ICED EARTH: PLAGUES OF BABYLON/ KILL DEVIL HILL: REVOLUTION RISE REVIEWS

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     Iced Earth is not one of the most well known Metal Bands of today.  However, they have actually been pounding out true Heavy Metal classics since 1985.  The Band was originally formed in 1985 by guitarist Jon Schaffer (No Relation…DAMN) and original drummer Greg Seymour.  The Band’s original name was Purgatory.  Since 1990, when Iced Earth released their self titled debut album, they have released a total of ten studio albums, four EP’s, three box sets, one live album, and a cover album.  Ironically, their first album actually shared three different album covers: European/Japanese, American, and Remastered version.  The first two albums followed a traditional thrash metal sound like Metallica, but then transitioned into a Power/Progressive Metal Sound with new singer Matt Barlow.  

     Iced Earth has saw many members come and go, including Barlow who quit the band to become a police officer.  Jon Schaffer is the only remaining member from the original lineup.  During Barlow’s hiatus, Judas Priest’s Tim “Ripper” Owens joined the band for two albums “The Glorious Burden” and “Framing Armegeddon.”  Their most recent album “Dystopia”, has had many positive reviews and many Metal Experts say it’s Iced Earth’s best album to date.  As mentioned, there have been over 20 different musicians to belong to this band and now Stu Block has taken over on lead vocals.  His vocal style fits this band perfect.  Common lyrical themes of Iced Earth has been religion, history, fantasy, literature, and movies.  Several of the band’s albums were Concept Albums.  The two part album Framing Armegeddon and the Crucible of Man (Something Wicked Part 1/Part 2) told the story of Jon Schaffer’s creation of the Setitians.  In this story the Setitians are actually invaded by humans.  Listen to both of these albums back to back with the lights out and you will have a better idea of what a Concept Album is.

     Iced Earth recently released The Plagues of Babylon, which features part of his concept creation, while the other half of the album is a normal style album.  Most music critics have given the new album positive reviews overall.  In January, Plagues of Babylon reached #5 on the German Media Control Chart.  This is actually the highest position Iced Earth has ever hit in the band’s entire career.  In the United States, the album sold 6,500 copies the first week and debuted at 49 on the Billboard 200.  The album begins with “The Plagues of Babylon” the albums cover name.  Plagues of Babylon is a spin off of the Something Wicked concept that has been created by the band’s leader and captain Jon Schaffer.  The album follows Iced Earth’s traditional Progressive/Power Style and has a few hooks here and there.  I have just recently become a fan of Iced Earth; however in that short time I have grown to really enjoy this band.  Their latest album, “Plagues of Babylon” is their best album to date and I give it an 8.5/10.  I strongly recommend this album for any metal fans that like to get taken away by the music.

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     “Revolution Rise” is the sophomore album of the new band KILL DEVIL HILL.  For those of you not familiar with this band, this band was formed in 2011 by Vinny Appice (Black Sabbath/Heaven and Hell/DIO) and Rex Brown (Pantera/Down).  The band consists of Lead Vocalist Dewey Bragg, Guitarist Mark Zavon, Bassist Rex Brown and Drummer Vinny Appice.  Not coincidentally, the band is named after the town of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.  Apparently this was an area that had extreme pirate activity in history.  They use a heavy/modern sound but they don’t shift to the mainstream sound and stay away from the typical contemporary hardcore sound.  As far as this album, I give the new “Revolution Rise” a strong 8/10.  Kill Devil Hill keeps it real and it does not hurt to have musical geniuses Rex Brown and Vinny Appice.  KILL DEVIL HILL will be a Metal Powerhouse for years to come.

     In other metal news, the band Halestorm released their second Cover EP.  In their first cover EP, they covered Slave to the Grind by Skid Row.  They have an awesome sound and with a female vocalist they do not lose any of the power metal sound.  Among other new releases to look forward to, Limp Bizkit, Overkill, Exodus, Sebastian Bach, Lacuna Coil, Steel Panther, Chevelle, Sevendust, Anthrax, Puddle of Mudd, Corosion of Conformity, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Godsmack, Guns N Roses, Motley Crue, Testament, Whitesnake all plan on releasing new albums in 2014.  Metallica has released their 3D Movie Through The Never.  Motley Crue is planning their farewell tour.  And I am sure there will be many other great metal stories to come.  Until next time, ROCK ON MY DROOGIES!!!!!!!  KEEP METAL ALIVE!

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NATIONAL METAL DAY 2013

Image     Hey folks…Today is National Metal Day.  Looking back at 2013 so far, the greatest loss to the Metal Community this year was the passing of Jeff Hanneman (49 Years Old), the famous guitarist in the band Slayer.  I remember I was at work when I heard about the passing of this great guitar player.  It was very sad news as Slayer has always been one of my favorite Metal Bands.  Slayer’s latest album “The World Painted Blood”, may have been their best ever produced album and Hanneman was responsible for writing most of the material.  As a veteran Metal Head, this is a very special day for me as well as many of you.  Of course, I will spend my day jamming all of my favorite bands and enjoying the Music that has been the soundtrack of my life.

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     For any Def Leppard fans, I highly recommend their latest release of Viva Hysteria in Las Vegas.  This deluxe set includes 2 Live CD’s from their performance in their Vegas Rock Stand as well as a DVD of their entire Hysteria album live.  I am a huge Def Leppard fan and have always been enamored by their Greatness.  However, these past few years their sound quality has not been as good as Joe Elliot seemed to have lost his voice.  Well, I must say that this performance is truly epic.  First of all, I remember when Hysteria was first released.  I probably listened to the album 30x the first day I purchased the CD…lol.  I also remember reading the jacket and admiring the artwork.  When Hysteria was released, the Band hit a Grand Slam.  This album was highly anticipated as it took over three years to produce.  “Viva Hysteria” is the Hysteria album in its entirety.  Well, from the opening song “Women” to the final tune “Love and Affection” this is the best Def Leppard has sounded in forever.  Vivian Campbell and Phil Collen are brilliant as is Drummer Rick Savage and Rick Allen their bassist.  However, the biggest surprise on the album is how good Joe Elliot sounds.  Its almost like he is a new person.  Trust me, this is a must see performance for any Metal Fans.

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     Megadeth and Iron Maiden both continue their World Tours.  Megadeth, after taking a break to do the “Countdown to Extinction Live” Tour is back on the road promoting their latest album Super Collider.  They even hooked up with Iron Maiden on a few shows out west this past summer and fall.  One show had Death Angel, Testament, Overkill, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Slayer, and Megadeth.  Now, that must have been some show!!  Anyways, Iron Maiden continues to be beasts on Tour, even at their ripe old age.  Bruce Dickinson has to be one of the most energetic Front Men in Metal, even to this day.  Dave Mustaine has signed up for an opportunity to do a solo album with an orchestra.  I am so looking forward to that.  Also, Bassist David Elleffson has released an autobiography.  I have not read the book yet; however, I am planning on picking it up very soon.  Some other good books that came out recently is Rex Brown’s new book which chronicles the end times of Pantera.  

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     Avenged Sevenfold (AX7), recently released their newest album “Hail to the King.”  For those of you that are not familiar with any of Avenged material, I highly suggest purchasing some of their albums.  In reality, it was going to be hard for AX7 to out due their past album “Nightmare”, which was a multi-platinum giant.  However, the Band has managed to go one step further.  Their latest release, “Hail to the King” is a masterpiece.  The first leg of their tour went across the nation and they also had guests Device, Five Finger Death Punch, and Def Tones.  They are now currently touring Europe.  “Hail to the King” sold a very impressive 159,000 copies during the first week of release.  The album stormed to Number #1 on the Billboard 200 as well.  Of course, there are many naysayers that feel that Avenged Sevenfold is not original an that they steal riffs from other great bands.  I have to disagree totally.  Although many of the new songs on the album mirror other great bands such as Guns N Roses, Metallica, Megadeth and Iron Maiden, the production level is top notch.  And may I ask, what is wrong with creating material that is driven from some of the greatest Metal Bands ever.  The album also has a Black Sabbath feel to it at some points.  At any rate, this was a great release, and along with Volbeat, these are my two favorite albums of 2013 so far. 

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     Speaking of Black Sabbath, the Grandfathers of Metal released a new album in 2013 called ironically, “13”.  Well, as far as the album goes, the material was probably some of their most dynamic since back in the DIO years.  Everyone has their favorite Black Sabbath lineup, mine is surprisingly with Ronnie James Dio at the helm.  Dio in my mind is a way better vocalist than Ozzy.  Ozzy may be a better stage presence, however I like music for the lyrics and vocals.  So, I am more of a fan with Sabbath with Dio.  However, their best albums have come from the classic lineup of Ozzy, Geezer, Iommi, and Ward.  Their new album goes back to the roots of Sabbath and has an extremely dynamic sound.  The band was able to make Ozzy’s voice appear like he was 21 again.  I love the new album, if you have not heard it pick it up!

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      The popular Christian Metal band, Stryper has also released their first new album in fifteen years.  Their new album is titled “No More Hell To Pay.”  Michael Sweet has always been one of the greatest vocalists to take the stage.  Stryper has some awesome material and this album is their heaviest in years.  To me, this album goes back to the roots, like their well known track “To Hell With the Devil.”  I have sampled the album and I give it an 8/10 rating.  Michael Sweet has not lost a step and the rest of the band is at the top of its game.  Oz Fox is brilliant with his guitar playing.  Although Stryper has always fit in the Progresive Metal category, this album is a more classic metal sound.  The guitar work is excellent and there are many impressive riffs.

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     Metal Church has also released a new album titled “Generation Nothing.”  This may sound crazy, but in my opinion this is their best Metal album ever.  Although, this is the band’s 3rd Lineup, I feel that this album is top notch from start to finish.  Every song on the album could easily be a hit.  Seriously, check out this one, I promise that you will not be disappointed.  The opening track “Bullet Proof” is a thrash style punk metal riff that rips open the album.  “Dead City” and “Generation Nothing” are hard anthem type Metal songs.  Then the Fourth Track, “Noises in the Wall” uses a ton of bridges, hooks, and even has some unique change ups, kind of like Metallica used to do in their early albums.  My favorite two songs on the album are “Suiciety” and “Hits Keep Coming” which are both hard and fast and rock your core.  The finale’, “The Media Horse” portrays a realistic viewpoint on how the media of today has stained American Life.  Metal Church is underrated in my mind and they are one of the forgotten thrash metal bands of the eighties era.

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    In conclusion, I would like to take a close look at the icon Tim “Ripper” Owens.  Most people recognize Owens as the vocalist that took over for Rob Halford of “Judas Priest”, when Rob left the band.  This is true, and the movie Rockstar was loosely based on the story of Tim Owens.  However, Tim Owens is much more than just “that guy.”  Tim Owens was born in 1967.  He is currently a solo artist, but he also does some guest appearances with “Beyond fear” and “Charred Walls of the Damned.”  He has also recently done work with “Dio’s Disciples” and Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Rising Force.”

     Tim Owens began his stardom in the British cover band “British Steel” a tribute band that did Judas Priest cover songs.  In 1996, Owens went from a fan to being the Lead Singer of Judas Priest.  He was actually nominated for a Grammy Award for the song “Bullet Train” from the album Jugulator but lost to Metallica’s Better than You.  In 2003, Halford reunited with Priest and Owens quickly jumped into the band “Iced Earth” as their lead singer Matt Barlow.  His career with Iced Earth was short lived and included two albums.  I am a huge Iced Earth fan and although I love Matt Barlow, I must say that the band sounded at its best behind Owens.  Tim has started his own cover bar named Tim Owens Tap House, which is a World renowned Eater and Music Bar and Restaurant.  The bar is currently located in Akron, Ohio.  Tim Owens is a legend, just because of his story and the way he became famous.  Not to mention, he is an incredible talent as far as a vocalist.

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******ROCK ON METAL HEADS!!!! HAPPY NATIONAL METAL DAY….KEEP THE METAL ALIVE!!!  Stay tuned for more great posts…until next time Y!