October 27, 2016

Iron Maiden - A Matter of Life & Death (2006)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2006 Sanctuary Records Group Inc.
Review by Andy Maclarty for BBC Music.com
Any fan of Iron Maiden who's witnessed their evolution has learned to ignore the 'hilarious' quips about screaming banshees and the men who look like yetis. Instead you focus on the structure of the songs, the meaning in the lyrics and the tight instrumentation that always provide enjoyment and satisfaction.
So, is A Matter Of Life And Death as good as classics Powerslave and Dance Of Death? Yes; the quality bar is raised once more. Maiden again prove their uncanny ability to write great lyrics wrapped around guitar orchestration that rock fans crave.
"For The Greater Good Of God" and "The Longest Day" are outstanding with the partnership of guitar, bass and drum (and now even keys) flowing and developing throughout. "Lord Of Light" is one of those epic tracks destined to be listened to again and again - each time giving something new.
A Matter Of Life And Death is the sound of a band who have been together for thirty one years, mostly spent on the road. The album manages to preserve the raw element of a live performance because, as with their other albums, the band recorded A Matter... together in the same studio as live. Every song provides evidence that the band feed off each other and share a common energy.
In this world of hopeless auto-tuned mediocrity here is a British band that consistently crafts fantastic music that surprises reviewers and fans alike. Some may dislike the controversial lyrics, but isn't that what rock music is supposed to be all about?

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Iron Maiden - Powerslave (1984) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1984 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The third in a trilogy of legendary Iron Maiden albums, Powerslave is frequently ranked as the fan favorite of the bunch, capping off a stellar run that sealed the band's genre-defining status. If The Number of the Beast was the all-time metal landmark, Powerslave is perhaps the quintessential Maiden album, capturing all the signature elements of the band's definitive era in one place. The album opens with Maiden at their catchiest, turning in a pair of metal classics right off the bat with the British hit singles "Aces High" (a high-speed ode to a WWII air battle) and the apocalyptic "2 Minutes to Midnight." Next we get an instrumental, "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)," of the sort that Maiden periodically deployed to keep fans in awe of their technical chops. A pair of their best and most overlooked album tracks follows; "Flash of the Blade" and "The Duellists" exemplify the glory-minded battle hymns that made up such an important part of their lyrical obsessions, even if both are about sword fighting rather than modern military history. By the end of the album, we're seeing Maiden at their most progressive and ambitious. The seven-minute title track builds on the previous album's "To Tame a Land" with its use of Middle Eastern melodies, delving into Egyptian mythology for a rumination on power and mortality. This leads into the biggest, most grandiose epic in the Maiden catalog -- "Rime of the Ancient Mariner," a multi-sectioned, thirteen-and-a-minute prog-fest adapted from the Samuel Taylor Coleridge poem. Though it isn't exactly what you'd call hooky, its shifting moods and lofty intellectual aspirations made it a live favorite. This latter material helped ensure that Powerslave was the Maiden album with the biggest impact on the emerging progressive metal genre (which, in its earliest form, essentially fused Rush with this sort of Maiden material). In this context, "Back in the Village" gets somewhat lost in the shuffle; it's a thematic sequel to "The Prisoner," though not quite as memorable. So even though we don't hear the punk influences of old, Powerslave catalogs every major facet of the band's personality during the Dickinson years, and does so while firing on all cylinders. Perhaps that's in part because Powerslave is the first Maiden album to feature the same lineup as its predecessor, creating a definite continuity and comfort level. Or perhaps it's simply that we're witnessing a great band in its creative prime. Whatever the case, it's entirely arguable that Powerslave summarizes why Iron Maiden was so important and influential even more effectively than The Number of the Beast, at least on a purely musical level. It may not be quite as accessible, but it's every bit as classic and essential.

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Iron Maiden - No Prayer For The Dying (1990)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1990 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
With their first album of the '90s, Iron Maiden wanted to return to basics. Comparable to their more straightforward early work, No Prayer for the Dying quickly shot up the charts all over the world, but it was clear that the songwriting wasn't up to snuff when compared to such classics as Killers or Number of the Beast. The album also signaled the debut of new guitarist Janick Gers, best known for his stint in Ian Gillan's solo band and on Bruce Dickinson's solo album, Tattooed Millionaire. Featuring a pair of U.K. hit singles -- the anti-televangelist diatribe "Holy Smoke" and Maiden's lone number one, the controversial "Bring Your Daughter...to the Slaughter" (which was banned by the BBC) -- plus another that should have been issued as a single (the opener, "Tailgunner"), No Prayer as a whole doesn't measure up to the hits. The title track contains an opening too reminiscent of their 1988 single "Infinite Dreams," while other tracks such as "Fates Warning," "Run Silent Run Deep," and "Hooks in You" never catch fire. And even though the epic closer "Mother Russia," "Public Enema Number One," and "Fates Warning" are standouts, they just don't hold up well when compared to past classics. While Maiden retained their solid following elsewhere in the world, No Prayer for the Dying would prove to be their last gold-certified album in the U.S.

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Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden (1980) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1980-1988 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
There may be no better place to hear how both punk and prog rock informed the New Wave of British Heavy Metal than Iron Maiden's self-titled debut. Often overlooked and overshadowed by the glorious Bruce Dickinson years, it's easy to forget that Iron Maiden was itself a game-changer when it appeared on the scene in 1980. That year also saw important albums from Motörhead, Saxon, and Angel Witch, but Iron Maiden vaulted its creators to the head of the NWOBHM pack, reaching the U.K. Top Five and establishing them as an outfit with the talent to build on Judas Priest's late-'70s innovations. On the one hand, Maiden was clearly drawing from elements of punk rock -- the raw D.I.Y. production, the revved-up velocities, and the vocals of rough-and-ready growler Paul Di'Anno, who looked and sounded not like a metal god, but rather a short-haired street tough. On the other hand, Maiden had all the creative ambition of a prog rock band. Compositionally, even their shortest and most straightforward songs featured abrupt changes in tempo and feel. Their musicianship was already light years beyond punk, with complicated instrumental passages between guitarists Dave Murray and Dennis Stratton and bassist Steve Harris. When Murray and Stratton harmonize their leads, they outdo even Priest's legendary tandem in terms of pure speed. The lyrics have similarly high-flying aspirations, spinning first-person stories and character sketches with a flair for the seedy and the grotesque. Add it all up, and Iron Maiden performs the neat trick of reconciling two genres seemingly antithetical to one another, using post-Priest heavy metal as the meeting ground. The seven-minute "Phantom of the Opera" is a landmark, the band's earliest progressive epic and still among its best; with its ambitious fusion of musical styles, its multi-sectioned construction, and the literary retelling of the lyrics, it seemed to encapsulate all the promise of both the band and the NWOBHM. Two of the simpler, punkier rockers, "Running Free" and "Sanctuary" (the latter left off the U.K. version but added to subsequent reissues), made the lower reaches of the British singles charts. The flasher tale "Prowler," one of the band's more enduring numbers, is in the same vein, but ups the instrumental complexity, while the title track still remains a concert staple. Elsewhere, the band offers the first of many instrumentals with "Transylvania," introduces the recurring title character of "Charlotte the Harlot," and reimagines Judas Priest's "Beyond the Realms of Death" with the "ballad" "Remember Tomorrow," which starts out soft but closes with a speed-freak guitar section. Perhaps the only hint of a misstep comes on the more restrained ballad "Strange World," the only song from this album that was never re-recorded in a live or alternate version by the Dickinson lineup. Nonetheless, the whole project explodes with energy and ideas, and while the band would certainly go on to refine much of what's here (including the cover painting of mascot Eddie), Iron Maiden would still rank as a landmark even if the Dickinson years had never happened.

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Iron Maiden - Brave New World (2000)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2000 EMI Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
The return of Iron Maiden's "classic" Dickinson/Harris/Murray/Smith/McBrain lineup (plus third guitarist Janick Gers) in 1999 led to an incredibly successful world tour that saw the New Wave of British Heavy Metal legends commanding stages with the same unmitigated power and authority as they had during their mid-'80s heyday. But the question remained as to whether the reconstituted group would be able to carry this momentum into a studio setting and recapture the songwriting chops of its glory years. This question made Brave New World one of the most highly anticipated metal releases of 2000, and thankfully, the eventual answer to that question was a resounding "YES!" In fact, the album pretty much picked up right where the "classic" lineup had left off on 1988's Seventh Son of a Seventh Son: with a faithful rediscovery of Iron Maiden's best-loved sonic aesthetic and compositional quirks, updated only insofar as was necessary to measure up to new-millennium recording standards. In every other respect (and much like Seventh Son of a Seventh Son), Brave New World's meticulously orchestrated three-guitar attack still allowed for a greater sense of space than early Maiden albums (as well as the use of subtle keyboard textures in a supporting role), while boasting a beefier, in-your-face mix à la Piece of Mind or Powerslave. The remarkable pipes of singer Bruce Dickinson actually seemed to have benefited from a less grueling touring schedule over the previous decade, and his renewed songwriting partnership with bassist Steve Harris (and other assorted bandmembers) yielded several new Maiden live standards such as punchy first single, "The Wicker Man," and the positively anthemic title track. Also worthy of special mention were Harris' emotional solo copyright, "Blood Brothers," Adrian Smith's distinctive solo licks throughout "The Fallen Angel," and six-string stalwart Dave Murray's Arabian-flavored contributions to "The Nomad." These highlights notwithstanding, a more lucid appraisal revealed that Brave New World was no Number of the Beast, once the initial euphoria died down. But as comeback albums go, its excellence was undeniable, and announced not only Iron Maiden's triumphant return, but an important turning point in heavy metal's long, arduous climb back to respectability after years of critical abuse.

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Iron Maiden - The Number of The Beast (1982) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1982 Capitol Records
Allmusic Review by Steve Huey
Routinely ranked among the greatest heavy metal albums of all time, The Number of the Beast is the birth of Iron Maiden as we know it, a relentless metal machine lifted to soaring new heights by the arrival of erstwhile Samson frontman Bruce Dickinson. Dickinson's operatic performance here made him an instant metal icon, challenging even Rob Halford for bragging rights, and helped launch the band into the stratosphere. The Number of the Beast topped the charts in the U.K., but even more crucially -- with Judas Priest having moved into more commercial territory -- it also made Iron Maiden the band of choice for purists who wanted their metal uncompromised. Maiden took the basic blueprint Priest had created in the late '70s -- aggressive tempos, twin-guitar interplay, wide-ranging power vocals -- and cranked everything up faster and louder. The album's intensity never lets up, the musical technique is peerless for its time, and there isn't a truly unmemorable song in the bunch. Blessed with a singer who could drive home a melody in grandiose fashion, Steve Harris' writing gets more ambitious, largely abandoning the street violence of old in favor of fittingly epic themes drawn from history, science fiction, and horror. The exceptions are "22 Acacia Avenue," a sequel to "Charlotte the Harlot" that sounds written for Di'Anno's range, and the street-crime tale "Gangland," which Harris didn't write; though the punk influences largely left with Di'Anno, these two definitely recall the Maiden of old. As for the new, two of the band's (and, for that matter, heavy metal's) all-time signature songs are here. The anthemic "Run to the Hills" dramatized the conquest of the Native Americans and became the band's first Top Ten U.K. single. It features Maiden's trademark galloping rhythm, which in this case serves to underscore the images of warriors on horseback. Meanwhile, the title track's odd-meter time signature keeps the listener just slightly off balance and unsettled, leading into the most blood-curdling Dickinson scream on record; the lyrics, based on nothing more than Harris' nightmare after watching a horror movie, naturally provoked hysterical accusations of Satan worship (which, in turn, naturally provoked sales). "Hallowed Be Thy Name" is perhaps the most celebrated of the band's extended epics; it's the tale of a prisoner about to be hanged, featuring some of Harris' most philosophical lyrics. It opens with a superbly doomy atmosphere before giving way to a succession of memorable instrumental lines and an impassioned performance by Dickinson; despite all the tempo changes, the transitions never feel jarring. Elsewhere, "The Prisoner" is a catchy retelling of the hit British TV series, and "Children of the Damned" is a slower, heavier number patterned after the downtempo moments of Dio-era Black Sabbath. CD remasters integrate "Total Eclipse," first released as the B-side of "Run to the Hills," into the running order. Though some moments on The Number of the Beast are clearly stronger than others, the album as a whole represented a high-water mark for heavy metal, striking a balance between accessible melodicism and challenging technique and intensity. Everything fell into place for Iron Maiden here at exactly the right time, and the result certainly ranks among the top five most essential heavy metal albums ever recorded. A cornerstone of the genre.

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Iron Maiden - Fear of The Dark (1992)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1992 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Greg Prato
While 1992's Fear of the Dark was definitely more of a return to form for Iron Maiden, it still wasn't quite on par with their exceptional work from the '80s. Easily an improvement over 1990's lackluster No Prayer for the Dying (both musically and sonically), the album debuted on the U.K. charts at number one. The opening "Be Quick or Be Dead" proved Maiden could easily hold their own with younger thrash metal bands, "From Here to Eternity" contained lyrics that seem better fitted for Mötley Crüe, while the expected epic album-closing title track would become a concert staple (all three tracks were released as U.K. singles). While Maiden records of the past would contain an album's worth of first-rate material, Fear of the Dark is again weighed down with too many drab compositions -- "Childhood's End," "Chains of Misery," "Judas Be My Guide," and more. The serene "Wasting Love" proves to be one of Maiden's better ballads of the '90s, while the rockers "Fear Is the Key" and "Afraid to Shoot Strangers" are also standouts. Fear of the Dark would be singer Bruce Dickinson's final studio album with the band (until their late-'90s reunion), as he publicly voiced that he felt the band had run its course.

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Iron Maiden - Somewhere In Time (1986)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1986 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
The weakest album from Iron Maiden's classic ‘80s period, Somewhere in Time is really the first true disappointment in their catalog, too often collapsing under the weight of their now-trademark ambition. Though it sold well on the heels of the hugely successful Powerslave tour, and is often regarded as underrated by Maiden devotees, it clearly finds the band struggling to refresh what was rapidly hardening into formula. Trying to keep up with the times, Maiden incorporate synthesizers here, much as Judas Priest attempted to do on the same year's sterilized-sounding creative flop Turbo; the main difference here is that Maiden pull it off much more effectively. Yes, the production does have more of that typically ‘80s studio sheen, but Maiden makes the new instrumentation serve their existing sound, rather than trying to hop on contemporary trends. (And really, why make the sound more commercial when you're already amassing a small fortune from merchandising?) Their ferocity hasn't gone anywhere either, as this ends up their fastest album (on average) since The Number of the Beast. The real problem here is that the material is less inspired; too often Somewhere in Time feels like epic-Maiden-by-numbers, as fewer of the extended pieces truly catch hold. The first half of the album actually works very well -- "Caught Somewhere in Time" is an effective opener, introducing the newly futuristic flavor in the band's sound while offering a thematic parallel about time travel. Adrian Smith really comes into his own as a writer here, penning both of the album's singles ("Wasted Years," the undisputed highlight here, and "Stranger in a Strange Land," surprisingly not based on Robert A. Heinlein's sci-fi classic), plus the nicely metallic "Sea of Madness." Though it perhaps could have been trimmed a bit, "Heaven Can Wait" remained a concert singalong staple for years to come. But then the misfires take over. "The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner" is far and away the least suitable subject for an extended epic that the band has ever undertaken, and the music itself offers little catharsis. Despite the wailing chorus, "Déjà Vu" never quite gels, feeling a bit underdeveloped musically. The now-expected prog-metal album closer this time is "Alexander the Great," and this part of the Maiden formula here verges on self-parody. Steve Harris' lyrics largely stick to a recitation of facts, names, and places that add little drama to the music, and Dickinson is stuck belting out a lazy, totally on-the-nose chorus ("Aaaaaaalexander the Greaaaaaat!"). Somewhere in Time will appeal more to the metal diehard who's already suspicious of too much overt melody; there's plenty of progressive complexity here to impress that type of listener. For the rest of us, even though fully half of the album is still excellent, Somewhere in Time is the first Maiden record that's less than godlike. 

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Iron Maiden - The X Factor (1995)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1995 CMC Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Suffering from a lack of powerful riffs and tightly written songs, The X Factor is a lackluster latter-day album from Iron Maiden. Although the band doesn't sound particularly bad on the record, they don't sound inspired and there's a noticeable lack of energy to the performances which makes the lack of imagination all the more apparent. There's a few cuts that almost deliver the goods, but it's not enough to raise The X Factor above the merely adequate.

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October 26, 2016

Iron Maiden - Virtual XI (1998)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1998 CMC International/BMG Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
CMC International did provide a needed service by allowing metal bands past their prime an opportunity to release records. Most of these bands sold records, but in considerably smaller numbers than they did at the height of their career. For fans and the bands alike, CMC International's very presence was welcome, since it was likely that these bands -- including Iron Maiden -- wouldn't have had a chance to record otherwise. Unfortunately, that didn't necessarily mean that the bands needed to be recorded at this time. Take, for instance, Iron Maiden. After touring for over 20 years, the band had perfected their style, but all the surprise had been stripped from their sound. Furthermore, charismatic lead vocalist Bruce Dickinson had been replaced by Blaze Bayley, a competent but faceless vocalist, which only emphasized the fact that a band that defined a genre had become generic themselves. Nowhere is that more apparent than on Virtual XI, their second album for CMC. On the surface, there's nothing terribly wrong with the record, as it delivers all the crunching riffs and demonic horror of their best records. The problem is that there's nothing memorable about the hooks, riffs, or songs, and there's little visceral energy to the music or production. As a result, it sounds lifeless to all but the most devoted fan. And even those fans, pleased as they may be to have a new Maiden album, will admit that the group sounds tired.

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Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988) ☠

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1988 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is the last great Iron Maiden album, reconnecting with the band's prog rock roots and reversing the signs of decline that had been evident on their previous record. By this point, Maiden had earned the respect of metalheads the world over with their steadfast adherence to unadulterated metal and their grandiose aesthetic. They'd made concessions neither to pop-metal nor to thrash, and their passionate fan base would never have tolerated a radical reinvention. But what do you do when your epic ambition itself has become a formula? You go even bigger and make a concept album, of course, and that's what Maiden does here, breaking out of the creative rut they'd fallen into on Somewhere in Time. The concept is based on the European folklore which held that the seventh son of a seventh son would be born with special powers that could be used for good or evil (and probably also in part by fantasy author Orson Scott Card, who'd touched on this idea in his own work). As such, the lyrics are Maiden at their most gothic, obsessed with supernatural mysticism of all stripes; the story line concerns the title character, born with a gift for prophecy but mistrusted by his village, which ignores his warnings of apocalyptic doom and makes him a tormented Cassandra figure. Musically, this is Maiden at their proggiest, with abrupt, stop-on-a-dime transitions between riffs, tempos, time signatures, and song sections. Yet nearly every song has a memorable chorus, with only "The Prophecy" falling short in that department. They've also switched from the guitar synths of Somewhere in Time to full-fledged keyboards, which are used here more to add atmosphere rather than taking center stage; this restores the crunch that was sometimes lacking in the shinier production of the previous album. No less than four of this album's eight songs reached the British Top Ten in some version (concert standard "Can I Play with Madness," "The Evil That Men Do," "The Clairvoyant," and "Infinite Dreams"), while the album became the band's first U.K. chart-topper since The Number of the Beast. The title track is this album's extended epic (though the songs are longer in general), and it's moved out of the closing spot in yet another subtle statement about shaking things up. If Seventh Son doesn't epitomize their sound or define an era the way the first three Dickinson albums did, it nonetheless ranks among their best work. Adrian Smith left the band after this record, closing the book on Maiden's classic period and heralding a dire -- and distressingly immediate -- creative decline.

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Iron Maiden - Dance of Death (2003)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2003 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by James Christopher Monger
Drummer Nicko McBrain kicks off Iron Maiden's 13th studio record with an uncharacteristic one-two-three-four before launching into the rousing opener, "Wildest Dreams." This bar-band sensibility permeates Dance of Death's first three refreshing yet unremarkable tracks before shifting into the more familiar fantasy rock of previous releases. That shift begins with the remarkable "Montsegur," a brutal, melodic assault that recalls the group's glory days and showcases lead singer Bruce Dickinson at his venom-spitting best. The anthemic "New Frontier" is a musical sibling to the band's 1982 classic "Number of the Beast" and eclipses any doubt about the band's ability to keep up with the phantom specter of age. Despite the dark imagery and the ferocity of the performances, there's a looseness to the record that conveys a surreal sense of fun. They enjoy playing together, and that more than anything shines through on old-fashioned rockers like "No More Lies" and "Gates of Tomorrow." No Iron Maiden album would be complete without a Dungeons and Dragons-style epic, and they deliver on the hammy title track and the lush closer, "Journeyman." The group's innate ability to consistently cater to its fans' stubborn tastes, while maintaining a level of integrity that other veteran bands displace with unintentional Spinal Tap zeal, is a testament to its talent and experience. While the keyboard-heavy sound of their previous release, the excellent Brave New World, creeps into some of the more indulgent tracks, Dance of Death is a triumphant return to form for these heavy metal legends.

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Helloween - Pink Bubbles Go Ape (1991)

Country: Germany
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 1991 Sanctuary Records Inc.
AllMusic Review by Jason Anderson
Helloween experienced a brief period of decline in the early '90s, and it's hard to imagine that Pink Bubbles Go Ape impressed enough fans to not be a major contributing factor to this situation. With some truly bizarre titles and lyrical themes and mostly by-the-numbers operatic '80s metal, this 1991 release stands as one of the group's worst offerings. With a lineup that included vocalist Michael Kiske, drummer Ingo Schwichtenberg, guitarists Roland Grapow and Michael Weikath, and bassist Markus Grosskopf, Helloween seemed to be treading water on this unspirited disc. Low points include the goofy title track and "Heavy Metal Hamsters," which is as pointlessly plodding as its title is laughable. Kiske puts in strong performances throughout, and his bandmates do a professional job riffing and grinding away, but the tired, prosaic lyrics and songwriting box the band into seriously limited musical confines. Helloween did create some surprisingly energized and focused music during the band's '80s heyday and later in the '90s when the group became the standard-bearer for old-school power metal, but this record should be avoided by listeners with only a casual interest in the band.

Helloween - Keeper of The Seven Keys: Part II (1988)

Country: Germany
Genre: Power Metal
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© 1988 RCA/Noise International
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Having established an immensely influential blueprint with Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 1, Helloween released the obviously titled follow-up, Keeper of the Seven Keys, Pt. 2, a year later. But it seemed that Helloween's heretofore leader, guitarist Kai Hansen, had lost interest in his own band, and the result was a terribly inconsistent album. Except for the excellent "I Want Out," his few song contributions reek of indifference, leaving vocalist Michael Kiske and second guitarist Michael Weikath to try and pick up the slack -- with mixed results. Weikath gets it right on the catchy and humorous "Dr. Stein," but his attempt to replicate Hansen's epic songwriting on the 13-plus-minute title track collapses from early promise into a complete mess of embarrassing proportions. Still, the album sold well, delaying the problems looming on the horizon. Hansen would confirm his apathy by quitting soon after to form Gamma Ray, and though Helloween continue to record, they have never recovered from his departure.

October 24, 2016

AC/DC - For Those About To Rock (We Salute You) (1981)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1981 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
AC/DC's hot streak began to draw to a close with For Those About to Rock We Salute You. While Back in Black was infused with the energy and spirit of paying tribute to Bon Scott, it became apparent on the follow-up that the group really did miss Scott more than it initially indicated. Brian Johnson's lyrics started to seem more calculated and a bit clichéd, lacking Scott's devil-may-care sense of humor. And the band itself slowed down the tempo frequently, sounding less aggressive and inspired. There is still some decent material here -- the title track, for example, which became a concert staple with cannon-firing sound effects.

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AC/DC - Let There Be Rock (1977)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1977-1987 ATCO Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Let There Be Rock, the fourth AC/DC album -- and first to see simultaneous international release -- is as lean and mean as the original lineup ever got. Shaved down to the bone -- there are only eight tracks, giving this a lethal efficiency even with a couple of meandering jams -- this is a high-voltage, brutal record, filled with "Bad Boy Boogie." It has a bit of a bluesier edge than other AC/DC records, but this is truly the sound of the band reaching its peak. There's the near majesty of "Let There Be Rock," there's Bon Scott acknowledging with a wink that "Hell Ain't a Bad Place to Be," and then there's the monumental "Whole Lotta Rosie." Which gets down to a key thing about AC/DC. If Led Zeppelin were celebrating a "Whole Lotta Love," AC/DC got down to the grimy details in their leering tribute to the joys of sex with a plus-sized woman. And that's AC/DC's allure in a nutshell -- it's sweaty, dirty, nasty rock, music that is played to the last call and beyond, and they've rarely done that kind of rock better than they did here.

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AC/DC - Powerage (1978)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock
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© 1978-1987 Atlantic Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Powerage was a first in the sense that it debuted bassist Cliff Williams, but it really is more of a final curtain to the band's early years. It would be the last produced by Vanda & Young, the legendary Australian production team who also helmed hits by the Easybeats, and it was the last before AC/DC became superstars. As such, it's perhaps the most overlooked of their '70s records, also because, frankly, it is the most uneven of them. Not that it's a bad record -- far from it, actually. There are a few genuine classics here, most notably "Down Payment Blues" and "Up to My Neck in You," and there's a real appeal in how Bon Scott's gutter poems of excess are reaching a mythic level; there's a real sense that he truly does believe that rock & roll leads straight to hell on "Rock 'n' Roll Damnation." But overall, the record is just a bit too wobbly, one where the parts don't add up to a record as hard and addictive as before -- but there's still plenty worth hearing here.

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Violadores Del Verso - Vicios Y Virtudes (2001)

Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (Castellano)
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2001 BOA Recordings
* No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: doble v, vicios y virudes, 2001, flac, violadores del verso,

October 23, 2016

Violadores Del Verso - Genios (1999)

Country: Spain
Language: Spanish (Castellano)
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1999 Avoid Records
* No professional reviews available for this release.

tags: doble v, violadores del verso, genios, 1999, flac,

Cypress Hill - Till Death Do Us Part (2004)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2004 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Andy Kellman
B Real: "Throw it on the wall/See if it sticks/If it don't work/Take another hit." Sen Dog: "Take another hit!" Those are not quotes. However, if Cypress Hill were to take the lead from every other MC who has declared honesty to be the only policy, the group might've included lines like that somewhere near the beginning of their eighth album. More restless than ever, fleeting flirtations with Jamaican music of most stripes -- dancehall, dub, and ska included -- are handled clumsily. The results are as mixed as the approaches. The most problematic moment of all is the missed opportunity that is "What's Your Number?," where Rancid's Tim Armstrong is drafted in to help replicate the dubby lope of the Clash's "Guns of Brixton"; though it would've been more fitting to hear B Real spit another grimy rhyme in this setting, he chooses instead to spin a tale of picking up a woman. The highlights all take place when the group sticks to what it does best, though the pro-weed moments keep on getting increasingly dire. The Alchemist-produced and Tego Calderón-assisted "Latin Thugs" is one example of the group retaining its strengths, since it's full of fire and swagger. All points aside, the album is strictly for the devout fan base.

tags: cypress hill, til death do us part, 2004, flac,

U.D.O. - Man & Machine (2002)

Country: Germany
Language: English
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2002 SPV/Breaker Records
AllMusic Review by Gary Hill
U.D.O. is the first name of the lead singer of this outfit. Udo Dirkschneider is best known for his work with the metal band Accept and presents here a solo album featuring a band composed of himself, Igor Gianola, Stefan Kaufman, Fitty Weinhold, and Lorenzo Milani. The album certainly rocks out with the best of them and showcases Dirkschneider's unique vocal style. That vocal style is part of the problem with the album, though, as it really can take some getting used to. The other shortcoming here is that the band seems not to do such a good job on mellower material. They should stick to the harder-edged songs. Interestingly enough, when the group chooses to rock out, which is most of the time, the style is often far more in the vein of '80s Judas Priest than Accept. On that mellower side, there is one true ballad, a duet between Dirkschneider and Doro Pesch (of Warlock). That cut, "Dancing With an Angel," has its moments, but definitely gets a bit overblown.

tags: udo, u.d.o., man and machine, 2002, flac,

October 22, 2016

Ja Rule - Pain Is Love (2001)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Pop Rap
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© 2001 Def Jam/Murder Inc.
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
The few rap-R&B hybrids on Rule 3:36 (2000) paid off large dividends by the time of Ja Rule's next album, Pain Is Love. A day didn't pass between the release of the two albums when Ja Rule's voice couldn't be heard on urban radio, and at the time of Pain Is Love's release in October 2001, he had not one but two singles getting nonstop airplay: "Livin' It Up" and "I'm Real," the latter a Jennifer Lopez song featuring him as a guest rapper. It should be no surprise then to discover that Pain Is Love follows the same formula that had made Rule 3:36 such a commercial success: craft some radio-friendly crossover singles, often featuring pretty young female R&B singers as romantic counterpoints, and then fill out the album with hardcore rap, often featuring Murder Inc.'s roster of secondary rappers, to sustain Ja Rule's thug reputation. Actually, this formula is fine-tuned on Pain Is Love to account for some exceptions -- for instance, the lead single, "Livin' It Up," interpolates Stevie Wonder's "Do I Do" for its crossover-R&B aspect, while the title track recycles an old, generally unheard 2Pac verse to great effect -- and a significantly more balanced album is the result. Plus, there's enough strong material here to encourage full-album listening, as the crossover singles no longer stand out apart from the hardcore rap filler to the degree that they did on Rule 3:36.

October 21, 2016

Alice In Chains - Alice In Chains (1995)

Country: U.S.A
Genre: Grunge
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© 1995 Columbia Records
AllMusic Review by Steve Huey
Dispelling rumors of their demise due to Layne Staley's heroin addiction, Alice in Chains is a sonically detailed effort that ranks as their best-produced record, and its best moments are easily some of their most mature music. Alice in Chains relies less on metallic riffs and more on melody and texturally varied arrangements than the group's previous full-length albums, finally integrating some of the more delicate acoustic moods of their EPs. The lyrics deal with familiar AIC subject matter -- despair, misery, loneliness, and disappointment -- but in a more understated fashion, and the lyrics take on more uplifting qualities of toughness and endurance, which were missing from much of their previous work. The consistent visceral impact Alice in Chains lacks in comparison to that previous work is partially made up for by the skilled production and songs like "Grind," "Brush Away," "Over Now," and the hit ballad "Heaven Beside You," which are among the band's best work. Still, in spite of its many virtues, it's hard not to feel a little frustrated with the record, as though, given those qualities, it should have turned out better than it did -- there are some slow spots where the songs are undercrafted and not especially memorable, and those moments can make the band sound uncommitted and distracted. That, in turn, can make the defiance of songs like "Grind" ("you'd be well advised/not to plan my funeral 'fore the body dies") sound more like denial; just when Alice in Chains' music was finally beginning to emerge from the dark side, the intra-band problems became too much to bear and made Alice in Chains the last collection of new material the Staley-fronted AIC would release.

tags: alice in chains, alice in chains album, 1995, flac,