• Genre: Heavy Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 47:14
    Band homepage: -


    1. The King Of Metal
    2. Dimebag
    3. The Black Country
    4. The Rainbow Fades To Black
    5. Fate
    6. One More Step
    7. Fighter
    8. Judge Me
    9. Difficult
    10. Beginning
    Bayley, Blaze - The King Of Metal 

    Blaze Bayley has always been one of my favourite singers with his authentic, dark and perfectly imperfect voice that helped him to create a couple of pretty solid records with WOLFSBANE, later on with the British Heavy Metal legend IRON MAIDEN and lately with his solo band under the banner of BLAZE. During the last years, the man that has gone through loads of hard times including the tragic death of his wife, he also changed the entire band around him and started to work with younger as well as less expensive and less professional musicians because he wanted to discover something new but also because he had many personal and especially financial problems. That's why I didn't expect a lot from this new team around him including a young guitar player from Belgium that was discovered by Blaze Bayley because he did an acoustic cover of a BLAZE song on youtube, as well as three young and arther unkown Italian musicians on guitar, bass guitar and drums. In fact, the album was only supposed to be an EP and Blaze Bayley changed his mind during the recordings that were done in quite a hurry at three different places in the England, in the Netherlands and in the United States Of America and brought to a final product by three different producers. In addition to this weird potpourri come a female Dutch vocalist, a Dutch piano player and an American guitar player as guest musicians.  That's what one could call a true multi-culti product in times of globalization.

    To my big surprise, what our good old Blaze Bayley delivers here is simply the best record he has ever done. I realized that this would be a great record when I heard the quite solid opener. One song later I was even more surprised and said to myself that the band put the best tracks in the beginning and that this hectically done record would contain more and more fillers towards the end. After the last closing acoustic guitar ballad I was paralyzed. I was speechless for many minutes and just shook my head. What I just witnessed was a completely unexpectable masterpiece. This album inspired me a lot of confidence. If the broken, old and poor Blaze Bayley was able to create such a passionate epos, I knew that I would also be able to realize my wildest dreams with a solid dose of confidence, faith and perseverance.

    Many critical voices may claim that the record was done in a hurry, that Blaze Bayley sometimes sounds out of tone and that the production is not as perfect as it could have been. This is true but I like this spontaneaous and overtly honest attitude. The record simply feels authentic, emotional and vivid. Blaze Bayley has never had a perfect voice from a technical point of view in my humble opinion but he definitely has one of the most emotional voices I have ever known. That's what I like about him and his music has always been able to touch me.

    "The King Of Metal" seems to be a prententious title but it's not about Blaze Bayley himself but rather a tribute to his fans that are the reason why he's still there after all he has been through. The fans are the so-called kings of Metal and not the booking agents, the managers or the chefs of the record labels. This is a great homage and I think that Blaze Bayley knows what he's talking about. When he got heavily criticized for his work in IRON MAIDEN he surely didn't expect that he would still be around and be on world wide tours today. In comparison to the sad afte of the other ex-vocalist of that band named PAUL DI'ANNO, Blaze Bayley can still take a look in the mirror and create new things without only playing cover songs of his past days that will never come back.

    Let's dig deeper into the music. After more Thrash and sometimes even slight Death Metal influenced records, Blaze Bayley basically goes back to his Heavy Metal roots on this record. Many people might see this as a step back but he delivers in fact his most varied record ever and shows all the different things he is able to do.

    The title track "The King Of Metal" is the straightest song on the entire record and starts with a whispered introduction before heavy Thrash riffs set fire. The chorus is simple but brutal and efficient. The middle part with distorted guitar sounds, weird spoken word passages and a solid dose of melody and speed is passionating and leads back to the amazing chorus and another surprisngly abrupt ending with a couple of whispered words that close this brillaint opener. Yes, Blaze Bayley's voice is out of tone a couple of times, but this just fits this angry, fast and spontaneous track. A theatralic and technically diversified singer like BRUCE DICKINSON could never put the same amount of emotion in this kind of song. Blaze Bayley simply seems to know what he does best. I have rarely known a song that was so short but contained so many ideas at the same time. Each time I listen to this track I like a different passage and discover new things even though the song seems rather simple at first sight. I bet that this song might even work better live and I can't wait to see Blaze Bayley in concert one day.

    "Dimebag" is a homage to the late PANTERA and DAMAGEPLAN guitar player Darrell Lance Abbott that was murdered by gunshot during a concert. Many songs have already been written to honour his targic fate and at first sight it doesn't seem very original to write another track about him more than seven years after his death. But Blaze Bayley proves us wrong and this track is the most emotional homage to someone who passed away I have listened in quite a long time. I thought that Blaze Bayley would never be able to beat his own track "Endless Sleep" that is dedicated to his beloved wife that died a couple of years ago but that's exactly what he does here. The song is filled with many emotional changes, a diversified and emotional vocal performance, a brilliant classic guitar solo, a pumping bass guitar, a simple but heavy drum play and a highly addicting chorus. Among many outstanding tracks "Dimebag" surely is my favourite one on this record. Another homage can be found on this record that is called "The Rainbow Fades To Black". This track is dedicated to the late Ronnie James Dio who played in RAINBOW, BLACK SABBATH and HEAVEN & HELL among other bands. This track is darker and starighter and features many passages that are inspired by songs Dio have been performed in his long career. Blaze mixes elements of a cover song with his own and unique lyrics and a couple of own ideas and the final result works very well. It's a great mixture of nostalgic melodies and a straight modern attitude that sounds powerful and not too sad. It seems like a good idea to me that Blaze Bayley wrote a straighter track as a tribute to DIO instead of writing a predictable ballad.

    On the other side, there are also two very strong ballds on this record that prove once again Blaze Bayley's diversity and talent. "One More Step" is a calm and intense piano ballad where Blaze Bayley's imperfect voice sends shivers down my spine and this in a very positive way. You really can feel that he knows what he sings about and that he has been through all these things he tells us. It's abeautiful song about never giving up and always continuing to fight for one's dreams, ideals and visions. This positive message is underlined by a simple but intense piano play. The closing track "Beginning" is an acoustic guitar ballad that also builds a lot upon the vocals. Critics will claim that they are once again out of tone but they are performed with so much emotion that I still admire this hypnotizing and atmospheric album closer. I must admit that you either adore these two tracks or you hate them.

    Anybody who's looking for a technically perfect record with straight modern Metal music will be quickly disappointed. But anybody who adores authentic, diversified, emotional, honest and spontaneous Heavy Metal with a couple of experiments can't get around this record. In my humble opinion, it's by far the best album of a not so young year 2012 and even though I have always liked Blaze Bayley and listened to quite everything he has ever released, this still came as an unexpected positive surprise. Despite or because of its clear but sympathetic flaws to me, I really adore this vivid piece of music. While MANOWAR happen to be the new losers of Metal, Blaze Bayley has all the rights to not only call his fans but also himself the actual king of Metal.  

    (Online July 7, 2012)

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  • Genre: Heavy Metal / Epic Metal
    Label: Magic Circle Music
    Playing time: 47:40
    Band homepage: Manowar


    1. The Lord Of Steel
    2. Manowarriors
    3. Born In A Grave
    4. Righteous Glory
    5. Touch The Sky
    6. Black List
    7. Expendable
    8. El Gringo
    9. Annihilation
    10. Hail, Kill And Die
    Manowar - The Lord Of Steel

    MANOWAR have always been a controversial band because of their primitive lyrics, exaggerated bombastic sound experiments and a ridiculously martial image. Even though the band's last entirely convincing record was "Kings Of Metal" that came out almost twenty-five years ago, the band still delivered a couple of energizing Metal hymns in the past years as "Call To Arms", "Warriors Of The World United", "The Sons Of Odin" and "Gods Of War" from to mostly heavily criticized records but also some exclusive single material as "The Dawn Of Battle", "I Believe" "Die With Honour" or the power ballad "Father" that was released in sixteen different languages.


    Normally, everybody should know what to expect when one listens to this band: A superficial cover with many fantasy themes such as muscled warriors and naked princesses, epic Metal tracks with simple but efficient choruses with lyrics that any immigrant could write after three years of English classes, interludes with bombastic choirs and artificially flavoured orchestras, a fast banger for the old school fans and the usual kitsch ballad about an unsung fallen hero.


    This time, it didn't exactly come that way and this new record came as a very negative surprise to me. The strange release policy with special editions for mediocre metal magazines, downloads and only a quite late release in retail stores was already confusing. The simplistic old school cover didn't help, too. What finally counts is the music though and from that point of view, this record definitely is one of the worst records I have ever listened to in my entire life. I listened to this record once and I hope I'll never have to listen to this again.


    Let's start with the production and the efforts the musicians put into this record. The boring, faceless and highly repetitive drumming sounds so artificial that I think a drum computer was used rather than a real drummer. The bass guitar heavily dominates the production and sounds very irritating, noisy and unclean. After two songs, the bass sound gives me ripping headaches. The guitar solos never sounded as uninspired as on this record. They sound emotionless, hectic and simplistic. They seem to never fit to the songs. Even the vocals can't save this record and sound quite strange as if they were recorded in a hurry. Sometimes they don't fit to the music and I have never heard the normally very strong Eric Adams sing that badly. The whole production lacks of energy, sounds sterile and very unprofessional. The band maybe tried to go back to their roots as there are almost no choirs or orchestral passages on this record but the loveless production only reveals that the musicians' talent has heavily decreased as this lack of quality isn't hidden by bombastic sound samples anymore. This record shows us the true face of these pretentious wimps and posers.


    The song structures aren't any better than the music itself. The lyrics are simplistic as usual but this time the band even cites itself and tries to honour its past days. They fail and damage, dishonour and soil their strong past efforts by creating something as bad as the album closer "Hail, Kill And Die". The band's straighter tracks sound repetitive and unconvincing and bore to death, even the shortest ones as "Expendable". The half ballads or epic tracks have not only a predictable structure but are artificially stretched to unbearable lengths and lack of emotions as in "Black List". Even the songs that could be mediocre and not plain awful are so repetitive in the end that they simply aren't anything that disappointing in the end as the weak "El Gringo" that was written for a movie soundtrack and that is the only acceptable song on this record because it has at least some powerful vocals before they get redundant and are repeated to death.


    In the end, the so-called kings of Metal have fallen and this time, there are no glorious moments at all on this record. The band has become a caricature of their own past and this is their definite low after an unconvincing rerecording of their first record "Battle Hymns". There are worlds between the band's first energizing albums when they were still original, faithful to their fans and did many amazing live shows and what they have become today - a faceless bunch of defeated and tired warriors that dig in their own past and who have lost all their promising musicianship as they deliver the worst Metal record I have ever listened to in my entire life. This record is not even worth to be written about and I only do this to warn the true Metal fans out there to not touch this record and live the biggest musical disappointment ever. MANOWAR "fail, chill and cry" and have become the true losers of Metal.

    (Online June 21, 2012)

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  • Genre: Alternative Rock / Crossover / Alternative Metal
    Label: Indica Records
    Playing time: 45:10
    Band homepage: GrimSkunk


    1. Falling Into Shadow
    2. Fuck Shit Up
    3. Set Fire To The Nation
    4. Sunless Summer
    5. Moral Bigotry
    6. Green Pixie
    7. Snake In The Grass
    8. Don't Ask Questions
    9. Amnesia
    10. Un Jour
    11. Stand My Ground
    12. Souriez, Vous Êtes Filmés
    13. Free Spirit
    14. Everybody Hates You
    GrimSkunk - Set Fire!

    Six years after the band’s last studio effort, the French Canadian Alternative Rock legends GRIMSKUNK are back with a record called “Set Fire!” that fits somewhat well to the current economical, political and social situation in Quebec somewhere between promising new markets, the apparition of new political movements facing the traditional parties and the student demonstrations and riots in the streets of the province’s big cities in the last three months. The new record has once again many controversial statements that are definitely worth to take a closer look on the lyrics. This album is a document of its time and it might be interesting to listen to all of this again in the years to come.

    On the other side, the album wasn’t recorded in a studio somewhere in Montreal between upset students, debating politicians and nervous police officers but in the sunny Down Under. The band integrated some elements of their journey in Australia in this record. The colourful and somewhat cryptic cover artwork was done by a local artist while the opening “Falling Into Shadow” surprises with transcending didgeridoo sounds played by the aboriginal artist Tjupurru. Exotic sounds and floating atmospheres meet a very catchy approach reminding me of U2 in this strong opener. In fact, the band has a couple of tracks that could get some radio airplay as the calm closing half ballad “Everybody Hates You” that sounds like a more rebellious version of COLDPLAY.

    Fans of Alternative Rock, Crossover and Punk should though not be afraid. This record contains a great amount of straighter tracks and is way harder than the more commercial predecessor “Fires Under The Road”. This album goes back to the band’s roots and represents everything fans have always liked about the band. “Fuck Shit Up” is a worthy title for the second track that has some Hardcore Punk influences and goes straight in your face, as well as the chaotic grower “Moral Bigotry” reminds of the earlier days of the bands and mixes very fast punk passages with melodic sing along parts and a touch of sixties’ and seventies’ Rock and Roll while “Souriez, vous êtes filmés” mixes hardcore riffs, heavily addicting sing along passages, catchy but simple piano melodies and an almost danceable middle part to an addicting potpourri that could as well please to fans of SYSTEM OF A DOWN as it might be appreciated by fans of FRANZ FERDINAND.   

    In the end, this record is a sure value and should please to any fan of the band. Even though there are no obvious hit singles on the album as it was the case in the past, there is no stinker on the entire record and the songs really tend to grow after a few tries. On the other side, even though the degree of variety is once again very elevated on here, the band could have pushed further in my humble opinion by digging deeper into aboriginal sounds and new experiments. After the very promising opener and the great title track, we somehow get some classic GRIMSKUNK music without too many surprises. Nevertheless, this is a great record for the upcoming summertime and mixes rebellious politically inspired undertones with a light flair of Australian vacancy.

    (Online June 17, 2012)


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  • Genre: Alternative Rock / Alternative Metal / Crossover
    Label: Diffusion Yfb
    Playing time: 74:41
    Band homepage: Groovy Aardvark


    1. Y’A Tu Kelkun
    2. Dérangeant
    3. Boisson D’Avril
    4. Le Sein Matériel
    5. Le P’tit Bonheur
    6. T’É Triss
    7. Amphibiens
    8. Rowdy Road People
    9. Ear Throb
    10. Ingurgitus
    11. Espace Tant…
    12. Dondaine
    13. Le Coeur Est Une Bombe
    14. Ankylose
    15. Balivernes
    16. Gift
    17. Service
    18. Ants Have No Chance
    19. The Great Race To Zero
    Groovy Aardvark - Sérvices Rendus

    GROOVY AARDVARK have been one of the first and most important Alternative Rock bands in the Canadian underground scene and especially in Quebec. After 19 years of existence, the band finally split up and delivered a couple of farewell concerts as well as this excellent compilation. This release includes the band’s greatest hits in French and in English like “Dérangeant” or “Rowdy Road People” from the amazing “Vacuum” record, probably the band’s greatest strike.

    What really rates this release up is the high amount of rare and bonus material. The record includes a traditional folk tale performed on stage with “Dondaine”, three brand new tracks with “Le Coeur Est Une Bombe”, “Ankylose” and “Balivernes”, two lost tracks from the earlier days of the band with “Gift” and “Service” and the two final tracks “Ants Have No Chance” as well as “The Great Race To Zero” are taken from the band’s first important demo recording which was “Kitsh En Squatt” back in 1989. This release is a well filled treasure chest for new and old fans. The great artwork with some notes written by band leader Vincent Peake is also interesting.

    Musically, the band varies in a very high range from energizing and noisy Punk tracks like the party opener “Y’A Tu Kelkun” to atmospheric and transcendent acoustic tracks such as the Experimental grower “Amphibiens”. Even Nu and Groove Metal elements can be found on the album in the quite heavy “Ingurgitus”. The most accessible tracks are though without a doubt the band’s greatest hits in French like the catchy “Dérangeant”, the party folk anthem “Boisson D’Avril” and the cool Folk Metal song “Le P’tit Bonheur” that breathes a very rebellious attitude.

    The band also collaborated with different musicians that added their talent to many tracks on this record. The legendary Folk singer Yves Lambert can be heard in the joyful and danceable folk Punk anthem “Boisson D’Avril”. Marc Vaillancourt and his crispy Metal voice can be heard in the Félix Leclerc cover “Le P’tit Bonheur” that gets a refreshing and modern face-lifting in this version. Philippe Mius D’Entremont who would later get famous with the band “Les Ékorchés” alongside with Marc Vaillancourt plays the cello in “Balivernes”. Other featured guests perform choirs, Rap passages, violins, flutes and even a hurdy gurdy. My favourite song on the record is the quite unknown “Gift”, a very progressive track with a catchy chorus and somewhat cryptic and romantic lyrics that make you think a lot.

    Even though there are so many guest musicians, the thing that really stands out on this release and on any of the band’s other releases is the talent of singer and bass player Vincent Peake. It’s rare to find bands where bass guitars still have something to say and on this record, it has a lot to say and throws in a lot of addicting grooves, sharp rhythms or danceable beats. He’s truly unique on his instrument and it’s a good thing we can still hear him in different bands nowadays such as “GrimSkunk”, “Kosmos” or “Xavier Caféïne”.

    In the end, this record is rather rare to find nowadays but anybody who has enough money and patience should definitely get his or her hands on this incredible compilation of one of the most diversified, surprising and entertaining Rock bands from Quebec.

    (Online February 23, 2012)


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  • Genre: Alternative Rock / Crossover / Alternative Metal
    Label: Self-production
    Playing time: 103:28
    Band homepage: GrimSkunk


    Disc 1:

    1. Silverhead
    2. Don't Hide
    3. Live For Today
    4. Texas Cult Song
    5. No Sympathy
    6. Blown To Pieces
    7. Overture In E Minor
    8. Psychedelic Wonderdrug
    9. Mahmoud's Dream
    10. Looking For Gabbio
    11. Comatose
    12. Check-moi Ben Aller
    13. Gros Tas D'Marde

    Disc 2:

    1. Fires Under The Road
    2. Le Gouvernement Songe
    3. Watchful Elms
    4. IYa Basta!
    5. Perestroika
    6. Gotta Find A Way
    7. America Sucks
    8. We Are Lords
    9. Power Corrupts
    10. Gormenghast
    11. Circle Square Triangle
    12. Rooftop Killer
    GrimSkunk - Skunkadelic

    GRIMSKUNK are a legendary Alternative Rock band from Canada that mixes different styles and genres such as Heavy Metal, Punk, Ska, Funk, Crossover, Folk music and more in their unique sound since their early Hardcore beginnings as FATAL ILLNESS back in 1988. In Europe, they have gained attention as they toured with bands such as their mates from VOIVOD but they have also opened for big international acts such as MANU CHAO or SYSTEM OF A DOWN. After 23 years the time has now come to release a beautiful retrospective that has been released as a double vinyl record with download codes for the MP3 versions of the tracks in the whole world and as a limited double CD version in Germany. The final result of this release is a perfect and diversified party record that should please to many people with different tastes and backgrounds.


    The band varies from weird experimentations with organs ("Overture In E Minor") or Psychedelic Folk sounds ("Mahmoud's Dream") to crossover tracks with Funk, Punk and Rap influences ("Looking For Gabbio") as well as to smoother Radio Rock material ("Fires Under The Road") or to angry Punk Rock songs ("America Sucks") and completely unpredictable tracks that are a mixture of many of these influences ("Rooftop Killer").


    The band does though not only vary in terms of genres but also in terms of languages. While the progressive "Mahmoud's Dream" has some Arabian lyrics, the great beach camp fire hymn "IYa Basta!" comes along with Spanish lyrics and the funny and danceable "Perestroika" even picks up a few Russian vocabularies. The band's most famous tracks are though performed in French as the energizing hidden track "Gros Tas D'Marde" or in English as the fast live smasher "Gotta Find A Way".


    While all the tracks are very diversified and entertaining, the band has developed a very unique style and all songs sound definitely like GRIMSKUNK. The two discs sound surprisingly coherent even though this is a compilation and represent the band in a great way. Even though the band could have put some more unforgettable classics on this record such as "Mange D'La Marde", "La Vache" or "Vive Le Québec Libre", this is without a doubt a perfect release for anybody that is longing to know and hear more about this outstanding band after reading this little review. This is also a great gimmick for collectors and fans thanks to a great artwork and a very colourful booklet. The two discs are also a perfect choice for some great music in your car to hit the open road.

    (Online January 13, 2012)


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