promises promises

I did play with G8F a bit, but haven’t yet put together a render I could like. Which is like the whole point of “reviewing” the package.
So, more rock’n’roll, dudes and dudettes (and anyone else in-between and out the spectrum).

I got recently reminded that this cover exists.

Actually I have the whole album somewhere, I believe, but the production is just… unimpressive. It’s a bit better outside this overcompressed youtube version, but very sterile.
And yet.
Ain’t he plain out phenomenal on this.

It’s not a well-publicised fact about myself – because I don’t really talk about it much – but Jani Lane is one of my – okay, here comes that rarely used word that fits – idols. It’s customary to spit out “Poison-Warrant-FasterPussycat-whateverpopmetalhasbeenyoucancomeupwith” in a single breath – but hell. I realised it’s an unfair sort of – ahem – classification, the moment I heard freaking Cherry Pie on the radio.
Yes, this very fact should tell you this was well over ten years ago, when I still listened to FM radio here in Moscow. Closer to fifteen, like.

Jani Lane was an unbelievable songwriter and quite possibly the best “glam metal” singer of the whole scene.

In the 00s, when Jani was still alive, saying that you’re a Warrant fan could mean being ostracised from just about any metal or even “glam” community. Things have sort of changed since he died – the way they always do *rolls eyes* – but it doesn’t make it easier for me to talk about him. His whole life was one downward spiral. And he found no redemption. It’s just so sad.

So let’s just remember that weird Rush tribute album on Magna Carta, shall we. If there was a tribute that sparkled one holywar too many, it was this.

Jani Lane, lead vocals; Alex Skolnick, lead guitar.
Yup. Gotta love that combination.
Now, generally, whenever Alex plays a cover, it sort of transcends the very idea of “weird”…

Oh, and of course, Warrant’s own stuff. Just one example. One of my favourite tracks.
The better bands of the late 80s/early 90s consistently had awful album covers (interestingly how Lizzy Borden managed to have quite tolerable ones for the 1987 and 1989 releases, though), so I’ll go with a new!MadMax fanvid to represent this song. Even though I’m not a fan of the whole MadMax franchise. Not even the old stuff. Yeah, sue me.
Still, Dog Eat Dog is consistently dark lyrically and imaginative musically. Just don’t look at the cover.

Obligatory live version (audio only). No idea if Jani was ever fully sober onstage, but he delivered 100% every time.

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Brotherhood of the Snake

This latest Testament album has been out for a few days already, but first I waited for iTunes Russia to fix the corrupt files supplied immediately on release (duh, I had it on pre-order), and then I was busy listening and thinking how to describe this brilliance.

You see, I can’t exactly put my finger on why BotS kinda pwns DRoE, the previous one, or even TFoD, the 2008 studio recording (the album that came before DRoE, yup). It’s still Testament. And they are even sort of quoting themselves…

But it’s their young selves they’re quoting, those who recorded the LPs of the late 80s/early 90s, filled with I daresay headbangingly fast tracks – which have been largely supplanted by a more mature and generally slower approach by now.

Not that it’s bad. Testament have always known how to pen a thrash ballad; and when they started experimenting with doom, death and atmospheric rock, it was all very interesting.

But to be honest, if you do go on doing the same experiment for too long, it stops being an experiment, right?

And this time, a “back to the roots” execution also comes with something new: a very subtle change in the way the guys deal with certain harmonic/melodic passages. Testament has always been a very melodic band, but they never really sounded “European”. And on this album, there are times when you wonder if they have been listening to too much Blind Guardian, y’know =)

Some of these moments are found in the second track, The Pale King, which blew me away the first time I heard it, with all those changes, discoveries and perpetual motion. And now they’ve released a video that fits the music perfectly!

on the subject of Alex Skolnick…

…and handsome singers, why, I can’t leave you without a Testament fix.

Now, here is some scary cosmic balance at work here. Chuck Billy, the frontman of Testament, is one of the best singers in metal ever. His name may not pop up that often in various lists and ratings, but actually he’s got a crazy range and unbelievable technique (folk/jazz-based rather than “operatic”, but still).

And in his late twenties, he was probably the most good-looking male I have ever seen.

Sorry for the quality, it’s an old video and apparently not even the band themselves have a good copy.

An obligatory live version – the quality is about the same, and you can hear Chuck has always been more aggressive live. But I hope you know that successfully delivering it that harsh takes even more technique than just being nicely clean an’stuff.

Alex Skolnick’s “last…for a while” Testament album was less “thrashy”, so purists aren’t that fond of it, but I’m no purist.

Chuck started gaining weight in the early-to-mid nineties, but you can hardly blame him for that – as it turned out a few years later, he had some weird sort of cancer.
You know what, he lived through that and still performs.

Here’s a lovely song off their 1994 “Low” album (without Alex) – Chuck doesn’t exactly multitrack in the studio as much as Hansi Kürsch does (Hansi’s a fan, coincidentally), but quite a lot; and if you add up the range of all the vocal parts in this song, including the backing ones, it is frellin’ three octaves. No kidding.

And here’s a great live version of this song – audio only; you can hear it’s been simplified somewhat, but what remains is still beyond impressive:

life’s fairer than we think

Savatage. I won’t be talking about the days when Jon Oliva fronted the band himself – I am plainly allergic to his voice. But Zak Stevens, while he’s not exactly _the_ caliber I’d kill to hear doing Savatage tunes, now this is someone whom I listen to on a regular basis – if only because Handful of Rain is a crazy good album. And it had Alex Skolnick on guitar, and let me tell you, he’s just so damn amazing it’s hard to believe.

Now, the fun part. These two, they are among the top most handsome guys in the metal scene ever. They aren’t half bad looking even these days, and in their late twenties, they outright belonged in a fantasy movie cast.

But – as I have already mentioned, Mr Stevens’ vocals have weak points: primarily, a somewhat limited range; he used to be more daring when he was younger, but at that time he had certain technical issues that resulted in a rather annoying sound. And Mr Skolnick, now, he has a blog. Used to have, at least. And I used to think I was the most boring person in existence. Nope, not a chance.

Now I should probably stop making fun of those two because they don’t really deserve it =) But hey, this is my private blog and I have the right to express my biased opinions here.

Still – let the music do the talking now…

Actually, when staying within his limits, Zak Stevens is amazingly consistent live. Like, OMFG that good. This is something I applaud, and, well, something I am damn jealous of. Here’s a live version of one of the Handful of Rain harder-hitting tracks, performed some time in the mid-nineties (Alex Skolnick is also there):

Edge of Thorns was the album that came before Handful of Rain. Somehow Savatage albums are next to impossible to find here in Russia, even in the iTunes age, so I don’t have it. But it should be as good. The title track is, at least. And holy hell, just check out the frontmanship. This guy looks like an Elven prince. And I generally dismiss most movie elf cast as “not beautiful enough”.

Flash forward to 2013 and Zak Stevens’ own project Circle II Circle. He doesn’t seem to have changed much visually =) But I much, much prefer the way he’s singing these days, even though you can hear he shies away from writing any higher notes into the melody, – his technique and hence sound has vastly improved overall. To tell the truth, when listening to his early Savatage tracks, I can’t get away from the impression that he’s constantly about to gag… not the case anymore. I could shower you with technical terms re:what exactly he must’ve changed about his technique, but I won’t. Cuz nobody but singers should care for all those soft palate/root of tongue positions, rib expansion yadda yadda yadda.
Just… enjoy.