When Gulls Cry – Power Metal Album Artwork of the Day

Stratovarius are Finnish and have been a going concern since 1984 (or 1982, if you include their previous incarnation, Black Water).  They’ve released 14 studio albums and a live record.  And they’re quite fond of the Avian community.

No dragons? No swords? What gives?

This is fantasy artwork of a type that I can really get behind – the signature Stratovarius spaceship rendered delightfully by artist Gyula Havancsak amidst an idyllic lagoon, as a cyber-gull type-dude gives it some ‘once I caught a fish THIS big’ in the foreground.

At least, that’s how I read it, anyway – I never was top of my class in ‘Album Art Appreciation’ at Pseud’s College.

As an image, it’s a nice departure from the stuff of many Metal records – perhaps owing to the band’s slightly more progressive influences?  You can easily see this kind of art subbing in for the Roger Dean designed Yes album covers without it being too jarring a transition.

If this cover has piqued your interest, why not check out a live version of their song “Under Flaming Skies” at their label EarMusic‘s YouTube channel…

Mind-Boggling, Taste-Challenging Power Metal Album Artwork of the Day

Catchy title, huh?  I feel a series coming on – because, if you love Metal (and particularly the ‘Power Metalsub-genre), there’s no shortage of album artwork which can bemuse, confound and delight in equal measure.

I’m going to start this feature with German band Axxis and their 2004 release, Time Machine.

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Yes, quite.

Axxis like their fantasy/sci-fi artwork and this album art somehow manages to evoke their blend of overblown, fashion eschewing, old school power metal merely via the medium of judicious photoshop and much cheese consumption (literal and figurative).  I’m not sure that we require a leather-clad brunette to get the point, much less one who appears to be in the throes of what appears to be a very painful back spasm.  Further scrutiny of this in-no-way phallic imagery will almost certainly challenge this blog’s self-appointed PG rating, so there we must end things, lest unpleasantness set in.

Suffice is to say that Feminism has not yet made it to Axxis’ in-tray, much less their ‘things we perhaps should action promptly’ list.

That said, the music is pretty keen if you like your metal European, endlessly redolent of the Wacken festival and delivered by men with intriguing facial hair.  The stand-out track on this album for me is “The Demons Are Calling”, which fills my ‘20,000 miles an hour’ riff quotient quite nicely – whether your grin is derived of pity or geeky recognition, it’s almost certain that you’ll have a smile on your face when you listen to it.

Tomorrow – more things of an equally geeky stature, possibly with dragons and/or spaceships.  You know how we roll…

Maiden America

Oh, Eddie – why must you desert me?

Picture via Iron Maiden.com

Over on the Metal Hammer blog you can get a look at the current Iron Maiden US tour, “Maiden England“, which is taking the founding fathers of modern metal to Stateside cities – Charlotte, North Carolina, for example – where the band haven’t played since 1988.

Puts a two or three wait between UK Maiden dates into perspective, doesn’t it?

You can read more at Iron Maiden’s site – in the meantime, I’ll be working on my teleportation device, so that I can get my wizened butt into an Enormodome to take in the awesome.

Today, in amazing album covers…

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There are some album covers which grab your attention – and then there’s artwork like that above, which graces the current release by Norwegian Power-Prog Metal band, Tomorrow’s Outlook.

So many questions arise from it, not the least of which is “When did the fragile truce between the Polar Bear and Demonic Wraith community become so strained that violence ensued?  And what’s that flying car got to do with it?”

I regret that I can offer you little by way of illumination and can only gaze, open-mouthed, at that extraordinary cover art – this isn’t the kind of thing which one typically gets from You Me At Six and I think that I can confidently say that their fans are the poorer for not having Josh YMAS on their CD sleeves fighting off dragons and junk.

Missed opportunities, folks, missed opportunities…

Soul Shredder – Support Your Scene!

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Further to my earlier ‘Support Your Scene’ post concerning the local bands we should all try to support, I’ve happened across local Metal band Soul Shredder thanks to the wonders of Google-Fu.

Led by guitarist Stu Gibson, Soul Shredder have a nifty, almost traditional metal sound which I’d compare to Kobra And The Lotus (the band has a female vocalist, Cookie) or 3 Inches Of Blood (the new spin on traditional metal) – the riffs are thick and chunky with excellent solos, the vocals are soaring and melodic and the overall sound blasts along in a punchy and pleasingly dynamic fashion.

“Prepare for Annihilation” has a thrashy chug and great double-bass drum sections, “Kijo” starts with a latter-period, Iron Maiden-esque proggy section before moving into a riff which recalls (in the best way) Hetfield and Hammett riffing from the “Black” album era – they’re both songs that you can listen to on the band’s website as part of their self-titled 2011 EP.

The band are playing in my home city in July as part of the annual “Tram Lines” free music festival – I’d be daft to miss them, and you would be to, if you happen to be in my fair city over the weekend of 20-22nd July 2012.  Of course, given the organisers complete terror of including rock bands in the main line-up (not hipster-friendly enough, it would seem), Soul Shredder are playing out of the main line-up and can be found at West Street Live on Sunday 22nd.

I could bemoan the musical timidity of the organizers, but that’s a subject for another post, perhaps…

Def Leppard – Old Hits, New Tricks

Def Leppard – Sheffield’s finest, growing old gracefully – well kinda.

Well, this makes a lot more sense.

Def Leppard recently re-recorded new versions of “Pour Some Sugar On Me” and “Rock of Ages” for the soundtrack of film version of the “Rock of Ages” musical and that seemed like a neat gift for fans who want to download the originals but can’t – Leppard’s back catalogue is a notable absentee from the iTunes store and other music download stores.  There is, of course, a good reason for the prolonged absence of Steel City’s favourite sons – and wouldn’t you know it?  Dirty cash is involved.

I never had hair like Russell Brand does in this film. It was worse…

Leppard leader Joe Elliott explains the band’s stance on re-releasing their classic songs in an interview with MTV Hive (which is a thing, apparently) by explaining that the reason for a Leppard-free iTunes is down to disagreements between band and former record label on the value of their catalogue.  Elliott is diplomatic but I don’t have to be – even though record companies are increasingly becoming as necessary as an umbrella in the Sahara, trying to rip-off artists by quibbling about how much they get paid for downloads is really quite cheap and a good way of ensuring that this tick on the back of musicians will soon hopefully be a thing of the past.

The plan appears to be that Leppard will be re-creating their songs for future release in a similar way to the two “Rock of Ages” songs – engaging in a programme of re-recording the material in what Elliott brilliantly describes as ‘100% forgeries’ of their hits,reaping the entirety of the financial reward from distributing them on Amazon, et al.

There are so many tinny, 80’s-sounding CDs in my collection which might benefit from this approach – though it’s not always the best idea.  I do have what turned out to be a re-recording of an old 80’s House of Lords track which I bought in haste on iTunes and now rarely play – singer’s voices don’t exactly improve with age and can be downright horrible to listen to, as I found out.

Leppard are currently on tour in the States on a jaunt with fellow 80’s survivors Lita Ford and Poison – a bill nearly the equal of the Lep/Motley Crue/Steel Panther show I saw last December – and still one of my favourite bands.   A rock, clearly, will never be out of the question for these fine gents…

Tarja – “Act One” artwork online

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Former Nightwish vocalist and High Priestess of Rock drama, Tarja Turunen, has posted the artwork for her upcoming “Act 1” live album and DVD/Blu-Ray – the cover of the HD version is above, because that’s how I roll.  Pretty, isn’t it?

Currently scheduled for an August 24th release, the album comes in 2 CD, 2 DVD and Blu-Ray configurations and has a tracklisting which looks something like this:

Act I CD Track Listing:


CD 1
01. Anteroom Of Death
02. My Little Phoenix
03. Dark Star
04. Naiad
05. Falling Awake
06. I Walk Alone
07. Little Lies
08. Into The Sun (previously unreleased)
09. Nemo (Nightwish)
10. Never Enough (previously unreleased)
11. Still Of The Night (Whitesnake)
12. In For A Kill

CD 2

01. Boy And The Ghost
02. Lost Northern Star
03. Ciaran‘s Well
04. Tired Of Being Alone (written with Schiller)
05. Where Were You Last Night / Heaven Is A Place On Earth / Livin’ On A Prayer
(Medley)
06. Underneath
07. Oasis / The Archive Of Lost Dreams
08. Crimson Deep
09. The Phantom Of The Opera (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
10. Die Alive
11. Until My Last Breath
12. Over The Hills And Far Away (Gary Moore)

Yes, copy and paste is very much my friend.

If you’re expecting there to be slight, collector-baiting differences in track listing between the CD and DVD versions, you’d be correct (the Blu-Ray is the same as the DVD, only shinier and prettier) – got to maximize that geeky fan desire to catch all of those formats.

I will, of course, be picking this up but I’m having a Dickens of a time pre-ordering the record on my online retailer of choice – it’s almost as though the niche pop culture pursuits of nerds don’t mean a serving of Pannukakku to Jeff Bezos’ happy shopping cyber-elves…

Festival or flood plane?

Ruh-oh – things don’t look that peachy for attendees of this weekend’s Isle of Wight rock festival.

The Isle of Wight rock festival – not pictured, torrential rain, tornado conditions and other staples of the UK summer rock festival circuit…

And that story, in a nutty shell of truthyness, illustrates why I don’t do festivals (I might one day make an exception for the mighty Bloodstock) – our old and prediction-phobic friend, the UK climate.

If it’s not raining, then it’s blazingly sunny and so hot that it threatens to drop me like it was fourth-year Religious Education class.

There is no point in trying to predict what kind of garb will suit the day ahead – as your best-considered fashion plans will be stymied by a rogue weather front which suddenly sneaks up behind you in the street, taps a shoulder merrily and promptly dumps some vertical freezing water all over your new Fat Face zip-up top and jeans.

Tis a crap state of affairs and no mistake.  If you’re going to Isle of Wight this weekend, do keep safe and try not to fall asleep during Tom Petty.  Despite the compelling temptation to feign your death, obviously…

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Metallic(a) K.O.

Your weekly slice of Paramore, Gerard Way and A7X news – “Kerrang!”

Venerable UK metal mag “Kerrang!” (where you’re never more than issue away from a Hayley Williams poster) have commissioned another one of their periodic cover-mount CDs which pays tribute to one of the genre’s greats – this time thrash founding fathers and veritable colossi Metallica get the oft-dubious ‘honour’ of having up-and-coming bands cover their tunes.

I see what they did there…

In a break with tradition, this time around the bands are covering an entire record – Metallica’s seminal 1991 untitled or ‘Black’ album.

For the most part, few of the bands are diverging too far from the Metallica template, as if you’ve got material like this to work with, it doesn’t really make that much sense to give the likes of Sad But True or The Unforgiven a quick-and-dirty dubstep spray-job and hope that replacing singer James Hetfield‘s commanding and unmistakable baritone with a Cookie Monster death grunt will suffice as far as adding new elements to the existing songs.

UK metal chaps, Rise To Remain, proud owners of one of 2011’s best debuts, “City of Vultures”.

The CD starts off with upstart UK post-metalcore types Rise To Remain doing “Enter Sandman” and making a pretty decent go of it – singer Austin Dickinson has a really decent set of pipes (blame his Dad) and doesn’t disgrace himself in the slightest.  The rest of the recently-rejigged band are taut as the proverbial drum skin – lead guitarist Ben Tovey is definitely one to watch and dashes off a blistering lead with echoes Kirk Hammett‘s original but slips in absurdly speedy flurries of notes which somehow don’t become annoying.  Quite an achievement.

Other highlights are UK experimentalists The Defiled giving a subtle electronic make-over to “The Unforgiven”, which really works quite well, UK thrashers Savage Messiah doing a number on “Of Wolf And Man” and Fluffrick favourites, the delightful Evile, doing “Through The Never” (Ol Drake for the proverbial win…).

If you’re outside the UK, it might be more difficult to obtain this compilation (unless you’re using channels which I can’t condone but can understand you utilising in this instance) but if “Kerrang!” is available more easily to you, the tracks on the CD make this a no-brainer issue to pick up, especially if you’re like me and only buy the mag a couple of times a year.  I am, as the good folk at GT News in Sheffield will doubtless attest, a “Metal Hammer” kind of fellow when it comes to musical periodicals…

Deftones’ Chi Cheng – an update

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Of course, the world isn’t always a happy place and it seems that Deftones bassist Chi Cheng’s health travails continue with this latest update from the great man’s mum on the One Love For Chi site.

I’m sure you’ll join me in sending good vibes and best wishes to Chi and his family – it’s a long and uncertain road for him, but we can but hope that one day soon I’ll be writing more positive news about his road to recovery…