STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL
When you history is as long as stoic as a band like Helloween's, people tend to come into each release with a series of expectations. They also tend to judge anything new they release by comparison to the rest of the catalog instead of as a standalone release. Certainly, that's justified. For me, I first remember discovering Helloween when I was stationed in Korea. They used to play their videos in a bar called the "MTV Club" in Itaewon, Korea. I watched for a year as videos for "I Want Out" and "Halloween" played over and over in this club. I remember buying KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS: PART 1 in some bootleg shop in Seoul, and literally wearing that tape out in only a few months. From that point on, I've never missed a release of a disc by Helloween, and I've compared every release to KEYS 1. Some have been hit and some have been miss, but all have pretty much maintained the core sound of the band. Even changes in core members hasn't derailed Helloween...at least to my ears.
Black Veil Brides
WRETCHED AND DIVINE
The Black Veil Brides have certainly come from out of nowhere to capture the Hot Topic community of modern metalheads. There's no denying their success. Ultimately, they are a fairly average band, even if they make efforts to fuse both modern elements and some old school into their music to create what I'll call "hybrid rock". They blew up with SET THE WORLD ON FIRE, and their REBELS EP was well received as well. That said though, the band is clearly at a crossroads for their career where they can emerge as superstars or fall back to the pack. Or, after listening to WRETCHED AND DIVINE, they can probably stay exactly where they are.
THE BEST OF US BLEED
As a fan of both death metal and Cryptopsy, I have to question why this band, or any other death metal band for that matter, would even bother with a greatest hits release that is fleshed out with live tracks and demos. Especially a band with years on them like Cryptopsy. I wonder specifically about the demo inclusion for any band like this. Let's face it, as a fan of death metal over the last 20 years, we've all learned to accept some pretty demo sounding music in these types of band's actual releases. To say the least, so many great death metal albums had terrible sound to begin with, so hearing songs even more poorly recorded or before they were fleshed out really has no appeal to me. Additionally, Cryptopsy is one such band that's had some dodgy sounding material in the past, so hearing this music contrasted against a few new recordings really points that out as well.
He was the "metal" in Metallica for years and years. He added credibility to a pretty much dead band like Voivod, as well as finances so they could produce a couple of fine albums along the way. Hell, he was the creative force behid Flotsam & Jetsam; a band that I love but clearly wasn't the same after DOOMSDAY FOR THE DECEIVER when he left. And yet, with all his heralded accomplishments, Jason Newsted somehow finds himself at a crossroads where he has to come out and prove himself and his metal merits once again. Newsted told me last month that he keeps the mindset always that he's only as good as his next record, no matter what the past has proven. Clearly, this is one guy that could rest on his laurels and his mountain of money and do whatever he wants. With all that said though, he returns with a simply smoldering EP that's as strong as anything he's done in the past.
THE SAVAGE PLAYGROUND
For 80s metalheads, there are two types of people. There are the type that stand firm by the explosion of Nirvana onto the scene as the moment when all future music stopped being good, and there are those that are always looking for new and exciting music that maintains that melodic, fun spirit that the 80s produced. For me, I fall into the latter category. Any band that's trying to recapture that fun, rockin' spirit that the 80s unleashed on the world will always get my ear. There's good and bad for these newer bands. On the bad side, there's always the old bands that prove that they've hung on too long, or new bands that poorly recreate the look and don't have the music to back it. Then there are some really good bands out there that really capture it without becoming a spoof band like Steel Panther. Crashdiet are one of those bands that get it. While many wrote them off with the death of vocalist Dave Lepard, this band has really put it back together. Their latest, THE SAVAGE PLAYGROUND, is about as solid a classic metal sounding release as you will ever hear.
Blue Sky Riders
The term "supergroup" is thrown around very loosely these days. In the most general terms, most people associate that term with a collection of "name" players. By name, we generally mean famous. Certainly, if a band was formed featuring Mick Jagger, Joe Perry, John Paul Jones and Neil Peart, that would qualify in the broadest terms as a "supergroup". That said though, peripheral fame is all relative, while a collection of unquestioned talent that has had tremendous success in the music industry should also be considered as a "supergroup". For many reasons, Blue Sky Riders are a musical supergroup. They do have a very name player in Kenny Loggins, but probably more impressively they have a unheralded in public yet legendary songwriter in Country Music Hall Of Famer Gary Burr, and a tremendous, well heard songwriter who's written massive hits for other artists in Georgia Middleman gracing this group.