• Lordi - Recordead Live – Sextourcism in Z7 (2019)

    Now that our favourite masked hard rock band KISS is finally calling it quits for good, we should wipe away our tears and give Finnish quintet Lordi a chance again. The group offers more than its internationally known timeless genre anthem ''Hard Rock Hallelujah'' and this excellent live record can be seen as a greatest hits release for faithful fans and newcomers alike. The band varies from cool and tight up-tempo rock 'n roll tunes such as ''Rock Police'' over melodic hard rock anthems like the catchy ''Would You Love a Monsterman?'' to more atmospheric, slow and smooth tunes like the sinister ballad ''Evilyn''. The band's new material like the vivid anthem ''Naked in My Cellar'' sounds as great as old hits like the vibrant encore ''Devil Is a Loser''. The band even offers some obscure tracks like the vivid ''Mr. Killjoy'' that was only a b-side on a single but the song is as great as the other tracks played in concert. Consistency is the key element that distinguishes Lordi from many other hard rock bands and KISS copycats and the Finnish quintet certainly deserves more attention than it gets.

    Lordi is a particularly great live band. They sound tight with raw lead vocals, powerful gang shouts, vibrant guitar riffs, ecstatic guitar solos, pumping bass guitar, tight drums and occasional samples that add some atmosphere reminding of old horror movies. The creepy outfits also need to be pointed out as they have become trademarks of the band. The communication between the charismatic lead singer and the crowd is also great. The atmosphere is outstanding as if everybody had come to a party rather than a simple concert. The production is raw and energetic which suits the genre. The generous set list features twenty songs and features everything fans could crave for from recent material over old classics to a few obscure cuts.

    In addition to the concert, this release also includes all the atmospheric, colourful and creative music videos the band has created since its obscure beginnings in the early nineties. A very unusual cut is the song ''Inferno'' for which a music video was made as early as in 1995. Lead singer Mr. Lordi didn't even wear a mask back then but if you were hoping to see him without his make-up and costume, you will be disappointed because his face has been edited out of the video clip with the sticker of a monstrous face. That unnecessary editing job is the only slightly disappointing element of this excellent release. In order to end things on a high note, this release also includes a short and sympathetic documentary.

    In the end, you should purchase Lordi's Recordead Live – Sextourcism in Z7 if you like timeless hard rock music with a vibrant stage show in the key of KISS. Lordi might not be the most innovative band but it's one of the most consistent hard rock bands to be around these days. This release offers multiple hours of excellent entertainment to be enjoyed over and over again.

    Final rating: 95%

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  • A friend of mine recently introduced me to this type of music. It represents everything I dislike: repetitive beats, nerve-firing melodies and sexist lyrics.

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  • Paul Di'Anno - Tales from the Beast (2019)

    Every now and then, Paul Di'Anno comes around with yet another compilation or newly recorded versions of the tracks he sung when he was in Iron Maiden four decade ago. Tales from the Beast is no exception and throws in some other cover songs of Megadeth, Michael Jackson and Van Halen as well as a few of Paul Di'Anno's own tunes. This compilation is apparently going to support a documentary about the singer that should see the light of day very soon. Apparently, the aged veteran has been inspired by Bruce Dickinson's Scream for Me Sarajevo compilation and documentary released last summer. Paul Di'Anno has been kicked out of his own band Architects of Chaoz and needs to pay some expensive medical bills which explains this release strategy.

    If you already own one of the numerous other compilations such as The Classics - The Maiden Years released thirteen years earlier, then there really is no need to purchase Tales from the Beast. If you however don't own such a compilation and like the early years of Iron Maiden, you might as well pick up this record that convinces with seventeen songs and a generous running time of seventy-six minutes. Newly recorded tracks like the energetic punk-driven Skyhooks cover ''Women in Uniform'', the gloomily atmospheric Iron Maiden classic ''Killers'' and the wonderful eerie progressive rock pearl ''Strange World'' by Iron Maiden are timeless classics that have therefore aged very well. The musicians involved in the songs perform with tight chemistry and Paul Di'Anno's emotional vocals stray at times from the original recordings by adding a few more growls and screams here and there to amplify the energy level.

    Not all songs sound great as this compilation also includes some filler material. The cover of Megadeth's ''Symphony of Destruction'' is a head-scratcher to say the least. The instrumental performance is anything but impressive and the overtly emotive vocals don't fit at all. It seems that Paul Di'Anno has completely misunderstood the intention of the original version. The idea to cover Led Zeppelin's ''Kashmir'' wasn't Di'Anno's greatest either as the track plods on unspectacularly for nearly eight minutes without ever coming remotely close to the haunting atmosphere of the original progressive rock classic. Michael Jackson's ''Bad'' is also covered without any fresh ideas and fails to stay on your mind.

    In the end, the majority of songs on Tales from the Beast are performed with tight musicianship and emotional vocals but there are also some odd fillers every now and then. If you like Paul Di'Anno's vocals and want to support the veteran, you can purchase this album but everyone else should stick to the original material and rather wait for the upcoming documentary about the famous singer.

    Final rating: 67%

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  • HammerFall - Dominion (2019)

    HammerFall seems to be on autopilot these days since Dominion is almost an exact copy of predecessor Built to Last. The band offers melodic mid-paced traditional heavy metal with catchy choruses, epic choirs and skilled guitar play. While records like r(E)volution had some immediately appealing tracks, the material on Dominion takes a few spins to grow but especially the album's second half makes it an overall enjoyable experience despite its bland approach.

    Heavy stomper ''Dead by Dawn'' has a chorus supported by background shouts that should be sung by thousand of fans in concert. Up-tempo track ''Bloodline'' convinces with an uplifting melodic chorus of epic proportions. Closer ''And Yet I Smile'' starts as power ballad but evolves into a passionate heavy metal song with soulful vocals and optimistic lyrics and might overall qualify as album highlight that ends an average release on a truly convincing note.

    There really isn't much to say about HammerFall's Dominion. The album offers the mid-paced traditional heavy metal you have come to expect. The skillful vocals, technically appealing guitar play and sincere heavy metal spirit of the veterans keep this record away from mediocrity. Fans of the band will like this album while those who resent the band might qualify this output as yet another exchangeable scoop of vanilla metal. Don't buy this record and support a younger band but make sure to catch the Swedish veterans on tour instead.

    Final rating: 60%

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  • Avantasia - More Moonglow - The Rock Hard EP (2019)

    More Moonglow - The Rock Hard EP comes for free with German Rock Hard magazine and intends to promote new studio album Moonglow. With six tracks and a total running time just above forty-five minutes, this exclusive release offers value for money for fans of the imaginative power metal project with its numerous gifted guest musicians and vocalists. Occasional fans can perceive this release as an interesting preview but should rather purchase the great studio album itself right away.

    This extended play features two very different new tracks that represent Avantasia's different soundscapes very well. "Moonglow" is short and melodic and certainly has a lot of commercial appeal. It has a strong symphonic metal vibe that reminds of bands like Nightwish but the enchanting female vocals and strong instrumental work could also recall a heavier version of Mike Oldfield's commercially successful Singles throughout the eighties. Candice Night on lead vocals had already collaborated with German power metal veterans Helloween fourteen years earlier and if you liked the final result "Light the Universe", you are also going to like "Moonglow" and vice versa. "The Raven Child" is a much more complex song with multiple guest vocalists that combines symphonic, power and folk metal in eleven captivating minutes. It positively reminds of Avantasia tracks like "The Scarecrow" and "Let the Storm Descend upon You " and is certainly among the best tracks in the project's critically acclaimed history. As references to bands with similar songs, I would mention Rhapsody of Fire and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

    This release offers one live song which is aforementioned "The Scarecrow" and one of the project's greatest moments. Vocals are performed by Ronnie Atkins instead of Jorn Lande and Michael Kiske. This version sounds a little less elegant but grittier than the original tune which works very well in concert. It's certainly interesting enough to listen to and compare both versions and I think they are equally great for different reasons.

    The same can't be said about the three demo tracks that conclude this release. Instead of featuring guest vocalists, Avantasia mastermind Tobias Sammet performs vocals here and even though he is a decent singer himself, he can't equal the performances by his guest singers. Faithful fans might think it's interesting to compare these demo tracks to the finished versions and note some minor changes in melody and rhythm but those songs are rather forgettable for anyone else.

    In the end, Avantasia's More Moonglow - The Rock Hard EP is a good release for collectors and faithful fans and still decent for occasional and new fans who might want to discover one of the greatest metal bands in the world these days. However, it would be a much better idea to skip this output and save the money to purchase the brilliant Moonglow in its entirety and catch the project on tour. I have assisted one of its concerts recently and thought it was one of the very best I have ever been to with passionate and professional musicians entertaining you for a whopping three hours and twenty minutes without any breaks.

    Final rating: 70%

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