Monday, November 28, 2011

Live in London 2011 - Thin Lizzy - 2011

Prior to a very skeptically-approached Thin Lizzy show a few weeks back, I would have never considered giving Live in London 2011 a chance. After being blown away by the raging remnants of the almighty band, though, I quickly placed an order for this double-album, hoping that this lightning was indeed captured in a bottle from an outing that featured the always-excellent Vivian Campbell to boot. So, how was it? The quick version: ...ergh. The long version: just keep reading.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Don't Break the Oath: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 7 of 7

Across a recording career spanning over two decades and many, many high points, 1984's sophomore release from Mercyful Fate still stands as the pinnacle of King Diamond and company's output. Absolutely flawless, Don't Break the Oath came quickly on the heels of Melissa and, somehow, improved on that excellence. Requisite listening for anyone proclaiming metal fandom, Don't Break the Oath regularly tops "Best Ever" metal lists and rightfully so.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Puppet Master: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 6 of 7

The Puppet Master, from 2003, is a glorious little oddball of sorts in the King Diamond catalogue. It's a concept album on steroids, virtually a horror movie begging to be made (oh, if only there weren't already a basement-budget Charles Band franchise by the same name). Additionally, it's a divergence in sound, a proper power metal record with most lead vocals delivered in King Diamond's lower register. It's addicting, it's terrifying and, song for song, it sounds great. Likely largely unheard outside of King Diamond's own fanbase, it's a latter-era album from the man's career that deserves to be shelved alongside the acknowledged classics.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Melissa: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 5 of 7

Is it possible to overstate the importance and impact of Melissa? Powerful, deceptively simple yet evil riffs surrounded by insanely complex song structures all delivered by a dual-guitar attack lay out a blueprint for not only the career of a now-legendary band but for any heavy metal that was to follow. Add in the vocals of the then-largely-unknown King Diamond and the game was forever changed. Melissa is damn-near perfect, bested only by its insane follow-up (but that's another post...)

Friday, November 18, 2011

Eye of the Witch: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 4 of 7

"Eye of the Witch," while simply a great song from a great King Diamond album, also introduces the album's namesake amulet which, perhaps more than any other King Diamond invention (except Melissa?), crosses across multiple other albums, popping up in stories on The Spider's Lullabye and Abigail II: The Revenge. This self-referential cross-pollination of the band's own mythology is part of what makes King Diamond's music so very compelling. That and, well, the music.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Abigail: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 3 of 7

Abigail. Not just the 1987 album, but also its sequel, Abigail II: The Revenge. The original is an oft-cited all-time heavy metal classic and is undoubtedly the crown jewel of King Diamond's accomplishments - but, to be difficult, I guess, I have to be even more taken with the 2002 sequel, Abigail II. As we wouldn't have Abigail II without Abigail I end up in a conundrum attempting to proclaim the sequel superior while I still have to concede that nothing from the King Diamond camp (or many others, for that matter) will likely best the original. Luckily, we have both, and the chicken versus the egg matters not.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

In the Shadows: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 2 of 7

Mercyful Fate's In the Shadows was a big deal. Released in 1993, it signaled the return of a band broken up since 1985 as well as the beginning of a long and fruitful relationship between Metal Blade Records and the reunited band (as well as King Diamond solo). The '84 Don't Break the Oath lineup remained largely intact. In the Shadows, while nowhere near as revered as the band's first two records, is still highly regarded by many fans and, in this listener's opinion, renders the near-decade between records nearly nonexistent as the band seemed to pick up exactly where they left off.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

From the Other Side: The Finest Moments of King Diamond & Mercyful Fate - Part 1 of 7

After digging Abigail out of her grave for Halloween, I've been immersed in my own little King Diamond renaissance for the last couple of weeks. I dusted off a Mercyful Fate tee from a show way back when for last week's Priest event and a handful of like-minded fans in the know, some with their own Diamond gear, were not shy about stopping me to chat - rave, really - about the man they refer to simply as "King." With nearly two dozen King Diamond and Mercyful Fate albums on my shelf I thought this would be a nice opportunity to try for a multi-part series of posts, some focused on songs, some entire albums, dedicated to one of the earliest black metal pioneers and finest vocalists of all time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

10 of '11 - My Favorite Records from this Year

With the 2011 release schedule drying out as we head toward the Christmas holiday, I feel pretty safe compiling the compulsory Top Ten for the year. Going through the shelves, re-reading old reviews and, above all, re-listening, it was tough to narrow down to ten - which is a nice blessing for a time in which the music industry is over-reported as less than healthy. There's still plenty good to be had out there, some mass-produced and marketed by huge labels and some handed off for a five-dollar bill at a live show from a band member working a card table before and after they take the stage. So, without any further ado, the best ten records to enter my library since January first:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Epitaph: Judas Priest • Black Label Society • Thin Lizzy - November 8, 2011 - U.S. Bank Arena, Cincinnati, Ohio

Tuesday's lineup for Judas Priest's Epitaph tour was a great one for me, in theory. I'm a lifelong Thin Lizzy fan though, in my opinion (at least prior to this show), I could not conceive of a Lizzy post-Lynott and I was curious just to see Gorham (and Downey, I guess) in the flesh. Tony Conley recently wrote a great piece on this lineup and I was anxious to see how I felt about his assessment. Black Label Society has likewise been a favorite since their inception and having them on the bill was a great bonus, almost equivalent to co-headliners. Almost. Because for me, born in the early 70s, Priest is untouchable. Sabbath may have created metal but, let's face it, Judas Priest are the ones who brought it to the first MTV generation. To see them wrap up their live career (supposedly) as a largely intact unit still capable of producing great albums (at least through Angel of Retribution) was an opportunity I would not miss. In the end, though, the Epitaph stop in Cincinnati turned my expectations inside out and upside down.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Th1rt3en - Megadeth - 2011

Megadeth, never having really gone anywhere, seem to be staging a comeback of sorts. Riding high on the Big Four wave and celebrating the return of Dave Ellefson, Thirteen (I cannot bring myself to use the alphanumeric title more than once) almost demands more attention than more recent additions to the Megadeth catalogue, excellent as they may be. Dave Mustaine has settled all debts, resolving age-old feuds with his Big Four brethren and reconciling with his core bandmate, and Thirteen signals more rebirth than reboot. Vic Rattlehead turns away on the (admittedly less-than-exciting) cover and the reverse shows him laid to rest with bandmembers as pallbearers. Feels - and sounds - like a chapter is closing just as another opens.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Exhumed • Goatwhore • Havok - November 1, 2011 - Alrosa Villa, Columbus, Ohio

First things first: I missed Exhumed. I hadn't planned to. A text from home close to eleven o'clock let me know one of my children was ill and sent me packing early. Parental responsibility vs. was a tough call but the right one. My wife's willingness to care for the kids solo on any given weeknight while I drive ninety minutes away for a metal show is one perk I do not want to endanger.

So, no Exhumed for me but, goddammit, what a hell of a show the rest of the bill was. This was my second trip to the Alrosa Villa and I am hooked. Good folks on staff, great crowd, "regulars" I already recognize and, I must point out, some of the most simultaneously loud and clear amplification I have ever experienced in a small venue. The volume, skull-splitting, never gave way to distortion of any sort and much appreciation is reserved for the folks who make that happen.