The Record Box for Friday, Sept 4th

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IMMORTALIZED Disturbed (Warner Bros.) ****+This Chicago-based metal band returns after a 5 year hiatus with a crunchy, grooving record that is going to mow down most of the competition in its path and end up at the top of more than a few ‘best of’ lists this year, so yeah… it’s pretty friggin’ good.There’s something about Disturbed that reminds me of Godsmack, another band I like and admire- their attack on this disc is seamless, relentless and powerful, as a metal record should be.  But why the disappearing act in 2010, when they were at the top of their game?  “The idea was to leave when we were at our peak, which we were, and to come back when we felt reinvigorated” says front man David Draiman. “We got to do our own things- it didn’t take too long until the itch started coming back.”  Guitarist Dan Donegan agrees. “We wanted to return when we collectively had that fire underneath us” he notes. “We missed it so much that we could tap into this energy and deliver the right album.  We did it on our own terms.”Recording took place in Las Vegas with producer Kevin Churko, known mostly for doing Ozzy’a last couple of solo albums- records I enjoy a great deal.  Churko is a master at getting that subatomically dense, steamrolling sound, so much so that the music has a real physical presence.  It’s not speed metal, there’s more of an old school feel to this- but it’s very, very powerful.  That Immortalized will do well is pretty much a foregone conclusion- Disturbed have sold over 12 million records to date, and their previous four records have debuted at the top of the Billboard charts, so there is definitely an appetite for this kind of dense, high strung musical drama.If I were asked to sum up Immortalized in one word, it would have to be ‘thick’.  I’m only a couple of spins in at this point and am getting off on the sheer sonic heft of the tunes.  With song titles like The Vengeful One (first single) and Who Taught You How To Hate, it seems safe to assume there’s bucket loads of angst to be had here.  The big surprise here is a solid remake of The Sound of Silence, my favorite Simon & Garfunkel song, but lyrically speaking it’s not hard to figure out why Disturbed connects with that song.  No doubt some radio deejays will be throwing that into the mix- I’m already working on angles to shoehorn it into my own show.Disturbed took a long break, deciding to only come back when they felt the hunger again- and on Immortalized they surely do.  One of the best metal albums I’ve heard this year.ESSENTIALS:  The Vengeful One, Save Our Last Goodbye, The Sound of Silence BAD MAGIC Motorhead (I-Tunes purchase) ***I really wanted a physical copy of this album, but visits to HMV in Lloyd and Blackbyrd Myoosic & the West Ed HMV in Edmonton the day after its August 28th release came up empty handed, so I bought an I-Tunes card and here we are.  22 studio records, 10 live albums, 12 compilations and 5 e.p.’s later, they’ve proven Jethro Tull wrong- there’s no such thing as too old to rock & roll.Most think of Motorhead as metal, but as Lemmy himself says at the beginning of every concert, “We are Motorhead, and we play rock & roll”.  Side projects like Headcat reveal what sort of music makes the heart deep inside his furry chest beat, the rockabilly that made him who he is, and at the age of 70 he’s been rocking for a good long while.  It wouldn’t be too far off the beam to think of them as Chuck Berry on steroids.Bad Magic starts with a declaration of intent as he yells “Victory or die!” before Phil Campbell throws down a particularly muscular riff and Mikki Dee piles on with his typically propulsive drumming, and we’re off to the races.  Longtime producer Cameron Webb is once again at the helm and, as with just about any other Motorhead album you could name, Bad Magic is relentlessly powerful. I’ve often found their records too intense to take in one sitting but in the last few years they’ve thrown in enough changeups to make it possible to stick it out.  On a record like Motorizer the song English Rose comes to mind, and here that would be Fire Storm Hotel– instead of blasting down the highway at breakneck speed Campbell pulls out some tuneful playing as they throttle back just a tick and go for a swaggering groove instead.While I love the early stuff (my first Motorecord was Ace Of Spades in 1980, purchased solely on the basis of the album cover) my preference is latter day Motorhead, mostly because each album no longer feels like one prolonged musical beating.  Another way to put it is that they’ve morphed from an all-out speed metal outfit (‘Motorhead’, after all, is a nickname for people that take speed on a regular basis) into a good, and occasionally great, rock & roll band.A couple of cool surprises to note on the new album; I had no idea that guitarist Phil Campbell, who’s been with the band since I was married to my first wife, is good buddies with Queen’s Brian May, who shows up with an excellent solo on The Devil, virtually guaranteeing that song at least some airplay.  And, Bad Magic ends with Motorhead’s take on the Rolling Stones classic Sympathy For The Devil- feels like a stunt to help get the album noticed, but so what?Bad Magic is certainly not my favorite Motorhead album (that would be a tossup between 1993’s Bastards and 2008’s Motorizer), and I’m giving this 3 stars after only two listens, so that could change once I’ve had a chance to really absorb it.  But as of this moment it feels like an average post Y2K Motorhead disc with some interesting highlights, and that’s not too shabby.ESSENTIALS:  Fire Storm Hotel, The Devil, Choking On Your Screams, Until The End KING OF KINGS Leaves’ Eyes (AFM) ** ½ Symphonic metal, world history set to music- that’s been Leaves’ Eyes raison d’etre for over a decade now. This, their latest, to be released September 18th, is no religious screed- rather it tells the story of Norway’s first king (Harald Fairhair)- and to call it epic is an understatement.Given the dramatic subject matter, it’s no wonder this sounds like an overwrought film score.  It also covers the gamut, sonically speaking, from folk rock and more gentle fare to symphonic, epic hymns of maximum heaviosity.  From gently lilting acoustic guitars to raging waves of metal riffery, choirs and occasional death metal vocals, no stone is left unturned in the telling of this dramatic tale.  It’s almost too much for a brain like mine, raised on the simple pop of bands like The Beatles and, later, the music of Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin.  This is definitely something else- I recognize the talent and skill it takes play the complex arrangements with constantly shifting emotional strata, but question my own ability to truly absorb and understand it.Liv Kristine is the main vocalist and the operatic muscle of her voice serves her well.  There are guest singers on the album too, including The Voice of London, whom you may be more familiar with from their work on soundtracks for Star Wars, Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter.  King Of Kings is further proof that classical music and heavy metal are not strange bedfellows- kissing cousins perhaps, and maybe more. There’s an operatic to the tales been told in these tracks, and they could have hardly found a situation with more drama than the founding of a kingdom.   This truly is music in a wide screen format, a movie for the ears that makes an entire era come alive.There is really nothing else in contemporary music that I can compare King of Kings to, nothing I can point to and say “it sounds like this”.  Classical and metal music can each be quite dramatic on their own; when you use them together as Leaves’ Eyes do here the results are, frankly, over the top.  An appreciation for that kind of emotional overkill would certainly be handy in unlocking what this album has to offer, along with a taste for ancient history.  Listening to this record isn’t easy, but maybe it’s time for you to set off on adventure of your own here.ESSENTIALS:  King Of Kings, Vengeance Venom, Haraldskvaldi MIND RADIO Kelly Keeling (Frontiers) ***Keeling has worked with a number of musicians I’m sure you’ve heard of (Yngwie Malmsteen, Michael Schenker, Vivian Campbell, John Norum), aside from his work with groups like Baton Rouge and The Trans Siberian Orchestra.  He’s got a good, solid, mainstream rock voice and this, his second solo record, is bound to find him some new fans.Keeling’s album is more in line with what I know and understand about hard rock than Leaves’ Eyes, that’s for sure.  The songs here are composed of tight, melodic riffs and Kelly Keeling is a really good hard rock singer.  I could name off the guys in his band here, but unless you’re well versed in Euro-metal you likely won’t recognize them.  Mind Radio was born from a collaboration with Italian producer/ keyboardist Alessandro Del Vecchio, who plays on the record as well as contributing some background vocals.  Not sure how the rest of the group came together, but they sound like band as opposed to a bunch of hired guns.Thematically, Mind Radio deals with the usual rock & roll subject matter; love, isolation and broken hearts- nothing terribly unique there, but they handle it well.  It’s pretty straight up four-on-the-floor rock & roll for the most part, which plays right into my wheelhouse- I’m a man of relatively simple tastes- and guitarist Mario Percudani’s lead work is solid, even inspiring at times, as in I Still Need You In My Arms.Mind Radio almost feels like rock & roll from a bygone era, the 80’s and 90’s, when music and emotions were more straightforward and easier to understand, perhaps surprisingly so, given some of the people Keeling has worked with in the past.  Perhaps it’s because of this that he prefers his solo work to be more direct.  Whatever his reasoning, this is some pretty solid rock & roll.ESSENTIALS:  Written In Fire, Sunshine Over Me, Monkey House  NAVY METAL NIGHT U.D.O. (AFM) *****A live CD/DVD from Udo Dirkschneider and his band, featuring the German Navy Orchestra  Marinemusikkorps Nordsee.  Live records featuring hard rock or metal bands and orchestra are hardly new, I have several in my own collection- but rarely has that combination worked so spectacularly well.Udo has been a star on his own much longer than he ever fronted Accept, one of the 80’s premiere metal bands, having released 15 studio albums under the U.D.O. banner… but to many, he’s simply ‘the old singer from Accept’.   I confess to having been one of those many, but exposure to his music in the last couple of years has certainly changed that.  Suffice to say that if you enjoyed Udo’s work with his old band, you’ll really dig what he’s done with his own band.Navy Metal Night is more than just another record for him. Of the occasion itself Udo says “I was just overwhelmed by the whole event, it’s like a dream come true.  It’s really more than words can say- this DVD will be something special to me, definitely a highlight of my career.”  This was recorded in February of 2014, in front of a wildly appreciative audience, obviously German as Udo’s stage patter is entirely in his native tongue.  I don’t speak it and so couldn’t understand the exact words, but boy you can sure feel the connection he has with his audience and vice versa.All the songs on the night come from U.D.O.’s catalogue, no Accept tunes here that I’m aware of- so above and beyond great performances from Udo and his band as well as the orchestra, it can also be considered a crash course in what many of us have been missing in terms of urgent, passionate hard rock songs.  Navy Metal Night is available as a DVD, Blue-Ray and/or double CD set.  Today’s review is based on an audio download, but the record company has promised to send me a DVD so I can actually see the show, and I can hardly wait.  Still photos accompanying the download show U.D.O., wearing shirt and tie instead of battle fatigues, performing with the orchestra.Produced by Mattes and Bjorn Schulter and co-produced by Udo Dirkschneider Navy Metal Night really is something special, even better than Metallica’s S&M- yeah, it’s that good, easily THE live album of the year.  Well done, boys!ESSENTIALS:  Das Boot, Heart Of Gold, Trainride In Russia

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