Random album reviews

Since I’m about to start reviewing the 2023 releases that I bought, I figured I should create a thread where people can post their reviews of any album where they have an opinion to share, regardless of genre. I’ll post my own reviews here as I have time to get to them.

I will maintain an index of my own reviews in this post, editing it to add albums as I add their reviews here. Feel free to post your own album reviews, or reactions to others’ reviews!


For those unfamiliar with how I rate things, this is my scale:

10 - (Nearly) Flawless
9 - Excellent
8 - Great
7 - Good
6 - OK
5 - Meh
4 - Kinda stinky
3 - Bad
2 - Horrible
1 - (Nearly) Meritless

I calculate weighted averages for albums that scale song ratings based on their length, which I find makes for a more accurate overall rating. When I provide both a standard average and a weighted average for an album, the weighted average is my final rating.

Blood Star - First Sighting (2023)

The first full-length album from Visigoth guitarist Jamison Palmer’s new project is a quick blast of traditional hard rock and metal with husky female vocals.

  • All For Nothing - Uptempo riffage breaks into a driving verse with an appealing vocal melody. The choruses and bridge are solid, but feel like they tread water a little bit. A strong rocker with no glaring flaws, though it never quite hits its full potential – let’s say 7/10.
  • Fearless Priestess - A lyrical riff rolls into a nice vocal-and-guitar tradeoff verse. The vocal lines are strong, and the pre-chorus builds nicely into the chorus. The bridge is a nice change-up with a memorable melody, followed by a very good solo. The final choruses also have some nice guitar embellishments to them. Really good, probably does enough to round it up to an 8/10.
  • No One Wins - A simple but appealing riff leads into another driving verse with a strong vocal melody. The chorus is pretty good, though the title lyric doesn’t land as hard as it could. Great guitar solo followed by a really good fuzzy bass solo, and the last chorus finally sticks the landing. Short and to the point, this is another very good track that probably merits a round-up to 8/10.
  • The Observers - A synthy opener breaks into a great riff reminiscent of Jake E. Lee era Ozzy. Palmer provides lead vocals here, and he’s competent, but not the best singer. The verse melody is OK, but the chorus duet with main vocalist Madeline Michelle is a lot more effective. The atmospheric interlude anchored by a strong riff is an interesting choice, and the variant choruses toward the end work well, especially when Michelle takes over the lead vocal with Palmer dropping to the background. This one’s a bit of a mixed bag, mostly quite good with some OK parts, but I think a 7/10 is appropriate.
  • Dawn Phenomenon - A brief melancholy acoustic instrumental with tinges of the Old West and some synth accompaniment that serves as an intro to the next track. Not a ton of meat here, but what’s here is good. 7/10.
  • Cold Moon - A driving beat with some nicely harmonized chords breaks into a punchy verse that soon blossoms into a big, catchy chorus. Another round of verse and chorus, then we get an interesting riff-driven guitar solo section and another tasteful fuzzy bass solo. A final verse and choruses lead to a long decaying note to end the song. Great stuff, 8/10.
  • Going Home - Ringing clean notes and a persistent bass line break into a great bright riff with a driving rhythm. Strong vocal lines drive the verse and chorus as clean guitar accents duck in and out of the music. Great guitar solos with a sweet harmonized section give way to more atmospheric clean guitar and a great bridge. A riffy interlude gains some clean accompaniment before rolling back into the chorus to close things out. Great stuff, 8/10.
  • Wait To Die - Some odd-rhythm chords soon break into more driving riffage supporting a pretty good verse. The chorus is great, as is the brief bridge, and there are strong solos throughout. Really good overall, a very robust 7/10.

Average: 7.5/10
Weighted: 7.6/10

Blood Star’s debut is a very lean 33 minutes of almost relentlessly driving hard rock and metal. The songwriting is consistently good to great, though it never quite knocks it out of the park. Madeline Michelle’s vocals are deep, powerful, and full of character, and she gets to apply them to melodies that are mostly strong and memorable. Jamison Palmer is a fountain of great riffs and good-to-great solos, though perhaps he should relegate his vocals to the background.

On the whole the album is very good, and the driving rhythms and short run time make for an infectious listen. I’m eager to hear how they evolve over time.

(Master review index >)

The Banishment - Machine And Bone (2023)

George Lynch tries his hand at applying more nuanced guitar playing to industrial music by teaming up with sequencer Joe Haze and vocalist Devix Szell, along with a few guest vocalists.

  • Reaction - Plaintive, heavily processed guitars break into a more familiar bluesy Lynch groove, then slip into a synth-driven verse with slightly scream-tinged vocals. A riff with prominent harmonics leads into a solid chorus, then an atmospheric bridge builds back into the chorus. An industrial interlude with a Lynchy lead rolls back into the chorus again, then a nice melodic outro and a reprise of the opening. Good stuff that sets the tone for the rest of the album. 7/10.
  • Max Pain - An insistent industrial rhythm is joined by a beefy riff and a hint of the chorus. Richard Patrick of Filter provides guest vocals here. A moody, bass-driven verse breaks back into a slightly screamy but appealing chorus. Another verse, chorus, and verse, and then Lynch offers up a fairly chaotic yet repetitive solo before a final escalating series of choruses. Another good one, 7/10.
  • Right - A cool mellow groove with some nice guitar accents leads into a melodic verse. Tommy Victor of Prong offers guest vocals here. The guitars pick up a bit, then blossom into a heavy, soaring chorus. Another round of verse and chorus, then we get a cool variant chorus and a more subdued melodic bridge before returning to the chorus and more variants. Really good with some great parts, probably does enough to round it up to an 8/10.
  • Lost Horizon - A distorted bluesy guitar intro slips into a more sinister industrial groove. A half-spoken verse soon gives way to a bluesy, yet uplifting and very industrial chorus with some semi-screamy delivery. The second verse starts off more melodic, but then the vocals get non-melodic and very theatrical before returning to the appealing chorus. An atmospheric spoken word interlude with some guitar accents eventually bursts back into the chorus, which gets some new guitar flourishes and a great outro solo. The verses with the over-the-top vocals are a weakness here, but everything else about the song is strong, so I think it salvages a 7/10.
  • The Dread - A bluesy riff is joined by guest vocalist and Godhead founder Jason Charles Miller for a melodic verse that blooms into a big bluesy chorus. Another round of verse and chorus, then we get a strong uplifting bridge and an instrumental interlude capped by a very bluesy solo before a final return to the chorus. Good stuff, though Miller’s voice reminds me a bit of Oni Logan, and combining that with the lack of industrial trappings this song winds up feeling more like a Lynch Mob track than a Banishment track. Still a 7/10.
  • Reunion - Industrial rhythms, electric piano, and gentle guitar accents support a soft melodic verse. This opens up into a pleasant atmospheric chorus that flows into a nice interlude. Another round of verse and chorus, then we get another mellow interlude with a heavily effect-laden and gentle extended solo from Lynch. A final chorus and verse close things out. Another consistently good song, 7/10.
  • Terra Nullius - Creepy guitar samples break into an industrial groove with some off-kilter rhythm guitar and vocal riffing. We get some more permutations of this with a chorus of sorts (though the vocals are more in the background), then a striking interlude with bold ringing clean guitar and some bluesy but atmospheric guitar leads that eventually blossom into a more soaring solo lead that fades away to end the song. This almost-instrumental is a little directionless at the start, but really gains focus in the back half of the track. Let’s say 6/10.
  • Got What You Want - A synthetic groove with little shouts morphs into a solid verse and an OK non-melodic chorus with guitar riffage underneath. Another round of verse and chorus, then we get kind of a weird schizophrenic spoken and screamed bridge, followed by a pretty dope riff with the chorus screamed on top, then a great guitar solo. An atmospheric interlude eventually flows back into the chorus, then a rocking outro with several very hard stops. The verse and chorus are pretty mediocre here, but the instrumental parts elevate this enough to salvage a 6/10.
  • Terror - A mechanical rhythm with equally mechanical but cool lead work breaks into an OK verse. Tommy Victor returns on vocals. The pre-chorus is more subdued and melodic, but it breaks into a peppier rhythm-focused chorus with nice guitar accents. Another round of verse through chorus, then an odd variant pre-chorus leads back into the chorus to end the song. The verse is the weak link here, but I think the other elements are strong enough to round this up to a 7/10.
  • Machine And Bone - An industrial groove with atmospheric guitar underpins a rhythm-focused verse that blooms into a queasy melodic chorus. A brief spoken word interlude rolls back into another verse and chorus, then a second spoken word interlude with nice color work on the guitar flows into an extended instrumental before returning to the chorus to close out the album. There are a number of good elements here, but some other choices hold it back a bit, so let’s say 6/10.

Average: 6.8/10
Weighted: 6.8/10

George Lynch has apparently been a fan of industrial music for some time, and he always wanted to try bringing a higher level of guitar playing to the genre. This album is his attempt to do just that, and it’s largely successful, though nothing on it really blew my socks off.

It’s interesting to hear Lynch outside his wheelhouse like this, playing some intentionally repetitive and mechanical parts, while also bringing in his more signature sounds and a great deal of nuance in his playing around the edges of the music. Sometimes it feels a little incongruous, but most of the time it elevates the material.

The singing is a bit of a mixed bag, with Devix’s delivery in particular being overly non-melodic and theatrical at times (though this is consistent with the genre), but the guest singers generally deliver well, as does Devix when he keeps it melodic. The songwriting is also constrained a bit by the expectations of the genre, and I think these factors are what held the music back from greatness most of the time.

Still, this is a good and enjoyable album overall, and an interesting curiosity for Lynch fans, especially ones who enjoy industrial music.

(Master review index >)

Sweet & Lynch - Heart & Sacrifice (2023)

After a 6 year hiatus, Michael Sweet of Stryper rejoins George Lynch for a third album of hard rock anthems, this time with a somewhat darker and heavier tone.

  • Heart & Sacrifice - A heavy, driving riff with bright elements propels this song forward. Sweet delivers strong vocal lines, especially through the nicely escalating pre-chorus and the catchy chorus. He’s almost always wailing at full force, and can sometimes go over the top (like the scream between the pre-chorus and the chorus), but he’s definitely on the notes and leaving it all on the table. Lynch provides nice color work around the edges, and the dark breakdown that interrupts the second chorus and flows into a great multi-part solo is a nice surprise. Very good with lots of great touches, I think this deserves a round-up to an 8/10.
  • Where I Have To Go - A moodier mid-tempo riff settles into a solid verse groove. Sweet probably oversings the verse a bit, but the pre-chorus builds nicely with some tasteful guitar accents into a reasonably catchy chorus. Lynch fits in some nice soloing after the first chorus, then some more emotional noodling after the second, though Sweet wails a bit too hard over that part before Lynch takes off with another firey solo. Very good with a few weaker elements, 7/10.
  • Miracle - Softer, bouncy guitar leads into a melodious verse that cranks up the heaviness a notch as it continues. A brief but effective pre-chorus slides into a multi-part chorus with some nice call and response between the vocals and the guitar. The solo starts off pretty strong and finishes with a great climax and denouement that flows into a short bass interlude before the final choruses. Sweet’s wailing goes over the top again near the end, but Lynch gets in some nice soloing at the same time. Very good overall, a robust 7/10.
  • Leaving It All Behind - A drum intro leads into a melodious, lyrical riff and some feely soloing. Slightly twangy guitar underpins a strong verse, soon breaking into a big, anthemic chorus. A somewhat dark and greasy breakdown after the second chorus soon blossoms into a classic-sounding Lynch solo and a very subdued interlude before returning to the chorus. More classic-sounding Lynch fills accompany the outro. Very good with a number of great parts, I think this does enough to round it up to an 8/10.
  • You’ll Never Be Alone - A slightly bluesy riff rolls into a marching, midtempo rhythm and a bass-driven verse that’s soon rejoined by the guitar. The vocal lines are strong throughout, including the bright and catchy chorus. The melodic lead that takes the place of a solo is a bit pedestrian, but it fits. Good stuff, 7/10.
  • After All Is Said And Done - Bluesy acoustic guitar supports a moody verse. The fake vibrato effect on Sweet’s voice sticks out like a sore thumb here, unfortunately. Distorted guitars come in for a pretty strong chorus, and there’s a nice ascending vocal bridge and a tasteful melodic solo. Pretty good with a number of nice elements, I think it manages to hold onto a 7/10.
  • Give Up The Night - An interesting harmonized intro breaks into a cool uptempo riff. Clean ringing guitar accompanies a melodious verse, building back into a very solid chorus that returns to the uptempo riff. A surprisingly great harmonized vocal bridge appears, followed by a ringing distorted guitar interlude and a great solo. Sweet has a few over-the-top wails, but Lynch once again offers up some great outro soloing. Another very good track overall, 7/10.
  • Will It Ever Change - A dark and heavy riff gives way to a great atmospheric verse, but the heavy chorus is a little awkward and doesn’t quite stick the landing. A sinister interlude flows into a great melancholy solo that shifts gears into the atmospheric feel of the verse for its second half. Most of the song is great, but the chorus holds it back a bit, so let’s say 7/10.
  • It’s Time To Believe - A swaggery rock n’ roll riff suddenly gets more metallic as it rolls into a solid verse. The pre-chorus is less effective, but it soon blossoms into a big, memorable chorus. Driving riffs support a very good solo, but it ends with an extremely awkward transition back into the chorus. Definitely a mixed bag, but I think it still salvages a 7/10 overall.
  • Every Day - A punchy, somewhat bright riff drives a pretty good verse, soon leading into a big, driving chorus. The solo is brief but cool, with some nice harmonic play at the beginning. Straightforward, but still good stuff – another 7/10.
  • It Rains Again - A grimy, rhythmic riff with some bright but queasy accents drives a pretty good verse, leading into a brighter pre-chorus and then a darker chorus with some incongruously sweet vocal harmonies at the end. Lynch does some interesting noodling while Sweet wails a little too hard over the top, then we get an astonishingly short solo, the pre-chorus, and then a more proper solo before the final choruses. This song has some interesting ideas, but I think it’s the first one on the album to noticeably fall a bit short of the mark. 6/10.
  • World Full Of Lies - Bluesy, twangy guitar buffets a serviceable gentle verse, switching to more ringing notes for an OK chorus. The bridge is a little stronger, and the laid back rhythm supporting the gentler bluesy first solo is nice. The more traditional second solo is also good. But overall this track also falls a little short and is merely OK. 6/10.

Average: 7.0/10
Weighted: 7.0/10

This is a very consistently good album with a couple of great tracks that starts to lose a little steam toward the end. Lynch is great as usual, flexing some range while keeping most of the songs in the heavy, somewhat bluesy milieu he’s known for. Sweet generally sounds good, though he’s prone to oversinging a bit, and he really needs to tone down the fake vibrato effect on his voice, since it actually gets in the way of the music a few times here.

This is certainly a better album than the group’s second effort Unified, but it’s not on the same level as their debut Only To Rise. Still, it’s an enjoyable listen full of good songs with no real duds.

(Master review index >)

George Lynch & Jeff Pilson - Heavy Hitters II (2023)

Three years after their original collection of heavied-up covers of pop, rock, and soul songs, former Dokken cohorts George Lynch and Jeff Pilson deliver another set of covers in a similar vein, plus one original Christmas song, this time collaborating with longtime Rolling Stones backup singer Bernard Fowler for lead vocals on all of the cover tracks.

  • Sledgehammer - A cover of the Peter Gabriel song from 1986. Gabriel’s shakuhachi and horns are replaced by a distorted guitar riff with fat bass and very Lynchy fills. Fowler’s voice is a bit thin and whiny, but works well enough here. Aside from the heavier instrumentation and Lynch’s soloing over the second half of the song, this is a pretty straight cover. Good stuff, 7/10.
  • Carry On - A cover of the Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song from 1970. A heavy, funky riff takes the place of the original’s acoustic strumming, but the character of the vocal harmonies is maintained here. Lynch applies fills whenever he gets the chance, and Fowler’s voice works well for this track. Lynch’s effervescent playing during the “Questions” section is great, and the mellow organ outro from the original song is replaced with a slowed-down bluesy jam here. Very good with a number of great parts, I think this one merits a round-up to 8/10.
  • The Stroke - A cover of the Billy Squier song from 1981. Another pretty straight cover with some extra guitar harmonies and fills, though Fowler’s voice feels all wrong for this track. The music is all strong, but the vocals drag it down a bit. Still, I think this is good enough to just barely hang onto a 7/10.
  • Radioactive - A cover of the Imagine Dragons song from 2012. A driving rhythm immediately sets this apart from the original, with ringing guitar giving off the feel of Bruce Dickinson’s “Solar Confinement” during the verse. Unfortunately Fowler’s voice is also a bad fit for this track, being far too whiny for what the music requires. Lynch offers up a pretty great solo, and it’s fair to say this song has been completely transformed by its changes. The music is great, but the mismatched vocals drag this down to a 7/10.
  • Smokestack Lightning - A cover of the Howlin’ Wolf song from 1956. This is only a cover in the loosest sense, as it borrows some of the lyrics and tone of the original, but most of the musical content is original. Lynch reinvents this as a bluesy, feely number that starts acoustic and soon goes thick and heavy, building to a nice big chorus. Fowler’s soulful vocals work really well here, and Lynch offers up a great multi-part solo with several different feels. Great stuff, 8/10.
  • Hold On (I’m Coming) - A cover of the Sam & Dave song from 1966. A more driving rhythm kicks things off, with guitar taking over the horn parts and some funkier color work happening under the verse and the bridge. Fowler’s vocals work well for this song. Lynch delivers an almost countryish guitar solo that fits like a glove, plus some nice fill work during the outro. Very good, a robust 7/10.
  • Stay With Me - A cover of the Sam Smith song from 2014. Lynch leads with lots of soft detail work, but soon kicks into a heavy distorted groove. The heavy guitars fall away for the verse, but return for the chorus. Fowler’s vocals work well here, and the gospel-style backing vocals are kept intact. Lynch adds a brief but tasteful solo in the middle, then some more tasty lead work over the end of the song. A great refurb of the track, 8/10.
  • Shout - A cover of the Tears For Fears song from 1984. Heavier guitars and organs drive an otherwise mostly straight cover of this song. Unfortunately, Fowler’s voice is a bad fit for this track, but the brief bass solo and tasteful guitar solos are nice touches. Still, I think there are enough weaknesses to drag this down to a 6/10.
  • New Sensation - A cover of the INXS song from 1987. The main grooves are replaced with thick, funky riffs and lots of fills. Once again, Fowler’s voice isn’t a great fit for the material.
    The song is also fairly repetitive, and Lynch’s solo doesn’t feel very inspired. Merely OK, a 6/10.
  • Jumpin’ Jack Flash - A cover of the Rolling Stones song from 1968. Lynch does a heavier variant take on the main riff and the song is a little slower than the original. Fowler sounds alright here, and Lynch adds a strong solo and nice fills during the outro. Might have benefited from being a bit faster, but what’s here is still good. 7/10.
  • Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) - A cover of the Sly And The Family Stone song from 1969. Fat bass and heavy, funky riffage spice up this take on the song. Fowler’s voice is a great fit for this one, and the group vocals have more punch than in the original track. Lynch delivers a great solo and lots of great guitar fills throughout. The final fade-out is a bit quick, as I would have liked to hear more of what they were doing there, but otherwise this is a great track. 8/10.
  • It’s A Wonderful Life - An original Christmas song, this time with Jeff Pilson on vocals. Ringing acoustic guitar and synths support a bittersweet verse, going heavier for a simple call-and-response chorus 1 and a more soaring chorus 2. The bridge is solid, and Lynch offers a strong solo with hints of his old song “Tierra Del Fuego” near the beginning. A decent Beatles-esque vocal interlude rolls back into the choruses to close things out, with a final neoclassical run from Lynch. This is pretty good, though musically it doesn’t really feel like a Christmas song, and chorus 1 isn’t as strong as it could be, but I think it still manages to eke out a 7/10.

Average: 7.2/10
Weighted: 7.2/10

Lynch and Pilson deliver another consistently good album of heavy covers with a few great tracks and a couple of lesser ones. Bernard Fowler does a good job with the vocals on most of the tracks, but his unique voice is just a bad fit for over a third of the cover songs, which drags them down a bit.

It feels like this album takes fewer chances than the original Heavy Hitters did, both in terms of song selection and the amount of deviation from the original templates; but the overall result is still slightly stronger, even with the noted vocal style issues.

The one original song doesn’t exactly bring the house down, and doesn’t feel much like a Christmas song outside of the lyrics, but it’s enjoyable enough.

While I would have preferred to hear more new original music from these guys, these heavy covers continue to be interesting and provide some pleasant surprises, so I will happily gobble them up if they continue to make them.

(Master review index >)

George Lynch - Guitars At The End Of The World (2023)

Lynch delivers a follow-up to his excellent instrumental album Seamless from 2021, taking a similar stylistic approach but offering cleaner production.

  • The Knowing - Ethereal synths and a gentle but insistent beat eventually welcome some effervescent guitar. A strong melodic lead through the “verse” becomes darker and more focused for the “chorus”. A sweet bass solo leads into a pretty classic-sounding guitar solo with a soft finish. Some gentle noodling blossoms into a more uplifting bridge that builds into some excellent soloing to close out the track. Starting off good and finishing that strong, I think this one merits an 8/10.
  • Psycho Beta - An uptempo riff with dark undercurrents takes a somewhat darker turn for the “verse” with some distant leads in the background, then brightens up for a wah-laden “chorus”. Some fiery soloing greets a great ominous bridge, then some gentler soaring lead work before a few more permutations of the song parts with more soloing and a push-the-brakes ending. Very good, a robust 7/10.
  • The Crucible - Melancholy ringing guitar with some bass accents and choral support soon breaks into an almost Maidenesque driving riff. The guitar tone on that riff is questionable (it seems like it could use more punch), but there’s lots of slightly bluesy soloing happening on top. The brief “chorus” switches things up nicely with a bit of brightness, and the “verse” has some other variations as well. The soloing is relentless in this track, veering back and forth between slightly bluesy and more metallic, until a quick denouement. Sitting right on the edge of greatness, I think I can round this one up to an 8/10.
  • The Passage - Dark synths and almost computery guitar noodling gives way to a very slow and greasy lead. Some softer melancholy leads occasionally break up that feel, eventually leading into a rhythmic interlude before returning to the greasy “verse” and finishing on a variant reprise of the intro and a long bass note. This song picks a groove and mostly stays in it, but it’s still good. 7/10.
  • Borracho Boogie Delux - (Yes, there’s no “e” in the final word.) A drum intro welcomes some very busy lead work before breaking into a playful boogie rhythm with bluesy leads, not unlike Joe Satriani’s “Satch Boogie”. There’s a great descending lead with volume swells that breaks things up, then a bubbly ascending lead section, and later on some more busy lead work to bookend the bluesy “verses” before finishing on a big rock ending. Great stuff, 8/10.
  • Shadow Of The Needle - Some sickly-sounding guitar with female choral backing soon breaks into an odd-rhythm riff for the “verse” and a more subdued one for the “pre-chorus” before taking on a more traditional feel for the brighter “chorus”. A queasy bridge makes a somewhat awkward lead transition back into the “verse” before some very outside soloing. Some final “choruses” take on more fiery soloing before a quick finish. A bit odd with a few weaknesses, but still good overall. 7/10.
  • The Wolf - A laid back bluesy groove supports some very emotive lead work before breaking into a big, airy “chorus” with some odd guitar effects. A brighter bridge with equally emotive lead work breaks things up a bit, then some final “verses” to wrap things up. Great stuff, 8/10.
  • Serpentarium - A slow-paced staccato riff provides a base for much soloing. A more driving “pre-chorus” leads into a bigger, more soaring “chorus”. A bluesier bridge with more experimental leads breaks things up a bit in the middle. The rhythm tone in the “pre-chorus” feels a little trashy when it should have been punchier, I think, but otherwise this is all quite good. 7/10.
  • The Ritual - An aggressive but slightly bright riff gives way to a more sparse and atmospheric “pre-chorus” before blossoming into an epic and solo-filled “chorus”. A darker, descending bridge leads into a variant “verse” with more intense soloing before returning to a final “chorus”. Another one that rides on the edge of greatness, I think I should round it up to an 8/10.
  • Contraflow - A bright melodic lead is soon replaced by a beautiful ascending bubbly lead with great color work around the edges. This breaks into a heavier uptempo “chorus” with a sizzling lead. An intense descending bridge appears later on, leading into a more sparse interlude with some sinister descending rhythm runs and great soloing, then a more driving bit that eventually returns to the awesome bubbly “verse” and “chorus” to finish up. An excellent song, and that bubbly bit is just jaw-dropping. 9/10.
  • Tone Bender - A greasy mid-tempo riff supports some heavily effect-laden lead work, flowing into a more pensive ringing “pre-chorus” and a more anthemic “chorus”. A key change on the “verse” with some more intense soloing leads into an effect-heavy bridge before rolling back through the “pre-chorus” and “chorus” to end on a variant “verse”. Very good, a robust 7/10.
  • Brilliant Lion From The Second Mountain - Gentle and slightly bright lead work is supported by acoustic and slide guitar. EBow is used tastefully for part of the lead work, and this soft, country-infused theme gets its point across and leaves the stage before it has any chance of getting old. Great stuff, 8/10.
  • Bitches Be Trippin - Straight-up funk with fat bass, mellow synth, hand claps, and thin, wah-laden guitar accents. The leads are thin and piercing as you’d expect. For the “chorus” some heavier rhythm guitar is introduced. Strong lead work throughout, and a great interlude that trades off nicely between the bass, synth, and guitar. Great song, 8/10.

Average: 7.7/10
Weighted: 7.7/10

While this is a step down in quality from Seamless, it’s still a great album overall, with a majority of tracks being great or excellent and none of them being any less than good.

Lynch continues to show strong stylistic range and a desire to fill every track with layers and layers of guitar, something he doesn’t really get a chance to do in his projects that include vocals. I love that he’s continuing to produce instrumental work alongside his other projects, as it tends to be some of his best material.

(Master review index >)

Metallica - 72 Seasons (2023)

Metallica continues their 7-8 year cadence between albums, releasing their first set of new material since 2016’s Hardwired…To Self-Destruct!

  • 72 Seasons - Simple trilling with some punchy chords breaks into a driving riff with some feel changes. A new riff propels a great verse into a solid pre-chorus and OK chorus. Hammett’s solo is a typical wah-laden echo of the riff melody. The chorus is already feeling a bit repetitive by the second time around. A key shift and reprise of the intro leads into a good vocal bridge reminiscent of “Spit Out The Bone”. A multi-part solo follows with a somewhat weak beginning, but it turns things around quickly. By the time the final chorus rolls around I really don’t want to hear the phrase “wrath of man” anymore. This one’s a mixed bag, with some great parts and a lot of good ones, but it runs on too long and repeats the chorus lyrics too much. Let’s say 7/10 overall.
  • Shadows Follow - A staccato opening riff changes feel a bit, then rolls into a more driving midtempo riff. The verse is strong, with a brief breakdown flowing into a very good pre-chorus and a very brief but effective chorus. A strong slower-feel bridge yields a nice harmonized interlude and another Hammett wah-fest. There’s a little guitar run that sounds like the old 1960s Batman theme song that pops up from time to time. I like the breakdown-driven ending. This one’s consistently strong and sticks in my head, and despite reminding me of “Moth Into Flame” a little too much, I think it does enough to round it up to an 8/10.
  • Screaming Suicide - A punchy ascending riff with wah accents goes through some permutations before settling into a solid driving riff. Hetfield sounds a little tired and rough on an otherwise strong verse. Pre-chorus 1 is pretty good, but pre-chorus 2 is kinda meh, and the chorus is very brief and just OK. The first solo section has its moments, and the bridge is strong, but the second solo section just treads water. The spoken word part is pretty good, though. This song is a mixed bag that probably needed some more time in the oven, but it has its appealing parts. Let’s say 6/10.
  • Sleepwalk My Life Away - A bass-driven groove gains some sinister guitar accompaniment before settling into a stompy midtempo riff. The verse is strong, the pre-chorus is OK, and the chorus is catchy and appealing. A bouncy interlude leads into a serviceable extended solo, then a less appealing instrumental before rolling back through the pre-chorus and chorus and a breakdown outro. A little uneven, but mostly good and enjoyable. 7/10.
  • You Must Burn! - A melodic riff like rolling waves settles into a slower marching riff. The verse and pre-chorus are OK, but the chorus is pleasantly melodic and memorable. A breakdown leads into a less interesting interlude with a weird, sickly bridge with the vocals shoved into the background. The interlude that follows is much better, and the solo is pretty good. A reprise of the opening riff with the title lyric being belted out over it works well to close out the song. Though this one has some bright spots, especially the chorus, the majority of the song is merely OK. 6/10.
  • Lux Æterna - A punchy descending riff soon kicks into a driving rhythm that propels a great verse and chorus. The solo goes to some interesting places, and there’s some nice rhythmic punctuation throughout the song. Short and to the point, this one’s a great little blast of energy from start to finish. 8/10.
  • Crown Of Barbed Wire - An odd start shifts into a repetitive driving rhythm, then a less appealing descending march. The verse is so-so, the pre-chorus is pretty good, and the chorus is simple but OK. The percussive interlude is OK and the solo is pretty good for the most part. The breakdown outro is pretty good too. Another one that’s a mixed bag – it’s got some good parts, but it plods and has some obvious weaknesses too, so let’s say 6/10.
  • Chasing Light - A quick vocal intro breaks into a descending marching riff with some wah accents, soon shifting into a riff that borrows a bit from Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”. The verse is strong, but the pre-chorus feels a bit awkward. The chorus is almost good, but doesn’t quite get there. The bridge is OK, but the solo feels kind of aimless and repetitive. As with most Metallica songs there are some nice riffs here, but aside from the verse this song feels half-baked and runs way longer than it needs to, so I’m going to have to round it down to a 5/10.
  • If Darkness Had A Son - A percussive intro with some “outside” lead work leads into a couple of permutations of a melodic riff, then a driving pre-verse with a simple repeated lyric. This leads into a queasy, awkward verse and eventually a pretty good chorus. A busy interlude gives way to another pretty aimless solo. I like how the chorus shifts into a variant near the end, and the outro breakdown is pretty cool. The verse and the solo drag this one down a bit, but I think it still merits a 6/10.
  • Too Far Gone? - An appealing descending riff shifts to a more driving riff for a somewhat disconnected verse that blossoms into a good pre-chorus and a short but strong chorus. The first solo’s OK. The harmonized interlude later on is a nice touch, and it flows well into a pretty good bridge. The second solo works much better. The verse is the main issue with this song, but the rest of it is strong enough that I think it manages to cling onto a 7/10.
  • Room Of Mirrors - Ringing chords over a somewhat mechanical riff give way to some rhythmic play before settling into a more driving riff and good verse that both remind a bit of “Spit Out The Bone”. The pre-chorus is also good, but the chorus is a bit of a dud. The solos are OK but kind of uneven. The harmonized interlude also calls back to “Spit Out The Bone”. This song is mostly good overall, though it heavily recycles a track from the previous album, which is a bummer. Still good enough to hold onto a 7/10, though.
  • Inamorata - An odd riff with some queasy harmonization changes form before settling into a Load-style riff for a solid verse. The pre-chorus is pretty flat, but the chorus is good. The first solo is pretty good, especially the melodic section at the beginning. The atmospheric drum- and bass-driven interlude is nice, supporting a pleasant gentle bridge that builds up nicely in heaviness before breaking into a strong harmonized instrumental. The variant chorus that appears around the 9-minute mark is pretty cool. Surprisingly, this 11+ minute epic doesn’t feel bloated and is good stuff overall. 7/10.

Average: 6.7/10
Weighted: 6.6/10

72 Seasons is an album that I liked a lot more at first, but cooled to over time as it’s overly long and all sounds a bit similar to itself, and also borrows a bit too much from the best songs on the previous album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct!

That said, Hetfield’s voice and riffage are still like musical comfort food to me, and over half the album is still good to great, with only one track dipping all the way into mediocrity. It would have benefited from having some tracks trimmed and others worked on a little more, but the final product is still (barely) a good album overall.

(Master review index >)

Kings Of Thrash - Best Of The West…Live At The Whisky A Go Go (2023)

After his second expulsion from Megadeth, bassist and part-time internet exhibitionist David Ellefson teamed up with former Megadeth guitarist Jeff Young, drummer Fred Aching, and vocalist and guitarist Chaz Leon to pay tribute to Megadeth’s early years with a short tour focused on the band’s first three albums. For this recording former Megadeth guitarist Chris Poland also accompanied the band for a few songs.

  • Last Rites - A more epic rendition of the debut album’s opener, with some synth chorals and strings along with the piano and bass. Well done, 7/10.
  • Rattlehead - Musically this is a strong version of the song played well, with a couple of minor flubs. Chaz Leon’s vocals are uneven, often sounding tired or hitting the notes a bit flat. I appreciate the difficulty of trying to sing while playing these complex riffs, but he’s just not quite getting there. On balance let’s say 6/10.
  • The Skull Beneath The Skin - After a somewhat more drawn out intro that slowly accelerates the tempo, this settles into another generally well-executed version of the song musically, though there are places where the rhythm guitars are a bit out of sync. Leon sounds remarkably like Mustaine at times, and he doesn’t sound as tired and flat here as he did on the previous song. Probably still a 6/10, though.
  • Good Mourning / Devil’s Island - “Good Mourning” sounds haunting and great here, and dropping into “Devil’s Island” instead of “Black Friday” works fine. Musically this is performed really well, and Leon sounds much better on this track, especially toward the beginning where he pretty much nails it. This is borderline, but I think enough of this is great that I can round it up to an 8/10.
  • Wake Up Dead - A mostly great rendition of the song, with Leon sounding quite good aside from a flub in the second vocal section. Another one I can comfortably round up to an 8/10.
  • 502 - The opening is slightly sloppy, but the rest of the music is played really well here, and the ending is extended into a miniature drum solo. Leon sounds a little tired and flat again, but this probably does enough to just barely cling onto a 7/10.
  • In My Darkest Hour - Another well-executed song musically, and Leon generally sounds pretty good on it, though he gets a little screamy and has a few stumbles. Still a 7/10 overall.
  • Orange Light - Helicopter sounds and “Reveille” give way to some synths and air raid sirens. Nothing special, 6/10.
  • Into The Lungs Of Hell - A mostly great rendition of a great instrumental, with only a couple of minor flubs. 8/10.
  • Set The World Afire - Another strong performance musically, and Leon is a bit uneven but generally sounds pretty good here. Let’s say 7/10.
  • Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good! - The music is played well, but the vocals are really uneven on this one, and Leon and Ellefson are often out of tune with each other on the harmonized vocals. I think this still manages to cling onto a 6/10, but it’s close.
  • Chosen Ones - Another one that generally works well musically, but Leon sounds tired and is missing a lot of notes. The soloing around the 3/4 mark is also disappointingly simplified, dropping a number of notes. Another one that just barely hangs onto a 6/10.
  • Liar - Well executed musically, and Leon mostly acquits himself well here, though he kind of shouts his way through the chorus. He does manage to pull off the single-breath long-winded rant successfully, though. Good stuff, 7/10.
  • Hook In Mouth - Another one that’s strong musically, but Leon’s vocals are uneven, sometimes sounding tired and missing notes and words. 6/10.
  • Mechanix - A strong rendition of the song with only a few flubs musically and vocally. Good stuff, 7/10.
  • These Boots - A jazzy jam with some great soloing eventually works its way into the main song, which is performed well musically. Leon once again is a bit uneven, and I’m guessing he’s performing the original Nancy Sinatra lyrics, because he’s definitely not singing Mustaine’s altered version from the original album. There’s another extended jam in the middle where Leon introduces the band members, and yet another one in the outro that plays a bit of the Allman Brothers’ “Jessica”. Another good one overall, 7/10.
  • Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? - Strong music and Leon sounds pretty good, though he throws the choruses to the audience until the final round. Still, this one comes across with most of its original power, so I feel comfortable giving it an 8/10.

Average: 6.9/10
Weighted: 7.0/10

This is a mostly successful presentation of classic Megadeth material, dragged down a bit by an uneven vocal performance. Still, everything here stays in the OK-to-great range and leaves a good impression overall, and it’s great to hear some of these rarely-performed songs delivered live again.

When I saw the Kings Of Thrash on their broader U.S. tour, they played the Killing Is My Business…And Business Is Good! and So Far, So Good…So What! albums in their entirety and dropped most of the Peace Sells…But Who’s Buying? material. Due to that I think the only really glaring omission in this live album’s set is “Looking Down The Cross”, which is a great song that came across really well live. That said, the extra Peace Sells tracks are nice to have here, especially with Chris Poland also playing on them.

Not an essential record by any means, but still a good one, and a nice document of an enjoyable tour.

(Master review index >)

Sacred Outcry - Towers Of Gold (2023)

For his second album, bassist and composer George Apalodimas completely refreshed the line-up of Sacred Outcry with guitarist Steve Lado, drummer Defkalion Dimos, and legendary vocalist Daniel Heiman of Lost Horizon to deliver an excellent concept album full of dark, epic power metal.

  • Through Lands Forgotten (At The Crossroads Of Fate) - Gentle 12-string guitar and the sound of rain greets an emotive and melodious vocal from Heiman with soft string accompaniment. Short but extremely memorable, and perfect at setting the tone for what’s to come. 10/10.
  • The Flame Rekindled (Lurid Lights And Drunken Revelry) - Driving guitar and synth underpin a strong verse. A punchier riff drives an equally strong pre-chorus, and thrashier guitar and great soloing lead into a very good traditional power metal chorus. Heiman’s vocals are consistently great and can reach incredibly high when needed. Excellent soloing reminiscent of Kai Hansen’s style rolls into a solid interlude and a final stretch of vocals with a great scream before the outro drops into the next song. Most of this track is great, with a few stronger and weaker parts, but I think it holds onto an 8/10.
  • The Voyage (Towards Immortality) - A rising and falling driving riff that evokes images of a stormy sea welcomes a soaring vocal before breaking into a great verse with tension-building guitars in the background. An uplifting pre-chorus leads into an excellent chorus that takes off into the stratosphere. A great solo flows into an excellent harmonized instrumental with string accompaniment. A soaring atmospheric bridge rolls back into the pre-chorus and chorus before a final reprise of the intro and a quick breakdown. Excellent song, 9/10.
  • Into The Storm (Beyond The Lost Horizon) - A percussive intro leads into a catchy and melodic neoclassical lead. An atmospheric interlude with choral backing gives way to a somewhat awkwardly phrased verse. The tension-building pre-chorus is significantly stronger, and some excellent soloing leads into a great soaring chorus. Epic lead work becomes a dual lead that breaks into more excellent soloing, then an atmospheric interlude that recalls Gamma Ray’s “Land Of The Free”. A final vocal and quick harmonized breakdown end the track. A really great song for the most part, though the awkward verse phrasing holds this back to an 8/10.
  • Symphony Of The Night (The Curse Of The Blind) - Melancholy 12-string guitar supports a melodious vocal. An epic guitar lead foreshadowing the chorus flows into a great melodic groove, then an excellent verse and a harmonized guitar interlude that sounds a bit like Warlord. Another excellent verse rolls into a great extended chorus with some ridiculously high notes. An excellent solo with neoclassical tinges returns to the chorus before a reprise of the opening to finish things out. Excellent stuff overall, 9/10.
  • A Midnight Reverie (Whispers In The Wind) - More acoustic guitar and synths welcome a pensive vocal with a strong melody that blooms into a soaring chorus before leaving us with the sound of the wind. Short but excellent, 9/10.
  • The Sweet Wine Of Betrayal (The Perennial Sin) - Booming clean bass notes and synth orchestration set a melancholy tone before breaking into a marching midtempo riff with a great little ascending harmonized hook. A more laid back groove supports a showcase verse for Heiman’s vocals. A great melodic lead goes harmonized before flowing back into the verse. A more mechanical guitar melody also goes harmonized before breaking into a more epic and atmospheric bridge that builds into an even more epic bridge vocal. An excellent melodic solo leads into an equally excellent harmonized interlude, then an amazingly soaring pre-chorus that leads into a more pensive but still soaring chorus. A reprise of the mechanical interlude ends the song. Superb, 10/10.
  • The City Of Stone (The Burden Of The Crownless Kings) - An ascending midtempo riff kicks up the tempo a notch before breaking into an excellent driving verse. A rhythmically playful riff drives a sparse but effective chorus. More excellent melodic leads gain harmonization, flowing into a rocking reprise of “Through Lands Forgotten” that takes off like a rocket into a searing vocal bridge. A superb multi-part solo eventually rolls into a more driving version of the chorus before fading away. The first chorus was a little weaker, but everything else about this song was just superb, even jaw-dropping in places, so I think it deserves to hold onto a 10/10.
  • Towers Of Gold (Tempus Edax Rerum) - Epic chords and a Kai Hansen-esque lead breaks into excellent uptempo riffage with some cackling. A strong vocal with high-pitched paranoid accents is broken up by some excellent guitar runs, then eventually leads into a catchy chorus 1 with an excellent final wail and lead work that breaks into awesome thrashy riffage. A soaring, ascending pre-chorus leads into a darker but still soaring chorus 2. This gives way to a haunting piano interlude that’s joined by a great gentle vocal and builds into a heavier extended bridge with steadily ascending vocals, ending on an insanely long and high note. Driving guitars soon welcome a very busy bass solo with nice guitar leads in the background, then a more staccato guitar interlude. A stately interlude with middle eastern vocals leads into a dark but ascending verse 2 and a more atmospheric chorus 3. Another atmospheric interlude with male choral vocals and piano gives way to a driving bass lead reminiscent of the middle of Iron Maiden’s “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”, taking on coed choral vocals in a manner evoking Queensrÿche’s “Suite Sister Mary”. This soon gets heavier, then falls back to atmospheric sounds and a heartbeat, then melancholy piano and the thoughts of the main character. An epic verse 3 ensues, with some more excellent melodic lead work, soon falling into a driving riff with great harmonized flourishes. This leads into a great verse 4 with another huge final scream and great color work on the guitar. A spoken word vocal leads into some final soaring wails over marching drums and a decaying chord. This nearly 15-minute-long monster of a song is quite the journey, going through many musical convolutions while delivering the epic climax of the story through “theater of the mind” techniques in the interplay between the music, sounds, and narrative. Aside from some slight weakness in the initial vocal section with the high-pitched paranoid elements, this is a stunning work from start to finish, and fully deserving of a 10/10.
  • Where Crimson Shadows Dwell (And Ouroboros Dreamt) - More 12-string guitar lays the foundation for a melancholy coda to the story. Heiman delivers a great call-and-response melodic verse and a short but soaring chorus. A few rounds of this and the album ends on the final chorus note. Excellent stuff, 9/10.

Average: 9.2/10
Weighted: 9.4/10

This is a truly excellent record that hit me hard out of the gate and sank its teeth into me more and more with each listen, soon ascending to the heights of my all-time favorite albums. While it’s technically power metal, and sometimes sounds like more traditional fare from that genre, it has a dark, epic, minor key feel to it that clashes with the normal perception of that type of music, and it has a lot more variation in tempo and rhythm than you would normally expect from the genre.

Daniel Heiman’s vocal performance is absolutely immaculate here, constantly demonstrating amazing power, control, and range. The riffs and guitar leads are similarly impressive, with loads of thought and character to them, and often bursting with melody. Kai Hansen is a clear inspiration for Lado’s playing, but he covers a wide stylistic range from mid-tempo grooves to full-on thrash and everything in between, and he handles it all wonderfully. The guest guitarists providing 12-string acoustic work also do a great job. Dimos’s drumming doesn’t fall into lazy power metal patterns, either – while there’s certainly some double-bass drumming on display here, he goes to a lot of different places and often delivers more traditional rock drumming instead, which keeps things interesting.

And last but not least, the songwriting here is consistently excellent, and often superb. When the worst songs on the album are still truly great, and the back half of your album is drowning in near perfection, you should be immensely proud of your work. To do all of this while also delivering a coherent and interesting story through the lyrics and music is even more impressive.

Unfortunately, this new version of Sacred Outcry wasn’t set up as a touring entity, so they weren’t able to capitalize on the glowing reviews of the album to mount a major tour. Hopefully they can address that, keep this line-up together for another album, and finally get a chance to take it on the road!

If you enjoy epic traditional metal and power metal, this album is a must-listen. Don’t miss it.

(Master review index >)