Your occasional source for heavy metal, progressive rock and hard rock coverage. Whenever I feel like it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Totally Biased Top Ten List: Metal Singers

Best Dressed Frontman: Rob Halford from Judas Priest

The frontman of any band is the most difficult, most maligned position. And it's the only one with a serious psychological condition attached, the dreaded Lead Singer's Disease. Without too much ado, here's my favorite singers. This list is of course, completely subjective and totally biased. As with the drummers list, all artists are living and currently active.

Geoff Tate sings the National Anthem. No band required.

  • Geoff Tate: This astonishing singer from Seattle has fronted Queensr├┐che for almost 30 years. Tate has a deep chest voice and an honest-to-God opera tenor, a powerful, clear instrument with crisp diction and lots of power. And if all that's not enough, he did both Operation: Mindcrime and "Silent Lucidity."

  • Rob Halford: The Metal God himself, Halford has a formidable multi-octave range with deep baritone range and a piercing tenor scream. Check out Judas Priest's astonishing Nostradamus record to hear how diverse he can be.

  • Till Lindemann: The Rammstein frontman is gifted with a commanding stage presence and a powerful voice that can alternate between menacing growls, barked commands and operatic excess. And he sings most of Rammstein's lieder in German.

  • Bruce Dickinson: Still my favorite Iron Maiden singer. The "Air Raid Siren" has aged well, with his powerful tenor in excellent shape, with the all-important high notes intact. There's a new Maiden record planned for 2010, and I can't wait.

  • Ronnie James Dio: Dio's amazing career (he has fronted Rainbow, Black Sabbath, his own band and Heaven and Hell) is outdone only by his powerful multi-octave voice. And he can sing better than most guys half his age.

James LaBrie singing "La Mer" with the Frameshift project.

  • James LaBrie: This Canadian singer gets a lot of grief from Dream Theater fans. But he sings their difficult music admirably. And if you like that, check out his work on Frameshift's 2003 album, Unweaving the Rainbow. Frighteningly good.

  • Sharon den Adel: Of all the gothic/symphonic metal acts that have emerged from Northern Europe in recent years, Within Temptation are probably my favorite. Sharon den Adel has a strong soprano voice that soars over the band's orchestral textures.

  • Doug Pinnick/Ty Tabor/Jerry Gaskill: King's X have been ripped off by almost every band to come out after 1990. Nobody can match the unique blend of Beatles-style harmonies and frenzied gospel shout. Bassist dUg Pinnick has an extraordinary instrument, but since all three guys in the band sing lead, they all make the list.

  • Klaus Meine: The diminuitive Scorpions frontman has been at this longer than most of this list. And now that he's 59 (and the Scorpions are on the verge of retirement) his voice is in excellent shape. Now about der accent….

  • David Coverdale: This last spot was a toss-up between Coverdale and Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillain, as both are fine exponents of the British blues tradition. Vocally, I'd give Coverdale the slight edge. Want to hear what a great singer he is? Pick up the unplugged Whitesnake disc Starkers In Tokyo and you'll hear what a great craftsman he is.

Metallica Meets Journey

A mash-up of "Enter Sandman" and "Don't Stop Believin'" by Rock Sugar, a band I've never even heard of. Not quite Beatallica, but pretty awesome. Enjoy!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Put That Chicken Down! The Obligatory Rush Post

Geddy Lee, avec poulet

Oh what the hell, I'm going to write about Rush.

I've made no secret of my affinity for Canada's finest power trio. This year they became the first band to get into the Hockey Hall of Fame before the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"When the weary world was young": Rush in NYC

As I write this, Vh1 Classic is playing R30, the film of the band's 2004 tour in celebration of their 30th anniversary. Filmed in Frankfurt, Germany, the show has just been reissued on Blu-Ray in an expanded format that includes the entire concert, not just the shortened version that appeared on DVD five years ago. The band is in really good form on this show (although Neil did not have a high opinion of the gig, as expressed in his book, Roadshow: Landscape With Drums.)

It so happens that R30 is the only Rush tour that I've missed in the past 20 years. I've seen "the boys" eleven times. And here's the list:

  • Presto, Meadowlands Arena ("Attack of the Killer Rabbits")

  • Roll The Bones: Madison Square Garden ("Skulls On Ice")

  • Counterparts: Madison Square Garden (two nights in a row!)

  • Test For Echo: Meadowlands Arena. (First tour with no opening act, complete performance of 2112)

  • Vapor Trails: Garden State Arts Center, Jones Beach, Madison Square Garden (hat trick!)

  • Snakes & Arrows: Jones Beach, Madison Square Garden, Jones Beach.
I've never seen them do a "bad" show, although Counterparts on the second night and the 2008 Jones Beach show were both off-the-hook excellent, with the Vapor Trails show at the Garden just behind. Of their many live records and DVDs, my favorites are All the World's a Stage and the excellent video A Show of Hands released on DVD as part of the Replay X 3 box set.

Rush are planning work on a new project, which may be a new CD or a series of songs released in twos and threes as they're finished. No word yet on a 2010 tour but I know I'll be there if it happens....

 In the meantime, this should tide you over:

Trans-Savatage Orchestra?

Lots of news coming out of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra camp. A new Savatage greatest hits compilation: Still The Orchestra Plays: Greatest Hits Vol. 1 & 2 is scheduled for release in the coming months. The set is two discs with a bonus DVD filmed in Japan and includes three bonus tracks recorded by singer Jon Oliva in 2009. The band will follow this by re-releasing remastered versions of their entire catalogue. No word on whether those famous rumored "lost tracks" from Streets: A Rock Opera will be included.

Here's the track list:

01. Power Of The Night
02. Hall Of The Mountain King
03. 24 Hours Ago
04. Legions
05. Gutter Ballet
06. Summer's Rain
07. When The Crowds Are Gone
08. Ghost In The Ruins
09. If I Go Away
10. New York City Don't Mean Nothing
11. Edge Of Thorns
12. All That I Bleed

CD2: Greatest Hits Vol.2:

01. Handful Of Rain
02. Chance
03. One Child
04. I Am
05. Anymore
06. Hourglass
07. The Wake Of Magellan
08. Morphine Child

Bonus tracks (recorded by Jon Oliva in 2009):

09. Anymore (acoustic)
10. Not What You See (acoustic)
11. Out On The Streets (acoustic)

However, there are no plans for a Sava-reunion, despite most of the band members' current gig with Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Jon Oliva's Pain has a new record coming out in March, and the singer is working on Gutter Ballet, a Broadway show based on the Streets storyline. Finally, TSO is also planning a European tour, followed by their first non-holiday tour in the Spring of 2010 in support of their double album Night Castle.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Marillion: Happiness Is the Magazine Cover

Marillion have made the cover of Classic Rock Magazine Prog, a British journal that focuses exclusively on progressive rock and innovative music. The cover features singer Steve Hogarth holding up a jester puppet that looks remarkably like ex-lead singer Fish. More notably, the band's history is represented with artwork from Misplaced Childhood, Brave, Afraid of Sunlight, marbles, the live album The Thieving Magpie, and the Punch and Judy single.

The issue also features an inner sleeve cover by longtime Marillion and Fish artist Mark Wilkinson, whose iconic work can be explored at his official website, The Masque.

Marillion are back in the studio planning their seventeenth album, a follow-up to last year's acoustic set Less Is More.

Statement from Metallica: The Loss of a Fan

Reposted from Metallica's Facebook page.

We are profoundly saddened by the news of the discovery of Morgan Dana Harrington's body

Our most sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of Morgan Dana Harrington, the 20 year old Virginia Tech student who was last seen while attending our concert at the John Paul Jones Arena in Charlottesville, VA. Sadly, Morgan's body was found yesterday ending her family's three month vigil hoping and praying for her safe return. Mere words cannot express the anguish and grief that we know her parents Dan and Gil are feeling, and our thoughts are with them.

If you have any information at all about Morgan's death, please contact the Virginia State Police at (434) 352-3425 or the UVA Police at (434) 352-3467 or

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Megadeth Announce Rust In Peace 20th Anniversary Tour

Megadeth, 2010: Dave Mustaine is the only guy left who played on Rust In Peace

Vic Rattlehead is back on the road!

Dave Mustaine and Megadeth, coming off the artistic success of last year's Endgame, have announced a month-long tour celebrating the 20th anniversary of their clsssic album Rust In Peace. The setlist at each show will include a complete performance of the 1990 thrash classic, which opens with the one-two punch of "Holy Wars/The Punishment Due" and "Hanger 18", These two songs are the best twelve minutes in the entire Megadeth catalogue. In addition to the songs on Rust In Peace the band will play a selection of old and new Megadeth tracks. Seminal thrash bands Testament and Exodus are the opening acts.

This tour was announced following the postponement of the band's planned "American Carnage" Tour with Slayer as co-headliners. "American Carnage" was postponed following the announcement that Slayer frontman Tom Araya needs critical back surgery. That tour will proceed as planned following Araya's recovery, with dates to be announces last week.

This tour is also something for Testament fans to look forward to. The band, which currently includes four of its original members, plans to use their "middle" slot to play all of their debut album The Legacy. These songs are so old that they were written when the band was called "Legacy" and were working on their first record, "Testament." The rest is metal history. Exodus do not have a complete album planned, but one hopes that they'll at least do "The Toxic Waltz."

Here's the tour dates:
3/1 - Spokane, WA - Knitting Factory
3/2 - Boise, ID - Knitting Factory
3/3 - Medford, OR - Medford Armory
3/6 - Calgary, AB - Big Four (Testament with Special Guests)
3/7 - Edmonton, AB - Shaw Conference Centre (Testament with Special Guests)
3/8 - Saskatoon, SK - Prairieland Exhibition Hall
3/11 - Indianapolis, IN - Murat Theater
3/12 - Pittsburgh, PA - Palace Theater
3/13 - Buffalo, NY - Town Ballroom
3/15 - Washington, DC - 9:30 Club
3/16 - Baltimore, MD - Rams Head Live
3/18 - Scranton, PA - Scranton Cultural Center
3/19 - Norfolk, VA - The NorVa
3/21 - Atlanta, GA - Tabernacle
3/22 - Asheville, NC - Orange Peel
3/23 - Memphis, TN - Minglewood Hall
3/25 - Houston, TX - Verizon Wireless Theater
3/26 - Austin, TX - Stubb’s Amphitheate
3/27 - Lubbock, TX - The Pavilion
3/28 - El Paso, TX - Club 101
3/30 - Tucson, AZ - Rialto Theater
3/31 - Hollywood, CA - Hollywood Palladium (Testament with Special Guests)

"The Boston gig has been cancelled. But I wouldn't worry. It's not a big college town."--Ian Faith

Porcupine Tree Update: Free Downloads of Ex-Wise Heads

Porcupine Tree bassist Colin Edwin just announced that two albums by his solo project, Ex-Wise Heads are now available for free download at the band's official website, Ex-Wise Heads (say the name out loud to "get" it) are anchored around Edwin's smooth, fluid fretless bass style. The two albums Time and Emotion Study and Holding Up the Sky are yours for free. Just clck on their titles.

In other Tree-related news, the group is doing a series of shows in Mexico and planning several special "An Evening with Porcupine Tree" concerts, with no opening act and (presumably) a three-hour set. The shows, including an appearance at the 2010 Coachella Festival, will wrap up with a full concert at Radio Music Hall in New York City on Sept. 24. This will conclude the band's touring activities around their superb 2009 release The Incident.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Guns 'N' Stupidity

Today's edition of Blabbermouth.Net has a story about security banning the wearing of top hats and Slash t-shirts at the recent Winnipeg, Manitoba concert by the band currently calling itself "Guns N' Roses."

When interviewed by, band representative Fernand Lebels denied that fans attending the show were asked to remove top hats and turn their Slash t-shirts inside out prior to the band's appearance at the MTS Centre.

Wearing a topper to a rock show is not a very good idea to begin with, unless your given name is Saul Hudson. However, this is the latest act of idiocy from Axl and his band of hired "Guns." There is no word yet on whether The Man Who Beat Up Tommy Hilfiger will be able to book a tour here in the United States.

What's next? A ban on Buckethead-style KFC buckets and masks? An order to smash all copies of Slash's It's Five O'Clock Somewhere, Izzy's excellent Ju Ju Hounds albums and Gilby Clarke's rockin' Pawn Shop Guitars? Please note that all of these solo albums are a hell of a lot better than Chinese Democracy.

Oh by the way, Axl, where's my Dr. Pepper?
Image © Design Photography/The Cleveland Plain Dealer/Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

A Swan Song for Scorpions

German rock band Scorpions, whose international career has spanned across five decades and hit singles including "No One Like You," "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and "Wind of Change" have announced that they will call it a career following their tour behind upcoming album Sting In the Tail.

The most famous metal band to come out of Germany, Scorpions were formed in 1965 by guitarist Rudolf Schenker in Hanover, Germany. Their signature sound featured the near-soprano vocals of frontman Klaus Meine, and a twin lead guitar attack, intially featuring Schenker's brother Michael. He was later replaced by the legendary Uli John Roth, and finally, Matthias Jabs. The band's influence is enormous, from other rock acts in their native country to English and American groups like Judas Priest, Def Leppard and Queensr├┐che.

After a series of cult metal albums and success in Japan, the Scorps finally conquered America in the 1980s. A string of hit albums included Lovedrive, Animal Magnetism, Blackout, and Love at First Sting. This last included "Rock You Like a Hurricane" and the band's most enduring ballad, "Still Loving You."

The Scorpions were also one of the first Western bands to play in Russia, on their 1988 Savage Amusement tour. But the band's greatest success came in 1990 with the release of Crazy World and its accompanying hit single, "Wind of Change", an anthem for the re-united Germany and the soundtrack to the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Sting in the Tail is scheduled for release on March 19th.