Annihilator’s New Album Is A Tasty Metal Feast

Courtesy:  EMI/UDR

Courtesy: EMI/UDR

Annihilator’s latest full length studio release is a breath of fresh air for the metal community.   The veteran Canadian metal band released this past September, its fourteenth (yes, fourteenth) full length release.  It couldn’t have chosen a better name than Feast for its new album.  That’s because at a time when so many thrash and hardcore bands continue to rely on crunchy, down-tuned guitars and cookie monster growls to fill their audiences’ appetites, Annihilator has taken what is increasingly the road less travelled.  The band’s new album is pure thrash metal at its best.  From its speed metal riffs to the pounding vocals of front man David Padden and the songs’ lyrical content, every pure blooded metal head will find something to appreciate in this record.

Annihilator has seen its share of ups and downs ever since the release of the band’s debut record, Alice in Hell.  The band has changed labels and band members so much that one would seemingly need a program to keep up with it all.  Through it all, one thing has stayed constant for this band.  That one constant has been the band’s ability to make some of the best pure thrash metal out there.  While the metal community has leaned its focus more on the “metalcore” genre over the years, Annihilator has remained one of the few bands to not go that route.  This aspect alone makes Feast a must hear for any purist metal head.  Right from the album’s opener, ‘Deadlock’, listeners are transported back to the golden days of metal courtesy of guitarist Jeff Waters’ solid shredding and drummer Mike Harshaw’s time keeping.  And even vocalist David Padden’s vocals add their own positive element to the song, not to mention the song’s social commentary.  Padden writes in this song a piece that while somewhat nihilistic, also holds some truth.  He writes, “We face our extinction day after day/Oblivious to what we’ll become/Persist to exist in our pathetic ways/With nothing to show when it’s done/We take what they give/Complacency to the masses/Content to consume/The idiots outbreeding twenty to one/Ensuring our future is doomed.”  It comes across as a commentary on how people seem to be increasingly embracing the mantra that ignorance is bliss.  He doesn’t stop here, either.  He adds commentary on America’s blind consumerism and desire for the next big thing as he writes, “Standing in line for the latest release/An upgrade to s*** we don’t need/A fist full of cash/And a smile on your face/A wallet just dying to bleed.”  This couldn’t be truer.  Just look at how people in general clamor for the next big product from Apple and other major tech companies.  Such biting commentary set next to equally powerful music makes this song quite the tasty first course from Annihilator’s new musical “feast.”  And yes that bad pun was entirely intended.

The band doesn’t let up one bit after ‘Deadlock’ ends.  Listeners will appreciate ‘Smear Campaign’ just as much as the album’s opener.  They will once again appreciate it not just for the music but for its equally biting commentary.  Guitarist Jeff Waters wrote this song.  This full on defiant anthem will give strength to anyone that has ever been tormented by those that live their lives trying to make others’ lives miserable.  Waters writes in this song, “Demonize, jeopardize, spreading your disease/So glad you’ve had your fun/Making up your stories/Spewing them with ease/But now your time is done/Can’t look in my eyes/You won’t apologize/Judge you should not/But now I hope you rot/Sad, weak and insecure/Your life is just a fail bitterness and jealousy/Fabricate now too late/The coffin and the nail/It’s time for remedy.”  This song could not be more important to this album.  It is an important addition to the album because of its power.  Much like a number of songs crafted by Hatebreed, it’s one of those defiant fist pumpers that flips the proverbial middle finger at those defeatists that would do whatever they can to pull down those around them.  That combination of musical and lyrical intensity will most certainly raise the mindset of any member of the metal community in hard times.  So Waters and his band mates are to be commended for including this song on this album.

Waters exhibited quite a bit of writing and musical prowess in his crafting of ‘Smear Campaign.’  In the same vein, listeners will appreciate the longer but just as thrashing ‘Fight The World.’  This song is such an interesting addition to ‘Feast’ because it too is so powerful both musically and lyrically speaking.  Waters and his band mates fool listeners at first with this song by starting it off very slow and mournful for lack of better wording.  Set against the song’s lyrical content, it would actually be quite powerful had it maintained that slower more emotional sound.  But that slower, mournful sound doesn’t last long as the band very soon thereafter kicks into yet another full on thrash sound, making it just as powerful if not more so than the hypothesized sound.  That straightforward thrash sound set against Padden singing, “It’s easy to give up/To lose all hope/To use a substance to cope/I pick myself up/Turn this around/I’ll win this battle/You won’t take me down” makes it one more invaluable addition to the album’s sequencing.  It makes Feast that much better to take in no matter if one is new to the band’s music or a fan from way back when.

The songs included in Feast are definitely songs that any pure blooded metal head will appreciate.  That’s evidenced through just the three songs noted here.  They aren’t all that audiences will appreciate.  Just as wonderful to note is the musicianship of the band’s members.  Annihilator has seen its share of members over the course of nearly a quarter of a century.  But this most current lineup has shown with its musicianship that Annihilator is still very much a viable force in the metal community despite all of those changes.  And with any luck, it will remain a force for the foreseeable future.  The band is currently touring overseas in support of Feast.  Fans can keep up with the band’s latest tour dates and more on Feast online at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Annihilator/96141339730, http://twitter.com/annihilatorband, and http://www.annihilatormetal.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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Fans Will “Enjoy” Ministry’s Latest Live Recording

Courtesy: UDR/EMI/Wacken Records/Thirteenth Planet Records

Courtesy: UDR/EMI/Wacken Records/Thirteenth Planet Records

Ministry’s new live recording, Enjoy The Quiet – Live at Wacken 2012, is a recording that any fan of this stalwart industrial metal band will want to own.  It is the last live recording featuring the band’s longtime guitarist Mike Scaccia before his surprising and sudden death later that year.  The band’s hardcore fans have been rewarded for their loyalty with this recording as it has been released both as a standalone Blu-ray and a DVD/2-CD combo pack.  Sweetening the deal even more for fans, both the Blu-ray and triple disc DVD/CD combo pack offer fans both the band’s performance from the 2012 Wacken Open Air Festival and its performance from the 2006 Festival.  While not every one of the band’s extensive catalogue of albums is represented across the two performances, fans will appreciate that the band takes them as far back as 1992’s groundbreaking Psalm 69 and as recent as 2012’s Relapse.  Those handling the audio and video for the 2012 performance handled it expertly.  Together with the set list and the extensive presentation means, it proves even more to be a recording that any Ministry fan will want to add to their collection.

Ministry’s fans should applaud both the band and the people at UDR, EMI, Wacken Records, and Thirteenth Planet Records for Enjoy The Quiet – Live at Wacken 2012.  The reason for that is that it has been presented in multiple formats.  On the surface, this would not necessarily be a good thing.  But a closer look shows that it is indeed something good.  That’s because instead of being presented on three totally separate formats, it has been presented on two.  The first is a standalone Blu-ray presenting both the band’s 2012 performance and its performance from the 2006 Wacken Open Air Festival.  The second is a triple disc DVD/2-CD combo pack.  It would have been just as easy for the record labels involved to split this combo pack into two separate platforms.  But they didn’t.  They combined them, knowing that while Blu-ray is popular, more people still use DVD format.  So in combining the two platforms into one, the record labels involved have given fans a full concert experience.  It will allow them to take the concert with them in their cars and in their homes (or homes of friends).  So kudos are in order for this rather important factor being given attention.

Just as important as the concert’s packaging to consider is its set list.  It would be improper to consider the combination of the 2012 and 2006 performances to be career spanning. But the two performances do collectively present some of the band’s biggest hits.  Fans are taken all the way back to 1989’s A Mind is a Terrible Thing To Waste and all the way up to 2012’s Relapse with songs such as ‘Thieves’, ‘Ghouldiggers’, ’99 Percenters’, and ‘Relapse’ just to name a handful of songs.  The band’s breakout 1992 album Psalm 69 is also represented in these performances through the likes of ‘Grace’, ‘N.W.O.’ and the album’s title track.  There are even more songs from albums in between.  And fans will each have their own favorites when they pick up this live release for themselves.

The combined set list from the band’s performance at the 2012 and 2006 Wacken is extensive enough to impress any of the band’s longtime fans.  And that it has been presented on both a standalone Blu-ray and DVD/2-CD combo pack is even more worthy of praise.  One more factor to be considered in this release is its audio and video mix.  Those handling the audio and video mix in the 2012 performance are to be applauded.  Any live recording from any musical act can be muddied.  This has happened with various live recordings across the musical spectrum across time.  The band’s 2012 performance however didn’t fall victim to that pitfall.  And because of that, it stands even more as a live recording that any Ministry fan will want to add to their own Ministry collection.  It is available now in stores and online.  More information on this and other releases from Ministry is available online at http://www.facebook.com/ministry and http://www.thirteenthplanet.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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Saxon Shines On Sacrifice

Courtesy:  UDR, Columbia Records, Militia Guard Music, EMI

Courtesy: UDR, Columbia Records, Militia Guard Music, EMI

Thirty-four years is a long time.  It’s a long time any way that one thinks about it in terms of regular time.  IN terms of the world of music, thirty-four years is an exceptionally long amount of time.  That’s how long the British hard rock band Saxon has been making music.  In an era when the music world is top heavy with flash-in-the-pan bands, it says something special about Saxon that the band is still making music and is still a fan favorite.  Over the course of those three decades plus, Saxon has crafted some nineteen albums.  And now on its twentieth (yes, twentieth) full length record, Sacrifice, Saxon shows once again why it is still so popular and successful.

Sacrifice is pure guitar driven hard rock.  The album’s ten-song set will impress anyone that is a fan of the band’s British brothers in Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.  If there is one song that best exemplifies the album’s title, it would have to be ‘Made in Belfast.’  This song pays tribute to the Irish workmen who built so many of the world’s great structures.  That includes both buildings and sailing vessels.  The band sings proudly in the song’s chorus, “Pulling all together boys/Salving for the boss’s boys/Got to meet the deadline now/Pulling all together boys/Made in Belfast/Made in Belfast.”  The song goes on sounding more like something that audiences might expect more from the likes of Boston’s own Celtic punk rock band Dropkick Murphys than from any hard rock act.  Regardless of this, it proves that even hard rock bands can cover more than the standard lyrical themes in their songs.

Just as fitting an addition to Sacrifice as ‘Made in Belfast’ is ‘Walking the Steel.’  This song is an obvious tribute to all who lost their lives on September 11th, 2001 from the innocent victims to the first responders that died trying to save the innocents.  It also pays tribute to those that have made so much sacrifice to help “Ground Zero” return to its former glory as they build the aptly named “Freedom Tower.”  It’s a different form of sacrifice.  But it still fits quite well within the album title’s general theme.  Front man Biff Byford (who co-produced this album alongside famed producer Andy Sneap—Arch Enemy, Killswitch Engage, Fozzy) sings proudly in this song, “Rising from the ashes floor by floor/Reaching up into the sky/Where the eagles soar/The city sleeps/Life goes on/Hope is still alive/Born again the towers rise above the New York skies./Rising from the ashes for all the world to see.”  This single verse, which opens the song, is certain to become a fan favorite both on the record and in a live setting.  It is so easy to close one’s eyes and see fists breaking the air with pride, and the audiences in attendance singing along with the band as it reaches the chorus, “Walking the steel build them high/Walking the steel you touch the sky/Remember the heroes/Remember them all.”  Anyone that is left unmoved by this song is simply not human.

‘Made in Belfast’ and ‘Walking The Steel’ are both excellent additions to Sacrifice.  They were perfect choices for the album, considering its lyrical themes.  There is much more for audiences to appreciate about this album, though.  There is the traditional song about living life on the road in ‘Stand Up and Fight’, and the completely original song, ‘Guardians of the Tomb’, which comes across as being about the famed “terracotta army” of China.  Go through the annals of hard rock and one will struggle to find many bands that have decided on this as subject matter for a song.  Saxon’s members get major credit for that originality and for crafting a song that rocks at the same time.  There are even more songs on Sacrifice from which listeners will be able to choose proving why these old dogs still have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.  They alone are more than worth picking up this album, which is available now.

If the songs on Sacrifice’s main disc aren’t enough for fans, then maybe the bonus EP will impress listeners.  The bonus EP boasts five re-recorded songs from the band’s catalogue, anchored by the beautiful orchestral take of ‘Crusader.’  The cellos used throughout the song conjure thoughts of Apocalyptica.  The album’s liner notes don’t’ make mention of whether or not it is the band in question.  Regardless, they are a nice touch.  The way that the song starts out with the gentle acoustic guitar alongside Byro’s vocals before building into the pounding rhythms of the re-recorded song makes for huge effect.  The effect of that mix is made even better with the inclusion of any number of string musicians.  It may not be the first time ever that a band has incorporated strings into a rock song.  But it still works nonetheless.  The bluesy ‘Just Let Me Rock’ is slower than ‘Crusader.’  But that doesn’t mean that it’s any less enjoyable.  There’s almost a certain ‘Ace of Spades’ vibe about this song.  Even Byro himself sounds a little like Lemmy Kilmister.  Were someone to hear this song without knowing that Byro was singing, one might actually believe for a moment that it was in fact Kilmister singing.  The guitar solos are just as blistering as anything that Motorhead could put out, too.  To say that this album is that impressive is a tribute to both Byro and his band mates.  It proves just how good this album is and how worth it is for any true hard rocker to pick up or order online.  The band is currently on the road in support of Sacrifice.   It is winding down the U.S. leg of its tour before taking a little time off in October to get ready for the European leg of its tour.  More information on this latest release from Saxon, its tour dates, and more is available online at http://www.facebook.com/saxon and http://www.saxon747.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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Motorhead Live More Than Just A Concert, It’s An Experience

Courtesy: UDR/Motorhead Music/EMI

“We are Motorhead.  We play rock and roll!”  Whenever audiences hear those words, they know that they are about to be part of not just a concert, but an experience.  Even if a person can’t be there in person, hearing those words on DVD and CD will make home audiences feel as if they’re experiencing Motorhead first hand with the people who were there when the band recorded the shows for its live release, The World is Ours Vol. 1: Everywhere Further than Everywhere Else

Along with the recent release of The World is Ours Vol. 2:  Anyplace Crazy as Anywhere Else, Motorhead has proven that it has one of the best live shows of any rock band out there.  So many bands out there still rely so much on pyro and other showmanship.  Motorhead on the other hand shows on this release that the old adage of less is more is true.  On this first half of its live release, this group of old dogs continues to show it doesn’t need new tricks to impress its audiences.  Lemmy, Mickey, and Phil rock crowds of thousands with little more than their music.  That is the power of music.  That is the importance of music.  That is the importance of Motorhead. 

The World is Ours Vol. 1: Everywhere Further than Everywhere Else stands out as one of the year’s best live releases first and foremost because of its shooting.  The entire DVD portion of the package was shot in black and white.  There are those who would criticize film makers who present any live concert, movie, etc. in black and white.  They would argue that the style has become overdone among other arguments.  However, in the case of Motorhead live, the black and white adds the band’s minimalist on stage presence.  It gives an equally impressive feeling when viewers are taken out among the fans.  It’s a feeling that can’t be put into words.  Rather, it’s something that has to be experienced for one’s own self.  The crowd’s frenetic energy set against the band’s on stage presence is an amazing dichotomy.  That energy translates quite well on screen and will get any viewer’s energy up, too.

The energy translated through the visual portion of this package is just one part of what makes it one of the year’s best live recordings.  It also comes with a double disc CD set.  The pair of CD’s included in the overall triple-disc set present all three recorded performances from the set’s DVD portion.  To sweeten the deal both discs present the performances in exactly the same order as what is presented on the DVD.  What does this have to do with the price of tea in China one might ask?  This is something important in that so many live recordings presented in similar fashion will either mix up the performance order or will even omit songs here and there on one portion of their presentation or another.  So having the entire set of performances presented in exactly the same order both on CD and DVD maintains the set’s full integrity.  Everyone at UDR, Motorhead Music and EMI are to be commended for this.

The video and audio play a major role in the success of The World is Ours Vol. 1: Everywhere Further than Everywhere Else.  There’s at least one more element that makes it an impressive multi-disc set.  That factor is the set’s packaging.  So often, record labels release live recordings separately on their own audio and video formats.  But as with the second volume of the band’s tour presentation, the packaging here includes both the audio and video presentation in one.  Sure it may be a bit more costly than other sets.  But the price is worth it considering that the full live experience is included in one set.  For that matter, the set is presented in an easily manageable gatefold package.  It would have been easy to just place the set into a standard case with double sided insert.  But that style of case can be problematic.  Trying to get the insert to swing out can lead to it breaking to even the case itself getting cracked.  Using a gatefold presentation allows audiences to simply unfold the case and pick the disc of their own choice.  Vol. 2 is packaged in exactly the same fashion, making the entire seven-disc set that much more impressive.  Again, those involved with making this portion of the set happen are also to be commended.  The packaging combined with the equally enjoyable audio and video make The World is Ours Vol. 1: Everywhere Further than Everywhere Else one of the year’s top two best live recordings.  It’s available in stores and online now.  It can be ordered direct via UDR’s website at http://www.udr-music.com/index.php/en/motorhead-products

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The Greatest Matt Monro shows why Matt Monro is one of The Greatest

Courtesy: EMI

Matt Monro is one of the greatest singers in the history of both jazz and popular mainstream music.  It’s been just over two decades since the world lost this vocal giant.  But thanks to work from his daughter, Michele, and the people at EMI, Monro’s legions of fans worldwide get to experience many of his greatest songs thanks to the 2010 release of “The Greatest Matt Monro.”

“The Greatest Matt Monro” is a fitting title for this recent compilation.  There are many people out there who know of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and so many other vocal legends.  But there are just as many who don’t know about Matt Monro.  This compilation could change all of that.  It includes many of his own pieces, as well as covers of other greats such as ‘Fly Me to The Moon (In Other Words)’ and ‘Yesterday’ among others.  Most audiences know ‘Fly Me to The Moon (In Other Words)’ thanks to Frank Sinatra.  But Monro’s rendition of the hit gives it a whole different life.  It’s a much smoother take on the song.  And his take on ‘Yesterday’ is just as powerful as the original.

This compilation also has more than enough songs to make for plenty of memorable moments for couples and happy couples to be.  From ‘Let There Be Love’ to ‘When I Fall in Love’, to ‘The Nearness of You’, there is plenty of material for a romantic moment any time of the year.  And the control that Monro had over his voice shows through in every song.  He was able to capture every little nuance of every song.  That ability to voice so much emotion so beautifully makes this compilation an absolute must have for any true jazz fan.  It’s just as beautiful an introduction for those who are unfamiliar with the work of a man who is at least one of the Greatest–if not THE Greatest–vocalists of all time.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/PhilsPicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can also keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news at https://philspicks.wordpress.com