Refuge Denied: Sanctuary

Rating: 85%

Sanc_refdenied.jpgIn 1987, Sanctuary released their debut record, after being discovered by Dave Mustaine of Megadeth. When this album was released, I was blown away. It was the most original sounding metal I’ve heard. It was fresh.

Musically, this is just good ol’ Heavy Metal that some Thrash and Power Metal influences thrown in. It’s well balanced and very creative. If you were looking for a band that was going for the middle ground of what was out there at the time, but trying to separate themselves from the mainstream, then this was the band. It has many good riffs, killer leads and solos. This album has very interesting tempos. It also has some great offbeats that seems to give an edge to the music, making it a great listen. Awesome screaming high pitched vocals that range upwards to the soprano levels considering the vocalist is a natural baritone.

The musicianship is very good. Warrel Dane is one hell of a front man. His style actually comes from his training as an opera singer. Be cause of that, his vocal range is very broad. Guitarists Lenny Rutledge and Sean Blosl are dominating this album with fast riffs and excellent lead solos. You can almost describe their style as classical. Bringing up this rich sounding rhythm is bassist Jim Sheppard and drummer Dave Budbill.

Track listing:

Side 1
1. “Battle Angels” 4:52
2. “Termination Force” 3:40
3. “Die for My Sins”  3:42
4. “Soldiers of Steel”  5:30
Side 2
5. “Sanctuary”  3:57
6. “White Rabbit” 3:10
7. “Ascension to Destiny” 4:57
8. “The Third War”  3:52
9. “Veil of Disguise”  5:55


Blessing in Disguise: Metal Chruch

Rating: 95%

Metal_church_blessing_in_disguiseRealizing that change was needed and a new direction with the shifting of mainstream music, Metal Church foreseen the future as the high water mark of Glam Metal was on the decline and so was Thrash Metal. “Blessing in Disguise” proved to be the change needed in order to produce a solid heavy album. This is the first album with vocalist Mike Howe and guitarist John Marshall. The end result is an album that is almost flawless.

The heaviness, new vocal style, the drumming, and the bass are absolutely brilliant on this album. The opening track “Fake Healer” features all of the ingredients for the perfect Heavy Metal song. Heavy and powerful guitar riffs, fantastic leads and fills. This with some great drumming that even features the slapping of the drum sticks, a powerful bass guitar and strong, harmonizing vocals is what made this album great. The melodies within the song structure are amazing.

The rest of the album is just like that. The production is so much better on this album than the previous two records.  The song writing has greatly improved. This is one of the greatest Metal church albums that they released still to this date.

Track listing:

1. “Fake Healer” 5:55
2. “Rest in Pieces (April 15, 1912)”  6:38
3. “Of Unsound Mind” 4:44
4. “Anthem to the Estranged” 9:31
5. “Badlands” 7:21
6. “The Spell Can’t Be Broken”  6:46
7. “It’s a Secret” Instrumental 3:47
8. “Cannot Tell a Lie” 4:17
9. “The Powers That Be” Vanderhoof Wells, Vanderhoof 5:22

Inhuman Rampage: DragonForce

Rating: 50%

Inhuman_Rampage_(Japan).jpgIn 2006, “Inhuman Rampage” by DragonForce was released. When I heard the first song off this album,  “Through the Fire and Flames”, I was blown away. it was powerful, fast, meaningful, and refreshing. It was Power Metal, but yet, the speed was amazing. The main riff and the lead were such a welcome sound to my ears. The vocals were crisp, and clean. Then I went and bought the album and that’s when trouble came.  The rest of the album was exactly the same.

The song structures are drawn out. I find myself fast forwarding through the album. The leads are very complex. The chorus lines are drawn out with layers of harmony. There is content, but there isn’t any context. It was like every song was built around the same idea from the melodies to the tempos. The drumming is good, and so is the bass, but they too are looped on the same structure. I do like the classical elements that one hears throughout the entire album.

The sound as metallic as it is, is very thin and generic. All of the ingredients are there for a fantastic album, but it lacks excitement. The musicians are very talented. But, the formula they used on this album just didn’t work out well. It’s like watching the same TV show over and over again and when you loose the attention span, you forget what it was that you were watching. I was almost tired when I finished listening to this album. Best song off this album is still the opener, “Through the Fire and Flames.”

Track listing:

1. “Through the Fire and Flames” 7:21
2. “Revolution Deathsquad” 7:51
3. “Storming the Burning Fields” 5:18
4. “Operation Ground and Pound” 7:43
5. “Body Breakdown” 6:57
6. “Cry for Eternity” 8:11
7. “The Flame of Youth” 6:40
8. “Trail of Broken Hearts” 5:54

Death and Glory: Running Wild

Rating: 95%

dog200In 1989, Running Wild unleashed “Death and Glory” which is an album that focuses on history and the high seas. The sound is incredible.  It’s clear, clean, and crisp. Musically, it’s a well balanced of Speed, Power, and Epic Metal that makes this Heavy Metal album brilliant.

The song structures are wonderfully done. The melodies and harmonies sound great. The song concepts are very original, and yet they compliment those former Heavy Metal legends such as Iron Maiden. This isn’t recycled crap in order to make an album. There was a lot of artistic thought that went into the creation of the album.

Guitarist & vocalist Rolf Kasparek, guitarist Majk Moti , bassist Jens Becker, and drummer Ian Finlay produce this rich sound. Vocally, this album sounds very epic and powerful. Even the backing vocals are very powerful. There are plenty of tight riffs and fast lead solos. The leads are just fantastic. The guitars have a rich, clear sound. The two guitars harmonizing together provides this duel guitar slinger type of atmosphere. It’s exciting and entertaining. The bass is outstanding as well. It thunders through the music and is clearly heard. The drums are great. There lots of great tempos being used which gives this album plenty of backbone and power.

Track Listing:

1. “Riding the Storm” 6:27
2. “Renegade” 4:29
3. “Evilution” 4:43
4. “Running Blood” 4:29
5. “Highland Glory (The Eternal Fight)” (instrumental) 4:51
6. “Marooned” 5:12
7. “Bad to the Bone” 4:46
8. “Tortuga Bay”3:16
9. “Death or Glory” 3:56
10. “Battle of Waterloo” 7:50
11. “March on” 4:08

Kings of Metal: Manowar

Rating: 90%

Manowar_kingsofmetalsalbumcover.jpgIn 1988, “Kings of Metal” was released by the one and only Manowar. This was the album that started it all for me with the band. Ever since I heard this album, I went back and purchased all of the prior albums. Manowar was the baddest, loudest, and heaviest band around. Well, that’s what they claimed. But they are good enough to be called “Kings of Metal.”

This album to me is a great Heavy Metal album. There are some flaws with it, which is why I rated it lower. Don’t get me wrong, I love Manowar and their style. To me there are some fillers on here. You have one song that isn’t a song. “The Warrior’s Prayer” is more or less and story that is being read. Although, it’s a great story, I would have preferred a real song instead. Secondly, “Wheels of Fire”, the opening song on the album really doesn’t fit in with the material of warriors.

Manowar in 1988, if you already didn’t know consisted of, vocalist Eric Adams. This guy has got plenty in his vocal pipes. I love his sound, style, and range. Then you have guitarist Ross the Boss. He throws out riff after riff. I love his heavy sound. He also throws out plenty of great leads and solos. Then you have bassist Joey DeMaio. Then you have the man, the god of thunder himself, drummer Scott Columbus. Man this guy can play.

Musically, this album it kick some serious ass. The songs are super tight. They are aggressive, some are fast, strong, and well structured. “Kings of Metal”, “Pleasure Slave”, “Hail and Kill”, and “Blood of the Kings” are ALL great tracks. These tracks are heavy, they have great solos, and have great vocals. The “Sting of the Bumblebee” is an instrumental that has some great bass and guitar solos. “Heart of Steel” is a slower, almost ballad style of metal. I love the German lyrics better than the English version here.

Track listing:

1. “Wheels of Fire” 4:10
2. “Kings of Metal”  3:45
3. “Heart of Steel” 5:10
4. “Sting of the Bumblebee”  2:49
5. “The Crown and the Ring (Lament of the Kings)” 4:50
6. “Kingdom Come” 3:56
7. “Pleasure Slave”  5:38
8. “Hail and Kill” 5:58
9. “The Warrior’s Prayer” 4:20
10. “Blood of the Kings” 7:29

Dead Winter Dead: Savatage

Rating: 90%

savatageSavatage in 1995 released “Dead Winter Dead” which is a concept/rock opera album based upon the Bosnian War in 1991 where a love story developed between a Serb man and a Muslim girl. The album features vocalist Zachary Stevens, guitarists Chris Caffery and Al Pitrelli, bassist Johnny Lee Middleton and drummer Jeff Plate. The album also features founding member Jon Oliva on keyboards and lead vocals on the songs “I Am” and “Doesn’t Matter Anyway.” This album is the missing link that would change the course of band planting the seed where Trans-Siberian Orchestra would be born.

“Dead Winter Dead” features a collection of great songs mostly written by  Paul O’Neal and Jon Oliva. The ballads themselves with little tweaking could easily be a Broadway show. The album itself captures various feelings and emotions of war and love. The closing track is a great example of this where in the center of town the Serb soldier is greeted by the Muslim girl who only sees his uniform and not for who is. “I don’t understand what you want me to be, It’s the dark you’re hating, it’s not who I am. But I know that it’s all that you see.” Meanwhile, many references and classical music influences of Mozart and Beethoven are very strong and well done on the album.

Musically, this album is much better than some of the previous rock operas that were done by Savatage. The music is much tighter and more solid with regards to the musicianship on this album than on the previous record “Handful of Rain.” There’s a good collection of tempos and melodies used to demonstrate the feelings of emotions where rage and hatred for a war that is tearing down Yugoslavia. The guitar work by both Chris Caffery and Al Pitrelli is done very well. The sound is crisp and clear, yet producing enjoyable riffs and leads. A lot of time and prep went into the music of this album before recording and it really shows.

The vocal work by Zachary Stevens is very impressive. His vocal work is now blending in well with the band that was once fronted by Jon Oliva. His vocal range has plenty of harmony and his range has much improved. The two tracks that Jon Oliva sings on and the one back vocal he does on this album are done well. Jon has always had a unique voice. Although, this album was the breaking point later on for Jon Oliva as the song “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” charted, but it became a popular hit for Trans-Siberian Orchestra.

Track listing:

1. “Overture” 1:50
2. “Sarajevo” 2:31
3. “This is the Time (1990)” 5:40
4. “I Am” 4:32
5. “Starlight” 5:38
6. “Doesn’t Matter Anyway” 3:47
7. “This Isn’t What We Meant” 4:12
8. “Mozart and Madness” 5:01
9. “Memory” 1:19
10. “Dead Winter Dead” 4:18
11. “One Child” 5:14
12. “Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24)” 3:24
13. “Not What You See” 5:02

Good Bye to One of My Favorite Heavy Metal Bands, Manowar

I’ve been into Manowar since 1988 when the “Kings of Metal” was released and I was 11 years old. I was blown away by heavy riffs used by Ross the Boss, the vocals of Eric Adams. The shredding of Joey DeMaio on bass, which I will add is on hell of a great bassist. You combined these three factors in with the thunderous drumming by Scott Columbus and you have one hell of a great heavy metal band….the Kings of Heavy Metal.

Manowar has always represented what heavy metal should be and what heavy metal will always be. Even after a few line up changes, that included Karl Logan, Donnie Hamzik, David Shankle, and Rhino,  I always looked forward to a new Manowar album. Although, in the last few years, I must admit, that they have released and re-released the same material. I figured it was a matter of time until the torch that Manowar carried would be handed down to a new generation of heavy metal bands. That day has now come.

My hat is tipped for a band that has been true to it’s word, it’s fans and it’s style from being the loudest band of ALL-TIME to the phone call I received from Joey when I purchased one of their t-shirts. From leather to chains, swords, axes, shields and the hammer, Manowar will be among the great forefathers of “True Metal.” Looking back on their studio albums, I have decided to rank them to my favorites:

  1. The Triumph of Steel
  2. Kings of Metal
  3. Sign of the Hammer
  4. Battle Hymns
  5. Hail to England
  6. Into Glory Ride
  7. Louder than Hell
  8. Fighting the World
  9. Warriors of the World
  10. Thounder in the Sky
  11. Lords of Steel
  12. Gods of War
  13. Battle Hymns 2010
  14. Kings of Metal 2014