March 31, 2018

Witchcraft - Legend (Limited Edition) (2012)

*Limited edition digipack release. Contains 1 bonus track. 10 tracks total. A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: Sweden
Language: English
Genre: Hard Rock, Doom Metal
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© 2012 Nuclear Blast Records
AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia
Witchcraft's career appeared to be running on empty following the release of third album The Alchemist which, though graced with several memorable songs, once again failed to improve upon or evolve in any way beyond the Swedish group's watershed debut -- one of a handful of 21st century LPs responsible for renewing younger listeners' curiosity about heavy metal's primal '70s aesthetic. No breakup was ever officially announced but bandmembers quietly dispersed to the four winds: some duly resurfaced in a new band named Troubled Horse and there was talk of a pending solo album from Witchcraft leader Magnus Pelander, but this turned into a 2010 EP, and then, following two more years of suspenseful uncertainty, there came concrete news at last that his former band would indeed rise again. When it did, via 2012's portentously named Legend, Pelander and returning bassist Ola Henriksson were supported by new drummer Oscar Johansson and not one but two guitarists in Simon Solomon and Tom Jondelius, whose fluid musical interplay wound up driving and defining a relatively fresh creative direction for the reconstituted band. Gone, for the most part, is Witchcraft's penchant for hazy, drug-fueled sloth and demo-like production values (both of these attributes motivated by Pelander's original fixation on Pentagram), replaced by a brasher, more focused, latter-day doom and stoner rock attack redolent of Spirit Caravan, Sasquatch, or Sahg. Right off the bat, opening number "Deconstruction" may have best been named "reconstruction" in order to properly reflect the fuller, more urgent hard rock sound adopted by Witchcraft Mk II -- as well as the constantly shifting twin guitar riffs that effectively make it three songs in one. Later on, "Ghosts House" crescendos behind rousing, fleet-fingered melodies, "Dystopia" simply blends them with minor chords to chilling effect, and when "An Alternative to Freedom" introduces slides and a Southern rock soul to the party, eyebrows really start to arch (becoming one massive unibrow of wonder by the time the multi-faceted, 12-minute odyssey, "Dead End," has its say -- woooaaaahhhhh.) On the downside, though, Pelander's lyrics can still sound vague, confusing, or even downright silly at times (e.g. "It's Not Because of You," "Democracy"), and here's where the band's newly bombastic approach can help cover up a few blemishes while keeping the listener's pulse pumping like never before. No, Legend is obviously not perfect (never mind "legendary"), but there's nevertheless plenty of mesmerizing songcraft matched with these evolutionary nuances to inaugurate the second phase of Witchcraft's career with great promise. After all, the old band was never really broken so much as stagnant, and with that in mind, Legend feels exactly like the self-inflicted kick in the butt needed to set things to rights.

tags: witchcraft, legend, limited edition, 2012, flac,

Orgy - Candyass (1998)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Industrial Music, Industrial Rock
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© 1998 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
It was only a matter of time before someone added obvious hooks and electronic smarts to the post-industrial roar of alt-metal. That's exactly what Orgy does on its debut album, Candyass. It's hard to call this stuff industrial, since its sensibilities are directly out of metal -- hard-hitting riffs, big hooks, and tight songwriting -- but since Orgy is living in the electronica age, everything is given a computerized surface, complete with processed guitars and thundering digital bits. It's a now sound, no two ways about -- it's of the moment, totally 1998, and that's why it's hard to actually judge its merits. Candyass has the intoxicating rush of a new sound, but it's hard not to feel like all of its pleasures are on the surface. Still, you take pleasures where you can get them, and Orgy offers more than expected on this promising debut.

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Orgy - Vapor Transmission (2000)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Industrial Music, Industrial Rock
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© 2000 Reprise Records
AllMusic Review by Don Kline
In 1998, Orgy made an impressive entrance with their cover of New Order's "Blue Monday." Their follow-up single, "Stitches," was enough of a hit to give them the push they needed to remain mainstays on radio and MTV. With their second album Vapor Transmission, they return to deliver another set of electronic-laden rockers, but this time out they do so with slicker production and improved songwriting. Although proving to not be an album of innovation, what the sci-fi tinged Vapor Transmission does accomplish is showcasing more of the "pop" in Orgy's self-labeled "death pop" music by mixing an energetic blend of soaring singalong choruses, catchy hooks, layered guitars, and polished production techniques. Their signature guitar-synth drones are still present in the majority of the tracks, but this time out they share the limelight with Jay Gordon's improved vocal stylings and Ryan Shuck's more ambitious guitar work. Rather than repeating themselves or simply pairing heavy riffs with electro filler, there is a better sense of melody throughout Vapor's 13 tracks. One of the best examples of this is on "Opticon," a track with one of the most memorable choruses the band has delivered. Orgy has also raised the intensity level here. Mixing tones of Marilyn Manson, Gravity Kills, and even mentors Korn, they seem to be more comfortable experimenting with different dynamics, balancing delicate verses with thundering choruses, most notably on "Eva" and the album's first single, "Fiction (Dreams in Digital)." Although Vapor Transmission doesn't venture far from its roots in alt-metal and industrial rock, it is a worthy follow-up to 1998's Candyass and establishes Orgy as more than just a flash in the pan. [The initial shipment of albums sent out to stores contains a hidden track, located at 6:11 of track 13.]

tags: orgy, vapor transmission, 2000, flac,

Orgy - Punk Statik Paranoia (2004)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Industrial Rock
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© 2004 D1 Music
AllMusic Review by John D. Luerssen
Best known for its hardened take on New Order's "Blue Monday," L.A.-based industrial rock act Orgy has been trying to trump Candyass since 1998. And although the band has had little success with subsequent efforts like 2000's inferior Vapor Transmission, the downward spiral continues on Punk Statik Paranoia. Tunes like "The Obvious" and "Vague" are as close as the Jay Gordon-fronted outfit comes to appealing, with a few hooks buried beneath all of the electronic metal posturing and inane lyrics. But by downplaying the synths that first made the group stand out from the original wave of nu-metal stylists, hard and brooding contributions like "Inside My Head" and "Leave Me Out" overrun the disc, making it largely redundant and regularly boring.

tags: orgy, punk, statik paranoia, 2004, flac,

Biz Markie - The Biz Never Sleeps (1996 Reissue)

*Reissued in 1996 by Cold Chillin'/Warner Bros. Records. Contains 12 tracks.

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1989-1996 Cold Chillin'/Warner Bros. Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
On the cover to The Biz Never Sleeps, Biz Markie's in the lab with his chemistry set, cooking up a concoction of colorful liquids that's bound to explode sooner or later. Inside, however, the music wasn't quite as dynamic; Markie decided to produce and write this record entirely by himself, instead of relying on help from Cold Chillin' beatmaster Marley Marl (who'd produced his excellent debut). The results veered dangerously close to the standard indulgent sophomore album, though Markie's natural charm and a blockbuster hit ended up carrying the proceedings. It certainly didn't start out very well, the opener being a long-winded "Dedications" that was little more than the title indicated, and "The Dragon," a one-joke track about odd smells. Rap fans with a sense of humor, however, were willing to forgive nearly anything after hearing "Just a Friend," the result of an intriguing story-rap interspersed with a bizarre bout of crooning that, once again, ably demonstrated how far Biz's charm could take him (in this case, all the way to the Top Ten). "Spring Again" and "I Hear Music" were yet more loopy productions with a universal theme, while Markie even sounded intoxicating while freestyling about a nonexistent dance over a simple loop ("Mudd Foot"). It was obvious the (teenage) lunatics had been released from the asylum; the wonders of visual technology allowed the Biz and T.J. Swan to have their thank-you lists superimposed, inside the credits, on their bared boxer shorts.

tags: bis markie, the biz never sleeps, 1989, reissue, flac,

Biz Markie - Weekend Warrior (2003)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2003 Tommy Boy/Biz Mont Entertainment
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Biz Markie opens Weekend Warrior, his first LP in a decade, with a 30-second freestyle (over acoustic guitar) that's as disarming and hilarious as the ones he batted out of the park when allowed a bit of space on Beastie Boys records of the '90s. Unfortunately, it's one of the few bright spots on a record that illustrates the fact that although the Biz may be surprisingly talented with an off-the-cuff rhyme, he doesn't improve when given more time to think. The rhymes on Weekend Warrior are, simply put, inane. No other rapper with a name as celebrated as Markie's has ever put out a record with so many wack rhymes and arhythmic flow; to quote just one -- and not the worst, at that -- "I flip so many styles, my name should be Flipper /On Three's Company, I wish I was Jack Tripper." His rhymes are usually slow, painfully slow; at least a half-step too slow, and far slower than those heard on any of his Juice Crew classics -- several of which were actually written by Big Daddy Kane. Biz does produce a few of the best tracks here, giving "Tear S**t Up" and "Do Your Thang" (featuring P. Diddy) the raw energy of classic old-school hip-hop. Elsewhere, though, his attempts at replicating a bounce track ("Let Me See U Bounce," with Elephant Man) or an R&B crossover jam ("Like a Dream") result in a parade of lukewarm clichés. Producer legend Mark the 45 King shows up for an exercise in nostalgia called "Turn Back the Hands of Time," but the old school or the Golden Age certainly never sounded this cloying (despite a few heartfelt words for those who've passed). The most embarrassing moment of all comes on "Chinese Food," an unfortunate song that begins as a simple shout-out to Biz's favorite foods, but ends with a few bars of potentially offensive nonsense language. Granted, that's a low point, but Weekend Warrior has no high points to balance everything else here -- the baffling, the bizarre, and the banal.

tags: biz markie, weekend warrior, 2003, flac,

March 30, 2018

Cinderella - Heartbreak Station (1990)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Glam Metal, Hard Rock
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© 1990 Mercury Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
After successful albums that effectively followed contemporary hard rock trends, Cinderella reached back into the Stones and Aerosmith songbooks and created a sneering, raunchy hard rock album that was artistically their finest moment, even if it didn't reach the same commercial heights as its predecessors. But the sales figures don't matter (it only sold a million copies); Heartbreak Station shows that Cinderella has more genuine rock & roll grit than most of the metal bands of the late '80s.

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Diamond D & The Psychotic Neurotics - Stunts, Blunts, & Hip-Hop (1992)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1992 Chemistry Records Ltd.
AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart
Diamond D had quietly provided some exciting production work and made strides within the rap music industry and community throughout the early '90s, but his name didn't become immediately recognizable until his classic guest appearance rapping on A Tribe Called Quest's "Show Business" ("Take it from Diamond/It's like mountain climbing/When it comes to rhyming/You gotta put your time in"), off their masterful second album, The Low End Theory. Even amid vintage verses by such lauded hip-hop company as Tribe's Q-Tip and Phife and Brand Nubian's Lord Jamar and Sadat X, something about Diamond D's forthright and rock-solid, but totally laid-back, style stood out. Hip-hop heads waiting to hear more from him were rewarded with a veritable wealth of treasures when Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop, Diamond D's debut album, was released the following year. The album instantly became -- and remains -- something of an underground masterpiece. Stunts is a hugely sprawling, amorphous thing. Nearly 70 minutes would generally seem far too long for a hip-hop album to sustain any degree of good taste, especially one that is mostly song-based and keeps the de rigueur between-song skits to a minimum. There is, in fact, a fair amount of filler here; but even that filler, after several listens, is so ingratiating that the album would seem incomplete without it, and it helps the album to actually be listenable in its entirety, as a single, long, whole statement. Part of the reason even the filler works is because the production -- most of it by Diamond D himself -- is uniformly excellent. The music he comes up with is just as steady as his rhyming. As for his simile-heavy lyrics, they can occasionally seem stilted or awkward, and aren't exactly complex, but Diamond spins a long yarn -- sometimes autobiographical, sometimes fantastical, sometimes a projected scenario -- with the best of them, although he can also delve too often into blanket boasting, and sometimes his words lack any particular direction. It's the everyone-in-the-studio ambience, though, rather than any particular standout aspect, that propels the album. Certain songs do stand out from the overall tapestry of the album: the woeful girl-gone-wrong tale "Sally Got a One Track Mind"; "*!*! What U Heard," with its bouncy bassline; the insistent "Red Light, Green Light"; the Jazzy Jay-produced "I Went for Mine"; the loping "Check One, Two"; the groovy "Freestyle," co-produced by Large Professor; "K.I.S.S.," co-produced by Q-Tip; and the jazz-tinged "Feel the Vibe." But they make far more sense as part of the album's cycle. The most enjoyable way to listen to the album's individual parts is to also listen to the stuff that surrounds it.

tags: diamond d, stunts blunts and hip hop, 1992, diamond d and the psychotic neurotics, flac,

Eric B. - Eric B. (1995)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1995 95th Street Recordings
*No professional reviews available for this release

tags: eric b, eric b album, 1995, flac,

Showbiz & A.G. - Runaway Slave (1992)

Country: U.SA.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 1992 London/Payday Records
AllMusic Review by M.F. DiBella
A product of the tightknit Bronx underground posse D.I.T.C., Runaway Slave is a cornerstone album of hip-hop's middle school phase. Building on and borrowing from the layered, jazz-influenced sound of such contemporaries as Gang Starr and Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, Showbiz & A.G. affixed a gangster mentality to grainy, fortified beats, etching their own unique style. While the crossover "Soul Clap" and "Party Groove" are club cuts, the rest of the album is more densely expressive. Showbiz and his talented peer Diamond shape their beats around simple, deep drum tracks -- but add subtle loops of chaotic horns, loose strings, or abrupt piano notes to create concise and hard-hitting overtures. Tasteful flute swatches light up "Silence of the Lambs," an ear-ringing saxophone buzzes on "Still Diggin'," and the motor mouthed late legend Big L introduced himself on the classic down-the-line jam "Represent," pulling such punchlines as "MCs be braggin' about cash they collect/But them chumps is like Ray Charles 'cause they ain't seen no money yet." The young A.G. (aka Andre the Giant) flows effortlessly throughout this album, an MC whose skill and unique voice would only mature in the future. While some of the import of this album is muted by modern-day technological sound booth advancements, Showbiz & A.G. did it raw and undiluted and the resulting sound was fresh, innovative, and most of all satisfying for hip-hop heads.

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David Bowie - 1. Outside (1995)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Industrial Rock, Art Rock
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© 1995 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Roch Parisien
Outside bears the subtitle "The Diary of Nathan Adler or The Art-Ritual Murder of Baby Grace Blue. A Non-Linear Gothic Drama Hyper-Cycle." Alright, so it reeks of pretension. One belabors the point because Bowie at his best has always been pretentious, risque, creatively (if sometimes contrivedly) over the top. Outside marks the first in a planned series of collaborations with multi-instrumentalist, producer, and conceptualist Brian Eno based on a Bowie short story. In this end-of-millennium setting, "art-crimes" and "concept muggings" merit their own police division funded by the "Arts Protectorate of London." Echoes of the Berlin "outsider" Bowie/Eno '70s trilogy of Low, Heroes, and Lodger reverberate throughout, including a return to the "cut-and-paste" lyric-assembly method then employed, only this time fed through a Mac rather than more labor-intensive paper-and-scissors tools. The thusly fragmented "narrative" follows the investigations of Detective Professor Adler into the murder and subsequent dismembered body parts exhibition of 14-year-old runaway Baby Grace Blue. In this cut-up, composite world, each character, including Adler, Baby Grace, mixed-race youth Leon Blank, septuagenarian Algeria Touchshriek, and art-terrorist Ramona A. Stone, reflects a different aspect of Bowie himself and is therefore a component of all the previous personas Bowie has enacted over the years. The music also randomly dices and displays many of the previous album settings such personas have populated. To complete the cube, Bowie then draws on musicians that form a kind of anagram band from his past. The closest "Ziggy" link comes courtesy of pianist Mike Garson, whose icy, tinkling jazz runs evoke many a spine-tingly moment from Aladdin Sane and Diamond Dogs. Besides Garson and Eno, other names familiar to those who follow the Bowie canon include guitarists Carlos Alomar (Station to Station through Scary Monsters) and Reeves Grabels (Tin Machine), and '90s collaborators such as drummer Sterling Campbell (Black Tie White Noise) and multi-instrumentalist Erdal Kizilcay (Buddha). Diamond Dogs, inspired by George Orwell's 1984, is another obvious precursor to Outside's dissection of a post-apocalyptic, technological society in the name of Art. Bowie inflicts "in-character" spoken word segments as between-song segues, several of which evoke the Cockney campiness of such '60s period pieces as "Please Mr. Gravedigger" and "The Laughing Gnome" -- humor (intentional or not) that softens an otherwise bleak landscape. So, should you actually care about this dense, dark, difficult story and its generally unsympathetic characters? The effort required to adequately "process" Outside pays off in a richly voyeuristic experience where Bowie once again reflects fringe culture onto the mainstream and forces us to consider that the differences are not so great.

tags: david bowie, 1 outside, 1. outside, 1995, flac,

David Bowie - Hours... (1999)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Pop Rock
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© 1999 Virgin Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Since David Bowie spent the '90s jumping from style to style, it comes as a shock that Hours, his final album of the decade, is a relatively straightforward affair. Not only that, but it feels unlike anything else in his catalog. Bowie's music has always been a product of artifice, intelligence, and synthesis. Hours is a relaxed, natural departure from this method. Arriving after two labored albums, the shift in tone is quite refreshing. "Thursday's Child," the album's engaging mid-tempo opener, is a good indication of what lays ahead. It feels like classic Bowie, yet recalls no specific era of his career. For the first time, Bowie has absorbed all the disparate strands of his music, from Hunky Dory through Earthling. That doesn't mean Hours is on par with his earlier masterworks; it never attempts to be that bold. What it does mean is that it's the first album where he has accepted his past and is willing to use it as a foundation for new music. That's the reason why Hours feels open, even organic -- he's no longer self-conscious, either about living up to his past or creating a new future. It's a welcome change, and it produces some fine music, particularly on the first half of the record, which is filled with such subdued, subtly winning songs as "Something in the Air," "Survive," and "Seven." Toward the end of the album, Bowie branches into harder material, which isn't quite as successful as the first half of the album, yet shares a similar sensibility. And that's what's appealing about Hours -- it may not be one of Bowie's classics, but it's the work of a masterful musician who has begun to enjoy his craft again and isn't afraid to let things develop naturally.

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KRS-One & The Temple of Hip-Hop - Spiritual Minded (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Conscious Rap
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© 2002 Koch Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
In the late '80s he supplanted Public Enemy's Chuck D as the angriest man in hip-hop. In 2002, he released a surprisingly gospel-centric album, one that proved time had not dulled the sharp edge of KRS-One's rhymes. And the Blastmaster never does things by half-steps; Spiritual Minded isn't a gospel crossover record at all, it actually is a gospel record. Although his messages on tracks like "Come to the Temple," "Lord Live Within My Heart," and "Take It to God" are strictly uplifting and even rooted in doctrine, there's no tempering his aggressive delivery and skeletal productions. The highlight, "Take Your Tyme," features KRS-One talking directly to young women about the pitfalls of premarital sex; it's easily one of the most encouraging hip-hop tracks heard in several years. As for weaknesses, Spiritual Minded certainly doesn't have the gloss of most major-label rap albums, and occasionally the production and hooks are sacrificed for the message in the material. Still, it's intriguing to hear one of the best rappers in history turning out a gospel album; contemporary gospel, including Christian hip-hop, is actually much more artistic than most would give it credit for. Though much of his new audience may not even recognize one of the most famous names in rap history, it's likely they'll enjoy hearing this level of talent.

tags: krs one, krs-one, spiritual minded, 2002, flac,

KRS-One - Kristyles (2003)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
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© 2003 Koch/In The Paint Records
Reviewed by Allmusic.com
Presumably tired of high-profile feuds with the likes of hip-hop superstar Nelly and public excoriation of the rap scene in general, the legendary KRS-One gets back to business on KRISTYLES. When you've been around for as long as this former Boogie Down Productions member, you're able to examine the world from an effective vantage point, and that's just what KRS-One does here. Atop visceral but never over-elaborate backing, the hip-hop pioneer combines trenchant philosophical insights with street-real scenarios on tracks that both inform and inspire.

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Judas Priest - Firepower (2018)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2018 Epic Records
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek
Judas Priest's 18th studio album, FIREPOWER began under inauspicious circumstances. First, guitarist Glenn Tipton, diagnosed with Parkinson's disease a decade ago, found it necessary to retire from the road; second, they lost out to Bon Jovi for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; and finally, former drummer Dave Holland passed on before this set's issue. But the sound of FIREPOWER remains unbowed. Its undiminished power and assaultive mayhem are somewhat tempered in its slower moments by slowly unfurling rage, loss, and menace. It was begun in 2016 by Rob Halford, Tipton, and new guitarist Richie Faulkner. They chose two veteran producers to bring it home: Tom Allom, who helmed every JP album between 1979's Unleashed in the East (Live in Japan) and 1988's Ram It Down, and Andy Sneap, master producer/engineer of modern metal. He began his career in 1994 and has worked with everyone from Accept and Exodus to Megadeth, Masterplan, and Testament. He is also a formidable guitarist who is replacing Tipton on the road.
FIREPOWER is meaner and leaner than Redeemer of Souls; the songwriting is more diverse and exceptionally tight. JP recorded all together from the studio floor; overdubs were added in post-production. It creates a kinetic energy and unified sense of purpose not heard consistently since Screaming for Vengeance. The opening title track thunders with double-timed drums, a classic dual-guitar riff, and Halford's scream. He may not be able to reach glass-shattering pitches at age 67, but his midrange wail and baritone growl remain among the mightiest forces in rock. His venomous attack righteously informs this anthemic call to arms. The grooving "Lightning Strike" is led by Scott Travis' kit swinging hard over an angular guitar vamp, which erupts two-thirds of the way through with wonderfully tasty dual leads and solos. While some might wish all 14 tracks were bonecrushers, that's not Judas Priest. The midtempo "Never the Heroes" kicks off with a moody synth line and reverbed kick drums and tom-toms. It breaks down into menacing drama as Halford unfurls a hostile paean for the dead foot-soldiers of wars created by politicians and profiteers.
The knotty chug in "Necromancer" recalls the Judas Priest of yore, while "Children of the Sun" offers a riff worthy of early Black Sabbath before reentering the band's boot-stomping sphere. The structure, drama, and production on the taut "Rising from Ruins" recalls "Blood Red Skies" from Ram It Down -- especially with Ian Hill's thrumming bassline and chant-along chorus. Slower tempos prevail on "Flame Thrower" and "Spectre," but heaviness is never sacrificed. The spiky, raucous "Lone Wolf" is another groover possessing all of Judas Priest's iconic swagger and stomp. "Sea of Red" offers the other side of "Never the Heroes." An homage to the war dead, soldiers and civilians alike, it commences as a power ballad and builds into a rousing metal hymn. Closing in on their 50th anniversary, Judas Priest still possess the musical rigor, showmanship, and force that make other bands bow down. FIREPOWER smokes.

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Saxon - Thunderbolt (2018)

Country: United Kingdom
Genre: Heavy Metal
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© 2018 Silver Lining Music
Review by Chris Chantler for Louder Sound.com
Circulating their first demo in 1978, Saxon have maintained a release schedule in almost every one of the subsequent 40 years. And when was the last time they put a foot wrong? They had a slight identity crisis trying to break the US in the mid-80s, and doggedly battled sneers of irrelevance in the 90s grunge era, but since 1999’s Metalhead Biff Byford’s Barnsley institution haven’t faltered, dropping a sequence of increasingly heavy, consistently satisfying albums, progressing and maturing musically without forgetting the importance of directness and simplicity to their hard-wearing MO. Continuing the big-impact theme after 2015’s Battering Ram, Thunderbolt comes across even more gleefully like a 1950s schoolboy compendium of ripping yarns, full of joyous ditties about Greek gods, Vikings, aviation pioneers, snipers, wizards, vampires and racing cars (cue revving engine sounds). Motörhead also show up on They Played Rock And Roll, a touching, pitch-perfect homage to their old pals, Nigel Glockler channelling the spirit of Philthy-viaMikkey through his resolute hammerings. A further Lemmy-ish touch is evident on the song about roadies, Roadie’s Song (duh), although this weak closer doesn’t fare so well. Amon Amarth’s Johan Hegg guest-stars on unorthodox duet Predator, the contrast between Biff’s powerful, nut-squeezing pipes and Johan’s deathly gargle making for a quirky mismatch. Saxon have developed a knack for majestic, slow-burning epics, so Nosferatu and Sons Of Odin are brooding highlights, but on riff-driven headbangers Sniper, Speed Merchants and Thunderbolt you start wondering when these pensioners will ever run out of energy. Saxon were already about 10 years older than most of their contemporaries when NWOBHM ignited, yet somehow they continue putting out righteous neck-wreckers like Thunderbolt every couple of years.

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Various Artists - William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture (1996)

*A photo of the disc is included in the RAR file.
Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Alternative Rock, Pop, Pop Rock
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© 1996 Capitol Records
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine
Baz Luhrmann's garish, flamboyant adaptation of Romeo + Juliet was hyper-kinetic and colorful, boasting a heavy inspiration from the visual style of MTV, so it's only appropriate that the soundtrack was tailored for the alternative nation that MTV fostered. Combining modern rock acts like Garbage, Radiohead, the Cardigans, and the Butthole Surfers with contemporary soul like Des'ree and adult alternative like Gavin Friday, the album is slick, polished, catchy -- and surprisingly strong. Though the soul and pop is good, the alternative rock acts on the soundtrack fare the best, with Garbage and Radiohead both contributing excellent B-sides ("Number One Crush" and "Talk Show Host," respectively), with the Cardigans' sleek, sexy lounge-disco number "Lovefool" stealing the show.

tags: various artists, romeo and juliet the soundtrack, ost, music from the motion picture, 1996, flac, william shakespeares romeo + juliet,

Kylie Minogue - Impossible Princess (1997)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 1997 Deconstruction
AllMusic Review by Chris True
By 1997, much of the pop music landscape had changed. The music papers were declaring the "Techno Revolution" was on, Oasis and Manic Street Preachers were ruling the charts, and simple dance-pop seemed to be the domain of teenage girls. So what does the dance-pop diva of the '90s do? She recruits Manic Street Preachers' James Dean Bradfield, Sean Moore, and Nicky Wire, starts writing unaided, and completely changes musical direction. Enter Kylie Minogue's Impossible Princess (the title was changed to Kylie Minogue after the death of Princess Diana). From the trippy cover art to the abundance of guitars and experimental vocal tracks, this was her "great leap forward." The move got her in the papers, but, unfortunately, critical acclaim was lacking (and so were sales). Critics called it a mistake, and the public was less than impressed. Which is sad, because this is a pretty damn good record. Unlike her early work, this album sounds stronger and has a more natural feel. Her songwriting abilities have come a long way, and Impossible Princess actually flows together as an album. Worth another look.

tags: kylie minogue, impossible princess, 1997, flac,

Kylie Minogue - Light Years (2000) ☠

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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☠: Selected by Lass
© 2000 Parlophone Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
In 1998, Kylie Minogue was dropped by dance label DeConstruction, and some thought she had committed career suicide. Obviously the backlash of 1997's Impossible Princess taught the diminutive Aussie one important lesson. Sometimes you have to just go with what you know -- go back to basics. And that's just what Minogue has done with 2000's Light Years. Symbolically dropping her last name from the cover, she re-enters the territory that made her great. Granted, with the teen pop movement at its strongest, one could say she just has good timing, but this work is leaps and bounds better than her Stock-Aitken-Waterman work. Light Years is not just another Minogue dance-pop record, but a great collection of disco stylings and Europop kitsch. "Spinning Around" is a fun and string-laden declaration that she may have made a mistake back in 1997, and the Robbie Williams/Guy Chambers-penned "Your Disco Needs You" is probably one of the best dance songs of the '90s. Arguably one of the best disco records since the '70s, Light Years is Minogue comfortable with who she is and what she's good at.

tags: kylie minogue, light years, 2000, flac,

March 29, 2018

Kylie Minogue - Body Language (2003)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop, R&B
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© 2003 Parlophone Records
AllMusic Review by Chris True
If Light Years was the comeback, and Fever the confirmation, then Body Language can best be described as Kylie's "big step forward." Sure it's still simple dance-pop, but this time she (and a team of producers and writers -- including Kurtis Mantronik -- it must be said) has put together an album that works as a piece. It's stylish without being smarmy, retro without being ironic, and its energy never gets annoying. In other words: a near perfect pop record. Instead of opting for more of the light dance- and disco-pop of the last two releases, Kylie has sought to expand her horizons. Adding elements of electroclash, '80s synth pop, bouncy club beats -- even a dash of Eminem-style raps! -- she's found the formula that not only makes her vocal shortcomings irrelevant but gives her the edge on the rest of the divas on their newfound quest: maturity. While Madonna, Xtina, and Britney have attempted to achieve maturity through trashiness and not really all that shocking behavior (i.e., that MTV Awards kiss), Kylie maintained a low profile, retained a sense of class, and put together what may well be the best album of her career. Simply, Body Language is what happens when a dance-pop diva takes the high road and focuses on what's important instead of trying to shock herself into continued relevance.

tags: kylie minogue, body language, 2003, flac,

Kylie Minogue - Aphrodite (2010)

Country: Australia
Language: English
Genre: Pop
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© 2010 Parlophone Records
AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra
By time of Kylie Minogue’s eleventh album, 2010's Aphrodite, she had been releasing records for over 20 years. Most artists who’ve stuck around for that long end up rehashing their past catalogs and/or growing stale, but Kylie manages to avoid these fates by constantly working with new collaborators, keeping up on musical trends without pandering to them, and most importantly, never taking herself too seriously. Sure, she’s serious about making great dance music, but she never confuses her status as a pop icon with a desire to send out a message in her music. Aphrodite rarely strays past sweet love songs or happy dance anthems; its deepest message is “everything is beautiful.” You have to credit the songwriters (big names like Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters and Calvin Harris, as well as behind-the-scenes people like Sebastian Ingrosso, and Pascal Gabriel) for tailoring the efforts to Kylie’s strengths. Also on board is exec producer Stuart Price, who puts it all together, giving the record a focused sound that was lacking on her previous record, X, which touched convincingly on a myriad of styles and influences, but which ended up sounding a little scattered. Here the main sound is the kind of glittery disco pop that really is her strong suit. The various producers keep their eyes on the dancefloor throughout, crafting shiny and sleek tracks that sound custom-built to blast out of huge speaker columns. Fortunately for non-club goers, they never pave over the interesting details that make records good for home or headphone listening.
The squiggly synths of the massively catchy “All the Lovers,” the sighing background vocals and spiraling harpsichord-esque synths on the ominous "Closer," and the heavenly extended breakdown on “Looking for an Angel” are the kind of hooks that reward repeated listens. While Kylie is fortunate that so many excellent writers and producers are willing to work with her, they are lucky to be working with Kylie too; she can put over a shimmering and funky track like “Can’t Beat the Feeling” with ease, stomp through a dancefloor-filling jam like “Put Your Hands Up” with power, or cruise through a breezy summertime jam like “Better Than Today” with all kinds of laid-back charm. Sure, she’ll never be mistaken for an octave-stretching diva or a vocal powerhouse, but her slightly nasal, girl-next-door vocals serve her needs perfectly. She soars through the songs with just the right blend of emotion and restraint, adding some sass when needed (as on the thumping title track or “Get Outta My Way”) or some quiet melancholy when the mood arises (“Illusion”). This ability to tailor her performance to the song is a rare quality in the pop world of the early 2010s. It may lead people to underestimate Kylie's artistry but really, Aphrodite is the work of someone who knows exactly what her skills are and who to hire to help showcase them to perfection. She and her team have crafted an album that’s both full of songs that could/should hit the upper reaches of the charts, and also a collection of songs that hang together as an album. One of her best, in fact.

tags: kylie minogue, aphrodite, 2010. flac,

2Pac - Better Dayz (2002)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2002 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by John Bush
Though it was released on the eve of the busiest year in 2Pac's posthumous career, Better Dayz shouldn't be overlooked -- and with the schedule including a feature documentary (with soundtrack), plus two books and another double album, it might be easy for this one to slip from the radar. A lengthy two-disc set, it benefits from a raft of still-compelling material by one of the two or three best rappers in history, as well as excellent compiling by executive producers Suge Knight and Afeni Shakur, 2Pac's mother. Organizing the set roughly into one disc of hardcore rap and one of R&B jams makes for an easier listen, and the R&B disc especially has some strong tracks, opening with a remix of 1995's "My Block" and including quintessentially 2Pac material -- reflective, conflicted, occasionally anguished -- like "Never Call U B**** Again," "Better Dayz," "Fame," and "This Life I Lead." Most of the tracks are previously unreleased, the rest coming from scattered compilations like Knight's Chronic 2000: Still Smokin' or 1995's The Show soundtrack. It's 2Pac's best album since his death, and bodes well for future material by, and concerning, rap's most legendary figure.

tags: 2pac, better dayz, 2002, flac,

2Pac - Loyal To The Game (2004)

Country: U.S.A.
Genre: Hip-Hop
Style: Gangsta Rap
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© 2004 Interscope Records
AllMusic Review by Jason Birchmeier
Loyal to the Game, the ninth 2Pac album released by his enterprising mother-turned-executive producer, Afeni Shakur, is one of the more unique entries in the martyred rap legend's extensive catalog. Produced entirely by Eminem, it carries on with the approach the man otherwise known as Marshall Mathers took with his production contributions to the preceding year's Tupac: Resurrection. Eminem had produced a few songs on that soundtrack, most notably the landmark 2Pac-Biggie duet "Runnin' (Dying to Live)," and his work here on Loyal to the Game isn't too much of a departure from the style of that song. In the wake of the song's popularity, Afeni gave Eminem some old tapes, and he went to work, stripping them of their productions, giving them his own trademark backing (characterized by his style of punchy, syncopated, unfunky beatmaking), incorporating some guest raps for secondary verses, and polishing them off with various sorts of hooks. Eminem's efforts here work, yet aren't ideal. On the one hand, there's no questioning Em's integrity. He pens some reverent liner notes, explaining his position (or justifying it, depending on your viewpoint), and Afeni also pens some touching liners, likewise explaining why Eminem of all people gets the green light to produce this album in its entirety. And Em doesn't take his job here lightly. His beats hit hard and are well crafted, most similar to his more hardcore self-productions like "Mosh" or "Lose Yourself." His hooks are also well crafted: he takes the hook himself on "Soldier Like Me"; brings in 50 Cent and Nate Dogg for "Loyal to the Game" and "Thugs Get Lonely Too," respectively; samples Elton John ("Indian Sunset"), Curtis Mayfield ("If There's a Hell Below"), and Dido ("Do You Have a Little Time") for other songs; and lets 2Pac handle his own hooks elsewhere.
On the other, more cynical hand, Eminem simply isn't a good fit, and the four bonus tracks here testify to what could have been. Produced by Scott Storch, Red Spyda, Raphael Saadiq, and DJ Quik, these bonus track "remixes" are clearly the highlights of the album (and quite fantastic highlights at that, perhaps alone reason enough to pick up this album). These guys produce beats much more fitting to 2Pac's rhyme style. Sure, Eminem is a great producer, but he produces these 2Pac tracks as if he were producing himself, and 2Pac is a much different breed of rapper than Slim Shady, especially in terms of cadence and delivery. This is all the more evident because the source tapes of these tracks date back to the early '90s, when 2Pac was at his funkiest and least hardcore. (While the dates aren't provided in the credits, the original producers are credited: Randy "Stretch" Walker, DJ Daryl, Live Squad, and Deon Evans, all of whom worked with Pac during his early years, namely the early '90s, just as he was leaving Digital Underground and getting his career off the ground. Various time-specific references within Pac's lyrics are further evidence of this, such as passing references to the L.A. riots.) How much Loyal to the Game ultimately appeals to you will likely depend on how much you like Eminem. After all, this is as much his album as 2Pac's -- a labor of love, no doubt. If you're fond of his lock-step beatmaking and big hooks, you'll find much to like here, for Pac's rhymes are undoubtedly fascinating in any context, even at this early stage of his career. But if you're not down with Marshall Mathers, you'll probably want to pass this one by, though the four bonus tracks alone might make this a worthwhile venture regardless.

tags: 2pac, loyal to the game, 2004, flac,