• Review: Iron Maiden Final Frontier Tour

    Lug 4 2010, 5:17

    Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier June 26, 2010

    When Bruce announced on stage during the last Iron Maiden concert here that they planned on coming back with a new album, I didn't really let myself believe it. Fast forward two years, and there I was, finding my to my seat for the Final Frontier Tour, just like they promised.

    A good deal of people have expressed disappointment with this tour, and for fair reasons. The most common complaint is that the setlist was weak. I, for one, thought the setlist was great. A large number of fans who came out to see this tour were very disappointed with a setlist that was almost entirely made up of songs from Brave New World and on. I had anticipated a lack of 'Golden Era' songs given the setlist last tour, and was pleasantly surprised to only hear three songs repeated from the Somewhere Back In Time setlist, which were of course the three songs that get played at every Iron Maiden Concert. Even more pleasantly surprising was the inclusion of Wrathchild and a particularly spirited rendition of Running free, were Steve and Nicko noodled around while Bruce introduced everyone and had the crowd more engaged than they'd been most of the night.

    Which brings us to the only other real negative aspect to the show; the crowd was, not surprisingly, considerably more subdued than the crowd of maniacs I saw last time around. This was due to several obvious factors; the novelty isn't as great when it's only been two years since the last time the band came round as opposed to two decades. The setlist contained a lot more material that people were less familiar with and less passionate about. And the show just wasn't quite as much of a spectacle this time. But the SBiT tour is a tough act to follow, and not reaching the same level takes nothing at all away from this tour.

    The band, even older now, still brings an abundance of energy to the stage. Bruce did a great job of keeping the crowd engaged, even if some of it didn't particularly want to be. The guitarists spent a fair amount of time at the sides of the stage allowing everyone to get a 'moment' with them. Unfortunately, from where I was seated, the stage blocked off almost all of Nicko, so all I really got to see of him was a three-quarter of a second flash on the screen. To me, that was the only real disappointment of the show, and that was due to the arena, not the band or its stage.

    A lot of people, in a few years time, will look back at this show and think it forgettable. I will look back and consider it the absolute perfect compliment to the previous tour, and a very worthwhile concert that I'm glad I got to see.
  • Free Subscriptions - Just Tell Me Why You Love One Of My Top Played Bands (Part Two)

    Dic 16 2008, 10:00

    Once again, I'm getting into the holiday spirit by giving away Last.fm subscriptions. But this year, I'm upping the ante a bit. Like last time, I'm giving away one 3-month subscription and three 1-month subscriptions if you tell me why you like one of my most listened bands. It doesn't have to be a whole essay, just enough to get your point across. This year, I'll let you pick from my top fifteen so more of you can get in on the action.

    For those of you who want to write a whole essay about it, or already have one that'll do nicely, I'll also be giving away another 3-month subscription and one 1-month subscription for the best journal about my top fifteen bands. The journal must be written by you, and please, don't plagiarize someone else's work.

    Basically, give me something to read about a band that I really like, and if I enjoy it, you get free loot.

    Please leave your entries in the comments of this article, not in my shoutbox. I'll be accepting entries until the minute Christmas ends, so that is 12:00 AM PST (3:00 AM EST) on December 26, 2008.
    Should you be one of the lucky winners, I will notify you via your shoutbox. Subscriptions ought to be sent by New Year's.

    Here's my top fifteen:

    Pink Floyd
    The Beatles
    Iron Maiden
    Black Sabbath
    Jimi Hendrix
    Led Zeppelin
    Judas Priest
    Neil Young
    Amon Amarth
    Creedence Clearwater Revival

    Happy Holidays, and good luck!
  • Review: Iron Maiden Somewhere Back In Time Tour

    Giu 8 2008, 1:26

    Fri 6 Jun – Iron Maiden

    Iron Maiden at Rexall Place June 6 2008 Review

    When I found out Iron Maiden was coming to Edmonton, I didn't believe it. When my tickets showed up in the mail, I still didn't believe it. Hell, standing in line outside of Rexall Place being heralded with cries of "Maiden! Maiden!", I still couldn't believe it.

    I've been fortunate enough to go to some amazing concerts in my life. I've seen a fair number of phenomenal performances, and I can wholeheartedly say that absolutely nothing has reached the same level that Iron Maiden reached in front of almost 15,000 screaming lunatics last night. The entire show was executed almost flawlessly. The band's trademark tight playing took to full force in front of a brilliant stage that harkened back to the Powerslave days, all in front of various backdrops, ranging from The Trooper to Seventh Son of a Seventh Son.

    Even though the setlist was limited largely to the "Golden Era" of Maiden (1982-1988), there was still a great deal of material to be covered, and the selections were fantastic; a few tracks from each of the albums from Number of the Beast to Seventh Son, along with live staples Iron Maiden and Fear of the Dark. One of the best moments setlist wise was when the band took a quick breather and Bruce began to prattle on about birds, not making tons of sense. Until the word 'albatross' popped up and I turned to my friend and screamed "Rime! Rime! Rime! Rime!". Of course what followed was a thirteen minute orgy of epicness, with Bruce wrapped in a tattered cloak, wailing against a massive backdrop of a gloomy ship. and ridiculous pyrotechnics for the buildup after the narrative break. The set may have only flirted with the hundred minute mark, but it was a very, very full and satisfying set. I was surprised at how well represented Seventh Son of a Seventh Son and Powerslave were, playing about half of each album, and slightly disappointed by the lack of Phantom of the Opera, Killers, Running Free, and a multitude of other Di'Anno-era Maiden, but sacrifices must always be made when it comes to song selection.

    The crowd was easily the best I've ever been a part of. Every single individual was banging a head, pumping a fist, screaming a lyric, stomping their feet, or any combination of the above. It seemed like everyone knew the words to every song, all though I was a bit disappointed by the lack of crowd singing along with Heaven Can Wait. But that was just as well, because everyone seemed to double their efforts for the real crowd song, Fear of the Dark. For me, the best was the very last song, Hallowed By Thy Name, where the crowd was visibly split between the real metalheads going balls out and screaming every syllable at the top of their lungs, with the regular rockers apparently in a daze from the spectacle unfolding before them. What a killer way to end a show.

    Bruce may be pushing fifty now, but they way he ran around the stage, leaping about and working the crowd, you would have sworn it was 1985 all over again. Steve Harris looked a vicious as ever, fingers flying up and down the strings. And of course, the trademark 'line up the guitarists with a foot up on the monitor' was ever present during just about anything with a harmonized guitar line. Absolutely ridiculous for a bunch of guys born in the fifties.

    All told, in a long line of amazing concerts, this one topped the lot, and not by a slim margin either. Iron Maiden came to a city it hadn't played for in 18 years, and reminded us all why they have always been and probably always will be regarded as one of if not the greatest heavy metal act to have ever taken to stage. Now all that's left is to wait for their return with a new album.

    Show highlights: 15 foot cyborg Eddie during The Clairvoyant, nearly burning Rexall Place to the ground during Number of the Beast
    Song highlights: Revelations, Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Fear of the Dark, Hallowed Be Thy Name
    Crowd highlights: 3 minute ovation after Number of the Beast, people chanting 'Maiden, Maiden" a good three hours after the show let out.
  • Review: Rush - Snakes And Arrows Tour 2008 (Extension)

    Mag 28 2008, 6:28

    Tue 27 May – Rush

    I entered the arena to find a backdrop with three projection screens, with ridiculous-looking lighting equipment hanging over a veiled drum kit. As the house lights dimmed, the crowd was treated to a lovely video showing Alex dreaming about snakes and arrows, waking to find himself in bed with Neil. This sort of tongue-in-cheek humour was present throughout the show, from a Bob and Doug McKenzie video introduction for The Larger Bowl to Geddy poking a little fun at himself. ("We're gonna take you back to the 80's now. Remember, with the bad haircuts and large glasses- oh, wait.").

    The show itself was, as expected, very well executed. The lights matched moods well, with some neat equipment and some serious pyrotechnics. The video screens did a good job of capturing the action, in case anyone's view became obstructed. The band itself played with tons of energy. Geddy was bouncing back and forth, getting into it with the crowd, Neil was flipping a drum stick in the air every ten minutes or so, and Alex more or less just doing his thing, letting his playing be his language. The first couple of songs suffered from some mixing issues, but either they were quickly resolved, or my ears simply adjusted.

    As far as the setlist goes, the selection of songs did a great job of covering the band's discography without leaving too much out. Obviously, some albums were not represented, but there was a good mix, and they still did 10 of the songs from Snakes and Arrows, including all three instrumentals. Speaking of instrumentals, one of the show highlights was a spirited rendition of Malignant Narcissism that led into a nine-minute drum solo courtesy of the Professor, which in turn led to a fantastic performance of Hope. Man, Alex made that 12-string wail. Amongst mainstays such as Limelight (which was the opener), Red Barchetta and an encore performance of YYZ, there were a few old classics I was not expecting, like The Trees, Natural Science and 2112 Overture/Temples of Syrinx. Surprisingly, fan favourites Working Man and Closer To The Heart were not present, but it really would be impossible to fit every song into a three hour set.

    I should also mention the merchandise was very reasonably priced, with a great selection. Tour shirts were going for as low as $30, all the way up to a $500 leather jacket, with everything in between, including hoodies, dog tags, and a tote bag. It was definitely nice to see some affordable merch at a big-name concert.

    Overall, it was a spectacular show in nearly every regard. The crowd did a great job of interacting with the songs, such as the WHOLE crowd jumping and screaming with the blast beats from Overture, and the band had a ton of energy and presence. If the tour is swinging by you in the future, don't pass up a great opportunity to see some true musicians playing some fantastic material.
  • Reasons Why I Love This Band #03 - Death

    Dic 23 2007, 10:06

    The first time I heard Death, it was Spirit Crusher from The Sound of Perseverance. And while a lot of people remember that album as the end of the group, I always see it as the beginning for me. I remember hearing the disturbingly odd timing of the song and being rather unimpressed. Then I remember that riff sinking into me like heat from the shower on a cold day. I remember when the song picked up at the first chorus and spontaneously headbanging. I remember being blown away by the solos, and the ridiculously poetic lyrics. I had never heard any death metal, or any progressive metal, or technical metal band achieve musical excellency and fluidity as Death did, all rolled into one. There was no one, but no one in the business with the ear for melody that Chuck did. The more and more I listen to these songs, the more astounded I am by the constuction and flow of the songs from the later albums, namely Symbolic and TSoP.

    I'm not a particularly big fan of traditional death metal, but I'm always keen to throw on songs like Zombie Ritual, Evil Dead, or Born Dead. I may not know much about the genre, but I don't think many bands got it down like Death did in the late eighties. Maybe Possessed, but that's about it. But as you move trough their work from the nineties, it becomes a beast of an entirely different nature. Every. Single. Song. has something that grabs you by the throat and takes you somewhere. There's always one riff, one breakdown, one solo, one ridiculous series of drum fills or basslines that bring you back for more. And that's when the technicality and complexity of the songs begin to set in.

    I find it literally impossible to be bored with Death's progressive albums because they are all very, very 'full' songs. I mean that in the same way a good meal makes you full; it's appetizing from the start, there's lots of flavours and scents to go back and forth from, and you always push away your plate satisfied, having taken as much as you could.

    Even despite never really having a consistent lineup, Chuck always made sure to surround himself with talented musicians, notably Steve DiGorgio (hope I spelled that right), Richard Christy and Gene Hoglan (that one too). This really was one of the best acts in metal, and was already a living legend before being tragically cut short.

    Rest in peace, Chuck. I know it's trite to say that about dead artists, but I truly appreciate the music you made during your time here. Thank you.

    P.S. Holy fucking fuck, The Voice of the Soul. That is all.
  • Free Subscriptions - Just Tell Me Why You Love One Of My Top Ten Played Bands

    Dic 23 2007, 9:46

    In the holiday spirit, I've decided to give away one three-month subscription, and two one-month subscriptions to you, my fellow Last.fm users. Now, I'm not just giving them away for free. You'll have to do a little something if you want one. Just tell me why you love one of the ten bands I love most. If I like yours, you get free loot. If I don't, well hey, it's always nice to have a place to go on about how awesome a band you like is. After all, that's why we're all here, right?

    The 'contest' will close at midnight on December 26th, so the minute Christmas ends. That is Mountain Time (GMT + or -7, I can never remember).

    Seeing as I've only had four people enter to win, I'm going to extend the contest a further 72 hours. The new closing date will now be the end of December 28th, 2007 in Mountain Time. I still intend to have the subscriptions paid and sent by New Year's or so.

    If you're one of the winners, I will let you know on your Shoutbox. The subscriptions will be sent in sometime before New Years.

    Here's my top ten bands:

    Pink Floyd
    The Beatles
    Iron Maiden
    Black Sabbath
    Jimi Hendrix
    Led Zeppelin

    Have fun! And Merry Christmas.
  • Reasons Why I Love This Band #02 - Rush

    Ott 4 2007, 9:10

    Ah,Rush. This is band that speaks to me on a deeper level than any other band I listen to. Perhaps it's Neil Peart's deep philosophical lyrics; maybe it's the fact that I'm just a good ol' Canadian boy. Perhaps it's because when I was young my mother didn't breastfeed me so much as she played Rush for me. No wonder I get hungry every time I hear Tom Sawyer.

    I've loved this band before I loved music. I always liked listening to them, watching their videos as a kid. I remember really liking Signals because that dog on the cover was just so darned cute.But then, one day, when I was seventeen, and fully able to appreciate awesome music, I listened to 2112 - Overture/Temples of Syrinx. I remember everything about that day. I remember where I was standing, what the weather was like out, how deep the snow was, and what time of day it was. When Geddy's wails on the first verse of Syrinx hit my ears, I stopped, frowned and said aloud "Music shouldn't be this good.". And from that moment on, my love affair with the Canadian trio of all around musical badassery took on a whole new form.

    Personally, I'm not too knowledgeable of a lot of the band's work from the mid 80's to late 90's. But that's because I can't stop listening to what they did outside that period. As someone who's favorite music was predominately made in the 70's, I can honestly say Rush killed that decade unlike anybody else, except for a select few bands. '2112', myself, and a headful of drugs have taken several very interesting journeys together. There isn't a single second on 'Hemispheres' that can be described as anything less than "wicked awesome". 'Working Man' is a fantastic track where Alex shows off how good G pentatonic can sound and lays down a riff (and I mean RIFF) that could compete with anything Tony Iommi wanted to throw at him for the time. And Geddy makes his bass bark on By-Tor And The Snowdog, which features one of the most intense passages of musical imagery I've ever heard. 'Here Again' is another great track from the first album that show how versatile the band could be. 'A Farewell To Kings' has one of the best intros ever, 'Circumstances' has one of the best basslines ever, and.. well, I could go on.

    All three band members are at the top of their respective fields. These guys are the epitome of the power trio popularized by Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. As I said before, the lyrics are top notch, and the music is, well, the definition of progressive rock. All in all, they're one of those few bands that I just really can't picture not listening to.

    Oh, and Snakes and Arrows is hands down the best album of 2007 (so far), so if you haven't heard it, get it.
  • Reasons Why I Love This Band #01: Agalloch

    Ott 1 2007, 10:12

    If someone were to have made a dictionary of musical genres, the entry for 'atmospheric' would be Agalloch. This music that is perfect for lying under a starry summer sky, or gazing contentedly at the firelight in the winter, or even as a backdrop to an afternoon stroll through the ravine under the influence of psychoactive drugs. And it's just as well, since the band's discography comprises mostly of lengthy tracks that meander, crest, swell and dance along. The pieces are wonderfully arranged, and travel along to many different places, and take you along for the ride. The musicianship of the band is truly something to behold, and there are few tracks that are not outright masterpieces in themselves. This is real music; the kind that exists only to be itself. There's no bullshit in this music. Every single second lends something to the overall product, even if it's simply establishing a ground point for the next buildup. But perhaps the most notable thing about their music is that it really isn't lacking anything, nor does it have anything unnecessary. It's satisfying, full music, and it's not quite like anything else I've ever heard anywhere else.
  • Review: Kyuss - Kyuss (a.k.a. Welcome To Sky Valley)(1994)

    Mar 9 2007, 20:21

    When an album's jacket clearly states the words "Listen without distractions", you know the band is serious about it. When they take ten songs and lump them into three to preserve continuity and completion, you know they're really serious about it. And when the album in question is allegedly spawned from a multi-day drug binge out in the Californian desert, you know you have one hell of an effort on your hands.

    Kyuss had already achieved critical acclaim for their sophomore masterpiece, 1992's 'Blues For The Red Sun', and an album like that is not easy to follow up. But somehow, the boys managed to outdo themselves. Despite the loss of bassist Nick Oliveri, the band was able to continue on with Scott Reeder handling the four string, and he fits the band perfectly. His basslines meander and crest and swell amidst the chaos of Josh Homme's fuzzed-out, mondo-detuned, hazy guitar that threatens to send desert sand pouring through the speakers along with the music. Brant Bjork's drumming isn't too flashy, too over the top, but he has a sense when he should really let loose with the fills and when he should just keep time. And John Garcia shows an almost startling amount of range and versatility throughout the disc.

    Truth be told, it's difficult to find a weak moment on the album. The album's arrangement makes it a little tedious to delve into at first, with each suite being fifteen minutes upwards. You'll find yourself wishing you had ten individual tracks, and it's a valid point, but when you listen to the suites in a cohesive grouping, it really shows that this is a greater album than the sum of its parts. The pacing is excellent, throwing in spaced-out, psychedelic jams such as 'Asteroid' and 'Space Cadet' to give you time to catch your breath from tracks like 'Gardenia' or '100 Degrees' that scorch like the desert sun. And then there's the subtle stoner groove, sort of sleepily woven through the album's fabric, poking out its head from time to time to see if you're enjoying yourself. And just when you think you've gotten your head wrapped around it, they burn you again with Homme's gripping leads on 'Demon Cleaner', backed with a haunting tribal rhythm, or the 8 minute magnum opus, 'Whitewater', during which you can't help but picture an enormous waterfall crashing down from the heavens at your feet. And one cannot review this album without special mention to 'Odyssey', which manages to feel huge and epic and compelling in a modest four and a half minute frame, an attribute that most artists spend their entire careers searching for.

    But that's enough wanking over the music. What really solidifies this album as a heavy metal masterpiece is the emotion behind it. The lyrics are mostly indirect, but still manage to convey exactly what the band wants to get across. They provide points "a" and "c", and leave point "b" to be whatever you want it to be. This is an album that can be listened to casually. You can let it hit your ears, and think it to be pleasant, and enjoy it, and yes, even take something away from it. But like all true masterpieces in music, it's best digested hungrily, in a darkened room, in silence, from start to finish. No distractions. Allow each note to permeate your mind and find a place to rest. Allow each thought and emotion provoked to propagate and fester. And when it's all said and done, like all great musical works, you'll take off your headphones, sit up, mutter "wow..." to yourself, then hit play and take another trip to the belly of the beast.
  • Review: Rush - Hemispheres (1978)

    Mar 7 2007, 6:22

    Many Rush fans will tell you that the 1970s were the band's best decade. After all, in just six short years, the Canadian trio had managed to release the best selling debut in Canadian history, two successful follow up albums and the monster smash that was 2112. So how do you close out a decade as strong as this one? Simple; you release the masterpiece that is Hemispheres.

    As usual, all three band members bring everything they've got to the table. Geddy Lee's voice soars above the crescendo of Neil Peart's masterful drumming, while his driving basslines provide a solid foundation for Alex Lifeson's awesome riffing and incredible solos. Try as hard as you might, you just won't find a single second on this disc that doesn't rear its head back and scream excellence.

    2112 fans were thrilled to see another epic opener, this time the sequel to Cygnus X-1 from 1977's 'A Farewell To Kings'. Clocking in at an impressive 18 minutes, the song manages to stay fresh throughout - it never gets old and it never gets boring. Musically, the band remains solid, as showcased by the wicked basslines found in "Circumstances" and the wonderful instrumental "La Villa Strangiato". Lyrically, Neil Peart is at his finest, from the political metaphor that comprises "The Trees" and the cohesive storyline found in "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres".

    All in all, you will be hard pressed to find disappointment within this album. From the moment you hit play to the second you inevitably start it up again, the album never fails to deliver. An excellent way to close out an even more excellent decade, Hemispheres is a must-own album for not just any Rush fan, but anyone who even slightly appreciates the progressive genre.