Times Of Pride And Peril Is Another Welcome Return For Holy Grail

Courtesy:  Prosthetic Records

Courtesy: Prosthetic Records

Holy Grail. Has. Returned. Three years after it became one of the metal community’s biggest names with its sophomore album Ride The Void, the Los Angeles-based quintet has returned with an album in Times of Pride and Peril that builds even more on the fame and respect earned through its previous recording. The ten-track album does so by taking the old school, metal sound established on Ride The Void and expanded on it, including a more modern hard rock sound to its body. The combination of those two sounds here makes Times of Pride and Peril not just a solid follow-up to Holy Grail’s breakout sophomore album but also an album that is undeniably one of 2016’s top new hard rock and metal albums. Times of Pride and Peril is currently slated to be released in stores and online on Friday, February 12th.

Holy Grail’s latest full-length studio recording is a solid follow-up to its 2013 breakout sophomore album Ride The Void. It is an album that audiences will agree in hearing its ten total tracks that it is unquestionably one of 2016’s top new hard rock and metal albums. That is evident right off the top in the album’s opener ‘Crystal King.’ This song shows the band–James-Paul Luna (vocals), Eli Santana (lead guitar), Alex Lee (lead guitar), Tyler Meahl (drums), and Blake Mount (bass)–picking right back up where it left off with Ride The Void. The band opens the song with a short, building crescendo before launching full force into the song with Santana, Lee, Meahl, and Mount leading the way. The old school speed metal sound established by the band in this song once again harkens back to the heyday of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden and others of that ilk with its dual guitar attack and equally expert time keeping by Meahl. When Luna joins in, his razor-sharp vocal delivery instantly conjures thoughts of legendary Judas Priest front man Rob Halford and Fozzy front man Chris Jericho. In other words Luna’s vocals make him one of metal’s next big true singers if not one of its current biggest. The song’s lyrical content sits against that powerhouse musical content to make clear why ‘Crystal King’ was the perfect choice to open Holy Grail’s new album and why it is also a prime example of just what audiences have to look forward to in this new record. Luna sings here, “It’s just another day out on the battlefield/Proclaiming victory/We conquer all/We’re on the top now/It’s time to strike/We must defend the crown/At any given price/Our dominion never ends/It keeps rolling on and on/And together we’ll ascend/To heights of grandeur/Majesty abound/The taste of glory/Is holier than thou/A heart of valor/Frees a mind of doubt/But if you always win the fight/Do you know wrong from right?” This plays right into the overlaying topic of the band’s new album. The topic in question is that of the rise and fall of an empire. That is not necessarily referencing one empire but different ones. That is especially clear as Luna sings, “The taste of glory/Is holier than thou/A heart of valor/Frees a mind of doubt/But if you always win the fight/Do you know wrong from right?” This comes across as Luna commenting on nations that patrol the world and play world police. Those nations that control everything around the world militarily tend to think that they are in the right. This happens even when there might be some shades of grey in the ethics or moral ground of their actions. This can be argued even more strongly as Luna sings in the song’s second verse, “We got it/We made it/We’ll overthrow/Once we’ve accepted/All the ones that died/We’ll repay the mercy when the enemy’s been crucified.” It is a very telling verse. It comes across as a commentary about brutality begetting brutality–accepting the death of others for the “greater good” and the violence aimed at others in the process. It furthers that discussion on the blind, perhaps clouded mindset of those that have been made to believe their actions are for the good of a whole people. It is a really thought-provoking concept and in turn quite the way to open the band’s new album. Audiences can hear the song for themselves online now via YouTube as the band has just premiered its lyric video online. It can be viewed online via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dVn4ENCIy1w.

‘Crystal King’ is a powerful first statement from Holy Grail in its return to the top of the mountain. It is not the only powerful, noteworthy statement from the band either. ‘No More Heroes,’ which is another of the album’s singles, is another powerful, hard-hitting addition to Times of Pride and Peril (TOPAP as it will henceforth be known here). Luna noted of this song in a recent interview that it “is about the evils of tyranny and self-will, where only strength in numbers can persevere.” To be more precise he noted that the concept behind that song is that it is a commentary about the events going on around the world today as a result of tyranny. “Conspiracy or not, heavy s*** is going down in the world, he said, “and we can’t survive battling it alone.” That discussion is illustrated through the song’s lyrical content in which Luna sings, “We’ve reached the point where domination is the law/We’re on the brink of global darkness/No life is worthy/But a pawn in our noble cause/Stomp out the feeble/And the worthless.” While these words sound familiar, it should. It was the view of the brainwashed men who fought for the Nazis in WWII and even now today of those that take innocent lives in the name of terrorism. Again, it illustrates exactly what Luna was saying in his discussion. He goes on to sing in the song’s second verse, “A savage feast upon the weak at any cost/No sign of mercy for the masses/How about the dignity you had so long ago/Is blood upon your hands as gracious?” The message about the familiar, distressing state of the world in this song is in itself an important part of the song’s whole. That content, set against the song’s power metal musical content, makes the song in whole yet another impressive addition to the album and equally impressive example of what audiences have to look forward to in Holy Grail’s new album. Audiences can hear this song for themselves online now at http://noisey.vice.com/blog/holy-grail-heroes-premiere.

Both ‘Crystal King’ and ‘No More Heroes’ are both key examples of just how much Holy Grail has to offer audiences in its third full-length studio recording. That is thanks to the mix of the songs’ musical and lyrical content. Both songs continue to exhibit the NWOBHM influence on the band in terms of their musical content. In regards to their lyrical content, both equally powerful yet differing statements about what has and continues to happen to the world militarily and politically. While this all works collectively to make both songs important parts of the album’s whole, both songs are hardly the only examples of what audiences have to look forward to in this record. ‘Those Who Will Remain’ is yet another important example of what makes Holy Grail’s new album a welcome return from the band. What makes this song stand out among the album’s songs is that it boasts more of a modern rock sound than most of its counterparts. If one were listening to this song without knowing it was Holy Grail, one would almost think that one was listening to Fozzy. The similarities are that close between the two bands here. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though. It shows that the band has branched out musically in this record. And it isn’t the only song that exhibits that either. That is a story for another time, however. Staying on this song, its musical content is just one part of what makes it stand out so strongly. Its lyrical content is just as important to note as its musical content. Luna seems to sing about self-determination here as he sings, “how do you choose between life and suicide/I’ll try this anyway/And I couldn’t cope…Ready to fight/I will accept my fate/I’ve suffered enough/It’s time to change/Dark in the night/In our eternal flame/The freedom is yours/All the same/To those who will remain.” He goe on to sing in the song’s second verse, “Take it or leave it/The enemy’s nearing/Hungry to feed on the weak and the weary/Marching in stride is the secret to survive/Rise to the top with a fist full of fury…Carry the torch/Just to keep yourself alive.” Everything taken int consideration here, the song in whole could be interpreted as Luna singing about not giving up in life, no matter the difficulties that one faces, be they physical or emotional. Saying that he would rather “walk the maze than die alone” and that “I’ve suffered enough/It’s time to change” support that argument. Of course that is just this critic’s own interpretation. It could, as always, be completely incorrect. So it should not be taken as the only interpretation of the song’s lyrical content. Right or wrong, it plays against the song’s equally powerful musical content and in turn makes the song in whole one more clear example of just what makes TOPAP such a welcome return for Holy Grail and also for the metal and hard rock community in whole. Together with ‘Crystal King,’ ‘No More Heroes’ and the rest of the songs not directly noted here, the whole of TOPAP shows in the end to be a record that is not just a welcome return for the band and its audiences but also a record that is easily one more of this year’s best new hard rock and metal albums.

Holy Grail’s latest full-length album is a welcome return both for the band and for its audiences. That is exhibited from the album’s opener ‘Crystal King’ right to its final number ‘Black Lotus.’ From beginning to end the mix of old school heavy metal and modern hard rock couples with lyrics that will get any listener thinking to make a record that will easily become a favorite of any true metal head. It will be available Friday, February 12th in stores and online. It can be pre-ordered online now via iTunes, Amazon, and the band’s official Bandcamp page. It is also available in a series of limited edition vinyl options. Those options include: Black, Limited-Edition Orange, and Limited-Edition Marble variants. Each vinyl copy of Times of Pride and Peril comes in a gatefold package that includes a color poster/lyric insert and download card. The band will hit the road next month in support of TOPAP beginning February 11th in San Antonio, TX. The forty-date-plus tour also includes a performance at The Milestone in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, February 23rd. The band’s current tour schedule is listed in whole below.

 

2/11 San Antonio, TX – Fitzgerald’s ^
2/12 Houston, TX – Scout Bar ^
2/13 Dallas, TX – Trees ^
2/14 Little Rock, AR – Juanita’s ^
2/16 Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade ^
2/17 Jacksonville, FL – Jack Rabbits ^
2/18 Orlando, FL – Backbooth ^
2/19 St. Petersburg, FL – The State Theatre ^
2/20 Ocala, FL – O’Malley’s Alley
2/22 Greenville, SC – Gottrocks
2/23 Charlotte, NC – Milestone #
2/24 Virginia Beach, VA – Shakas #
2/25 Philadelphia, PA – Kung Fu Necktie #
2/26 Boston, MA – Once Ballroom #
2/27 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus #
2/29 Burlington, VT – Nectars #
3/1 Quebec City, QC – Le Cercle #
3/2 Montreal, QC – Foufounes Electriques #
3/3 Toronto, ON – Hard Luck #
3/4 Detroit, MI – Berserker Fest #
3/5 Chicago, IL – Reggies #
3/6 Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon #
3/7 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock #
3/8 Fargo, ND – The Aquarium #
3/9 Winnipeg, MB – The Windsor Hotel #
3/11 Saskatoon, SK – Amigos Cantina #
3/12 Edmonton, AB – Brixx #
3/13 Calgary, AB – Palomino #
3/14 Kamloops, BC – The Office #
3/16 Vancouver, BC – The Biltmore #
3/17 Seattle, WA – El Corazon #
3/18 Spokane, WA – The Pin #
3/19 Portland, OR – Panic Room #
3/20 Bend, OR – Volcanic Theatre Pub #
3/22 Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst #
3/23 San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside #
3/24 Los Angeles, CA – Viper Room #
3/25 San Diego, CA – Brick by Brick #
3/26 Phoenix, AZ – Pub Rock #
3/28 Salt Lake City, UT – Metro Bar #
3/29 Denver, CO – Marquis Theater #
3/30 Kansas City, MO – Riot Room #
4/1 Indianapolis, IN – 5th Quarter #
4/2 Newport, KY – Southgate House #

^ with Marty Friedman
# with Black Tusk

More information on Holy Grail’s upcoming album is available online now along with all of the band’s latest news and tour updates at:

Website: http://www.holygrailofficial.com

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

Twitter: http://twitter.com/holygrailband

 

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Slayer Wins Award For ‘Repentless,’ Announces New Tour Dates

For those that missed it, there is some big news from the Slayer camp to report today,

Earlier this week Loudwire announced the winners of its fifth annual Loudwire Awards.  And Slayer was among this year’s winners.  The band received the award in the “Best Metal Video” category for the companion video to its song ‘Repentless,’ the title track from its recently released twelfth full-length studio recording.  The video faced some tough competition from the likes of Iron Maiden, Slipknot, Mastodon, and Ghost.  Ironically Ghost won the award in the “Best Metal Album” category.  The video for ‘Repentless’ was shot at the Los Angeles women’s prison, Sybil Brand.  It was directed by BJ McDonell and produced by Felissa Rose.  McDonnell is best known for his work on the 2013 horror sequel, Hatchet III.  He also worked as a cameraman on Jack Reacher, Tomorrowland, and The Interview.  It also features cameos from some big names in the horror movie genre including: Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Til Dawn, Once Upon A Time in Mexico), Tony Moran (Halloween’s Michael Meyers, American Poltergeist, Dead Bounty), Derek Mears (Predators, Friday The 13th, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunter), and Sean Whalen (Men in Black, Halloween II, Twister).  When asked about the win, McDonnell praised the band’s competition as well as those that worked on the ‘Repentless’ video including the band.  “We were up against some serious talent and great videos all around,” he said.  “And I’m just overjoyed that we won.  Everyone in our cast and crew worked their butts off to have the video truly represent the song and the band, and we think we achieved that.  Working with Slayer has been a dream and I really hope to do it again soon.  Thanks to everyone who voted for ‘Repentless.'”  Audiences can check out the video for ‘Repentless’ online now via YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yjb0j9l1sz4.

Courtesy:  Nuclear Blast America

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast America

 

Courtesy:  Nuclear Blast Records

Courtesy: Nuclear Blast Records

The announcement of the band’s big win is just one of the veteran metal act’s big announcements.  The band has also announced that it will hit the road this winter for its 2016 North American Tour.  The tour, which currently sees the band playing twenty-one dates, kicks off February 19th in Chicago, Illinois.  The tour also includes a pair of dates in North Carolina on February 27th and 29th respectively.  The band will be in Raleigh, NC at The Ritz on the 27th and at The Filmore in Charlotte on the 29th.  Also along for the ride on the band’s upcoming tour will be Testament and Carcass.  Fan club pre-sale tickets are on sale now online at http://slatanicwehrmacht.com/.  General public pre-sales begin Friday, December 4th at 10am local time.  General public tickets go on sale Saturday, December 5th at 10am local time.  Information on VIP packages for the tour is available online now via Slayer’s official Facebook page.  The band’s full tour schedule is listed below.

FEBRUARY
19                    Riviera Theatre, Chicago, IL
22                    War Memorial, Nashville, TN
24                    The National, Richmond, VA
26                    House of Blues, Myrtle Beach, SC
27                    The Ritz, Raleigh, NC
29                    The Fillmore, Charlotte, NC

MARCH
 2                     Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY
 3                     The Fillmore, Philadelphia, PA
 5                     The Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD
 6                     The House of Blues, Boston, MA
 8                     LC Pavilion, Columbus, OH
 9                     The Orpheum, Madison, WI
11                    Myth, St. Paul, MN
12                    Civic Auditorium, Fargo, ND
14                    MacEwan Hall, Calgary, AB
15                    Shaw Centre, Edmonton, AB
17                    Revolution Event Center, Boise, ID
19                    The Paramount, Seattle, WA
20                    Roseland Ballroom, Portland, OR
22                    Warfield Theatre, San Francisco, CA
26                    The Joint, Las Vegas, NV

 

 

More information on the band’s tour is available online now along with more on the band’s big win for ‘Repentless’ and all of the band’s latest news at:

 

Website: http://www.slayer.net

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

 

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Eternal Voyager Channels Maiden, Priest, Other Classic Masters On Its Debut Album

Courtesy:  Eternal Voyager

Courtesy: Eternal Voyager

Eternal Voyager has been through a lot ever since its inception roughly a dozen years ago. Ever since its formation, the band has faced challenge after challenge throughout its life. From lineup changes and other changes, to multiple failed attempts to launch its debut album, the currently unsigned Minneapolis, Minnesota-based power metal band has managed to live on where other bands might have fallen apart after so much time and so much struggle. Now thanks to the dedication of its members (specifically front man Brian Blake) Eternal Voyager has finally released that long-awaited debut album and started on the path to potentially its first record deal. The band’s debut, The Battle of Eternity was released in November 2014. It is a work that fans of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and to a lesser degree Blind Guardian will enjoy with its storming vocals and precision musicianship. That is just one part of what makes this album worth the listen by any old school metal fan. The album’s sequencing and production are just as noteworthy. Audiences that give this album a chance will note the seeming connection of the album’s songs and by direct connection the lack of space between them. Both elements make The Battle of Eternity come across almost as a concept record of sorts, not to mention the songs themselves. The songs themselves are collectively the third element of the album worth noting. Looking at the album lyrically, each of the album’s songs seem to connect to one another directly ‘Holy Warrior,’ its follow-up ‘Army of Our Lord,’ and ‘The New Jerusalem’ contribute to that view. The same can be said of all seven tracks that follow. While not precisely linked to that first trio of songs, they each present a similar feel, thus showing why it would be so easy to think of The Battle of Eternity as a concept record of sorts even if it isn’t a concept record in the purest sense. Whether for this factor, for the album’s sequencing and production values, or for its musical similarity to some of the great names in metal, this album gives audiences plenty of reason for audiences to hear it at least once.

Eternal Voyager as a band has seen many ups and downs throughout the course of its roughly twelve-year life. Throughout it all, its member stuck to their guns and saw the band through to its current incarnation. And because of the determination of long time front man Brian Blake and his current band mates, the band finally released its debut album last year. The Battle of Eternity was released in November 2014. The album boasts a sound very similar to that of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest in their heyday. And to a lesser extent, purist metal fans will even be able to hear hints of Blind Guardian, Gamma Ray and others throughout the album’s eleven total tracks. That throwback to the golden era of metal is something that every purist metal fan will appreciate in listening to The Battle of Eternity. From Blake’s own storming vocal style to the occasional addition of his band mates’ own vocals to the precision work of guitarist Rob Nesco and bassist Jeff Igelsrud’s low-end, the band in whole has crafted a collection of songs on this record that any old school metal fan will enjoy. And it’s just the start of what makes The Battle of Eternity worth at least one listen. The album’s sequencing and general production values play just as important a role to the album in whole.

Eternal Voyager’s debut album is one well worth at least one listen by any old school metal fan. That is largely thanks to the album’s obvious influence from the likes of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian and others of that ilk. The similarity in sound to those bands is just part of what makes this album worth the listen, though. The album’s sequencing and overall production values are just as much to thank for its ability to reach its intended audiences. The first three full songs that make up The Battle of Eternity–‘Holy Warrior,’ ‘Army of Our Lord,’ and ‘The New Jerusalem’–instantly create a feeling of it being a concept album. While the songs that follow don’t necessarily seem directly linked to that first trio of songs, they do bear a certain link of sorts to them. And because so little time is wasted between songs, the argument is made even stronger that The Battle of Eternity could be seen as a concept album even if not in the purest sense of the term. The album’s overall production values tie in to its sequencing, balancing each line (vocals, drums, bass, and guitar) evenly with the others. Because each line is so well-balanced with the others, every guitar solo is crystal clear. The machine gun precision of the drumming is just as obvious. Believe it or not there are some records out there that are not at that caliber. The drums on those records sound like someone hitting a pillow over and over. The guitars and vocals seem to fight one another and the bass is next to nonexistent. That isn’t the case here. And audiences will hear that for themselves when they order The Battle of Eternity from Eternal Voyager’s online store.

The sequencing and production values presented in The Battle for Eternity collectively form a solid argument for it being at least something similar to a concept record. And that is not a bad thing. The lyrical content of the songs makes that argument even more concrete. It is one more reason audiences will appreciate the album, given the listen. Blake sings in the album’s opener ‘It has begun/The world’s in bleeding tears/Metal in our hearts/We don’t believe in fear/Our strength comes from the warrior within/So ride with us/We’ll crush their foolish sins.” He goes on to sing in the song’s final verse, “On the final day/When judgment comes to all/Corporate masters and/And world leaders all/A dark sun will rise up in the sky/Take wings of flight/It’s heaven sent tonight.” He and his band mates sing in the song’s chorus, “Holy warrior in chains/Open up your heart and heed the call/Make your stand and fight forever/On the call of glory they shall fall.” These lyrics taken into consideration with the album’s short opener, it seems all the more a concept album with lyrics similar to that of Amon Amarth and others. The songs that follow make that case even stronger. It pains a picture of the battle of Armageddon or at the least a huge battle of good versus evil. And the fact that it is followed by ‘The New Jerusalem’ in which Blake sings, “Now is the time we stand amongst the holy king/His power shines in us all like blades and silver wings/His blood was spilled like rain for us to set us free/And by his holy word we’ll stand eternally.” That same religious theme continues through the remainder of the song and almost as much in the songs that follow. That a seemingly similar lyrical theme runs through the course of each of the album’s songs even despite some minor differences makes even stronger the argument that The Battle of Eternity is a concept album to at least some degree. For anyone that is open to concept albums this is a good thing. Coupled with the album’s old school power metal vibe, The Battle of Eternity is made even more worth the listen. And when partnered with the album’s sequencing and production values, the end product of The Battle of Eternity is an album that any classic metal fan should hear at least once.

The Battle of Eternity is available now. It can be ordered online direct from Eternal Voyager’s online store at https://www.nimbitmusic.com/eternalvoyager. After ordering the band’s new album, audiences can keep up with the band’s latest news and tour dates online at:

Website: https://voyagermetal.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eternal-Voyager/115519158479578

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Alpha Tiger Leading The Pack Early With Its Latest Full-Length LP

Courtesy:  Steamhammer/SPV

Courtesy: Steamhammer/SPV

2014 was a great year for the worlds of rock and metal acts. Major names the likes of Exodus, Machine Head, Judas Priest, and Black Label Society all released new albums alongside a number of equally impressive up-and-coming bands the likes of The Amsterdam Red Light District, Zodiac, Royal Blood, and others. Now with 2015 not even a full month old, this still very young year is already looking just as good for the metal masses the world over. One sign of this is the upcoming new release from Germany’s own Alpha Tiger. Alpha Tiger will release its new album iDentity in the United States next Tuesday, January 20th. The album, the band’s third is a solid follow-up to the band’s 2011 debut Man or Machine and its followup, Beneath The Surface. The band wastes no time re-introducing itself to audiences on its new album. The band launches into things right off the top in the full throttle, socially conscious ‘Lady Liberty.’ The song is a commentary of sorts on the current state of things in America. On the other end of the spectrum, the band offers an uplifting piece in the positively-charged ‘Closer Than Yesterday.’ The album’s lead single ‘We Won’t Take It Anymore’ is just as powerful a song with its driving guitar riffs and powerhouse vocals from front man Stephan Dietrich. It is another very socially conscious piece that is sure to become a fan favorite if it isn’t already. It, along with the other noted songs are just one part of the whole that makes iDentity a great start to 2015 for the metal masses. The other tracks not noted here each play their own part in iDentity’s enjoyment. Together with the compositions noted here, all ten tracks that make up Alpha Tiger’s new album prove it to be a solid new album and a good start to 2015 for the metal masses.

Alpha Tiger’s upcoming new album iDentity is the band’s third full-length record in four years. Usually when an act releases so many albums in such a short amount of time, it can prove to be a bad thing. It can prove to be bad because in many cases there is a noticeable decline in the quality of said acts’ material. Said albums feel rushed for lack of better wording. In other cases, putting out albums so quickly also means that audiences can actually grow weary of said acts. This applies both to the bigger names in the music world and even to those signed to independent labels. In the case of iDentity, Alpha Tiger hasn’t suffered from any of those issues. The band impresses right off the top in its socially-charged opener ‘Lady Liberty.’ The very first thing that audiences will note in this song is the obvious influences from the likes of Iron Maiden and Judas Priest on its musical side. The dual guitar attack of Peter Langforth and Alexander Backasch coupled with drummer David Schleif’s solid timekeeping and [Stephan] Dietrich’s vocal talents will easily fool audiences. Anyone hearing this song and not knowing it was Alpha Tiger would instantly think they were hearing either of the aforementioned greats. Lyrically speaking, it is just as much a solid opener with it’s seeming commentary on the current state of America. The seeming message in question comes across as Dietrich sings with obvious sarcasm in his voice, “Come on over hear the news/the day has come/Now we are free to choose/I Choose the path that’s best for me/Thank God to live the American dream.” The message is made even clearer later in the song as Dietrich sings, “I’m free to shoot a stranger down/I claim my right, He trod my ground/I’ll raise the flag of liberty/The lady on her hill will shine down on me.” It is only this critic’s own interpretation, but the line “I’m free to shoot a stranger down/I claim my right, He trod my ground” seems to make reference to the Treyvon Martin case and others like it. Regardless of the intended reference, such lyrics make for quite the indictment of a nation in whole. And they are sure to make quite the discussion. That discussion itself makes ‘Lady Liberty’ the perfect choice to open iDentity. The song’s musical backing makes even clearer why this song was chosen to open the album.

‘Lady Liberty’ was the perfect choice to open Alpha Tiger’s latest full-length release. It instantly grabs listeners by the ear with its fire and energy and refuses to let go. It boasts a lot of fire and energy both musically and lyrically. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Alpha Tiger offers a different kind of fire and energy in the uplifting Closer Than Yesterday.’ This song is the polar opposite of ‘Lady Liberty.’ But it is no less powerful. This song offers a welcome ray of hope to anyone going through a rough time both musically and lyrically. The song opens with a solid, driving piano riff that eventually builds into a full on arena-style song, musically speaking complete with huge guitar lick. One could almost argue something of a Bon Jovi influence to this song when one really sits down and listens to it for its musical side. That’s not an entirely bad thing, either. Now are the song’s equally uplifting lyrics. Dietrich sings in this song, “So don’t say you try/Just say you will/There is enough you left behind/It’s time to live!” The control in his voice as he sings these lyrics is something special. That control and gentility in his voice as he sings is like getting a musical pat on the back, reminding listeners that as tough as life gets, everything will be okay. He even goes so far as to sing, “I will step into the great unknown/Where dreams are made to become real/Yes I know it’s still a long way to go/But I’m closer than yesterday.” He comes across as saying that we must embrace the uncertainties in life without fear. We must embrace it because with each step forward we are “closer than yesterday” to defeating those uncertainties that cloud our minds. It is quite the positive reminder to audiences of all ages. That it can reach audiences of so many ages makes it even more powerful and in turn one more way in which iDentity works so well.

Both ‘Lady Liberty’ and ‘Closer Than Yesterday’ show why iDentity is a solid new effort from Aplha Tiger. Both songs are key examples of what makes the album so enjoyable because of the power both in their music and lyrics. The album’s lead single ‘We Won’t Take It Anymore’ boasts much the same energy and fire in its music and lyrics, too. And as with those songs, it too exhibits an obvious influence from the great veteran metal acts that have come before in its examining its musical side. Looking at the song from a lyrical vantage point, there is just as much fire as Dietrich sings “You call us hopeless generation/’Cause we won’t play by your rules/Or it’s because you can’t control us/Like your money hungry fools.” The pure defiant and infectious energy exuded by the band here will have the song resonating in listeners’ heads long after the song has ended. This is proven even more as Dietrich sings, “We won’t take it/Take it anymore/’Cause we are sick of it all/We won’t take it/Take it anymore/We’ve had it up to here.” It’s one more strong statement from Alpha Tiger that is sure to have listeners singing along proudly, pumping their fists in the air. If such striking lyrics and powerful music haven’t already made this single a hit among the band’s European fans, it won’t be long before it is. And when iDentity is released in the U.S., audiences will agree with that sentiment. They will agree with the sentiment regarding not only this song but the others mentioned here and those not noted. In hearing all of the songs that make up iDentity American audiences will discover what the band’s European fans already know–Alpha Tiger is one of the leaders of the rock world’s pack this year.

iDentity is scheduled to be released in the United States next Tuesday, January 20th. It has already been released overseas. And the band is currently on tour in Europe in support of its new album. Audiences around the world can find out the band’s latest tour updates and news online now at:

Website: http://www.alphatiger.de

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

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Celebrating Jon Lord Pays Proper Homage To One Of The Music World’s Great Minds And Musicians

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

The music world lost one of its greatest figures two years ago when Deep Purple keyboardist and founding member Jon Lord passed away.  Lord may be gone but his legacy as a member of one of rock’s greatest bands lives on today thanks to songs such ‘Smoke on the Water,’ ‘Soldier of Fortune,’ ‘Burn’ and so many others.  His legacy as a composer lives on to as he crafted his own modern classical works including the now famous ‘Concerto for Group and Orchestra’ among others.  Earlier this year, Lord’s former Deep Purple band mates and his fellow musicians came together to celebrate his rich legacy at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall at the annual Sunflower Jam.  And now fans of Deep Purple and of Jon Lord alike get to experience that celebration for themselves thanks to Eagle Rock Entertainment and Universal Music Group in the form of the triple-disc CD set Celebrating Jon LordCelebrating Jon Lord is a wonderful tribute to one of the great musical minds of the modern era.  The primary reason that it is such a wonderful tribute in its CD form is that the celebrations of Lord’s contributions to the rock world and the classical world are separated into two stand-alone collections.  Another reason that audiences will enjoy this collection is its collective set list.  And last worth noting is the audio mix on this recording in whole.  All three factors together make Celebrating Jon Lord a wonderful celebration of a great man and a great musical mind and one more welcome addition to the library of any Deep Purple fan or classic rock fan in general.

Courtesy:  Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Courtesy: Eagle Rock Entertainment/Universal Music Group

Eagle Rock Entertainment’s new live recording Celebrating Jon Lord is not the first feature to focus on the late founding member of Deep Purple.  The leader in live recordings, Eagle Rock released Jon Lord: Concerto for Group and Orchestra on both CD and DVD last year in separate packages.  The recording focused primarily on what is considered one of his greatest non-rock compositions.  Celebrating Jon Lord does not include this work on either half of the recording.  While it doesn’t include that composition, Celebrating Jon Lord: The Composer presents even more of Lord’s non-rock compositions.  It stands alone from the other half of the concert recorded earlier this spring, “Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend.  This separation of the show into two packages is the central point of the concert’s CD presentation.  Audiences that want to hear only Lord’s work with Deep Purple can pick up the second half of the performance Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend.  Those that prefer hearing Lord’s personal non-rock compositions can pick up Celebrating Jon Lord: The Composer .  Sure, it’s a little problematic for those wanting the full concert experience on CD as it means having to purchase both sets.  But it’s money well-spent regardless.  And now that the concert has been released onto a companion Blu-ray, those same audiences can see the entire concert in one single package in place of having to purchase both CDs if they don’t want to have to pay that much for two separate sets. Regardless, both of the CDs offer their own share of enjoyment from start to finish.

The separation of the Sunflower Jam concert celebrating the legacy of Jon Lord is among the most important factors in the success of this triple-disc live recording.  Just as important of note is the recording’s overall set list.  On the rock side, audiences are treated to a number of classic Deep Purple tunes which Lord helped bring to life.   Some of the best of those classics include the bluesy ‘I’m Gonna Stop Drinking,’ the full-on rocker that is ‘Burn’ and the much easier-going almost funk-style ‘Things Get Better.’  On the classical side, anyone that has any familiarity with the world of classical music will most certainly appreciate that collection’s first two songs.  ‘Fantasia,’ which opens the classical portion of the concert, bears very clear influence from Aaron Copland and to a lesser extent, Eric Osterling.  And its Indian-influenced opening measures aside, ‘Durham Awakes’ feels like something that came right out of the Broadway rendition of author Arthur Laurents’ book West Side Story with its complex, multi-part arrangement.  It’s the type of thing that would make Leonard Bernstein proud if he were alive today to hear it.  It’s one more example of what makes the collective set list of these two collections such a joy.  There are plenty of other songs from which listeners will find their favorite(s).  Simply put, there is not one back performance throughout the concert regardless of which side of the show one prefers.  Altogether, it’s one more reason that fans of Deep Purple and of classical music and classic rock alike will enjoy this recording in whole.

The separation of Celebrating Jon Lord into two separate halves and the set list of each half of the concert together make this recording a true joy for any Deep Purple fan and any fan of classical music and classic rock.  Neither of these factors would mean anything on the recording’s CD packaging however without one all-important aspect.  That aspect is the recording’s audio mix.  It is noted in the booklet included with Celebrating Jon Lord: The Rock Legend that Iron Maiden front man Bruce Dickinson and Lord’s former Deep Purple band mate Glenn Hughes actually “endangered the Albert Hall Architecture with ultra-passionate and furiously energetic versions of two Mark 3 Deep Purple classics, ‘You Keep On Moving’ and ‘Burn.’  That’s saying something, especially considering Albert Hall’s massive size from ceiling to floor and stage to doors.  Luckily, as powerful as Dickinson and Hughes were on these pieces, those charged with balancing the levels handled their duties expertly.  Though, that power does still show through at least to a certain extent whether in a car or on a radio.  That in itself is a tribute to the work of said individuals.  Much the same can be said of their work balancing the levels when powerhouse singer Steve Balsamo took the stage to perform on Lord’s composition ‘All Those Years Ago.’  Balsamo exhibits such control over his instrument.  He soars when it’s time to really hit those key moments.  He holds back just enough in the more reserved moments, too.  The audio engineers make those moments come out even more with their work here.  They exhibit just as much talent and expertise throughout the remainder of the concert.  Audiences will hear that expertise for themselves when they pick up either or both of these recordings for themselves.  The concert’s high quality audio mix, coupled with the show’s set list and its separation into two halves, leads to one more live recording that adds to Eagle Rock’s reputation as the leader in live recordings. It also adds even more to the reputation of Deep Purple and Jon Lord as one of the music world’s best bands and best musical minds.  Altogether, it proves Celebrating Jon Lord to be a wonderful celebration that any true music lover will appreciate.

Celebrating Jon Lord is a wonderful musical celebration of a wonderful musical mind.  The separation of the concert’s audio side into two halves lets audiences choose which half they prefer more should they prefer one half of the show to another.  The set list itself proves that both sides of the concert are well worth the purchase in its audio side.  The work of the concert’s audio engineers balancing the concert’s audio levels is nothing short of expert.  All three factors together make the audio portion of Celebrating Jon Lord a welcome addition to the library of any Deep Purple fan and lover of music in whole.  That is not to discount the booklets that come with each half of the concert.  The booklets that come with the CDs offer their own additional insight and enjoyment to the experience, making it even more worth hearing.  Those wanting to hear the concert’s audio side can pick up either collection now or both as they are available in stores and online.  The CDs’ companion Blu-ray presentation is also available now.  More information on these releases and others from Eagle Rock Entertainment is available online at:

Website: http://www.eagle-rock.com

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

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Dragonforce’s New LP More Than Lives Up To Its Title

Courtesy:  Metal Blade Records

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Euro-metal band Dragonforce released its latest album to American audiences this week.  Maximum Overload, the band’s sixth full length studio effort, is an aptly titled record.  That is because the album pushes the envelope of power metal from start to finish on this album.  From the album’s pummeling opening number ‘The Game’ to the full throttle ‘Defenders’ to the album’s equally nonstop pounding instrumental closer ‘Galactic Astro Domination,’ the members of Dragonforce leave listeners breathless by the album’s end.’  Listeners will agree that by the time the album finally ends—it runs a total of fifteen tracks and just over an hour—they have on their hands some of the best work that the band has crafted to date.

Dragonforce wastes no time getting things moving on its new album.  The band opens the album at breakneck speed in ‘The Game.’  The song initially comes across as being rather nihilistic.  But the reality of the song is that it is in fact a song that presents hope through all of the negativity in the world.  New front man Marc Hudson starts out singing of life’s difficulties, “Messed up once again/Told me it’s okay/But this path that I’m taking/I’m lost in the deep end…I tried/So hard/To reach for the stars/But I failed you all/Tried to keep standing tall/Never had a real chance at all/But I’m still searching.  That final line in which Hudson states “But I’m still searching” is a hint at the ability of the song’s subject to keep pushing on somehow despite so many negative thoughts.  That mix of emotions and strained thoughts continues late in the song as Hudson sings, “Ten thousand ways to say sorry/But life writes its own tragic story/Time marches onwards and nothing can ever be the same/But we’ll pray for a brighter tomorrow/Break free from this lifetime of sorrow/Years pass us by/But we’re all just a part of the game.”  In its own way, the song is presenting an image of someone pushing on through everything despite what seems like a battle with his or her own personal emotional demons.  Said figure won’t let those negative emotions take over no matter how many years pass.  This is just one critic’s own take on this song.  So it could very well be wrong.  If it is in fact incorrect, then apologies go out to the members of Dragonforce for the misinterpretation.  But it certainly seems to present that message of determination through the toughest of emotional odds.  That seeming positive lyrical message set alongside the pummeling dual guitar attack from Herman Li and Sam Totman, and drummer Gee Anzalone’s machine gun-like drumming makes even clearer why this song was chosen to open Maximum Overload.  The band doesn’t stop here, either.  Rather, it keeps the energy flowing well into the red and beyond right into the album’s midpoint, ‘Defenders.’

The seeming positive lyrical message presented by Dragonforce in Maximum Overload’s opener is echoed even more clearly as the album reaches its midpoint, ‘Defenders.’  Hudson sings in this song that there are those in this world that will try to bring others down.  But one can’t let those people win.  He sings of those people, “Life’s uncertain/A rat race of pain/Endlessly searching for more/Hopeless and aimless/Held back by the chains/Until we can’t take anymore.”  For all of the obstacles in life—both physical and emotional—Hudson reminds listeners that they should not give in or give up.  He goes on to sing, “Hold on/Stay strong/Breaking out from a past life fading/No more/What for/All we got is to keep on praying/Wait for their downfall/Their lives in dismay/Witness the final decay/Suffering in silence/For years we were blind/But now we got something to say.”  It’s almost as if Hudson is saying to the band’s audiences to let life’s obstacles destroy themselves whether they be other people or some other obstacle.  As with the album’s opener, the band keeps the energy going full throttle in this song.  That energy serves to make the song even more hard hitting and even more of a valuable addition to the album in whole.

The members of Dragonforce show time and again throughout the course of Maximum Overload their high level of talent. That is clearly evident in the songs already noted here. The album’s closer, ‘Galactic Astro Domination,’ more than exhibits that talent, though. Anyone that is familiar with the work of Dragonforce’s American counterparts in Powerglove will agree that Dragonforce takes the similar sound crafted by that band and ups it by a factor of at least one hundred in this full-on instrumental attack. And considering the nonstop adrenaline rush experienced throughout the songs that precede this one, it makes for a fitting final statement from Dragonforce on its new album. Whether it be for this full throttle finale, the other pieces noted or those equally driving pieces not noted here, fans of Dragonforce will find plenty of positives throughout this latest release from start to finish. Those fans will likely also find this album playing in their CD players and MP3 players quite a bit as a result.

Maximum Overload is available in stores and online now. It can also be purchased at any of the concerts on the band’s upcoming European tour. That tour will kick off Wednesday, September 17th at the Liquid Room in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. It runs through February 1st, 2015 in Brussels, Belgium. The band’s current tour schedule, news, and latest updates are all available online now at http://www.metalblade.com/dragonforce, http://www.facebook.com/dragonforce, and http://twitter.com/dragonforcehq. 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.

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 https://philspicks.wordpress.com.