Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Finally... The first "Maidengreen"!

from Night Ranger's "Sister Christian"...

The real lyric:  Motorin' / What's your price for flight?

Me:  Motorhead / What's your price for flight?

Fates Warning re-releases another album with remastered tracks and loads of extras

In 2010, Fates Warning delivered a special remastered version of their highly successful album Parallels. Now, the band is back with their re-release of the Parallels follow-up, Inside Out.

Like its predecessor, the remastered Inside Out comes with a plethora of bonus material--some of it previously unreleased. Since Inside Out was first released in 1994, I immediately decided to put my main focus on this bonus material. The original ten tracks of Inside Out have probably been reviewed hundreds of times, so I'll leave those alone. I will say this though; the remaster does sound great and is not far removed from the original.

The extras from Inside Out include the live versions of "Outside Looking In", "Down to the Wire", and "Face the Fear". There are also live performances of the Parallels tracks "The Eleventh Hour" and "Point of View". I really enjoyed the live version of "Outside Looking In". Ray Alder's vocal abilities shined through and remained intense throughout the entire song. Also, I like the drumming on this version more so than I do on the studio version. For whatever reason, there seems to be a distracting sound in the drumming on the studio track. It is much less apparent on this live recording--making an otherwise amazing song even better. The rest of the live tracks are decent. The instrumental parts of the songs sound fantastic, but almost too fantastic. The vocals are often overpowered and at times difficult to understand. In the slower, more delicate parts of "The Eleventh Hour," the vocals are pretty clear.

Following the live material are the demo versions of some of the Inside Out tracks. For the most part, the demos sound a lot like the finished products the fans are used to hearing. However, there are some subtle differences and little nuances that one may pick up on. For instance, on the "Outside Looking In" demo, there is a creepy echo in the very beginning of the first verse. It sounds kind of cool, but it sadly didn't make the final cut. There is also a demo of my favourite song from the album, "Shelter Me". It is very similar to the album version, but it is about a minute longer. Some parts of it--especially the intro--sound like they might be a bit lighter and more ethereal.  

One demo that breaks away from this pattern is "Face the Fear". It is quite a bit longer than the final version, and it is an instrumental. It is very different from the version that made the final cut of Inside Out, but you can definitely hear the framework for a great song. 

If the bonus audio material wasn't enough, this re-release of Inside Out includes a DVD. Inside Out Live has concert footage of nearly every track from the album. There are also live versions additional Fates Warning songs and more--such as a performance of "Guardian" featuring Mike Portnoy and a rare MTV Europe interview from 1994.

Oftentimes, when a band remasters or re-releases a classic album, it is hard for even the most diehard of fans to think about spending the money on something they probably already own. This really isn't the case for Fates Warning and Inside Out. This remastered version is enormously expanded and contains so many extra sights and sounds that Fates Warning and progressive metal fans will greatly appreciate.

7 1/2 out of 10 stars

(Metal Blade Records/Riot! Entertainment)

Terry Ilous steps up to the plate and brings real intensity and rock and roll grit to Great White

After a split with long time vocalist and founding member Jack Russell, Great White--with original guitarist Mark Kendall--is back with their 12th studio album Elation.

Elation's first track "(I've Got) Something for You" begins with a rapid drumming intro and a real driving rhythm that lasts throughout the song--which is about a one-night stand. It maintains Great White's classic bluesy sound with an added '60s or '70s rock vibe, and Terry Ilous's vocals mesh really well right from the start.

The following song "Feelin' So Much Better" is quite a bit heavier than the first track. The vocals, especially the backing vocals, sound very much "80s"--but with a modern twist. The guitar solo, with it's killer sustain, is fantastic!

Another hard rocker with the '80s feel is "Just for Tonight." It features a heavy bass line, especially in the chorus. The vocals are quite sexy, especially the lyric of "lay down just for tonight"--which is sung with a lot of attitude. This track also has a the modern sound, but I could still imagine it having an '80s style video, complete with a "video vixen."

The very blues-based "Love Train" is definitely not a cover of the soul classic! Great White's "Love Train," which is heavy on the harmonica, evokes an image of an old southern railroad. I instantly enjoyed the down and dirty groove that accompanies the "welcome to the love train" lyric in the backing vocals.

"Hard to Say Goodbye" is Elation's first ballad. It features the acoustic guitar, and I absolutely love how the intense and emotional vocals contrast with the softer vocals in many parts of the song. The guitar solo is highly electric, and the mellow backing vocals at the end add a nice touch.

"Lowdown" really struck me as interesting. The intro riff is full of a heavy and low guitar and bass sound. It is almost as if it sounds like metal and blues all at these same time. This track, which is about a cheating wife or girlfriend, has some intense bluesy vocals and has a killer distorted hard rock guitar solo.

Elation is an enjoyable hard rock album. Great White has really stuck to their blues-based roots with this one. It contains a great mixture of upbeat rocking songs and acoustic ballads. Because Great White is known almost exclusively as an "80s band," I didn't really know what to expect from this 2012 album. However, I am quite impressed with it! It does not sound dated in the least, and I really think Terry Ilous is a great fit for the band. Elation is not what I would call "metal", but it does have some "hard and fast" moments that blues-loving metal fans are bound to appreciate.

7 out of 10 stars

(Frontiers Records/Riot! Entertainment)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Duke of Metal takes a "Leap of Faith" with his latest band

Rich "The Duke" Ward of Fozzy and Stuck Mojo fame met worship leader Terry Chism at Noonday Baptist Church in Marietta, Georgia, and after becoming part of the church's worship ministry himself, Rich decided to pursue a new musical project with Terry--one that "focuses on "focuses on contemporary rock styles, soaring vocal melodies, and bringing a positive message to a troubled world." With Christian rock bands such as Stryper and Skillet in mind, the two formed the band Walking With Kings and have released a self-titled debut album.

Walking With Kings' opening track "Mention of Your Name" rocks right from the very first riff, then goes into more of a laid-back pop groove. The chorus is catchy, yet inspirational, and I can't help but think of Jon Bon Jovi when I listen to Terry Chism sing. His vocals are crisp and clear, especially during the spirited "Hallelujah" part of in the song's bridge.

The second track, "Here I Stand", is quite a bit heavier and faster than the first. It prominently features keyboards, and the synth sound makes me imagine bombastic strobe lights. "Here I Stand" contains some muffled vocal effects, but there are some killer crystal clear notes that Terry Chism holds out--especially during the last part of the song. "Leap of Faith", the first single the band promoted with a video online, has a bluesy rock intro riff courtesy of Rich Ward and contains a wide vocal range from Terry Chism. What I really like about this song is how the "ballady" Dennis DeYoung type vocals contrast with the hard rock guitar instrumental, and not to mention the rapid drumming from Frank Fontsere. "Leap of Faith"--which is about taking chances to change for the better--is hugely inspirational, and the extensive "na-na-na's" make it so much fun.

"Autumn Brings" is definitely a divergence from the upbeat track "Leap of Faith" that comes before it. It begins with an operatic sounding choir that features a low, looming voice that subtly infiltrates the rest of the song. Instrumentally, the low, heavy guitar tone from The Duke complements the keyboards very well. "Autumn Brings" has a dark and ominous feel that isn't present on the rest of Walking With Kings, but it is inspiring nevertheless.

There are two VERY different renditions of the song "Home" on Walking With Kings. Both have the same lyrical content about being small and humble compared to the enormous love offered by Jesus Christ. The title "Home" itself refers to Heaven--and having to spend a long time on Earth before getting there to experience its peace.

The electric version of "Home" is very much an upbeat, guitar-heavy rock song like "Mention of Your Name" and "Leap of Faith." The vocals are often big and theatrical (more so toward the end), which I really enjoy. Also, the backing vocals sound really cool as the word "home" is sung.

The other version of "Home"--which is the "unplugged" version--is the last track on the album. It boasts only a piano and vocals, with a subtle orchestral string arrangement hiding in the background. This song is truly beautiful and stunning, and it is a deep and emotional finish to such a lively album.

As a long time fan, I was pleasantly surprised when I found out Rich Ward was taking part in a Christian music project. Oftentimes rock 'n' roll and Christianity are at odds, but the band Walking With Kings really beats those odds. Never once while listening to this album did I ever get that "You're going to Hell because you listen to Slayer" vibe. Walking With Kings' debut album is filled with some solid rock songs that are exceptionally inspiring without being preachy or sanctimonious.  I highly recommend it to rock fans who want some honest, spiritually uplifting music with a hard rock edge.

7 out of 10 stars