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

The Alliance of the Kings: Ancient Bards

Rating: 85%

abardsIn 2010, Ancient Bards released their debut album “The Alliance of the Kings.” The band consisted of vocalist Sara Squadrani, keyboardist Daniele Mazza, guitarists Claudio Pietronik & Fabio Balducci, bassist Martino Garattoni and drummer Alessandro Carichini.

Musically, this album is packed full of epic material and with lots of meat. It’s full of Classical influences, choirs and symphony. It’s melodic, there’s harmony and contains some folk influences. This album is epic and full of adventure. It’s like the late 1990’s all over again when Symphonic Power Metal became popular. It has lots fast paced tempos from the double kick drums, guitar riffs, guitar leads, to the keyboards and bass lines. Structurally, the album has interludes, verses, bridges, choruses, outros and other cool fill ins. This album even has a folky ballad.

Vocally, Sara Squadrani is among the best of women vocalists in her genre. Her voice has plenty of range. Lyrically, this album has tons of well written epic songs that are excellently composed. This concept album tells the story of a sorcerer who is in search of a sword for ultimate power and those who are out to stop him.

Track listing:

1. “Prelude” 1:55
2. “The Birth of Evil” 5:31
3. “Four Magic Elements” 4:59
4. “Only the Brave” 6:15
5. “Frozen Mind” 7:24
6. “Nightfall in Icy Forest” 1:17
7. “Lode al Padre” 6:26
8. “Daltor the Dragonhunter” 8:42
9. “Farewell My Hero” 6:51
10. “Faithful to Destiny” 8:45

Demons of the AstroWaste: Unleash the Archers

Rating: 75%

unleashIn 2011, Unleash the Archers released their second album “Demons of the AstroWaste.” This Canadian heavy metal band features vocalist Brittney Hayes, vocalist and guitarist Brayden Dyczkowski, guitarist Mike Selman, bassist Zahk Hedstrom and drummer Scott Buchanan. This album is a concept album for a futuristic war taking place in space or on other planets.

Musically, this is a very epic masterpiece of heavy metal. The only draw back I have is some of the songs seem to drag on as they sometimes do in Power/Epic Metal, but I get the concept. This album also has a lot of tempo changes. Also, there seems to be a touch techno in some areas of the songs. I hear the death metal segments but, it seems that I hear some Progressive Metal in some of the songs.

The guitar riffs are very strong and the leads are amazing. Lot’s of harmonizing guitar work throughout the entire album. There is some really good bass lines and drumming. Vocally, Brittney sounds great. She has a way of harmonizing her vocals with the screaming of the guitars. She is also backed by not one, but two harsh/dirty vocalists which gives it that death metal sounds.

Track listing:

1. 00:00:01 00:45 instrumental
2. Dawn of Ages 04:47
3. Realm of Tomorrow 05:15
4. General of the Dark Army 07:39
5. Daughters of Winterstone 05:42
6. Battle in the Shadow (Of the Mountain) 06:12
7. Despair 05:36
8. The Outlander 04:30
9. City of Iron 04:26
10. The Fall of the Galactic Guard 06:51
11. Astral Annihilation 04:23
12. Ripping Through Time 06:18

Battle Beast: Battle Beast

Rating: 78%

battlebeastIn 2013,Battle Beast released their second album called “Battle Beast.” This album was the first to feature their new female singer Noora Louhimo, replacing Nitte Valo. The rest of the Finnish band consists of bassist Eero Sipilä, guitarists Juuso Soinio & Anton Kabanen, drummer Pyry Vikki, and keyboardist Janne Björkroth.

Upon first listening to this album, I must admit, it was good to hear heavy metal going back to it’s roots. There is a small amount of folk influence and experimentation to some of the songs. Battle Beast using some modern day techniques decided to add that to old school heavy metal. It put me in mind of listening to Dragon Force mixed with Dio and Judas Priest. The duel action of hard hitting guitars mixed with great vocal work, drumming and keyboards made a good combination for band’s sound. Lyrically, the band writes songs about war, robots and the future.

The music itself is good. Some of the songs are trashy and speedy. The tempos are fast with lots of hard crushing riffs. Lots of leads and harmonizing fill in leads like one would expect from old school metal. The bass lines are fantastic. There is some great drumming on this record. The keyboards, and I am not a fan of keyboards, are not overdone. They seem to harmonize with the music rather than drowning it out.

Vocally, Noora Louhimo is awesome. She is one hell of a great vocalist in this genre of metal. Her range is low and high. Her vocals are drenched in grit. She is a cross between Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio and Bruce Dickinson.

Track listing:

1. “Let It Roar” 3:40
2. “Out of Control” 3:47
3. “Out on the Streets” 2:55
4. “Neuromancer” 4:04
5. “Raven” 2:52
6. “Into the Heart of Danger” 5:26
7. “Machine Revolution” 4:05
8. “Golden Age” 1:57
9. “Kingdom” 5:00
10. “Over the Top” 2:37
11. “Fight, Kill, Die” 2:44
12. “Black Ninja” 3:54
13. “Rain Man” 5:12

Captain Morgan’s Revenge: Alestorm

Rating: 90%

Alestorm_Captain_Morgans_Revenge.jpgIn 2008, Scotland’s Power/Folk Metal band Alestorm released their debut. The band was made of up of vocalist and keyboardist Christopher Bowes, drummer Ian Wilson, bassist Dani Evans and Gavin Harper on guitar.

Lyrically, Alestorm has a pirate theme on this album as well as future albums. I know, sounds corny right? Well, it’s not as bad as you think. The song compositions are fairly good. The song lyrics put me in mind of drinking, wenches, booty and 18th Century pirates and their ships. It’s history wrapped up in plastic just waiting to be cranked up.

Vocally, the songs are very strong and gritty. There’s a great deal of harmony on the chorus lines. Musically, it has some very impressive guitar riffs. It’s heavy with folk influences, speed metal and power metal. The leads are very impressive. The addition of the traditional tin whistles and jaw hard are a nicely added touch. Musicianship is not bad. Production, the album sounds good.

Track listing:

1. “Over the Seas” 3:55
2. “Captain Morgan’s Revenge” 6:42
3. “The Huntmaster” 4:59
4. “Nancy the Tavern Wench” 4:52
5. “Death Before the Mast”  3:11
6. “Terror on the High Seas”  3:51
7. “Set Sail and Conquer”  4:38
8. “Of Treasure”  2:58
9. “Wenches & Mead” 3:42
10. “Flower of Scotland” (The Corries cover) 2:37

The Killer Angels: The Civil War

Rating: 70%

civil-war-killer-angels-1024x1024.jpgCivil War is a Swedish Power Metal band featuring several ex-members of Sabaton including drummer Daniel Mullback, guitarists Oskar Montelius and Rikard Sundén and keyboardist Daniel Mÿhr. With the addition of Pizza on bass and vocalist Nils Patrik Johansson, the band was complete. In 2013, the band released their debut, “The Killer Angels.”

I got this album solely based upon it’s cover. I figured since of my history background, this album would be a perfect fit. Especially the song tracks like “Gettysburg.” I mean look at the cover, if that doesn’t tell you what the themes are going to be, then I don’t know what else to say. The band’s lyrical themes do surround history and war.

Musically, lots of riffs that are boarder line speed metal on some of the songs. The entire album is heavy. There seems to be a few filler s in the songs, but it’s not that noticeable. Lots of lead guitar and fill in leads. Great drum work and bass lines. Song strucutre wise, the album flows nicely. It’s not choppy at all. Production is decent. Vocally, Nils Patrik Johansson reminds me of Tony Martin’s vocal style in Black Sabbath. His vocals  can hit a wide range of notes including the high notes. There are very strong harmonizing chorus lines. The keyboard does find it’s place in the music itself. It’s not overwhelming at all. The music is nonstop action throughout the entire album.

Bottom line, you have a basic power metal band that made a good effort for their first full length. It’s an enjoyable record. I do like the history inspired lyrics. If you’re into power metal, then try this album out for size.

Track listing:

1. King of the Sun 05:27
2. First to Fight 04:19
3. Saint Patrick’s Day 05:11
4. Rome Is Falling 05:24
5. Sons of Avalon 04:11
6. I Will Rule the Universe 05:11
7. Lucifer’s Court 03:46
8. Brother Judas 04:16
9. My Own Worst Enemy 03:51
10. Gettysburg 05:05
11. Children of the Grave (Black Sabbath cover) 04:58