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The Big Four Coming To America

When Megadeth posted on their Facebook  January 24, that Big Four dates would be announced for America, I was ecstatic. To see these bands together would be a huge honor as a music fan but quite possibly the biggest honor for a heavy metal fan. Now when I say Big Four, I mean, Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth and Anthrax. These four bands were at the forefront of the thrash genre and they are also the most successful bands, not only of thrash but also thrash and music in general.

I have seen Slayer and Megadeth twice, once even together along with Testament. But to see at least one Big Four show would be amazing. I along with a lot of fans expected at least a semi tour consisting of 5 -10 dates spread out over the country. I hoped Phoenix would get one of those dates. When I woke up on January 25, I was greeted to the announcement that the Big Four would be doing one date in Indio, California on April 23 and no more. I was a little taken back and a little disappointed. I understood the logic. The concert would be held one week after Coachella, they would use the same stage and it would be on the same grounds as Coachella, so a lot of people could attend. At first I thought to myself, “I hope that they tour the states soon.”

Dave Mustaine, James Hetfield, Tom Araya and Scott Ian of Megadeth, Metallica, Slayer and Anthrax (respectively).

But then I realized…I can go to this. Indio is three hours away. I can make this happen. To make a long story short, I got tickets and will be making the trip along with my brothers, my friend Dan and my other friend Tyler. Even if they do eventually do a Big Four tour of the states. I will be able to say that I was at the first one and to be able to see it live and not on DVD, like I did when they released “The Big Four:Live in Sofia,” will be a pleasure.

Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich was quoted as saying, “That we are testing the waters and seeing how the fans react.” I am willing to bet that people will turn out in droves to see this event and that a few more U.S. dates will be on the way. But I will attend the first one but these egos are so fragile and so much history has happened between these musicians, I wouldn’t be surprised if this “friendship” between the bands doesn’t last much longer.


Hail The Villain “Population: Declining” Review

Hail The Villain has been crawling its way to the top of the hard rock heap ever since 2003 when the band formed in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. It seems that seven years later the four-piece band is poised to take on the hard rock world. Hail The Villain stands out among the often generic and cookie-cutter radio bands that hit the airwaves today. They have a unique image, an original name, a debut album with some respectable cuts on it and above all else the chops to pull the songs off live.

“Population: Declining” is an album that you will either instantly love or hate. If you don’t enjoy the first track, “Take Back the Fear,” then you won’t enjoy the rest of the album because, love it or hate it, “Population: Declining” doesn’t have much variety. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, considering the fact that it is a debut album and that the CD flies by, clocking in at just about 40 minutes.

The band is talented to say the least. Lead singer Bryan Crouch has an excellent voice, hitting his screams and soaring choruses with ease. Guitarist Joseph Stamp is a skilled player; this especially shines through on “Runaway,” an infectious song that will stick with you even after just one listen. The rhythm section consists of bassist Chad Taylor and drummer Drew Dockrill (who has since left the band) ; both are more than competent and provide a great groove throughout the album. One thing listeners will realize even by just listening to a few tracks is that Hail The Villain is an angry band, and a lot of aggression is shown on “Population: Declining.”

The album has a few standout tracks, including “Take Back the Fear,” “My Reward” and “Runaway,” all of which are well made, catchy, hard rock tunes. The album continues along nicely with songs “16 Cradles,” “Evil Has A Name” and “Try Hating the World,” but then the disc hits the proverbial wall.

“Glad To Be,” “Blackout” and “Pyro” are average songs, which will have the listener pressing the skip button more times than not. Sadly, Hail The Villain will probably lose some fans here because at this point in the album the band has exhausted all its creative juices. Riffs and lyrics start blending together, and these three tracks get lost in the shuffle.

Luckily the band saves the experience with three quality closing tracks, “Mission Control,” “Swan Dive Suicide” and “Social Graces.” “Swan Dive Suicide” is a slow, heartfelt song, which is entirely different from every other track and shows that Hail The Villain has some variety up its sleeves.

This band falls under the same category as bands like Three Days Grace and Papa Roach , but they have something going for them that other radio bands do not, imagination and musicianship. You can see the band’s creativity on display by visiting its website http://www.hailthevillain.com, which is basically an interactive graphic novel that draws you into this band’s whole image and vibe. For a more relaxed experience, you can visit them on MySpace at http://www.myspace.com/hailthevillain.

“Population: Declining” is a solid foundation for Hail The Villain to build upon. Unfortunately, the repetitiveness and the few lackluster tracks prevent this good album from being great, but these are things that can be fixed on the band’s next full length.

Uproar Tour 2010, Tempe Beach Park

So I attended the Uproar Tour last Sunday. I had won free tickets and wasn’t planning on attending this show simply because of the fact that A7X and Disturbed are headlining the festival and well lets just say they aren’t my favorite two bands. But you can’t beat free live music, so my brother and I decided to make the trek to Tempe and see what Uproar had to offer.

Two of the bands on the bill are bands that I already knew would be entertaining, Airbourne and Stone Sour, considering the fact that I have seen both live before. But everything else was rather unknown, except for the two headliners which I have seen before and hate with a passion.

It was another great September day in Arizona with temperatures boiling over to a near 110 degrees, awesome. After an excruciatingly long wait in line the gates were finally opened. We went straight for a drink stand and found out that they would not be giving out ice and they had to poor bottles in plastic cups, which is standard fare and didn’t surprise me, but the ice thing did. We live in a desert, provide your patrons with cold drinks, we pay enough for them don’t we?

After we purchased our luke warm drinks we headed over to the second stage.

Eyes Set To Kill was the first band to play and they are about as generic as generic can be. Arizona has a knack for producing some terrible metal bands and Eyes Set To Kill doesn’t break the mold. They would be literally nowhere without the sister duo in the band, who are half way attractive.

Hail The Villain was up next and they really surprised. This band is talented, they sound excellent and the front man is hilarious. I was semi familiar with their material before Uproar and I am now following this band closely, they will blow up very soon and if they don’t, then I have lost all of the little hope I had for radio hard rock.

Chad Taylor-Hail The Villain

Bryan Crouch-Hail The Villain

New Medicine took to the stage after Hail The Villain. They are a semi-talented band, with a bad attitude, a generic sound and they were completely out of place on Uproar.

Airbourne finally hit the stage and the hard rockers from Australia tore it up. Seeing Airbourne live is something I recommend to all music lovers, metal, hard rock or other wise. They are simply awesome to see. So much energy from them, it is contagious. I will definitely catch Airbourne for a third time when they come back around to Phoenix.

Joel O'Keeffe-Airbourne

Justin Street, David Roads-Airbourne

We decided to skip Hellyeah and head over to the main stage to get ready for Halestorm who were opening it up.

Halestorm are really bland to me, they produce some generic hard rock, every song is about Lzzy Hale and her experiences with men…or so it seems. They aren’t bad…but they aren’t great…just a solid band I suppose who are probably selling themselves short to make some cash.

Stone Sour was up next and they delivered. They sounded just as good as the last time they rolled through Phoenix, nearly three years ago. Corey Taylor said he was feeling under the weather but I couldn’t notice. Jim Root and Corey did look like they were enjoying themselves and I imagine being on the road takes their mind off their fallen friend Slipknot bassist Paul Gray. This may sound selfish but I hope Corey and Jim keep their focus on Stone Sour. Slipknot has ran its course and to be honest the two bands sounds were merging together with each new record.

Stone Sour

Corey Taylor-Stone Sour

We made our way to the exits after Stone Sour. Avenged Sevenfold and Disturbed are not my cup of tea and too be completely honest most of their fans are rather obnoxious and have little if any respect for others around them and they make shows rather unenjoyable.

For the price, Uproar was a great way to spend a Sunday in Arizona.

The Top Ten Metal Vocalists (In No Particular Order)

Bruce Dickinson-The air raid siren, the voice. This man still sounds as powerful as he did 25 years ago, albeit a little bit more seasoned. Dickinson’s howls are some of the most recognizable in all of metal.

Rob Halford-Equally still as impressive as Dickinson, Halford still possess a monster voice. Recognizable, powerful, the metal god.

Nergal-The main man of Behemoth possess a voice that sends shivers up your spine. His death metal scream and guttural vocals are second to none.

Ronnie James Dio-The legendary lead singer of Elf, Rainbow, Dio, Black Sabbath and countless others had one of the most impressive voices in all of music. The man was in top form all the way up until his death. Easily one of the greatest singers of all time.

Peter Steele-The former front man of Type O Negative. Steele had one of the most haunting voices in metal. His deep bellows cause goosebumps on every listen.

Ozzy Osbourne-Ozzy makes this list simply because of how recognizable his voice is. Nobody else sounds like Ozzy. He never has been the most talented vocalist in the world but his voice sounds like no other.

Devin Townsend- The genius behind Strapping Young Lad, The Devin Townsend Band, and The Devin Townsend Project owns one of the greatest voices in music. This man can scream, growl and sing with the best of them. Haunting melodies, pure ballads, and death metal vocals are no problem for Townsend. What is most impressive about him is that his talents don’t end with his voice.

Matt Barlow-Matt Barlow of Iced Earth fame is perhaps the very best pure Heavy Metal vocalist from the United States. The man posses a haunting voice that is equal parts soulful as it is powerful.

Tarja Turunen-The former lead singer of Nightwish, Tarja has an amazing voice. Her operatic vocals made Nightwish an instantly recognizable band, her voice is unmistakable.

Geoff Tate-The Queensryche lead singer has an amazing voice in the same vain as Dickinson. He is powerful, soulful and melodic all at the same time. His voice is also instantly recognizable and has given Queensryche their identity.

The genre known as heavy metal is an interesting one to say the least, it often gets pegged as a genre with talentless musicians, but I challenge anyone to find vocalists who are as talented as these men and women, it should also be noted that most of these men and women are amazing lyricists, guitar players, and entertainers as well.

“The Final Frontier”

Iron Maiden has discovered the fountain of youth. It is near impossible for a 30-year-old band to stay relevant in today’s music industry, but this one continues to defy the odds with sold out shows, countless world tours and the release of their new album “The Final Frontier.”

This new 76-minute opus is Maiden’s 15th studio album and the band shows no signs of slowing down. They pick up right where their 2006 release, “A Matter of Life and Death,” left off and that means more long and epic Maiden songs. Only one track on “The Final Frontier” falls under five minutes in length. This could be considered overkill, but ever since vocalist Bruce Dickinson and guitarist Adrian Smith returned in 2000, the band has taken a more ambitious approach to creating music.

Iron Maiden isn’t resting on their past glories. They are pushing themselves to new heights and expanding their musical boundaries. Yes, the songs are lengthy, however the galloping bass of Steve Harris and the thundering drums of Nicko McBrain drive the songs along quickly and aggressively. Eight-, nine- and even 11-minute songs seem to fly by.

“The Final Frontier” shows the band in a great light. The different types of songs and signature changes show that Maiden has more versatility than some have given them credit for. This album has something for every Iron Maiden fan and would even be a good listen for someone not familiar with the English outfit. The fast and heavy tracks like “El Dorado” and “The Alchemist” provide a great throwback to the bands earlier days, while the ballad “Coming Home” shows the band in a way rarely heard before.

“The Final Frontier” does give fans a bit of everything, but it’s the epics that really show the creativity and fire that the band still has left in them. “Isle of Avalon,” “The Talisman,” “The Man Who Would Be King” and “When The Wild Wind Blows” are the longest tracks on the album but are also the fines. All six band members are given time to shine on these cuts.

The production on “The Final Frontier” is spectacular. Kevin Shirley returns once again to take up producing duties alongside bassist Harris. Shirley has helmed every Maiden project since 2000 and rightfully so, the man continues to impress. Iron Maiden is a band that is only as good as its collective parts, and each part needs to be prominent in the mix. It would be difficult for any producer to try to produce a six-piece band, but Shirley is up to the task showcasing each mans abilities. Even all three guitar players, Janick Gers, Dave Murray and Smith are displayed adequately, which is the most impressive feat on Shirley’s part.

“The Final Frontier” is an album that should make most Iron Maiden fans happy. All the typical Iron Maiden tricks are here but it is the new tricks that will catch the listener off guard. It is simply great to hear a band that is 30 years old taking risks and trying new things, most musicians in their position wouldn’t bother.

Metal and Religion

Could Heavy Metal exist without religion?

Metal is an extreme form of expression. It is a form of music that isn’t for the lighthearted or timid. Often times Heavy Metal genres take on the topic of religion or the aspects of religions. I am not religious, in fact I am one of the least religious people you would probably ever meet, but I owe a debt to all religions simply for the fact that they inspire many of the musicians I look up to.

The fact is that this genre and its sub genres would not exist (in today’s form) without religion. The archetype of heavy metal, Black Sabbath would not have become so popular without Christianity. Their name alone owes itself to religion. Often times Sabbath would write of the devil as something to be afraid of, they played on peoples fears rather than glorifying Satan. But the fact remains that the grand fathers of metal played off of religion.

The symbolism used in metal often goes hand in hand with religion. Crucifixes, pentagrams, inverted crosses. All play a huge role in the image of metal bands.

Some of my favorite bands owe their names to religion:

Testament, Exodus, Daath, Lamb of God etc. etc. etc.

While Sabbath wrote about Satan as something to be afraid of, many bands use Satan as a tool, something to glorify, something to believe in.

Mayhem, Burzum, Darkthrone and many other Norwegian Black Metal bands owe their whole careers to Christianity. Yes these bands attack Christianity at nearly every opportunity, but without Christianity they would have almost nothing to write about, and often times it is the message and mystic that draws people to these bands, not their musical prowess.

Some bands use Satan and religion as a marketing tool i.e. Slayer, Motley Crue, AC/DC.

“God Hates Us All,” “Shout At The Devil,” “Highway To Hell.” Three albums by those three bands, respectively. Every album has a title relating to religion. Not all of the songs on these albums deal with religion, but the imagery and connotation the titles send out there draw people into them. Religion used as a marketing tool.

It is wrong to say that all metal bands write about religion. Many bands write about politics, love, war, history, mythology, etc. etc. etc. some bands even dive into all of these themes. But metal would not be what it is today without religion.

So while often religion is at the forefront of metal’s attack, I think we need to thank religion for giving metal bands something to write about, and also thank the religious fanatics for all the press over the years.

The Top Ten Metal Albums You Need

Top Ten Must Have Albums For Metal Heads:

This is somewhat of a touchy subject that is open for mass debate. But who better then me to tell you what to listen to? (This is in no particular order)

10.)Black Sabbath-Self Titled

This is somewhat of a cop out pick, but hey it is my list. If you are getting into Heavy Metal, you might as well start at the very beginning. Black Sabbath were the originators and their debut album is one of their best.


“Symbolic” is an album that doesn’t let up. The second to last Death album ever released, “Symbolic” shows what an amazing musician Chuck Schuldiner really was. Death continued to expand on the death metal sound they had created ten years before “Symbolic.” The album is as technical as it is brutal.

8.)Immortal-Sons of Northern Darkness

Immortal’s last album before going on hiatus in 2003 is quite possibly there best. “Sons of Northern Darkness” is a black metal masterpiece. It is catchy but still maintains that since of rawness that black metal albums should have. This album also proves that black metal bands can have great production on their albums.

7.)Iron Maiden-Powerslave

I had a really hard time picking just one Iron Maiden album. I truly love just about their whole catalog, but “Powerslave” wins out. Everything came together on “Powerslave.” There is equal mix raw and fast Maiden along with epic Maiden. A perfect blend so to speak.

6.)Judas Priest-Screaming For Vengeance

Another hard choice for me, as Priest has many classic albums just like Maiden. I could have put “British Steel” or “Painkiller” here just as well. Halford, Downing and Tipton were in top form here. “Electric Eye,” “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin,” and “Devil’s Child” are just a few stand out tracks on this glorious album.

5.)Megadeth-Rust In Peace

A thrash masterpiece. Mustaine and Co. simply got it right on “Rust In Piece.” There isn’t a dud on “Rust In Piece”, from “Holy Wars,” all the way to “Rust In Piece…Polaris” this album is all killer.

4.)Metallica-Ride The Lightning

Most would probably put “Kill ‘Em All” or “Master of Puppets” on this list, but to me “Ride The Lightning” is Metallica at their finest. I think it is a step up from “Kill ‘Em All” and not as overrated as “Puppets.” “Fade To Black” will always be one of my favorite Metallica tunes, it is still as haunting and impressive as it was the first time I heard it.

3.)Slayer-South of Heaven

Insert either “Seasons” or “Reign In Blood” here as well. They are all classics, but “South of Heaven” is probably my personal favorite out of the three. They couldn’t go any faster after “Reign In Blood” so Slayer slowed it down and the music became more aggressive. Tom’s screams, Jeff and Kerry’s solos, and Dave’s thunderous drumming all sound amazing still to this day.

2.)Mastodon-Crack The Skye

The newest album on this list. “Crack The Skye” deserves this spot simply because of it’s sheer brilliance. Mastodon have consistently released amazing material throughout their tenure as a band, but “Crack The Skye” is quite simply a stunning album from the first track to the last.

1.)Blind Guardian-Nightfall In Middle Earth

A power metal classic. “Nightfall In Middle Earth” is Blind Guardian’s masterpiece. A perfect power metal album which is a great introduction to the genre for any uninitiated fan. Epic, Powerful and Beautiful.

I do realize that a lot of bands and a lot of albums were left off of this list, but I feel that any self respecting metal fan should have these in his or her (who are we kidding….his) collection. It gives a great representation of metal from a variety of sub-genres. Everyone can find something they like in this list. If not, I don’t know what to say…

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