Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Helloween "Unarmed: Best of 25th Anniversary"

Unarmed: Best of 25th Anniversary
Reviewed by Rob Acocella

Helloween did something very cool for their 25th Anniversary album: They put out a best-of compilation that isn't exactly a compilation in the traditional sense. What they did was take all the songs they considered to be the best from the last 2.5 decades and rearranged them with the help of a orchestra, a choir, and various other collaborators. What you have are brand new, more epic versions of all your favorite songs.

In theory, this is absolutely awesome, and when the album started up with "Dr. Stein" I was really into it. A few songs later I was still digging it, and then I hit the medley tune called "The Keeper's Trilogy" which combines "Helloween," "Keeper of the Seven Keys," and "The King For 1,000 Years." By the time this 17-minute monster was done, so was I. I really liked this new approach to their music at first, but after a while it got tired, and I think cramming those tunes into one track is what did me in. Everything after that sounded the same. Perhaps I need to be a more hardcore Helloween fan to really appreciate this kind of thing, but I really did like it at first, I promise you I did.

My guess is that even the long-time die-hard fans are going to either absolutely love this, or absolutely hate this. Let's face it, you either LOVE when your favorite band does something different with their songs, or you HATE when they do something different. I do give them a lot of credit for doing this and I can't say that it's lacking in musicianship, I just think the vision is lost on me. What I do like about it though, is that they didn't do what everyone else does and release the EXACT SAME SONGS you already own, just on one disc. People can make their own mixtapes, we don't need the artists to do that for us, so bravo for doing something out of the norm.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, August 2, 2010

L.A. Guns "Shrinking Violet"

L.A. Guns
Shrinking Violet (Reissue)
Reviewed by Rob Acocella

     L.A. Guns are back and have reissued their classic 1999 album Shrinking Violet. Released on Steve Vai's own Favored Nations the tracks are all here, including some great live cuts. Tracii Guns is still his badass self on guitar and with Jizzy Pearl on vocals what you get is one of the grittiest (re)releases in recent years. If you want to feel as though you are still partying on the strip like it's 1989 then pick up Shrinking Violet and relive your younger years when you had less debt, more nerve, probably more hair, and a lot less to lose. This isn't a release for someone looking to find a more polished, mainstream version of their favorite 80's band. This is just as nasty and dirty as the original, and that's the way Rock should be.

Rating: 4/5

Mutiny Within "Mutiny Within"

Mutiny Within
Mutiny Within
Reviewed by Rob Acocella

The Roadrunner Records self titled debut of central NJ band Mutiny Within has been out since February and these guys have been touring pretty heavily in support of it. This band took what started out as a Children of Bodom tribute band and turned it around into an original-song-writing monster. Mutiny Within showcases the band's ability to take from their influences while maintaining an independent sense of self. Blending both clean and growling vocals into a mixture of Melodic Metal and old-school Thrash this is the breath of fresh air the Metal scene has been waiting for. The music is so strong that vocalist Chris Clancy actually relocated from the UK to the states just to be a part of the band. If that doesn't show self esteem and determination, I don't know what does.

If you are looking for some powerful Thrash with a taste of Progressive Metal, then Mutiny Within is the band for you. Standout tracks include the album opener "Awake" as well as "Images," "Year of Affliction," and "Lethean."

Rating: 4/5

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Plaza of Fear: Fear Factory in NYC

Last weekend (7/25/10) Fear Factory returned to Irving Plaza in New York City for the first time in a while. I was lucky enough to be in the photo pit for this amazing performance. The chemistry between Dino and Burton is undeniable and with the incredible rhythm section of Byron Stroud (bass) and Gene Hoglan (drums) they are a force to be reckoned with.

Opening with the title track from their new album Mechanize, they made it clear to anyone who has not yet heard the new material that they were back to their classic sound with no compromises. The one-two punch of "Shock" and "Edgecrusher" followed.

We were treated to "Smasher/Devourer," "Acres of Skin," and "Linchpin" before launching into another new song called "Powershifter" which was quickly followed by "Fear Campaign." After the 2 new songs Burton and the guys reached way back to Soul of a New Machine and played "Martyr" before switching gears to the more somber "Final Exit."

After a brief break they came back out to perform what would be considered the encore of the night. Burton said a few words regarding BP and oil spill in the Gulf before going into "Demanufacture" which featured the chant "BP Must Pay" through the middle.  The show was closed out with "Self Biased Resistor," "Zero Signal," "Hunter-Killer," and of course, "Replica."

I've seen Fear Factory a few times now and this was easily one of, if not the best show they've ever put on. I followed up the show photos with a phone interview with Burton a few days later which will be a feature at in the very near future.  In the meantime you can view the rest of the photos from the show right here.

More soon,

Friday, July 23, 2010

Fear Factory "Mechanize"

Fear Factory
Reviewed by Rob Acocella

     In case you hadn't heard (maybe you live under a rock), Fear Factory have returned. This sort-of-new version of the band features Burton C. Bell on vocals, rejoined by Dino Cazares on guitar, along with Byron Stroud on bass and Gene Hoglan on drums. This is the album, in my opinion, that brings Fear Factory back to where they really shined. The songs bring back memories and vibes from albums like Demanufacture, Obsolete, and Digimortal. From the initial kick-off of the album with the title track you instantly know you're in for a sonic assault. Gene Hoglan pounds the drums as if they owe him money, Byron holds down one hell of a bottom end, and Dino and Burton are Dino and Burton. If you need to be told what it's like when Burton and Dino record together then you probably shouldn't even be reading this. 

The album doesn't really slow down from its fast pace until the last track, "Final Exit," which was the perfect way to end this album. If I had to pick, I'd definitely say my favorites are: "Industrial Discipline," "Fear Campaign," "Powershifter," "Oxidizer" and "Final Exit."

If you are a fan of Fear Factory, you need to pick up this album, there's no question about it.

Rating: 5/5

Monday, July 12, 2010

Bullet For My Valentine "Fever"

Bullet for My Valentine
Reviewed by Tommy Wolff
      Bullet for My Valentine released their newest album, Fever, on April 27, 2010. This album keeps the band’s heavy roots, while including much more singing than their previous albums. For those who have always loved Mathew Tuck’s vocals, this is the album for them. The band has experimented with many different techniques on this album as well, including whispering vocals on songs such as “Your Betrayal.” Another song to look out for is “Alone,” which begins with an intricate tapping melody. Overall, Bullet for My Valentine has continued to impress with their heavy guitar riffs and driving drums.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Jamie Cullum "The Pursuit"

Jamie Cullum
The Pursuit
Reviewed by Lisa Selvaggio
     One word describes Jamie Cullum: Incredible. He’s a musical virtuoso; he can write stellar originals and yet also has the ability to take a classic or even recent radio hit and give it a brand new flavor and twist; he’s a crowd-pleasing dynamo on stage; and his ever-evolving sound does nothing but improve by leaps and bounds with each release. I personally fell in love with his sound from the very first time I saw the video for “All At Sea” when it was first released, and since then I’ve purchased every one of his albums and seen him live twice. NOTHING this man does disappoints me. He infuses multiple genres and musical styles into one cohesive whole while still maintaining his own signature, unable to be copied by anyone. The Pursuit is filled from top to bottom with addictive, meaningful songs that I only needed to listen to once to get hooked on. His remake of “If I Ruled the World” literally took my breath away--the piano in it throbs with life. And “Music Is Through” will get you dancing, without a doubt. Every instrument flawless, Jamie’s vocals impeccable, energetic, and full of heart, and every song offers something unique. This isn’t just Jazz, nor is it just Pop, it is so much more; something you have to hear to believe. If you haven’t yet become a fan of Mr. Cullum, you must get The Pursuit and let him properly introduce himself to your record collection.

Rating: 5 out of 5