Tuesday, September 25, 2012

For the Newer Edguy Fan

I was late to the Edguy party. I didn’t enter the Theater of Salvation until about 12 years after that album was released and as I was seeking out their albums, I stumbled upon this set which features “The Savage Poetry”, “Mandrake”, and some bonus material featuring live songs and b-sides. Besides the music, the set comes in the form of an old tome with the inside containing golden discs (hence golden edition), full lyrics, and comments from the band on the songs from the two full-lengths.

“Mandrake” is the definite superior album with the operatic bombast of “Tears of a Mandrake”, the epic ode to the great Egyptian kings with “The Pharaoh”, and the acoustic campfire storytelling of “Jerusalem.” The “Mandrake” disc contains two live bonus tracks in the aforementioned “Tears of a Mandrake” and “Painting on the Wall.” The former retains the grand atmosphere in the live setting and “Painting on the Wall” makes for a nice listen as it manages to remind me of “Super Mario 64” because Mario jumps into paintings to start levels.

It would have been a better call putting “Theatre of Salvation” as the first disc because then the best of Edguy would have been featured in this set, but AFM Records decided to go with “The Savage Poetry.” This is the full re-recording of the first album that came out in new millennium and has two versions of songs that were originally recorded in 1995 with “Key to my Fate” and “Hallowed.”

The bonus content has some hits and misses. I don’t understand the need to include single edits of songs as extra content. The edit of “Painting on the Wall” and “Tears of a Mandrake” are unnecessary. The listener already knows they will not be superior versions, so it’s just a waste of space. The normal version of “Painting on the Wall” is on the third disc too for whatever reason.

On the other hand, there are some cool b-sides to discover. “For a Trace of Life” is ballad and it’s a little depressing with the lyrics and melancholic acoustic guitar line. “But Here I Am” sounds like it was recorded in a garage and is silly with how many times the chorus is repeated. The final one is “La Marche Des Gendarmes” which is a goofy song combining an Irish beer party with Motown. To round off the bonus, a flat, live version of “Walk on Fighting” is included as well as “Wake up the King” live. This live rendition is much more energetic.

If you already own “The Savage Poetry” and “Mandrake” than there is no need to buy this edition unless you are a big fan and want to read the linear notes and stare at pictures. For the new entries into the Hellfire Club, this is a great introduction to the band. I would have preferred the inclusion of “Theatre of Salvation” over “The Savage Poetry”, but as they say beggars can’t be choosers.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Full Crimson Platter

Crimson Glory was one of the leading progressive metal bands in metal’s most beloved decade, the 1980s. Originating from the sunshine state, their silver masks that shadowed their faces was ironic as their music was vibrant with enthralling guitar lines and powerful, emotional vocals of the one and only Midnight. Metal Mind Productions has now released a set compiling their four studio albums along with one EP featuring “Astronomica” demos and also some live bonus tracks from a 1989 concert. This set is limited to 1000 and if you’re a new fan of the band or are no stranger to them, the set is a worthwhile purchase.

The five discs come in digi-packs similar to the limited ones released a few years ago, each with the same bonus tracks featured in those releases as well. The self-titled debut has “Dream Dancer” attached to it while “Transcendence” has a remix of “Lonely” as well as the music video for the song. All the albums were digitally remastered and they sound great. Loudness is not an issue and I found the bass to have a more pronounced effect to enhance the listening experience.

The standouts are the extra live bonus tracks featured in the last disc. While the original EP had two live bonus tracks, three more are tacked on and is very entertaining. Hearing Midnight belt out “Lost Reflection” live sent shivers down my spine and his introduction to songs were filled with vigor. I smirked to the intro to “Queen of the Masquerade” when Midnight spews “This is for all the bizarre, strange women out there.” The thumping bass solo beckoning the crowd to shout “Hail” in the middle of the song added some great interaction for the audience.

A 60 page booklet is included in the set featuring a biography of the band chronicling their beginnings up until Todd La Torre’s arrival in the group in 2010. All album credits are also issued as well as lyrics for all the songs and some band pictures to look that. There are also snippets of magazine articles and there was one that caught my attention for the wrong reason. Seeing as this is a box set celebrating the band’s career, I don’t know why there is part of a magazine article mocking and ripping the band after their release of “Astronomica.” It sticks out like a sore thumb and I have no idea why it was included in the booklet.

“In Dark Places…” is a wonderful boxset and it is great to have their full discography in a convenient set. It is a shame that they didn’t break through the barrier and become a huge success like Queensryche would, but they certainly left their mark on the scene. The price tag might be a little iffy considering it is a limited set, but there are outlets selling these for respectable prices. It’s Crimson Glory though, so it should not be a tough decision.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Nice Collection

Helloween’s single box collection features the eras started by main man Kai Hansen transitioning into Michael Kiske help birthing the power metal genre. The singles contained here are sort of a like time capsule taking you back to the days where roaming record shops for these items was fun and also available. If you are a young listener like me who missed out on those times, then it’s awesome to be able finally have versions of these and being able to stare at the cool artwork when more effort was put into releasing singles.

The biggest addition to this box set is the inclusion of the “Helloween” EP. The tracks are featured on the expanded edition of “Walls of Jericho”, but it is nice to finally have the item and letting the tracks stand on their own merits. “Victim of Fate” is a great speed metal number where Hansen really wails with his vocals, while “Starlight” will always be a favorite because of the little jingle from the movie “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.” The other standout is “Warrior” which has hurdling guitar part and then some aggressive riffing that warrants head banging.

It is nice that some of the b-sides get their time to shine as Helloween have some strong songs that unfortunately did make some full-lengths. The best out of the bunch belongs to “Save Us” from the “I Want Out” single as the sticking riff and the drumming from Ingo Schwichtenberg is very impressive. The Markus Grosspoff penned “You Run with the Pack” is also a standout with some great guitar parts and should have definitely made “Pink Bubbles Go Ape.” By far the goofiest track is the cover of “Blue Suede Shoes”, but it is a fun listen and Kiske puts forth some good vocals for a song that really does not suit his talents.

The box set is rounded out by a booklet containing linear notes and separate credits for of all the singles presented in the set. All the discs are in slipcase form, but are not loose to the point where they come right out. All in all, there are seven discs with just over two hours of music. This is a must have for any Helloween fan and the price for this set is not bad either. Since this came out in 2006, it’s a shame that a second box has not come out covering the last of the Kiske era and the first half of the Andi Deris era. At least we can savor the riches when the pumpkin crew was starting to make their mark.