content are considered together, the whole makes Quantum Leap another impressive offering from Gus G. that is among the best of not only the year’s new rock albums, but hard rock and metal albums, too.

Gus G.’s recently released album, Quantum Leap is an impressive presentation that will appeal equally to his fans, those of Firewind, and rock and hard rock fans alike.  The record’s success is due in large part to its general presentation.  The general presentation gives audiences the best of both worlds with a new studio album and live recording in one.  The studio recording gives audiences a new studio presentation while the new live recording gives audiences a nice concert experience in lieu of a live, in-person show from Gus G. as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The general presentation gives the record a strong start, but the production in the live recording detracts from the presentation to a point.  The production proves problematic because there is an obvious problem with the balance between the instrumentation and vocals in the tracks that feature vocals.  Thankfully it is not enough to make the record in whole a failure or even the record’s live half.  The production of the record’s primary body makes up for the concerns raised through the production of the live content.  It ensures every instrument balances expertly with one another.  The result is that the studio content is fully engaging and entertaining from start to end.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s overall presentation.  All things considered, the album proves a mostly successful presentation.

Quantum Leap is available now through AFM Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of Gus G.’s latest news at:

Website: https://gusgofficial.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/officialgusg

Twitter: https://twitter.com/gusgofficial

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

‘Game Over’ Will Leave Audiences Hoping The Album Is Not The End Game For U.D.O.

Courtesy: AFM Records

Veteran hard rock band U.D.O. is scheduled to release its latest album Friday in the form of Game Over.  The band’s 18th album, its title is a reference to everything going on in the world today. That is according to information made available about the record. This album is everything that audiences have come to expect from the group.  That is exhibited clearly through the record’s musical arrangement, which will be addressed shortly.  The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s musical content does just as much to prove the noted statement.  They will be discussed a little later.  The sequencing of that collective content rounds out the most important of the record’s elements.  It will also be examined later.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Game Over a record that hopefully is not the end game for U.D.O.

U.D.O.’s forthcoming  album, Game Over, is a powerful new offering from the band that will appeal equally to the band’s established audiences and to hard rock fans alike.  That is proven clearly in part through its featured musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question exhibit more of the band’s familiar power metal presentations from beginning to end.  The comparisons to works from the likes of the band’s fellow power/hard rock acts Judas Priest and Saxon are unavoidable.  At the same time, the arrangement featured in the album’s single, ‘Kids and Guns’ is just as easily compared to works from AC/DC.  ‘Empty Eyes’ meanwhile offers audiences something with a little more of a modern hard rock edge while still incorporating the band’s more familiar sound and stylistic approach.  Meanwhile, a song, such as ‘Like A Beast’ immediately conjures thoughts of front man Udo Dirckschneider’s time with Accept with its fiery guitar riffs, solid time keeping, rich bass work and vocals from Dirkschneider himself.  Simply put, the musical content featured throughout Game Over offers plenty for audiences to enjoy because of its diversity.  There’s something old and something new.  There’s even something “blue” (so to speak) in ‘Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye.’  Yes, that awful pun was intended, but it is blue in its mood.  So to that point, there is some truth there, all joking aside.  Again, this all does well to help exhibit the diversity featured throughout the record’s musical body.  That diversity is just a part of what makes the album stand out.  The lyrical themes that accompany the album’s musical content add their own appeal to the presentation, too.

The lyrical themes featured throughout Game Over are almost as diverse as the record’s musical arrangements.  Audiences get an all too familiar arena anthem in the album’s lead single, ‘Metal Never Dies.’  As the song’s title infers, this is a defiant anthem about the immortality of metal.  It is right up there alongside AC/DC’s famed anthem, ‘Rock ‘N Roll Will Never Die.’  Dirkschneider even goes so far as to sing that line in the song’s chorus after noting in the lead verse, “Back when I took my first breath/The days were dark and gray/No belief/No hope/OR had nothing to say/Then came the days of changes/I realized the truth/Woke me up/Taught me how to fight/Breaking chains/Let heavy thunder through the night/Look up/See the sign/’Cause metal never dies/Stand in line/’Cause metal never dies.”  This is a straight forward to the power of metal in making life better for its fans.  He goes on in the song’s second verse to note his travels around the world because of the world and that “I believed/I had something to say…It was my dream come true.”  This proud tribute to metal and hard rock is a wonderful addition to the album, lyrically speaking, that is certain to become a fan favorite.  It is just one example of the powerful role of the album’s lyrical content.  Dirkschneider and company get socially conscious in ‘Kids and Guns’ and in ‘Time Control.’  The prior is a commentary about the dangers of letting young people get access to guns (the daily headlines since 1999 are proof of that danger).  The latter is a familiar commentary about taking better care of the planet.  This is a theme that was just as prominent in the band’s most recent album, We Are One (2020).  He pointed out during a recent interview that caring better for the planet is not limited to environmentalism, but to the need for peace, too.  That is all presented in ‘Time Control.’  That theme seems to be exhibited in ‘Empty Eyes’ just as much.  It is just another way in which the diversity in the album’s lyrical themes shows itself.  Between these songs and the others that make up the rest of the record’s body, it should be clear at this point that the lyrical themes featured in this record and their diversity are just as important to the album’s presentation as their equally diverse musical arrangements.  Keeping in mind the overall diversity of the album’s content, the sequencing thereof puts the finishing touch to the presentation.

Game Over’s sequencing is so important to note because on one level, it ensures that the energy in the album’s arrangements keeps flowing solidly from beginning to end.  There is one breakpoint just past the album’s midpoint in the form of ‘Don’t Wanna Say Goodbye.’  It makes a good chance for listeners to catch their breath before the energy picks right back up after that point and on to the album’s end.  On another level, the sequencing ensures that the noted diversity in the arrangements is just as evident even in the subtle ways in which the arrangements change in their stylistic approaches.  Those items collectively show that time and thought went into the sequencing in this way to ensure listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  Similarly, the sequencing also ensures the lyrical themes change up from one to the next just enough, too.  That noted change ensures – along with the changes in the album’s musical arrangements – listeners’ engagement and entertainment just as much.  All things considered here, this content shows even more, how much time and thought went into the album’s sequencing.  Keeping that in mind along with the importance of the content itself, the whole leaves Game Over another solid presentation from U.D.O. and one more of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.

U.D.O.’s forthcoming album, Game Over is an impressive new offering from the veteran hard rock band.  Its success comes in part through its musical arrangements.  The arrangements offer audiences plenty of familiar sounds and stylistic approaches.  They also give audiences something a little more modern here and there.  The whole makes the album’s musical arrangements well worth hearing.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical arrangements is just as important as that musical content.  That is because it is just as diverse as the musical arrangements.  The themes are also just as accessible as the record’s musical arrangements.  The sequencing of the collective content rounds out the album’s most important elements.  That is because it brings together the diversity in the overall content.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of Game Over.  All things considered, they will leave audiences glad to know that the album is not the end game for U.D.O.

Game Over is scheduled for release Friday through AFM Records. More information on the album is available along with all of U.D.O.’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.udo-online.de

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/udoonline

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Metal Purists, U.D.O., Accept Fans Alike Will Enjoy Dirkschneider & The Old Gang’s Debut Record

Courtesy: AFM Records

When U.D.O. released its then latest album, We Are One last year, that record proved to be one of the highest musical points for the metal masses.  For all that record did to make 2020 at least a little better amid the negatives caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, it apparently ended up having a latent effect.  It led front man Udo Dirkschneider and some of his fellow former Accept members to get together to craft a spinoff record of sorts in the form of Arising.  Released late last month through AFM Records under the moniker of Dirkschneider & The Old Gang, the three song record that offers engagement and entertainment for a wide range of audiences.  That is proven in part through its musical arrangements, which will be discussed shortly.  The record’s lyrical content adds its own appeal to the presentation and will be examined a little later.  The record’s production puts the final touch to its presentation and brings everything full circle.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make the record another of the best of this year’s new EPs.

Dirkschneider & The Old Gang’s recently released record, Arising, is a positive new presentation from the group, which also features former Accept members Peter Baltes (bass) and Stefan Kaufmann (guitar) alongside Sinner/U.D.O. guitarist Mathias Dieth and Dirkschneider’s song Sven on drums (U.D.O., Dirkschneider).  Manuela Bibert adds her own powerful vocals to the mix to round out the group.  According to information provided, the record’s genesis came about ahead of the creation of U.D.O.’s latest album, We Are One (2020).  The information cites Baltes as stating that ‘Where The Angels Fly,’ one of the record’s three featured tracks, was originally expected for inclusion in We Are One, but ended up not making the finale.  That song was re-worked, leading to its presentation here and the group’s birth.  The musical arrangement featured in the new, re-worked take of Where The Angels Fly’ and the record’s two other songs, ‘Face of a Stranger’ and ‘Every Heart Is Burning’ serve to form the record’s foundation.  Each work presents a familiar mix of vintage hard rock/metal and power metal.  Each arrangement also boasts its own identity separate and unique from that of its counterparts.  The song that started it all opens with a steady but contemplative guitar line from Dieth and steady time keeping from the younger Dirkschneider.  Instead of his regular gruff vocals, the elder Dirskschneider actually offers a cleaner sound here that will surprise many listeners.  Just as surprising is the result when those clean vocals are set alongside those of Bibert.  The harmony created through that pairing against the rest of the group’s works (especially in the chorus) lends itself to the operatic style work that Queen crafted for the Flash Gordon movie in 1981.  One could even make subtle comparison to works from Sabaton here in listening closely to the whole. 

Similarly, ‘Face of a Stranger’ also features an arrangement whose whole is at least somewhat comparable to works from Sabaton.  The thing here though, is that such comparison is far more subtle.  In the case of this song, the arrangement shows more leanings toward the heavier works of Def Leppard.  It pairs that influence along with Udo’s own work with U.D.O. to make the whole a unique, heavy work in its own right that is just as certain to keep listeners engaged and entertained.

The musical arrangement featured in ‘Every Heart is Burning’ is more pure guitar-based metal.  The vocal layering that creates the choral effect, the guitar, bass, and drums is just pure 80s metal, and not the hair metal stuff, either.  It is as pure as metal can get.  It will have any listener chanting/singing along, pumping his/her fist in the air.  No doubt if U.D.O. takes this one on the road during its next tour, it will be a sure live hit.  Considering that and the arrangements featured in the record’s other two songs, the whole makes clear why the record’s musical content is so important to its presentation.  That content is only a part of what makes Arising so appealing.  The lyrical content that accompanies the record’s musical arrangements adds to that appeal.

The lyrical theme featured in ‘Face of a Stranger’ does well to support that statement.  This song’s lyrical theme is so interesting in that it comes across as someone having an identity crisis of sorts.  The very mention of not recognizing the person “in the mirror” early on in the song makes that clear.  The later note of “Fading oceans of memories/Bring tears of anguish and shame/A song of vanishing melodies/Where days and nights sound the same” points even more in that direction.  It comes across as someone who realizes who and what he has been and is realizing the error of his ways as he knows he has to change.  This is even as Dirkschneider sings about flashbacks and past lives earlier in the song.  It all really comes across more as an allegory that uses the matter of past lives more in a lyrical sense, like the person the subject was, was that past life.  This is all just this critic’s interpretation of course.  Regardless, this lyrical content is certain to generate its own share of discussion and insight.  To that end, it shows in its own way, the importance of the record’s lyrical content.

The lyrical theme featured in ‘Every Heart is Burning’ does its own share to show the importance of the noted content.  The very way in which the lyrics were crafted here read like something right out of an old fantasy tale.  Of course, the song is not that.  Rather, the literary devices that are used here seem to point to its own story of someone trying to be better.  That would go along with the apparent overall theme of Arising especially in the line stating, “The billows of disgorging sin/That wrap him like a shroud/The wicked have no peace within/Their wailings shrill and loud.”  That mention of the wicked apparently not getting into the song’s subject as he disgorges sin points to the subject trying to expel all of that negative from himself.  This as Dirkschneider and company sing in the song’s chorus that “Every heart is burning/But a soul will never die/Every pain returning/Like a lightning raging high” points to that inference even more.  In its own way, that chorus seems to state that while pain will always be there, the soul (that good) will never die.  In turn, the attempt to eliminate that pain and negative will go on, too.  Again, this is just this critic’s own interpretation.  Hopefully it is somewhere in the proverbial ballpark.  Regardless, the very way in which the song’s lyrical content was crafted pairs with the discussion that it is sure to generate and shows in the end once more why the EP’s lyrical content is so important.  It proves in its own way that the EP’s lyrical content will engage audiences just as much as the record’s musical arrangements. 

Much the same can be noted of the lyrical theme featured in ‘Where The Angels Fly’ that has been noted of its counterparts in this record.  In the case of ‘Where The Angels Fly,’ this song seems to emotionally deep.  Again, this is just this critic’s interpretation, but it almost comes across as imagining what the death of a great person must do even to the angels.  This as Dirkschneider sings in the song’s lead verse and chorus, “On the horizon/Where the sea meets night/I see the face of a warrior/We hear them crying/In the fading light/A shadow falls on a foreigner/they long for the distance/They reach for the sky/At the end of a rainbow/Risin’ up high/Where the angels fly.”  Whoever that man who died was obviously was respected.  He adds in the song’s second verse, “They fall in silence/With a saddening sound/Ad all that’s left’s a memorial/The skies still wonder/Neither lost nor found/Remaining humble and glorious.”  Again, this is so mournful, yet also shows reverence.  This one is difficult to decipher even with lyrics to reference.  Baltes is cited in the previously noted press release as saying this song was “withheld with a heavy heart” from We Are One and “too strong to let it gather dust in a drawer.”  That is about the only hint that is given as to the song’s lyrical theme.  Considering that, this song’s lyrical content is sure to create just as much discussion among audiences as its counterparts.  To that end, it shows once more, the importance of this record’s lyrical content.  When the overall lyrical content is considered along with the EP’s musical content, the whole collectively makes for plenty of reason for audiences to hear this record.  Even with all of this in mind, it is not the end of the record’s most important items.  The record’s production brings everything together and completes the presentation.

The production that went into Arising is important because it plays directly into the record’s general effect.  As has been noted in the discussions on the songs’ musical arrangements, there is a lot going on in each presentation.  From the dual vocals to the powerful guitars to the richness of the drums and bass, each composition incorporates a lot of sound.  That means that it would have been easy for the performers to overpower one another even accidentally.  Thankfully, Kaufmann (who produced the record) paid attention to each performer’s part, making sure to balance each line in each song.  In listening to each song, there is no doubt that such work had to have been time consuming.  It paid off, though.  That is because each work is so fully immersive and powerful in its own right, leaving audiences fulfilled just in that aspect.  At the same time, even the vocals are not washed out, so it is at least relatively easy to decipher most of the lyrical content in each song.  When this is considered along with the content and its impact, the whole makes the record a welcome presentation for metal purists, U.D.O., fans, and those of Accept.

Dirkschneider & The Old Gang’s debut record, Arising is an impressive first outing from the group.  Its appeal comes in part through its musical content, which is a solid mix of pure, classic guitar-based metal and power metal.  The lyrical themes that accompany the record’s makes for its own engagement and entertainment.  That is thanks to the way in which it is crafted and its seeming messages.  That content is certain to generate plenty of discussion among audiences.  The record’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  It balances the vocals and instrumentation expertly in each song.  The result is a record that is not only relatively easy to understand in terms of lyrics but well-balanced in its instrumentation.  The result there is a positive general effect.  Each item examined is important in its own way to the whole of the record.  All things considered, they make Arising a positive addition to this year’s field of new EPs. 

Arising is available now through AFM Records.  More information on the record is available at https://www.facebook.com/dirkschneiderandtheoldgang.  

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.  

U.D.O.’s Latest Live Recording Is Entertaining, But Imperfect

Courtesy: AFM Records

U.D.O. did something last year that few if any bands around the world did. It held a live, in person concert. That concert, held in Bulgaria, became the band’s forthcoming live DVD, Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show.  According to information provided about the concert and its resultant recording, the show “happened in full compliance with the corona virus hygiene regiment” and “is by far one of the largest to happen worldwide during the pandemic” though “Up until a few days before the concert in Plovdiv, it was not clear whether it could take place at all.”  To that end, the fact that it happened at all is a welcome miracle.  While the concert itself does offer engagement and entertainment, it is not a perfect presentation.  The one downside to this special occasion is its set list.  This element will be discussed later.  Luckily it is not enough to doom the recording.  The band’s performance makes for most of the recording’s enjoyment.  It will be discussed shortly.  The concert’s production puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  Together with the band’s performance, the two elements pair to make this recording worth watching at least occasionally (even with the issues raised by the set list).

U.D.O.’s forthcoming live recording Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is an interesting presentation from the veteran hard rock band.  The band’s seventh live recording is at least somewhat entertaining.  Most of the concert’s entertainment and engagement comes from the band’s performance at the famed “Ancient Theater.”  The band’s performance is minimalist in almost every sense of the word.  There is no pyro, There are no special effects in terms of video monitors, etc.  Rather the band presents itself just performing 22 songs from U.D.O’s own catalog and that of Accept, the former band of front man and U.D.O. namesake Udo Dirkschneider.  The special effects are limited to flashing and color-changing lights.  The rest of the show is left up to the band – Dirkschneider (vocals), Andrey Smirnov (guitar), Dee Dammers (guitar), Sven   Dirkschneider  (drums), and Tilen  Hudrap (bass).  There’s no running around stage for the elder Dirkschneider, but even considering that he still belts out every song with the power of a front man half his age.  What’s more audiences will love the way he openly steps back throughout the concert, and lets Smirnov and Dammers take center stage.  At times, it even looks like he’s acting as a cheerleader for the highly polished musicians as they take the spotlight.  Speaking of that duo, Smirnov and Dammers show at times, such focus on their parts, and so much fun at others.  That mix of concentration and lightheartedness will itself pull audiences in even more.  Meantime, the younger Dirkschneider looks so relaxed throughout the near 150-minute concert as he keeps time in the up-tempo and even slower moments.  That confidence and relaxed nature does not go unnoticed, and will certainly add to audiences’ enjoyment.  That is because his band mates obviously feed off of his energy.   Much the same can be said of Hudrap and his performance.  All in all, the performance that the band presents in this concert makes for plenty of enjoyment in itself.  It does plenty to make the concert worth viewing and/or hearing (since the recording is presented on separate CD/DVD and CD/Blu-ray platforms).  While the band’s performance forms a solid foundation for the recording, the set list that the band presents detracts from the concert’s presentation to a certain point.

The set list that is featured in Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is limited in its presentation.  While it runs approximately 22 songs deep (not counting the separate drum and bass solos), the songs are pulled from approximately six of the band’s 17 total albums and from three Accept albums.  What’s more the set list leans heavily on U.D.O.’s 2018 album Steelfactory, with six of its songs featured here.  Meanwhile, Animal House U.D.O.’s debut 1987 record, gets three nods.  The other U.D.O. albums represented here are: Mastercutor (2007), Timebomb (1991), Solid (1997), Man and Machine (2002), and Rev-Raptor (2011).  That leaves approximately 11 other albums from U.D.O. unrepresented here.  Again considering that the concert reaches almost two-and-a-half hours in time, one would have thought that the band would have tried to pull more from those albums.  The Accept albums represented here are:  Balls to the Wall (1983), Restless & Wild (1982), and Metal Heart (1985).  The band limited the Accept representations to two songs from Restless & Wild, two from Metal Heart, and the one lone song from Balls to the Wall.  Clearly the Accept songs and albums were from Dirkschneider’s brief time with the band, so that is understandable. That leads back to the discussion on the rest of the set list.  Considering that it was unknown if the concert would even happen, one would have thought the band would have tried to give audiences even more of its catalog in order to make the experience even more special.  Instead, audiences essentially got a continued performance in support of its now three year-old album Steelfactory and a handful of other songs from the band’s catalog.  It does leave one wanting for more, but not in a good way.  Thankfully, this one concern is not enough to doom the recording, as much as it does detract from the experience.  The concert’s production works with the band’s performance to put the finishing touch.   That includes those who handled production in post.

Thanks to the concert’s production, those who can and do overlook the concerns raised by the concert’s limited set list will agree that they get the best seat in the house.  The audio is expertly balanced throughout the concert.  Believe it or not, this actually is a concern with some concert recordings out there.  There are live recordings out there that force listeners to constantly adjust the volumes on their televisions and computers,  leading to frustrations among audiences.  There are even some recordings that clearly — for one reason or another – use the audio to favor certain members of given groups or others.  Thankfully, this recording’s production does not fall victim to those trappings.  Those responsible for balancing the audio on-site and in post are to be commended for their work.  In the same vein, the camera work makes the experience personal for audiences.  Viewers are taken right up alongside the younger Dirkshneider at times, right to front and center as Smirnov and Dammers take on the classic arena rock, dual guitar poses at other moments, and even right into the audience at still others.  The transitions from shot to shot do so well to immerse audiences into the concert, which is its own compliment to those responsible for the production.  Those responsible for editing the various shots together and even the director deserve their own credit for their work here,   too.  No one shot is too long or even too short.  It all serves to really heighten the energy in each song, and in turn make the performance all the more enjoyable.  When that enjoyment brought on by the production (video and audio) is considered along with the band’s performance, that collective makes the concert experience that much more enjoyable for audiences.  To that end, audiences will find the recording worth watching at least occasionally, considering all of that along with the concerns raised by the limited set list.

U.D.O.’s new forthcoming live recording Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is a presentation that while enjoyable, comes up somewhat short of expectations.  The band’s performance herein is itself fully engaging and entertaining.  It gives audiences plenty of reason to take in the concert.  While the band’s performance makes the concert experience enjoyable, the set list detracts from the enjoyment created by the band.  That is because it is so limited, even running 22 songs deep.  It pulls from six of the band’s approximately 17 albums, as well as a trio of albums from Udo Dirkschneider’s former band, Accept.  That leaves 11 of U.D.O.’s albums unrepresented here, so it would not be correct to call this concert – which could have been the band’s last for the foreseeable future – career-spanning.  It really does detract from the experience, but does not doom the presentation.  Making up for the negative that is the set list is the production.  The concert’s production gives audiences the best seat in the house.  That includes the work put in during post production.  The audio is expertly balanced while the video fully immerses audiences what with the various shots and their equally well-balanced editing.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make the recording a presentation that while not the band’s best live recording, still worth watching at least occasionally.  Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival Show is scheduled for release Friday through AFM Records.

More information on Live in Bulgaria: Pandemic Survival is available along with all of U.D.O.’s latest news at:

Websitehttps://www.udo-online.de

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/udoonline

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to https://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Pop Singer-Songwriter’s New LP Is The Best Of 2020’s Best In Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums List

Courtesy: Wicked Cool Records

The musical universe spawned so much great music this year. From rock to rap to pop to country, jazz, and even family music, the musical universe gave audiences a lot to like about 2020.  For all of the entertaining and engaging music that was released this year some proved to be the best of its given categories.  Not all of that music could be the best of the best though.  Only certain records could obtain that title, and they come this year from a wide range of genres.  The Okee Dokee Brothers and their new album Songs For Singin’ are here among the best of the best in Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums of the Year.  They are joined by new albums from the likes of Sons of Apollo, Ricky Byrd, and The Devonns among others.  Topping this year’s list of the best of the best is Jessie Wagner’s new album Shoes Droppin’. 

As with every other list from Phil’s Picks, the Year’s top new albums list features the year’s Top 10 new albums and give honorable mentions for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Albums of the Year.

PHIL’S PICKS 2020 TOP 10 NEW ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

  1. Jessie Wagner – Shoes Droppin’
  2. Chris Stapleton —  Starting Over
  3. Sons of Apollo – MMXX
  4. Yellowackets – Jackets XL
  5. U.D.O. – We Are 1
  6. Ricky Byrd – Sobering Times
  7. Deep Purple – Whoosh!
  8. The Devonns – The Devonns
  9. Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts V
  10. Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts VI
  11. Joe Bonamassa – Royal Tea
  12. The Okee Dokee Brothers – Songs For Singin
  13. The Tibbs – Another Shot Fired
  14. Ala.ni – ACCA
  15. Ben Harper – Winter is for Lovers

Now that all the music lists are done, it is on to the DVD and Blu-ray releases.  Up first in that side of things is the year’s Top 10 New Documentaries.  Stay tuned for that.

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

U.D.O.’s Latest LP Will Unite Music Lovers Around The World

Courtesy: AFM Records

Veteran rock band U.D.O. returns Friday with its 17th full-length studio recording.  Titled We Are 1, the 15-song record features the band performing its new compositions with the Concert Band of the German Armed Forces.  While rock bands performing and recording with non-rock organizations is anything but out of the ordinary nowadays, the fact that the entire record is composed of new songs is itself interesting.  The arrangements that make up the album’s body offer audiences plenty to appreciate, as do the lyrical themes that accompany that musical content.  Each item will be addressed in itself here.  When they are considered with the record’s sequencing, all three elements make the album in whole a truly unique presentation that rock and metal fans alike will appreciate.

U.D.O.’s latest album We Are 1 is an impressive new entry from the veteran rock band.  There is no doubt in listening through the 75-minute record, that it will resonate with rock and metal fans alike.  That is due in part to the album’s musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question are full-on rock meets classical compositions that bear their own unique identity separate from the works that acts, such as Metallica and KISS have crafted.  These new, original works are such unique orchestrations.  One actually could argue that they are stylistically more similar to works from Devin Townsend’s latest album Empath (2019).  That comparison stems from the use of the choral element, the strings, the brass and woodwinds together.  Each arrangement sounds so epic even in a more reserved moment, such as in ‘Blindfold (The Last Defender).’  Now not having liner notes to reference, it is not known who the female vocalist is in this song, but her vocals, along with the bells, drums and harp make this song feel cinematic in its own right, especially with all of the attention to the dynamic changes throughout the song.  ‘Blackout’ — which immediately follows ‘Blindfold (The Last Defender)’ — is another example of how powerful the arrangements are in this record.  This nearly three-minute song’s brass and percussion come together to make the song sound like something that would be a perfect fit in the soundtrack for some military movie from the 80s and 90s.  That huge opening that leads into the immediate softer, more contemplative sound, is so powerful especially as that noted softer sound crescendos back into something more constant throughout the rest of the song.  On yet another hand, the use of the bagpipes, tympani, snare drum and standard rock elements come together in ‘Beyond Gravity’ to make this song yet another notable addition to the album that shows in its own right, why these arrangements are so important to examine.  There’s no attempt here to rip off AC/DC or any other band that uses bagpipes.  There’s not even any attempt to copy any other act.  It is its own unique presentation that is certain to become a favorite on record and in a live setting when and if music can ever go live again.  It’s just one more way in which the album’s musical arrangements prove so important to its general presentation.  When it and the rest of the album’s arrangements are considered together, the album’s diverse musical styles and elements collectively build a strong foundation for the LP’s presentation.  In themselves, they make a clear argument as to why this record is one of the year’s top new rock albums.  It might not even be a stretch to call it potentially one of the year’s top new overall albums if only for its musical aspect.  Of course the musical aspect is just one reason to take in this record.  The album’s lyrical content adds to its appeal.

The lyrical content featured in We Are 1 runs through one general topic, that topic being concerns about the state of the world.  Band founder and namesake Udo Dirkschneider talked about that overarching theme in a recent interview.  He said of the album’s general theme, “We all live on this planet.  No matter who we are or what we do, we all just have this one planet.  There is no planet B.  When I see the pictures of all the plastic in our oceans and when I hear about the next climate catastrophe in the news, I really start wondering how respectless and irresponsible we sometimes are.  It’s not just about us.  It’s also about all the others and last but not least, about our children!”  That concern that he voiced in the noted comments is shown throughout this record in a variety of fashions.  ‘Here We Go Again,’ for instance takes on concerns over how the Trump administration has handled the issue of immigration.  Dirkschneider notes in this blues rock based song’s lyrical side, “Who has got the right to decide/Who’s gonna live and who’s gonna die/People on the street and people on the sea/Always on the run/Trying to be free/People on the left/People on the right/Everywhere you look/Uptight/Living in a cell/Living in a cage/Fairy tale is over…Everybody’s…longing for a new way/Everybody’s got the right/turning darkness into light/here we go again…Time to show again.”  From here, the song makes mention of corrupt elections and trump’s cries of “fake news” every time that legitimate news agencies call BS on his lies in the song’s second verse.  Given, this is hardly the first time that any musical act has taken on the corruption of the Trump administration and Trump himself, but it is still approached in a unique fashion here that is certain to keep listeners engaged.  It is just one of the ways in which the album’s lyrical themes prove pivotal in their own right to the album.  The album’s title track, which comes early in its run, is clearly another way in which the record’s lyrics show their importance.

‘We Are One’ is a call for unity.  Again, referencing Dirkschneider’s noted statements, the song’s lyrical theme makes crystal clear sense.  He, his band mates and the choir that joins them sings in the song’s chorus, “What are we waiting for/Before we lose control/We are one/We are free/And we need a place to be/We are one/We will rise/Gonna be no compromise/We are one/We are free/And we need a place to be/We are one/We will rise/Never be a compromise.”  This comes after Dirkschneider makes note in the song’s lead verse, of people dealing with all the negativity that is on television nowadays and the impact thereof.  He continues the commentary in similar fashion in the song’s second verse, asking “Do you enjoy watching people die?” before reminding listeners again that “We are one.”  It’s that call to unity and action that is just as needed and welcome today as ever, and just one more way in which the album’s lyrical themes prove so pivotal to this album.  ‘Rebel Town’ is yet another example of the importance of the album’s lyrical themes.

The lyrical theme at the center of ‘Rebel Town’ is a celebration of the 30th anniversary of East and West Germany’s unification.  The song makes mention here of revolution and people sacrificing, and indirectly of people tearing down the Berlin Wall.  Dirkschneider even goes so far as to state at one point, “Chase away the leaders/Let them rot in hell/Believe in what you’re fighting for/Let them hear the rebel yell.”  This is that call again, this time about people coming together to remove the barrier between the two Germanies “in this little town.”  The use of the horns and overall orchestral elements here really paints such a vivid picture of that key moment in history.  This is unique if not original in terms of songs’ lyrical themes from one to the next.  This critic in particular is hard-pressed to find another band that has ever written a song about the fall of the Berlin Wall and the unification of Germany.  Keeping that in mind, the song is yet another example of what makes the album’s lyrical content so important to its whole.  When it is considered along with the other noted themes and those in the rest of the album’s songs, the whole of the album’s lyrical content works with the album’s musical content to make the LP’s body overall such that it will guarantee listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  Even with all of this in mind, there is still one more item to note in examining the album’s presentation – its sequencing.

The sequencing of We Are 1 is important to note because it displays the time and thought that went into maintaining the album’s energy throughout.  Seventy-five minutes is a long span.  Given it isn’t the length of a full concert, but it is still a long run time for a standard studio recording.  To that end, the sequencing plays a key part in ensuring listeners’ engagement and entertainment.  The album opens just as strongly as it closes and vice versa.  In-between, the energy rises and falls at all of the right points from one to the next and even within each of the songs.  Some of the songs start, stay and end strong while others, such as ‘Love and Sin’ and ‘Children of the World’ open with a semi-mysterious tone before launching into a full-on cinematic approach that is a fit for any epic blockbuster’s soundtrack.  ‘Blindfold (The Last Defender)’ and ‘Blackout’ serve as solid break points for the album’s sequence, giving listeners something soft, and then fully orchestra in the vein of movie soundtrack composer Hans Zimmer before the album returns to its initial approach.  ‘Natural Forces,’ which comes late in the album’s run, is another good break point, giving listeners more of the Hans Zimmer style presentation.  From here on out, the album’s energy switches direction, rises and falls at all of the right moments, ensuring just as much as ever, listeners’ engagement and entertainment right to the album’s end.  When all of this is considered along with the impact of We Are 1’s musical and lyrical content overall, all three elements come together to make this album a truly outstanding offering from U.D.O. that will appeal not only to rock and metal aficionados but to music lovers in general.

U.D.O.’s latest full-length studio recording We Are 1 is one of the most pleasant musical surprises of 2020 so far.  While it features a rock band working with an orchestra, it can’t be compared to those rock-meets-classical records from the likes of Metallica and KISS by any means or any other band that has taken this approach.  This collection of new songs really is its own, unique presentation that shows more similarities to works from Devin Townsend, composer Hans Zimmer, Epica, Judas Priest and even Joe Satriani (yes, that seems like an odd mix, but it works) than to the noted other acts’ works.  What’s more, the socially conscious lyrical themes that accompany the musical arrangements solidify the album’s presentation even more.  The record’s  sequencing puts the final touch to the album’s presentation.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the LP’s presentation.  All things considered, they make this record not only one of the year’s best new rock and hard rock albums, but potentially one of the year’s best new overall albums.  We Are 1 is scheduled for release Friday through AFM Records.  More information on the album is available along with all of U.D.O.’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.udo-online.de

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/udoonline

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Anvil To Perform Live Online This Weekend

Courtesy: Asher Media Relations

Veteran rock band Anvil will perform live digitally this weekend.

The band will hold a live streaming performance at 5 p.m. EDT Saturday.  The performance, which is in support of the band’s latest album Legal At Last (2020), is produced by District 7 Production and L’Anti Bar & Spectacles.  Legal At Last is a celebration of the legalization of recreational cannabis use in the band’s home nation of Canada.

The stream will run at 10 p.m. (UK) and 11 p.m. (Central European Time) Saturday.  Audiences in Japan in Australia will get to see the stream at 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. respectively on Sunday.

Tickets for this weekend’s streaming shows are available here.  The show will stream here.

The concert’s organizers had the following to say about the event in a collective statement:

“I was wondering how to make L’Anti Bar & Spectacles live again in the midst of a health crisis,” the statement reads.  “I’ve been presenting virtual live shows with a ticket office since May 9. The first shows were appreciated by the spectators, we sold hundreds of tickets across Canada and in Europe during our first virtual shows. I wanted to present the first virtual metal show in Canada. I thought Anvil would be the perfect band for this show. I have an excellent relationship with them; the members of Anvil accepted without hesitation. Spectators should expect a virtual show with impeccable production quality in terms of sound, image, and lighting.”

More information on Anvil’s upcoming live stream show is available at:

 

Websitehttp://my.tbaytel.net/tgallo/anvil/

 

Facebook: http://twitter.com/anvilmetal

Twitter: http://twitter.com/AnvilMetal666

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

 

 

‘Firewind’ Shows The “Fire” Still Burns Bright Each Firewind’s Members

Courtesy: AFM Records

Veteran hard rock band Firewind has been entertaining audiences for more than two decades with its own brand of hard rock and power metal.  The band, founded by famed guitarist Gus G. has released eight albums, all of which have helped to earn the band legions of fans the world over.  That is even with what seems like constant lineup changes throughout the course of its nearly 25 year life.  Now with the forthcoming release of its ninth album Friday, the band’s success will continue even longer.  The self-titled release is a work that will appeal to the band’s longtime fans just as much as old school hard rock and metal fans in general.  That is proven in part through the record’s musical arrangements, which will be addressed more at length shortly.  The sequencing of the arrangements adds even more impact to this record.  It will be discussed a little later.  The record’s production rounds out its most important elements, and will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own right to the whole of the album.  All things considered, they make Firewind without argument, one of the best of this year’s new hard rock and metal albums.

Firewind’s new forthcoming elf-titled album – its ninth album to date – is a powerful new offering from the veteran hard rock/power metal outfit.  It is one of those rare records that would make it so easy for audiences to take in from start to finish without skipping even one song.  From beginning to end, audiences are taken back to Firewind’s early days while also giving audiences plenty of hints of more modern work and mixing in influences from the likes of Judas Priest and others along the way.  Gus G. puts his full range of talent on display throughout the album, putting out riffs that are precise and cutting from one song to the next, and solos that few other guitarists could rival.  New front man Herbie Langhans’ vocal delivery is so full of its own fire (pardon the pun), adding even more to the impact of the album’s arrangements.  Johan Nunez’s time keeping is solid in its own right throughout the record, while also adding in just the right number and kind of flares with the cymbal crashes and fills.  Bassist Petros Christodoulidis’ work couples with Gus G’s melodies to create some very rich harmonies in each song.  Even as the album reaches the ballad that makes up its midpoint – ‘Longing To Know You’ — each musician’s talent is just as much on display as ever, proving the group can do more than just play fast and loud.  The string arrangement incorporated into the overall work adds to that song’s impact in the bigger picture of the album.  Between that “reserved” moment and the record’s higher-energy moments, the record in whole is to be applauded if only for the musical arrangements that display so much talent from the band members and that offer so much engagement and entertainment.  Luckily, the arrangements are just one part of what makes this record such a hard-hitting new presentation from Firewind.  The record’s sequencing strengthens the band’s new record even more.

Firewind’s sequencing is important to address because of its own ability to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  Over the course of the 47-minute record, audiences will note that it is comprised of three very distinct segments.  The first segment runs from the opener up until the aforementioned ballad that serves as a break point of sorts for the album.  That break point is the album’s second segment.  It immediately gives way to the song’s third segment, whose energy is just as powerful as that in the album’s first segment.  What is so interesting to note in examining all three of the record’s segments is that in the first and third segments, the energies remain extremely high.  It doesn’t lift at any point in either segment.  From the album’s opener – ‘Welcome to the Empire’ – right up to ‘Orbitual Sunrise,’ the energy never lets up at all.  What does change is the stylistic approach and lyrical content within each song.  So it’s not like the album gradually decreases its energy as it reaches its midpoint.  Rather, that midpoint is just a brief moment that allows listeners to catch their breath, and it is just brief enough, as the record’s energy picks right back up in ‘Perfect Strangers.’  The band keeps listeners pumping their fists and putting their horns up high from that point right to the album’s end.  Simply put, the album’s sequencing shows it has two settings – high and low.  There is no middle ground.  The closest that the album comes to that middle ground even begins to come is in ‘Overdrive,’ which comes immediately after ‘Perfect Strangers.’  Even as the energy in the song is slightly pulled back, the song is still heavy in its own right, providing just the briefest break in the album’s energy while keeping things moving forward.  Again, the short and simple here is that the album’s sequencing of the songs does just as much as the songs themselves to keep listeners engaged and entertained.  Those responsible for the sequencing are to be commended in their own right for their work.  Between the constantly changing of stylistic approaches in the songs to the stable energy throughout, the sequencing clearly plays its own crucial role to the whole of the album.  It still is not the last of the record’s most important elements.  He record’s overall production and mixing puts the finishing touch to its presentation.

The production and mixing are key to the record’s presentation because if not for that work, the songs would have been little more than a bunch of masses of metal noise.  Instead, audiences get such clear balance between each musician’s part in each song.  The result is 11 songs that each stand on their own musical merits.  The rapid fire work that is ‘Devour’ is a prime example of the payoff of that attention to detail.  Gus G.’s machine gun-fast shredding is a powerhouse to say the absolute least.  Had that been allowed to take center stage, none of his band mates would have had the opportunity to shine.  Luckily, that didn’t happen.  Nunez gets the chance to display his expert ability behind the kit.  Langhans’ powerhouse operatic vocal ability also gets to shine, thanks to the production here, while Christodoulidis’ low end is added just subtly enough, fleshing out the arrangement even more.  ‘Longing To Know You’ is another example of the importance of the record’s production and mixing.  The keyboard line in here serves as the song’s center point, ad shines so well against the drums, bass and even the guitar, which get their own attention, but keep their place as “supporting lines” here.  Everything is handled so well here that the overall impact is a deeply moving work.  ‘Space Cowboy’ is another example of the importance of the record’s production and mixing.  There is a lot going on here, between the drums, the vocals, the guitars and vocals.  It’s not the full on fist pumper that much of the record’s other work is, but there is still much happening.  Gus G and Langhans seem like they are competing for the limelight, but in reality, the two work together so well.  He gets his moment in the solos while Christodoulidis provides the primary support in the verses.  For everything that is going on here, the whole comes together quite well to make this a mainstream style work that audiences will enjoy just as much as the other noted songs and the rest of the album’s works.  Keeping all of this in mind, the album’s production and mixing and its impact on the album’s general effect plays its own crucial role to the whole of Firewind.  When it is considered along with the record’s songs and their sequencing, the whole of these elements makes Firewind a presentation that every hard rock and metal purist will agree is deserving of being called one of this year’s top new titles in said categories.

Firewind’s ninth new album is a work that shows this band still has quite a fire under its collective backside.  That is proven in part through the songs that make up the album’s body.  They will keep listeners engaged and entertained in their own right.  The sequencing of those songs adds even more power to the record, as they keep the record’s energy stable while switching up the songs’ stylistic approaches from one to the next.  The production and mixing that went into the record rounds out its most important elements, as it ensures each of the band members gets his own moment in the limelight throughout the record’s body.  All three noted items are important in their own way to the whole of this album.  All things considered, they make Firewind one of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.  It will be available Friday.  More information on the album is available online along with the album’s latest news at:

 

 

 

Website: http://www.firewind.gr

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/firewindofficial

Twitter: http://twitter.com/firewindmusic

 

 

 

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.