Halford—Metal God Essentials Vol.1

Halford—Metal God Essentials Vol.1 (2007)

Halford—Metal God Essentials Vol.1 (2007)

Details

Halford: Metal God Essentials Vol.1 (2007) features fifteen (15) of teh metal god’s most influential solo recordings, original demonstration recordings of Fight (1992) and Halford (1999) are featured alongside electrifying heavy metal tracks from the metal god’s recent releases.

Bands

Halford (tracks, 1–6, 9–12, 14, 15)

  • Rob Halford—Vocals
  • Mike Chiasciak—Guitar
  • Pat Lachman—Guitar
  • Roy Z—Guitar
  • Ray Riendeau—Bass
  • Bobby Jarzombek—Drums
  • Mike Davis—Drums (tracks 11, 12)

Fight (tracks 7, 8, 13)

  • Rob Halford—Vocals
  • Russ Parrish—Guitar
  • Brian Tilse—Guitar
  • Jay Jay—Bass
  • Scott Travis—Drums

Tracks

CD

All tracks by Halford, except where stated.

  1. Resurrection
  2. Made in hell
  3. Screaming in the dark
  4. Golgotha
  5. Silent screams (1999 demo)
  6. Crystal
  7. Into the pit (Fight)
  8. Nailed to the gun (Fight)
  9. Slow down
  10. Locked and loaded
  11. Forgotten generation
  12. Drop out
  13. War of words (Fight)
  14. Sun
  15. Trail of tears
  16. Hypocracy US mix

DVD

  1. Resurrection: behind the scenes
  2. Live insurrection: behind the scenes
  3. Made in hell
  4. Betrayal
  5. In the morning
  6. Silent screams
  7. Never satisfied
  8. Forgotten generation

Review

I was obviously aware of Rob Halford from his work with Judas Priest, but until a few years ago I hadn’t really listened to much Judas Priest — except for British Steel (1980) at my mate’s house when I was a teenager, and the occasional track on the Radio One Rock Show with Tommy Vance or Planet Rock — or any of Halford’s solo material, either as Fight or Halford.

A few years ago, I wandered into Fopp record store in St Andrews (sadly no longer there. The record store, I mean, not St Andrews!) one lunchtime and there were a couple of Halford CDs on sale for a ridiculously cheap price: Resurrection (2000) and Crucible (2002)—which I reviewed back in January.

I hurried back to my office, gave them a listen and was pleasantly surprised: I loved them!

This CD/DVD package with its stereotypical ‘metal god’ cover and name is a compilation of tracks from the two albums I have plus K5 – The War of Words Demos (2007) by Fight. Nothing from his industrial metal band featuring John 5, however: 2wo. The DVD contains a couple of short behind the scenes home-movies plus single videos and live footage.

The whole thing is as you would expect: screaming guitars, screaming vocals, crushing riffs, melodic and sensitive ballads in a way that only heavy metal bands can create, and plenty of leather and pointy chrome studs!

What more is there to say? It’s Rob Halford! It’s real metal!

Conclusion

As I already own most of the songs on this compilation I can’t see myself pulling this CD out too often, but I certainly recommend it as a great introduction to Halford’s solo work.

The lingering question I have about Metal God Essentials volume one, however, is… will there be a volume two?

Review score: 95%

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Halford—Crucible (2002)

Halford-Crucible (2002)

Halford-Crucible (2002)

Details

Produced by Roy Z. Executive producer, A&R: John Baxter. Mixed by Bill Cooper, Roy Z and Joe Floyd.

Crucible was created in room 303 of the Park Manor from 6 writing sessions held during March ’01 through August ’01. The exception to the just-noted is ‘Trail of tears’ which was written in the band’s Los Angeles rehearsal room a couple of days before formal tracking commenced — November 1, 2001.”

Released on Metal Is Records, 2002.

Band

  • Rob Halford—Vocals
  • Pat Lachman—Guitars
  • Mike Chlasciak—Guitars
  • Bobby Jarzombek—Drums
  • Ray Riendeau—Bass

Tracks

  1. Park Manor
  2. Crucible
  3. One Will
  4. Betrayal
  5. Handing out bullets
  6. Hearts of darkness
  7. Crystal
  8. Heretic
  9. Golgotha
  10. Wrath of God
  11. Weaving sorrow
  12. Sun
  13. Trail of tears
  14. She (bonus track)
  15. Fugitive (bonus track)

Review

Judas Priest were formed in the Midlands, in Birmingham, England in 1969 and to date have sold over 50 million albums, and released 16 studio albums. And remarkably I don’t own a single one. I’m not really sure why, either. I used to listen to them on Tommy Vance’s Friday Rock Show, and at my school friend Dave’s house. I listen to them now from time to time on Planet Rock.

I suspect it may have been the name. Having come from a good Christian household, I may have found the name ‘Judas Priest’ a little off-putting; were these names being used in mocking sense? ‘Judas’: the apostle who betrayed Jesus; and ‘priest’: a member of the clergy. Were they portraying themselves as representatives of a caste who betray the Christ? Well, clearly the answer is NO. I can see that now, but the 13 year old me wasn’t quite so certain, so I stuck to more wholesome bands like Slayer, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Morbid Angel. I kid you not!

I first picked up this album when there was a Fopp record store in St Andrews. One lunchtime I wandered in and twenty minutes later wandered out again with two Halford CDs. The other was Resurrection (2000).

From its first spin I have loved this album. Fifteen tracks of balls-to-the-wall metal. (To be honest, I actually have no idea what that phrase actually means. It sounds hard and metal, though, doesn’t it.)

The album opens gently with “Park Manor”, the metal band equivalent of an orchestra tuning up before a symphony, then segues seamlessly into the title track, “Crucible”: killer riffs, blast-beat kick drums, bassy production, face-ripping vocals.

Something that I really admire about this album is how heavy it sounds, but also how melodic. These are beautifully written metal songs. And while there is no way this side of a throat-altering operation that I could ever sing like Mr Halford, I do love to sing along to the songs on this album.

There are songs like “Heart of darkness” that are so simple you want to kick yourself for not having written them yourself. But sung by anyone else.. they just wouldn’t sound right somehow. “Heart of darkness” is a cracking song, by the way. One of my favourite on the album.

As I’m listening to the album now, I’ve just reached track 10 “Wrath of God” and there hasn’t been a weak track yet. And then this song blasts through my speakers, like a freight train through my living room wall. It’s relentless. It has all the energy and enthusiasm of an album’s opening track and yet here it comes towards the end of the album. It’s symbolic of Halford’s undiminished enthusiasm for his craft. This isn’t just a filler album, something to keep the money pouring into the coffers. This is the real deal. Passionately made heavy metal. And I for one am thankful for it.

As the album draws to a close the pace slows a little with two beautiful songs “Sun” and “Trail of tears”, but still perfectly heavy. The version of the album I have comes with two bonus tracks. The first “She” slows things down much further, and could rightfully be called a ballad. It’s a song, I believe, that Halford wrote about his mother. The lyrics are beautiful and touching.

She sang to me before I breathed
Alive inside she gave me life

There aren’t too many metal songs that bring tears to my eyes, but this is definitely one of them.

Conclusion

This is a beautifully written album. I really have nothing to compare it with, in terms of Halford’s other work (other than his previous Halford LP) so I’ve no idea really how it rates against his work in Priest, for example. But perhaps that’s a good thing. I rather like that I can appreciate this for what it is, standing on its own merits. And it is certainly an album that merits praise.

Since I first stumbled on it, in that long- and sadly closed branch of Fopp on a driech lunchtime afternoon in St Andrews, this has been an album that I’ve returned to again and again, and I will again for quite some time.

Review score: 100%

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Jag Panzer—The Fourth Judgement (1997)

Jag Panzer—The Fourth Judgement (1997)

Jag Panzer—The Fourth Judgement (1997)

Details

“The Fourth Judgement is the third studio album released (fourth recorded) by American power metal band Jag Panzer, released in 1997. It features the return of the band’s original vocalist, Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin, and the replacement of Chris Kostka on lead guitar by Joey Tafolla. The band returns to a more epic power metal feel on this album, as opposed to the thrash influence on Dissident Alliance.” (Source: Wikipedia)

Released on Century Media, 1997. Recorded at Morrisound Studios, Tampa, Florida. Producer: Jim Morris.

Band

  • Mark Briody—Rhythm guitar, keyboards
  • Harry Conklin—Vocals
  • John Tetley—Bass
  • Rikard Stjernquist—Drums
  • Joey Tafolla—Lead guitar

Tracks

  1. Black
  2. Call of the wild
  3. Despair
  4. Future shock
  5. Recompense
  6. Ready to strike
  7. Tyranny
  8. Shadow thief
  9. Sonnet of sorrow
  10. Judgement day

Review

This is the original 1997 release that I have to review, not the 2007 re-release which included three bonus songs from the band’s 1996 demo sessions—the demo that got the band signed to Century Media.

I’ve already listened through this album three times, each time evaluating its strengths and weaknesses. So, you could say then that this is… wait for it… the fourth judgement. I tell you, it takes years of listening to metal and honing ones writing skills to make killer puns like that.

I really wanted to like this album, but just as you should never judge a book by its cover, you also shouldn’t judge an album by the name of the band. Jag Panzer‘s name is an Anglicisation of the WWII German tank the Jagdpanzer and it sounds cool. I wish I could say the same for the music.

While the guitar tone (which sounds like classic Metal Church or Armored Saint) and general production of the album really can’t be faulted—Jim Morris has done a sterling job—the songs, on the other hand, on the whole just don’t move me. This album didn’t set me on fire, I’m sorry to say.

The album opens with a quasi-classical passage, à la Apocalyptica, solo vocals and a track that sounds like a bonus track from Blaze Bayley-era Maiden. (Hmm…)

After a couple of listens the album begins to feel like a pastiche of Judas Priest meets Iron Maiden meets Candlemas meets Helloween: a sort of operatic metal-by-numbers.

There are a few moments that I quite enjoyed. Track 3 ‘Despair’ has a Helloween-meets-Cabaret feel, which really shouldn’t work but I rather enjoyed it. Track 4 ‘Future shock’ is a straight-out rocking metal track. It’s not ground-breaking but it’s a solid track. Track 5 ‘Recompense’ opens with a riff that’s straight out of Maiden’s Somewhere in Time (1986) but as soon as the lyrics open I quickly lose interest.

Generally speaking the first half of the album is better than the second, in my opinion. ‘Ready to strike’ and ‘Tyranny’ sound like they are trying too hard; ‘Shadow thief’ makes me cringe; and ‘Sonet of sorrow’ is just terrible. Now bear in mind that I sang with the National Youth Choir for nine years, but the vocals are awful. There’s no diaphramatic control. The whole thing sounds like they sang it through a Leslie speaker. It sounds like they are going for a pseudo-minstrel feel.

Conclusion

Even before I reached the final track ‘Judgement day’ I had made my judgement on the first listen. Some albums are growers: you listened to them once and think: awful, but the more you listen the more you begin to appreciate the subtleties and nuances of the album.

I wanted to like this one. There are a few moments but on the whole this is a metal-by-numbers album for me: could do better.

Review score: 45%

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Beyond Fear—Beyond Fear (2006)

Beyond Fear—Beyond Fear (2006)

Beyond Fear—Beyond Fear (2006)

Details

Recorded at Morrisound Studios, USA; Produced by Jim Morris; Released on Steamhammer/SPV on 8 May 2006.

Band

  • Tim “Ripper” Owens – All vocals
  • John Comprix – Rhythm and lead guitar
  • Dwane Bihary – Rhythm guitar
  • Dennis Hayes – Bass
  • Eric Elkins – Drums

Tracks

  1. Scream Machine
  2. And… You Will Die
  3. Save Me
  4. The Human Race
  5. Coming at You
  6. Dreams Come True
  7. Telling Lies
  8. I Don’t Need This
  9. Words of Wisdom
  10. My Last Words
  11. Your Time Has Come
  12. The Faith

Review

If I had been played this album without being told who the artist was I would have said—without a shadow of a doubt—that this was a Judas Priest album. Of course, it isn’t. But it does feature probably the only other former Priest vocalist that most people have heard of; Al Atkins, anyone?

Previously my only encounter with Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens was when he helmed Judas Priest after Rob Halford’s departure in 1992. I didn’t realise, or had forgotten, that he then went on to front Iced Earth.

Remarkably I own no recordings by either band. Gleaned from the free CDs that adorn metal magazine covers, I have only three tracks by Judas Priest (‘Blood stained’, ‘Devil digger’, and ‘Nostradamus’) and five by Iced Earth (‘Burning times’, ‘Divide and devour’, ‘Dracula’, ‘I died for you’, ‘Setian massacre’). None of the classics, and no albums. So I have nothing to compare this against; which may be a good thing. I imagine that Beyond Fear would want this album to stand up on its own merits.

The album opens with about 20 seconds of ambient white noise that sounds like a a group of primary school children dropping a load of cutlery on the London underground, before an old school style thrash riff rips into the song and then those vocals…

I’m sorry, I can’t help it. I really does sound like Judas Priest, and with lyrics like

With giant claws of steel, it has arrived
The metal monster, it’s now alive
It came to take our world, and steal your soul
It will find you, and take control

it’s like even the songs think they should be on a ‘Priest album.

But do you know what? I don’t care, because this is a fabulous album. A ripping album, if you will. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, the vocals are soaring, majestic and biting in equal measure, and the production is first class: warm and well balanced.

If I might be permitted to make another comparison, there are elements of this album that put me in mind of Iron Maiden frontman Bruce Dickinson’s solo efforts, particularly The Chemical Wedding. And in my book that has to be a good thing.

Conclusion

I’d be interested to hear from long-time Judas Priest and Iced Earth fans how this album compares with TRO’s previous exploits, but as a newcomer to his work I really like this album.

Review score: 85%

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