Metallica’s ‘S&M2’ Will Appeal Mostly To The Band’s Most Devoted Fans

Courtesy: Rhino/Blackened Recordings

Veteran hard rock band Metallica recently made headlines when its members announced they were working on new music.  The announcement came only months after the band released its latest live recording, S&M2.  The recording features a performance held by the band and the San Francisco Symphony.  The extensive concert was a two-night performance by the band and orchestra that marked the anniversary of the band’s original April 1999 performance with the collective, and of the opening of the symphony’s new Chase Center.  The recording likely will find itself appealing mainly to the band’s most devoted audiences.  That is due in part to its set list, which will be discussed shortly.  That the concert was released through various, separate platforms actually makes the recording appealing to a very targeted audience, too.  This will be discussed a little later.  The one positive on which all audiences can agree is the recording’s production.  It will be discussed later, too.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, they make S&M2 a presentation that Metallica’s most devoted audiences will find more appealing than general audiences.

Metallica’s latest live recording S&M2 is a presentation that will appeal mostly to the band’s most devoted fans.  That is proven in part through its set list.  The 24-song set list is largely the same as that featured in the band’s 1999 recording S&M.  Rather than adding in some deep cuts, such as ‘The God That Failed,’ ‘King Nothing,’ or ‘Dream No More,’ the band largely played it safe here, essentially just cutting and pasting.  To the set list’s defense of course, there are four new songs that are likely among the songs that the band members announced it is working on for its next album.  There are also some relatively well-known classic compositions that will entertain audiences during a break by the band.  The compositions are performed by the members of the symphony.  But again, save for those compositions and the four new tracks, the rest of the concert’s set list is essentially a copy and paste from the 1999 show.  To that end, yes, the four new songs are motivation, but general audiences will find it potentially not enough motivation considering that they and the classical compositions are really the only changes to the set list.  It is just one of the concerns raised by the recording.  The varied platforms on which the concert was released add their own concerns.

When S&M2 was released, it was done so on a wide range of platforms.  There is the standard, least expensive 2CD platform; the standalone Blu-ray platform, the slightly more expensive 2CD/DVD platform and even a combo pack.  Considering all of the platforms on which the concert was made available, outlets, such as Target and Walmart only made the standard 2CD platform available in stores.  Audiences who wanted to hear and see the concert in full have to order the Blu-ray platform and 2CD/DVD combo pack.  That means spending extra money on shipping and handling as well as sales tax versus just paying a little bit of extra sales tax in store.  To that extent, it decrease motivation to purchase the full concert unless one is, again, among the most devoted fans of Metallica.  Considering that most major retailers are charging a maximum of approximately $15 for the Blu-ray, one cannot help but wonder why that was not made available in store along with the 2CD set or even in place of that set.  To that extent, the multiple platform availability of the recording does seem like a positive on the surface, but looking at the costs and availability in store versus online, it actually becomes more of a concern.  Together with the limitation in new material in the concert, again, general audiences become even less motivated to purchase this recording.  For all of the concerns that are raised by the concert’s set list and its availability, one positive can be noted of the recording.  That positive is its production.

Audiences who watch the full audio-visual presentation on Blu-ray or DVD will agree that the audio was balanced well in post production.  There have been some complaints about the 5.1 surround sound, but odds are the people who raised those concerns had their TVs improperly set up.  Many TVs are created nowadays so that audiences need just set their TVs to surround sound setting and they can enjoy the concert’s audio for live setting.  In the same breath, the cinematography is impressive in its own right.  Considering the construction of the symphony’s new facility, the cameras had to be adapted.  Audiences are often presented with wide angle shots, and even right up on stage with the band.  The transitions are stable from one to the next while the shots themselves give a positive view of just how expansive the concert hall is.  The cinematography also does well to capture the impact of the lighting, which helps to set the mood for the concert.  Keeping all of this in mind, those responsible for capturing the performance in person and in post production are to be commended for their work.  That is because it provides home viewers the best seat in the house and fully immerses those audiences in the concert experience.  Keeping that in mind, this is the one true saving grace for S&M2.  Together with the concert’s honestly limited set list and equally limited availability, it serves to make this presentation appealing mainly for the band’s most devoted audiences.

Metallica’s latest live recording S&M2 is an intriguing new presentation from a group that is one of the most respected bands in the music industry today.  It is a presentation that will appeal mostly to the band’s most devoted audiences.  That is due in large part to the concert’s set list.  The set list is a near mirror image from the band’s 1999 recording S&M save for four new tracks and a small handful of well-known classic compositions. That the band and its label made the concert available only in its 2CD platform in stores, and made the rest of its platforms available online only detracts even more from its appeal.  Had the standalone Blu-ray and/or the 2CD/DVD platform been made available in store, that might have helped the recording’s appeal at least somewhat, but that did not happen.  To that end, that division detracts even more from the recording’s presentation.  The one saving grace to this recording is its production.  Those who recorded the concert in person and those who handled its post production are to be commended for their work.  It gives home audiences the best seat in the house.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of the recording.  All things considered, S&M2 proves to be a presentation that will appeal most to Metallica’s most devoted fans.  It is available now.

More information on S&M2 is available along with all of Metallica’s latest news at:




To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at  

Hammerfall Drops The Hammer On 2020’s Top New Live Recordings List

Courtesy: Napalm Records

Live music and live music venues took a big hit this year thanks to the global COVID-19 pandemic.  That goes without saying.  Music acts and venues from the independent level all the way up to the big names were force to put their live music plans on hold indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.  However a glimmer of hope rose this week when Live Nation head Joe Berchtold was quoted by major media outlets as saying that he believed live music would return by summer 2021.  One can only hope that Mr. Berchtold is right, and that when it does return, audiences will welcome its return rather than let the germaphobes control their minds.  Until then, audiences do have lots of live music to enjoy on CD, DVD and Blu-ray that was released this year.  Hammerfall released its latest live recording Live! Against The World this year.  Dream Theater also dropped its new live recording Distant Memories: Live in London.  Metallica even celebrated the anniversary of its landmark S&M show with the release of S&M2.  These are just some of the recordings that made Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Live Recordings.  They were joined by new live material from the likes of Myrath, The Rolling Stones, and Kamelot.

As with each list from Phil’s Picks, this collection features the Top 10 new titles in the given category and five additional honorable mention titles for a total of 15 titles.  Without any further ado, here is Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Live Recordings.


  1. Hammerfall – Live! Against The World
  2. Jimi Hendrix – Live in Maui
  3. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra – A Swingin’ Sesame Street Celebration
  4. Def Leppard – London to Vegas
  5. The Rolling Stones – Steel Wheels Live
  6. Devin Townsend – Order of Magnitude: Empath Live Volume 1
  7. John Lee Hooker – Live at Montreux 1983 & 1990
  8. Waylon Jennings – The Outlaw Perrformances
  9. Myrath – Live in Carthage
  10. Kamelot – I Am The Empire Live from the 013
  11. Dream Theater – Distant Memories: Live in London
  12. Metallica – S&M2
  13. Delta Rae – Coming Home To Carolina
  14. Bush – Live in Tampa
  15. Dee Snider – For The Love of Metal

Up next from Phil’s Picks is one of the last three music categories of the year, Phil’s Picks 2020 Top 10 New Rock Albums.  After that will be the year’s top new hard rock & metal albums, and then last but not least, the year’s top new albums overall.  From there, it’ll be on to the DVDs and Blu-rays in all of their categories.  Stay tuned for all of that.

To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at  

Metal Rock Films’ New Thrash Metal Retrospective Will Resonate With Thrash, Metal Aficionados

Courtesy: Metal Rock Films

Throughout their rich histories, the rock and metal communities have seen a lot of “hot spots” develop across America.  Seattle, during the 90s was the hub for the burgeoning “grunge” scene.  Atlanta, for decades has been its own hub for so many kinds of rock  and metal.  Sevendust calls Atlanta home as do the like of Stuck Mojo, The Black Crowes, and Mastodon.  New York City has often been known as one of the key cities (if not the key city) in which the hardcore punk movement started.  The San Francisco Bay area meanwhile is where the thrash metal scene got its start.  The Bay Area and the thrash scene that developed therein are the focus of the recently released independent “rock-umentary” Bay Area Godfathers.  Released Nov. 10 on DVD by Metal Rock Films, the 90 minute retrospective is a presentation that thrash metal fans will find worth watching at least occasionally.  That is proven in part through its central feature, which will be discussed shortly.  The pacing that results from the main feature’s presentation presented plays its own key part to the retrospective’s presentation and will be discussed a little later.  The bonus content that accompanies the main feature adds some appeal to the overall presentation and will also be discussed later.  Each item noted here is important in its own way to the whole of Bay Area Godfathers.  All things considered, it is a presentation that serves as a good starting point in an examination of what is just one of metal’s many sub-genres.

Bay Area Godfathers is a presentation that thrash metal fans will find worth watching at least occasionally.  That is proven in part through the 90-minute program’s main feature.  The main feature follows the genre’s growth from its infancy in the early 80s to its growth in popularity in the late 80s.  Audiences learn through the presented history that the genre’s development was apparently somewhat unexpected.  That is because in the lat 70s and early 80s, pop, disco and other genres were still very prominent and popular in the San Francisco Bay area.  Even with those genres still being popular, audiences learn that there was a movement in the underground away from those more popular genres and acts and toward the heavier rock world.  The guerilla style presentation is not the spit-shined work that audiences might expect from say MTV, VH1 or ay of those well-known outlets.  The story is told through first hand accounts and stories of the musicians and bands that rose to popularity in the early days of thrash.  The interviews are captured with ordinary cameras.  There are no wireless microphones to amplify the speakers’ voices.  There is no editing to clean up the look and sound of the interviews.  They are presented wholly in a very distinct DIY fashion.  At the same time, the program is clearly segmented into specific portions (E.g. thrash’s early days, the division of punk and thrash, the growing popularity of thrash on rock radio and magazines).  That clear segmentation helps to keep viewers engaged and entertained throughout the course of the documentary.  Between this and the fact that the story is told mainly by those who were part of the genre’s evolution (in place of lots of third hand narration), and the video that helps tell the stories, this main feature in itself gives audiences quite a bit to appreciate.

While the main feature in Bay Area Godfathers mostly ensures viewers’ appeal, it is not a perfect presentation.  The pacing that results from the in-depth tale does suffer at points throughout the program.  While Bay Area Godfathers’ run time is listed at 90 minutes, there are times when it feels like it runs a little bit longer because of the pacing.  Whether that is due to the lack of that extra narration or maybe just a little bit too much in the way of anecdotes and stories is anyone’s guess.  Maybe it is the result of both of those elements.  Regardless, there are moments in the program that do feel as though they are dragging more so than at others.  Thankfully, that is not the case throughout.  That aside it is still noticeable, so it does detract from the documentary’s presentation at least to a point, just not enough to make the program fail.

Once audiences have made their way through the main feature of Bay Area Godfathers (or even before), they also have some bonus content to watch.  The documentary’s writing/directing/producing team of Bob Nalbandian and John Strednansky discusses favorite memories of the early days of the thrash metal scene in the bay area.  The men also share their thoughts on topics such as the impact of the scene on the overall metal community and why the pair even got started making its “Inside Metal” film series.  The history behind this aspect is interesting as it takes listeners briefly into the bigger history of the rock ad hard rock scene in California.  The discussion on the roots of the metal scene in the Bay Area in the early 80s shows the seriousness of the team’s dedication to the genre.  It is refreshing to hear from the men, that this was not just some pet project, but something that stemmed from their own love for the genre.  On a completely random note, as the men are talking (apparently in a hotel lobby) a figure walks to the elevators behind them in what looks like the outfit of the Kansas Jayhawks mascot outfit.  All that is visible from the camera angle is from the waist down, but it certainly makes for a funny moment as the mascot stands there pacing a little, waiting for the elevator as the men talk.  In discussing the favorite memories, Stradnansky talks about his first “Metal Monday” show, seeing Motley Crue and how that changed his life.  It is its own continued testament about the love that these men had for their project.  There are even discussions about favorite clubs, which adds to the discussions about the clubs featured in the documentary.  This enriches that aspect of the presentation even more.  Between this, so much more in the nearly 10-minute bonus and everything featured in the documentary’s main feature, this presentation proves itself a relatively entertaining and engaging presentation for thrash and metal aficionados in general. 

Metal Rock Films’ recently released thrash metal retrospective Bay Area Godfathers is a presentation that rock and metal aficionados alike will find intriguing.  They will find it as a presentation that is worth watching occasionally.  That is proven in part through its main feature, which takes viewers back through the early history of thrash metal in the San Francisco Bay area.  The rich, in-depth story told in the main feature is presented largely through first hand stories and anecdotes from those who were part of the scene at the time.  Some are well-known names while others are less so, creating a rich starting point in the history of the genre.  For all of the content that the main feature offers audiences, there are some occasional issues with the feature’s pacing.  There are moments throughout the documentary in which the story feels like it slows down.  Thankfully those moments are not enough to derail the program.  The bonus content that accompanies the documentary’s main feature adds a little more enjoyment an engagement to the whole.  Together with everything in the main feature, the two elements join with the better elements of the program’s pacing to make the retrospective/history piece worth at least an occasional watch.  Bay Area Godfathers is available now.

More information on this and other titles from Metal Rock Films is available along with all of the company’s latest news at:




To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Artilley Debuts New Single, ‘The Last Journey,’; Metallica Cover Accompanies Single

Courtesy: Metal Blade Records

Artillery is paying tribute to one of its own with its latest single.

The band kicked off the weekend Friday by debuting its new single, ‘The Last Journey.’ The song is a tribute to late Artillery member Morten Stutzer, who died in October 2019. The band announced last month that it was going to release the single, which features guest vocals from the band’s former front men, Flemming Ronsdorf and Soren Adamsen.

The band’s new single is an interesting new offering in part because of its musical arrangement. The arrangement takes a noticeably different turn from the band’s existing body of work. Instead of the heavy, guitar driven arrangements for which it has come to be known, this work instead takes elements of power metal and 80s hair metal to form its musical foundation.

On the surface, the combined elements again make for quite the intriguing presentation. Of course, considering that the song is a musical eulogy of sorts, it makes more sense that it would take a different approach from its existing works.

The song opens, stating, “I am looking at you for the last time/And I know you can’t stay/You are moving to a better place/So far away…Memories are strong/I never lose them/They can steal away your life forever/But they can’t steal your dreams/A dark cloud’s on my heaven/So far from me/Alone with you near me/The son runs deep/In my bones/Through the pain/I know you’re gone/But I will carry on.” Some of the lyrics here are slightly difficult to understand due to the manner in which the vocals are delivered, but the message is clear. The song’s second verse adds to the statement, with comments about “the loss of you” and more. Again, some of the lyrics are difficult to decipher sans lyrics to reference. Even with that in mind, enough is still understood along with the knowledge of the song’s lyrical theme, that the impact of the lyrical and musical content together is not lost.

‘The Last Journey’ is accompanied by a B-side, a cover of Metallica’s ‘Trapped Under Ice.’ This song is more along the lines of what audiences have come to expect from Artillery, stylistically speaking. Artillery’s take on the song stays true to its source material while also giving the composition a new kickstart with the more intense vocals and production.

The songs are available on vinyl in Europe and everywhere else digitally. The vinyl is available in three pressings, noted below.

–Black vinyl (300 copies)
–Blue vinyl (200 copies)
–Yellow vinyl (100 copies)

Both songs were produced and recorded by Soren Andersen at Medley Studio. 

More information on Artillery’s forthcoming single is available online now along with all of Artillery’s latest news and more at:




To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Black Tree Vultures Debuts ‘The Unforeseen’ Lyric Video

Courtesy: Asteria Entertainment/BTV Records

Black Tree Vultures debuted the video for its new single over the weekend.

The band debuted the lyric video for its single ‘The Unforeseen‘ Sunday.  The song is the lead single from the band’s forthcoming EP III, which is scheduled for release Feb. 12, 2021.

The video’s debut came more than a week after the band debuted the song by itself.  The fully CG video features a woman making her way through a post apocalyptic setting, going to different settings, such as a church, a cold, wintery setting (that maybe is supposed to be London) and her own lair of sorts.

The musical arrangement featured in the new song is a heavy, no nonsense guitar-driven work that lends itself to comparisons to works from bands, such as Metallica, Stone Sour, and Megadeth.  Guitarist Aaron “Ham” Hammersley is to be applauded for his performance here. There is even a short run late in the song that sounds like it came right from one of Metallica’s classic albums.  Producer Will Maya (The Answer) is credited with helping the song have such a sharp, intense sound and impact.

Drummer Jono Smith’s time keeping and bassist James “Ched” Cheeseman add their own touch to the song while front man Celyn Beynon’s vocals at times echo the sound and style of Stone Sour/Slipknot front man Corey Taylor.  The whole of those parts alongside the guitars is a powerful first impression from the band.

The song’s lyrical theme is centered on the matter of a breakup, according to Beynon.

“This song started with the Chorus. “Ched” brought the riff to Aaron and Jonno and the song (though very different from what you hear today) grew from that,” he said. “Originally titled ‘Black Limousine’ the lyrical content was very different, but after a tough experience, I rewrote the lyrics to reflect this.”

“On a cloudy day on a Hill in North Dorset, amidst a break-up, I turned to a good friend for advice,” added Beynon. “They allowed me to view myself from the standpoint of someone else. In the song, I refer to a text or two I received in the middle of the break-up describing who I was and what I’d become. It made me realise that things are going to have to change and was a bit of a wakeup call! I think it’s important to write and draw from experience when it comes to music as it makes it genuine and people can connect with it.

Black tree Vultures is scheduled to release its single worldwide on Sept. 25.  .

More information on Black Tree Vultures’ new single and EP is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:




To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at


Musical Arrangements, Production Save Orbit Culture’s New LP

Courtesy: Seek & Strike

Independent metal band Orbit Culture is working hard to make a name for itself within the bigger metal community.  The band released its new album Nija aug 7 through seek & Strike Records.  The 10-song album is a powerful entry that will appeal to the band’s target audience.  That is due in part to its musical arrangements, which will be addressed shortly.  Its lyrical themes do their own part to make the album appealing to the noted listeners.  The record’s production is just as much of note as its overall content.  When this item is considered along with the album’s content, the album in whole proves to be a presentation that the band’s target audience base will agree is worth hearing at least once.

Orbit Culture’s new album Nija is a strong new effort from the band that the group’s target audience base will appreciate.  That is due in no small part to the record’s collective musical arrangements.  From beginning to end of the 45-minute record, its riffs, seething vocal deliveries, bass and drums will appeal to a wide range of listeners.  Each arrangement exhibits touches of groove metal joined with death metal, thrash, and even a bit of black metal.  At the same time, there is also a hint of melodic metal and hard rock added to the mix for a result that is truly interesting.  The heavier arrangements will appeal to fans of bands, such as Whitechapel, Humanity’s Last Breath, and Gojira.  The album’s more melodic moments, such as in ‘Open Eye’ and ‘See Through Me’ take listeners in a completely different direction.  ‘Open Eye’ conjures thoughts of early Metallica at various points while the whole of ‘See Through Me’ is more of a metalcore presentation.  In the exact same breath, there are plenty of other moments in ‘Open Eye’ that are more akin to the noted heavier acts.  The two elements are very well-balanced here and make for quite the interesting composition.  ‘Sun of All’ is another of those arrangements in this record that balances the noted death and black metal elements with a distinct melodic hard rock sensibility.  It comes later in the record’s run.  The two sides are so well-balanced, too, that one can’t help but listen.  Add in the hypnotizing string arrangement and metalcore elements, and audiences get in this song what is musically, one of the album’s most standout moments.  It’s just one more way in which the album’s musical arrangements show their importance.  When it is considered along with the rest of the album’s arrangements (noted and not) the whole of the album’s musical body becomes a presentation that in itself makes the album well worth hearing.  For all that the album’s musical arrangements do for its whole, they are just one of the album’s notable aspects.  Its lyrical content is sure to generate its own share of interest among audiences.

The lyrical content featured throughout Nija is intriguing to say the least.  While the record’s musical arrangements guarantee far-reaching appeal, its lyrical content feels much more targeted with its dark, nihilistic overtones.  Case in point is the lyrical content featured in ‘North Star of Nija.’  The song’s lead verse states, “Combust/The opulence of all the human faults in flames/You’ve killed/But you see yourself for real in here/The serpent/Black god/The north star of Nija.”  The song’s second verse adds in, “Adjust the ornament/To fit the true king of our realm/You bow to a darker power that’s real in here…I’ve lived through some grey days/But I’ve never really given it a thought/How I live/How it’s feasting on me/How it’s taking me.”  The song’s third verse is just as heavy, stating, “I’m the leader of all that’s dead/I’m the crows that you witness next/I’m the leech that steals from the mother’s breast/I’m the serpent in Hell.”  The song goes on in similar fashion from here with the only real seeming glimmer of hope coming later in the line, “You’ll stay here for a long time/You’ll dry your tears from off your face/But you can’t look back now.”  Even that is questionable in its delivery.  It could be positive, but considering the next lines, it is difficult to say.  Ultimately the song ends with the line, “I’ve sent down the crows to Hell/To gather the bones of you/I’ve given the piece of skin/To the gods of the broken man/I am complete.”  So maybe, just maybe this is meant to send a sense of overcoming adversity.  It leaves even this critic bewildered.  Even with all of this in mind, that it has the potential to create so much discussion makes it stand out as just one example of what makes the album’s lyrical content important.  ‘Behold’ is another example of what makes Nija’s lyrical intriguing.

‘Behold’ comes across as a deeply introspective work in its own right.  Front man Niklas Karlsson sings in the song’s lead verse, “In the essence of the fire/I’m realizing that this is life now/I’ve tried so hard to keep this feeling/Of feeling sane/Mind and body/I tried so hard to keep the demons/The fallen society/The downfall of you and me/in the white halls we are searching.”  He continues in the song’s second verse, “In the presence of the higher/The mesmerizing colors/I’ve tried so hard to find the healing/Being sane/Tired body/I tried so hard to keep the demons in me.”  At this point, it can be inferred that this is someone facing that age old battle with self.  Things don’t get much brighter from here.  As a mater of fact, the nihilism continues right to the end, with Karlsson stating in the end, “Death is certain/Nothing else more can be/No light in the tunnels of this force spinning wheel/The white robe ideal.”  Simply put, this is not the happiest of songs musically or lyrically.  It will appeal to a very targeted listener base.  Keeping that in mind, it is just one more way in which the record’s lyrical content proves its importance to its whole.  ‘Rebirth’ is just as nihilistic as ‘Behold’ and much of the album’s other songs in its lyrical presentation.

Much like ‘Behold’ and the album’s other songs, this is a work that will appeal to a very targeted audience.  That is because it is just as lyrically heavy as those works.  The song’s lead verse proves that as Karlsson sings, “My sun/It’s time to leave this world/It’s time to leave the daylight stream/It’s time to feel this rain/Through the fire hail/This is all I have to say/This is all that’s left of me/In this shell I’ve lived through Hell/Walking icy plains/I cannot take what this world gave me/I cannot live through this hell/I cannot take this life that I’ve been given/I’ve always sung the words and songs of death.”  Once again, things don’t get much brighter from here.  To that end, there is not a lot of need to go on from here about this song’s lyrical content.  Again, it is a presentation that will only appeal to a very targeted audience.  In other words, it’s one more example of why the lyrics play their own role in the bigger picture of Nija.  Needless to say the album’s lyrics require audiences to be in a very specific mindset in order to be appreciated.  To that end, whether it detracts from or adds to the album’s presentation all depends on the listener.  Regardless of which side one takes in that discussion, one thing on which everyone can agree is that the album’s production rounds out its most important elements.

The production of Nijia is important to note because it is that work that made the album sound so good.  As noted already, there is a lot going on throughout this record in terms of its arrangements.  There are moments in which the guitars and vocals roar alongside the bass and drums.  There are also moments throughout the album that are more controlled (for lack of better wording).  There are also moments in which both are incorporated into one song.  Regardless of which song is chosen, it can be said that the utmost attention to detail was taken throughout the album.  Each instrument is expertly coupled with its partners from start to end.  The result is a record that is worth hearing just as much as it is for the depth of the arrangements themselves.  Those two elements together make the album worth hearing even despite the issues raised by the album’s lyrical content.

Orbit Culture’s new album Nija is an intriguing offering from the independent metal outfit.  That is due in part to the record’s musical arrangements, which blend together so many different metal genres from one to the next and even within themselves.  They make the album worth hearing if only for themselves.  The album’s lyrical content poses a bit of a problem for its presentation.  That is because in looking at this aspect, it will appeal to a very targeted audience, unlike the album’s musical content.  Even with that in mind, the lyrical content does not detract so much from the album that it is not worth hearing.  The record’s production partners with the arrangements to make up for the problem posed by the album’s lyrical content.  The production and music work together to make Nija worth hearing at least among the metal masses.  It is available now through Seek & Strike Records.  More information on Nija is available along with all of Orbit Culture’s latest news and more at:












To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

The Sword Launches New “Live” Series

Courtesy: Cosa Nostra PR

Stoner rock band The Sword launched a new weekly live series this week.

The band debuted a three-song “mini-set” Thursday through Consequence of Sound.  The first performance is streaming here, as well as through CoS.

Dubbed the “Conquest of Quarantine,” the three song set was recently recorded by the band during a virtual lockdown jam session.  It marked the first time since the band went on hiatus in 2018 that the band had performed together.

One more song will debut from the band each coming week as part of the “mini-set.”

The Sword’s recent jam session was the result of a tour with Primus that was halted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.  That tour was is now rescheduled and expected to start June 9 in Houston, TX.  It is scheduled to run through July 19 in Cincinnati, OH and feature performances in cities, such as Raleigh, NC; Essex Junction, VT, and Philadelphia, PA.

The tour’s schedule is noted below.  Tickets are available here.


June 9 – Houston, Texas @ Revention Music Center*

June 11 – Irving, Texas @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory*

June 12 – Austin, Texas @ ACL Live at The Moody Theater*

June 13 – New Orleans, La. @ Saenger Theatre*

June 15 – Orlando, Fla. @ Hard Rock Live*

June 16 – Atlanta, Ga. @ Coca-Cola Roxy*

June 20 – Charlotte, N.C. @ Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre*

June 22 – Asheville, N.C. @ Arena*

June 23 – Raleigh, N.C. @ Red Hat Amphitheater*

June 25 – Richmond, Va. @ Virginia Credit Union Live!*

June 26 – Baltimore, Md. @ MECU Pavilion*

June 27 – Pittsburgh, Pa. @ Stage AE*

June 29 – Essex Junction, Vt. @ Midway Law at Champlain Valley Expo*

July 1 – Westbrook, Maine @ Main Savings Pavilion at Rock Row*

July 2 – Wallingford, Ct. @ Oakdale Theatre*

July 5 – Lafayette, N.Y. @ Beak & Skiff Apple Orchards (no the Sword)

July 6 – Boston, Mass. @ Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion*

July 8 – New York, N.Y. @ Beacon Theatre*

July 9 – Asbury Park, N.J. @ The Stone Pony Summer Stage*

July 10 – Philadelphia, Pa. @ The Met*

July 13 – Toronto, Ont. @ RBC Echo Beach*

July 15 – Columbus, Ohio @ Express Live! Outdoor*

July 16 – Cleveland, Ohio @ Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica*

July 17 – Sterling Heights, Mich. @ Freedom Hill Amphitheatre*

July 19 – Cincinnati, Ohio @ PNC Pavilion*


In other news, The Sword released two hits collections from The Sword June 19, Chronology2006 – 2018 and Conquest of Kingdoms.  Chronology2006 – 2018 is a three-CD set features the band’s biggest hits, fan favorites, rarities and previously unreleased songs.  Its track count totals 52 (yes, 52) songs.  Additionally it features liner notes penned by the band’s members and some other well-known names — Lars Ulrich (Metallica), Mark Morton (Lamb of God) and Neil Fallon (Clutch).

Conquest of Kingdoms is a three-LP vinyl set that features previously unreleased songs, b-sides, oddities and live performances.  Its track listing totals 30 songs.

More information on The Sword’s new “mini-set,” rescheduled live dates and more is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:






To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at


Nonpoint Asks Fans To Help Choose Band’s Next Cover Song

Nonpoint wants its fans to choose the next song that it covers.

The band has launched a new campaign that gives audiences the chance to choose the band’s next cover.  The first round of the contest consisted of 64 songs, reduced that number to 32 and now has whittled the list to 16 songs.

The current list of contenders for covers includes, but is not limited to: Jay Z, Metallica, and Genesis.  Speaking of Genesis, Nonpoint covered Phil Collins’ hit song ‘In The Air Tonight’ on its album Recoil (2004).  The band’s major label debut Statement (2000) featured a cover of Busta Rhymes’ hit song ‘Woo-Hah!! Got You All In Check’ and Wu-Tang Clan’s song ‘Method Man.’  The two songs were culled in one song.

The band issued a statement that notes the decision to curate the list came from its fans’ requests for more covers.

“Over the years we have asked this question time and time again on our socials,” the statement reads. “Accumulating answers both traditional and nontraditional, from ages as young as 8 to as old as 80. Seeing how many of you discovered us years ago in this very fashion makes this campaign very special. We have always said that our fans are our lifeblood and always come to bat for us when we need them most. So with this campaign we wanted to show our fans the power they have being a member of the 361 family and Nonpoint Nation”

Nonpoint’s list of contenders for its next cover song is featured below.


Courtesy: Nonpoint/O’Donnell Media Group


Fans can vote for their favorite song through the band’s social media channels.

More information on Nonpoint’s new campaign is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:





To keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at

Annihilator Proves Again Why It Is Thrash Metal Elite With ‘Ballistic, Sadistic’

Courtesy: Neverland Music, Inc.

Thrash metal is alive and well.  This critic has pointed this out more than once during the course of this year.  New, successful albums released this year from the likes of Testament, Warbringer and Sepultura have supported that statement without any doubt.  They are just a few of the albums that have served to support the noted statement.  They are just some of those examples of what has made the thrash world so strong this year.  They also were not the first of the year’s major thrash albums.  Annihilator beat all of them to the punch on January 24 with the release of its latest album Ballistic, Sadistic.  The band’s 17th full-length studio recording, its 10 total songs make the album everything that audiences have come to expect from the veteran metal outfit, musically speaking.  This will be discussed shortly.  The album’s lyrical themes work with that noted musical aspect to add to the record’s appeal.  It will be addressed a little later.  The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.  It will also be addressed later.  Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this recording.  All things considered, they make Ballistic, Sadistic another win for Annihilator and its fans.

Annihilator’s latest album Ballistic, Sadistic is a pure example from start to end of why this band has remained such a respected act both within the thrash and metal realms for more than 35 years.  That is proven in part through the 45-minute album’s overall musical presentation.  The album’s musical arrangements are, from one to the next, everything that audiences have come to expect from the band.  The shredding riffs are there as are front man Jeff Waters’ grinding vocals and drummer Fabio Alessandrini’s solid time keeping and fills.  From the full-throttle approach of ‘Out With The Garbage’ to the almost power metal approach of ‘Lip Service’ to the equally driving arrangement of ‘The Attitude,’ audiences get everything that they have come to expect from Annihilator on this latest offering from the veteran metal outfit.  What’s interesting to note in examining the arrangements is that for all of the familiarity present throughout the course of the 45-minute record, there are some aspects that audiences will find interesting in their own right.  That arrangement at the center of ‘The Attitude’ is just one of those moments that stands out.  The nearly five-minute song opens with what is best described as something of a doom sound with the slow, heavy guitars and equally impacting drumming.  This element lasts almost two minutes before the band launches into the more full-throttle, old school thrash sound for which it has come to be known.  ‘One Wrong Move’ is another  example of some changes from the band, that audiences will like.  Roughly halfway through the course of the nearly five-minute song, which in its overall presentation sounds a lot like old school Metallica circa 1991 (and old school Pantera for that matter), the song becomes decidedly subdued.  That change of tone is only temporary, though, as the song soon after, as the band gets right back to the song’s original heaviness after the brief respite.  Between these two changes, the more familiar aspects of the band’s musical work and the rest of the work not addressed, the album’s overall musical content creates a solid foundation for its presentation.  The record’s lyrical themes rest on that foundation, making the album even more appealing for audiences.

The lyrical themes featured throughout the course of Ballistic, Sadistic strengthen the foundation formed by the album’s musical arrangements.  That is because the themes in question are topics to which listeners can relate.  “The Attitude’ is just one of the songs that serves to support the noted statement.  The song comes across as addressing those people who live to make others’ lives miserable.  It is a familiar topic that has been covered many times from one act to the next and from one genre to the next.  But even in the case of this presentation, it still maintains its appeal to listeners.  Case in point is the song’s lead verse, which states, “Years of blood, sweat and tears/Under the belt/Disregard, disrespect for what you’ve been dealt/best defense, arrogance/You know it all/Enjoy your time while it lasts/Before you fall.”  The damning indictment of such behaviors from those people continues in the song’s second verse, “It’s dragging me down/Pessimist/What do you know/In a couple of years, wait and see/You’ve got nothing to show/telling me how/Teaching me how it’s done/Feel the need to educate everyone” and adds in the song’s third and final verse, “You’ll learn the lesson/Learn it well/Save your tears/I’d wish you luck/Don’t fuck a f***/get out of here.”  That final statement is the most telling, as the song’s subject clearly is taking on that negativist, telling that person that he/she is not wanted or welcome.  When that forceful statement is coupled with the song’s equally powerful musical arrangement, the whole of the song is certain to leave a lasting impact on listeners.  It is just one of the most notable examples of what makes the album’s lyrical content stand out.  ‘Dressed Up For Evil’ shows in its own way what makes the album’s lyrical content so important to its presentation.

‘Dressed Up For Evil’ does not come right out  and say it, but could very easily be considered a statement against none other than the “Mango Monster” himself, Donald J. Trump.  This is inferred right from the song’s outset as the song states, “Put on your best suit and pick out your tie/Cover up the hooves/A devil in disguise/Jump in your fancy car/Women, a plaything/Everyone’s inferior/All hail the king/Lake Damien from The Omen/A business camouflage/Hanging with your worshippers/Your phony entourage/Blending in with all of us/A smell of rotten flesh/Fending off the flies.”  The seeming statement about the wannabe dictator continues in the song’s second verse, “So condescending/Rotten to the core/Everyone’s beneath you/Put ‘em down some more/Tempting with currency/Preying on the greed/Extend the family/With demon seed/People are just property/Amassing your net worth/Building up the empire/Right here on Earth/Delusions, illusions/All a fantasy/No guilty conscience/A moral bankruptcy.”  The song’s third and final verse follows in similar fashion, but at least ends the song with a “happy” ending, stressing to that evil figure, “The reign is over/Good has overcome/Dealing with the aftermath/The healing has begun.”  One can only hope that the healing will begin come November when hopefully the giant cheeto will be gone from the White House.  Considering all of this, the song is a song that will certainly resonate with plenty of listeners.  It is just one more way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important to its presentation.  ‘Lip Service’ is yet another way in which the album’s lyrical content proves so important to its presentation.

The lyrical content featured in ‘Lip Service’ presents a certain intentional double entendre.  On the one hand, there is a clear sexual aspect to the song, as it states at one point, “Sweat dripping from the skin/’m dancing with the ultimate done/Like a sweet peach dipped in honey/With a taste that’s second to none/Down we go/It’s just what you need/Your pleasure and my treat/I got dessert to eat.”  Again, the sexual nature is fully evident here, but at the same time, one can consider that lip service meaning someone lying to another, there is a commentary here about just that.  People so often will pay lip service to others in order to get what they want.  That could be what is being addressed here in the bigger picture.  It could be a man trying to woo a woman.  It could be a brown noser sucking up to a boss.  Overall, the song’s lyrical content, with that seeming commentary and double entendre will certainly reach listeners and keep them just as engaged and entertained as the lyrical content featured in the album’s other noted songs and those not directly addressed.  All things considered here, the lyrical themes featured alongside the album’s musical content, make the album that much more enjoyable for listeners.  While the overall content goes a long way toward making it worth hearing, it is not all that audiences will appreciate.  The album’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements.

The sequencing of Ballistic, Sadistic is important to note because it does just as much to keep listeners engaged and entertained as the album’s overall content.  Clocking in at just over 45 minutes in length, a lot is going on in the album.  Yet even with so much happening, the album is well balanced in its energies and time.  The album’s two halves each run just over 20 minutes, with the longest of the record’s songs each running a little more than five minutes.  That means that at no point does the album let itself drag.  Even with the slight stylistic changes in some of the songs, each song still keeps the album’s overall energy moving throughout.  The result is a presentation that is just as appealing for its aesthetics as for its content.  Keeping that in mind, the album in whole proves clearly why it is another positive offering from Annihilator that is also among the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.

Annihilator’s 17th album Ballistic, Sadistic is another successful offering from the veteran thrash metal outfit.  That is proven in part through it musical arrangements which present plenty of familiar sounds and stylistic approaches alongside a little something new.  The album’s lyrical themes will connect with listeners just as much as its musical arrangements, as has been pointed out here.  The album’s sequencing puts the finishing touch to its presentation.  Each item noted is important in its own right to the album’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Ballistic, Sadistic a presentation that the band’s established fan base will appreciate just as much as metal aficionados in general.  It is available now through Neverland Music, Inc.  More information on the album is available along with all of the band’s latest news at:










To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to and ‘Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at

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:









To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go online to and “Like” it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at