Amen: s/t

Remastered and including the Coma America single tracks, this is an impressive package from Metal Mind. A band that plays angst punk with metal tinges. Frankly, this album leaves me bored shitless. This type of crap might work live but just comes across as lame on record. If you have the album and want to hear it cleaned up nicely in a good package then this might be for you. As for me; I am relieved I never have to listen to it again.

Rating: 1/5

Defiance: Insomnia

This is an impressive three disc set comprised of Defiance’s first three album with oodles of bonus tracks in the form of live tracks and demos. There are extensive liner notes with the chaotic and sometimes daft history of the band. (They sent their demo off to Europe and didn’t include any contact details on it). The band suffered from a terminal case of line-up changes and a bit of confusion of what to do with them. Their later singer Steev found his way into Skinlab.

For those that are not yet fans of the band, the last CD on this set is the most polished. Aptly called Beyond Recognition this is the band at the peak of their creative powers, sounding like Megadeth in their prime. It’s Bay area thrash done with passion and talent. The other two albums are quite a good history of the band. In the end, this is an impressive tribute to the memory of their sadly dead lead guitarist Doug Harrington. If you like yer thrash done well, then have a listen to this lot. You won’t be disappointed.

Rating: 4/5

Quick Change: Circus of Death

Edgy cover and edgy music; this lot of 80s metallers play an odd blend of sludge power metal that got them lots of fans, but not much else. This CD has been remastered with a couple of bonus tracks. This is essential for those who loved the band but only have it on vinyl or tape, but not really interesting for the rest of us. Of its time, it was something interesting but now its nothing special.

Rating: 3/5

Znowhite: Znowhite

This is the first three Znowhite in a box set of sort. It’s Metal Mind so you know it’s remastered with extensive liner notes. Znowhite were rather unusual in that the band was originally made up of four black guys, three of whom were related, fronted by a blond woman. This in addition the fact they were playing thrashy metal that got them signed to Metal Blade, the home at the time of all things metal. Oh yes and not tokens, they were actually bloody good.

Think a thrashier Girlschool and you would not be far off. These are some of the best nineteen tracks you have never heard if you are thrash fan. Like many such bands they were ultimately felled by musical differences and too many line-up changes. Quality stuff nonetheless and something that deserves a place in your collection.

Rating: 4/5

Various: This is Black Metal

As the name implies this is a feature length movie on DVD about the black metal scene. There are interviews with such bands as Celtic Frost, Morbid Angel and Satyricon. Videos are included as well with everything from Cradle of Filth camping it up to live video of the mighty Emperor. As with many DVD’s there is a documentary called Black Metal Parking Lot (The Movie). All in all one of those videos to put in your collection to make yer friends wonder about you.

Warped, heavy and dirge, this is black metal in all its glory. It is a good intro for those interested in the genre as well. This is an enjoyable 100 minutes whether or not you have a truly black heart, however, as you can imagine it is not the DVD to have on when your mum comes round for Sunday dinner.

Rating: 3/5

Vital Remains: Evil-Death-Live

Yet another live release from Metal Mind covering an extreme metal band as they play to frothing Polish metal fans. This time it’s the turn of Long Island black metal stalwarts Vital Remains. In addition to the March 2007 gig you get an interview with main men Tony Lazaro, who does most of the talking, and Dave Suzuki. There is also a couple of tracks filmed at a Polish club.

There are the normal goodies we see on all these releases; yet again Metal Mind excels with their packaging and presentation. 130 minutes of Vital Remains, no region locking, and a decent length interview to boot. Damn near essential for VR and American black metal fans; a good introduction to those unfamiliar with this lot of extreme metal survivors.

Rating: 3.5/5

Darzamat: Live Profanity

I have to confess I never heard of this lot of Polish extreme metal purveyors. Think Cradle of Filth but more serious and less black metal jesters. Layered keyboards and female vocals add an extra level of texture to the normal grunt of extreme metal. Think of the heaviest pretty frock metal and multiply exponentially. This stuff is heavy and intense; but at the same time is a bit more accessible than a lot of extreme metal.

I rather enjoyed the 11 tracks including a performance of cult Polish act Kat, not terribly widely known outside of Poland, doing “Diabelski Dom.” As with all these releases there is the bonus of live material, this time filmed at a German festival, as well as an interview with Nera & Flauros, unreleased audio, and several videos. A good introduction to an interesting band that I suspect we will hear more from soon.

Rating: 3.5/5

The Pink Floyd and Syd Barrett Story

This is a limited edition two DVD set, the second DVD being made up of completely unedited interview with members of Pink Floyd and others. You bizarrely get Robyn Hitchcock and Graham Coxon both interviewed about Syd Barrett and playing his songs acoustically. It’s a bittersweet tale of the rise and fall of Barrett, a man clearly unable to handle stardom. His descent into madness and self-imposed exile is both amazing in the fact he did not die of his excess and sad in the fact it all happened. Music on here is from Pink Floyd’s early stages plus “Shine on you Crazy Diamond.” The DVD was a thoroughly enjoyable glimpse into the world of Syd. Certainly value for money that is for sure.

Rating: 4/5

Shelter: Mantra & Beyond Planet Earth

Straightedge Krishnacore (as in Hari Krishna) is not exactly what George Harrison had in mind when he introduced Krishna consciousness to a whole new generation of people. This is a re-release of two of their bigger albums complete with a video clip (1 each) and extra tracks (2 each). Not really sure what there is for a metal head here but it will be fun for those who were ever into the band to listen to the tracks remastered and re-released in all their glory.

Rating: 2/5

Optimum Would Profile: Silver or Lead & Lowest Common Denominator

Phil Vane of Napalm Death turned his hand to industrial in the early 90s and boy was it heavy. Think of a combination of crusty punk metal combined with the layering of industrial. Remastered and repackaged with liner notes, these releases are probably not the most generous in extras but the content is still there. It’s heavy enough for the metalheads and bodes well for the direction industrial was heading. You’ll love it or hate it; but it sure has an impact.

Rating: 3/5

Attrition: The Attrition of Reason & Esoteria

Avant guard gothy mixture of neo-classical and ambient, these two are released in perfect time for Halloween. You could do worse than have either one of these CDs on during your All Hallow’s Eve party. It’s a bit Munsters and Adams Family but intriguing nonetheless. Atmospheric and odd, not exactly the type of music you put on to relax. There is a certain mood that suits this kind of music… you know it when you get it.

Gentle Giant: Santa Monica 1975

The title says it all really. These veteran proggers cited as influence to many heavy rock and prog bands in all their glory live in 1975. The recording isn’t the greatest and the acoustics are rubbish, but it is a live testament to an influential band that still has relevance. This is an EP of six songs plus two bonus tracks recorded live two years later: “For Nobody 1” and “For Nobody 2”. Far more successful in the US and in Europe than in the UK; they still managed impact. However, this release is probably just for completists only.

Rating: 3/5

Rick Wakeman: Out of the Blue &; Fields of Green

Two more releases from the great man; one with his son and the New English Rock Assemble. OftB is a quite impressive seven track affair. Okay, there are several songs in several of the tracks, as is his norm, with all the pomp so hated by the punks but done so well by Rick. This is a live recording from 2006 and really shows Wakeman in a good light. This is pretty spectacular stuff and a great listen.

I would even suggest that anyone interested in Wakeman’s solo stuff might want to start here first. Fields of Green on the other hand is a re-release and includes music composed by Wakeman for Election Night 1997. Considering Wakeman is a long-standing conservative, who got creamed that night, it must have been bittersweet. None the less a good release of Wakeman music, done in the studio and showing all his talents. A couple more great releases from the talented man’s huge history of recording.

Rating: 3.8/5

Jon Anderson: Searching for the Songs

Jon contributes an interesting short blurb to this CD where he admits some of the fourteen tracks on here don’t stand the test of time. As the title suggests they are songs written and recorded by Jon as demos in search for the perfect pop song. This content was done in the 80s and clearly sounds like it. It is a fascinating insight into the prolific Anderson; then again even some of his naff misses are better than much of what constituted music in the 80s. Not essential but fascinating nonetheless.

Rating: 3/5

Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman & Howe: An Evening of Yes Music Plus

This DVD was filmed during one of the Yes tiffs which saw this group touring and releasing under their own name. That does not mean its not a Yes gig; just not an official one. This is a quality DVD of material perfect for any Yes fan needing a bit of visual and audio entertainment. As with many live CDs, it’s best if you don’t actually watch it, lest you laugh at Anderson’s naff outfit and messiah act. Great music, done well by some of the best in the prog business. 16 tracks of quality is pretty much all one needs.

Rating: 4/5

Earthworks: Vol 1 & Vol II

Bruford drummer extraordinaire of the mighty prog machine that is Yes has a bit of a side band. The jazz/fusion outfit called Earthworks is represented on these two DVDs twenty-five tracks of goodness. Those in the know of the Jazz world, with a penchant for fusion, love this lot and kudos have duly arrived. Filmed in Germany, Japan, Sofia, New York, and Buenos Aires, it’s clear this lot are global in their popularity. Liners notes are included for quite an impressive couple of DVDs. Just the collection that will put a smile on the face of your modern jazz fan’s face this holiday season.

Rating: 3.5/5

Keith Richards: Under Review

Part of the Under Review series this is a collection of interviews coupled with a history of the “Human Riff”. Hardcore Stones fans probably know all about this; but it is an interesting insight into the most interesting of the Stones members. It’s great to see the spotlight being shown on Keef for a change. Let’s face it, his solo stuff is far more fun than Mick’s lame attempts at pop (ie that awful track with Bowie). Richards just lets his music and talent do the talking.

Extras include Kris Needs telling the tale of when he first met Keith, a bugger of a quiz and bio on all the people involved in the project. If you ever wondered why Jack Sparrow was based on Keef then this DVD will explain all. A fascinating insight into one of the greatest guitarists that has ever lived and one of life’s great mysteries. Essential to anyone interested in rock’s history.

Rating: 3.7/5

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