Friday, May 17, 2024

Anime Review: Dirty Pair (OVA)

Time to bring anime back to the blog  fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

Not since June of 2023 have I reviewed anything from one of the cornerstones of this blog’s history, and to be honest that annoys me. When I started my little corner of the internet, I was doing the best I could to balance both metal album reviews & anime reviews, but over the near decade that I’ve been doing this, I’ve seem to have been moving away from anime more & more (Though I still did anime-themed posts). I’m hoping that this is the start of going back to into those, and I’ve definitely picked a classic. The series in today’s review is nearly 40 years old, and is pretty iconic among old-school Otaku, and certainly has a little weight today among it’s fans. So, let’s not waste anymore, and take a look at quite the Dirty Pair. Let’s begin!

Story/Setup
Taken from the back of the DVD Case:

Criminals of the universe beware - the Dirty Pair are back in action! It doesn't matter if you're the warden of an infamous prison, a robot that's literally armed to the teeth, or that snotty little kid who thought it'd be fun to hijack mankind's biggest space cannon. If Kei and Yuri get orders to bring you in, then these two Lovely Angels will use any combination of beauty, brains, and brute force to bring you to justice! The OVA series feature production by Sunrise (Gundam, Outlaw Star, The Vision of Escaflowne, Cowboy Bebop) and Studio Nue (Crusher Joe, Macross). This value-priced DVD collection contains the complete 10-episode, direct-to-video series and features remastered image and sound. DVD Features: Scene access, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo for English and Japanese dialogue, English subtitles and English on-screen translations. PLUS: clean opening and closing, U.S. trailer, liner notes and Nozomi Entertainment trailers.

Let’s get this out of the way: the Dirty Pair OVA doesn’t have a deep story. To be exact, it doesn’t have a deep overarching story. Each episode is practically it’s own thing, but the opening one does establish the basic theme of the show. That being said.....I kinda like that approach to storytelling in this series. Each episode is pretty easy to consume, and you could technically watch everything past the first episode in any order you want. It’s not even a heavy series in terms of it’s tone, but there are some moments in certain episodes that hit surprisingly hard. Definitely contrasts with the more lighthearted elements, and that’s great if you ask me!

Animation
For being nearly 40 years old, it’s amazing that this OVA still looks as great as it does. Sure, it’s shows it’s late 80s style of animation, but it still looks fantastic! The colors are vibrant, the backgrounds have quite a bit of detail put in, the various ships & vehicles all look & move nice, and the character models are all distinct from one anothers. Sure, you can tell it’s age in many aspects (Especially matching up the dub voices to the movement of the lips), but the old-school style of animation is missed by a lot of Otaku & Weebs. Myself somewhat included.

Voice Acting
The voice acting for Dirty Pair is surprisingly good. I didn’t know this until fairly recently, but the OVA was originally released under ADV Films, and every once in a while their dub work was.....curious, to say the least. In the case of this series, it ended up being pretty good! Yeah, there’s a couple voices in the more minor roles that perhaps aren’t as up to snuff as everything else, but overall the voice acting is really good in this OVA. Pamela Lauer & Jessica Calvello in particular are absolutely fantastic as Kei & Yuri respectively. Speaking of which.....

Characters
Kei & Yuri steal the whole show! Sure, there are plenty of other characters that work alongside them, and each episode is filled to the gills with secondary individuals, but the Lovely Angels dominate each & every scene there in. Kei is the quintessential 80s anime tomboy: she’s tough, she’s smart, and she knows how to fight. However, she also knows that she looks good, and in a few moments shows off her feminine side quite well. On the other side of the coin is Yuri, and she’s the Yang to Yuri’s Yin. Yuri is gorgeous, sweet, feminine, and rather gentle at certain times. However, when the pressure is on, she can fight just as well as her partner, and even taps into a certain kind of fury if need be. Both girls complement each other nicely in any situation, and nobody can every tear them apart!

Availability & Pricing
Good luck finding this OVA!

It’s been a while since I watched an anime where finding a physical copy takes a lot of work to find. The original ADV Films version is practically impossible to find (Outside of some rare exceptions), and the 2012 re-release from RightStuf only has one unopened collection on Amazon as we speak, and that is currently going for $129.99.....but there is free shipping. Ebay will definitely be the only reliable place to find it, regardless of the condition. I was fortunate to receive the OVA collection a few years back from a friend as a Christmas gift, so I never had to buy it myself.  

Overall Impression & Rating
The Dirty Pair OVA is just a lot of dumb & simple fun. Sure, the availability is a giant issue, and it’s more simplistic way of telling it’s story might not be for viewers who like some depth to their series, but there’s just this special kind of Sci-Fi/Cyberpunk charm that oozes from every pore that you can’t help but be charmed by it. Coming in on 4 decades old in 2027, it still manages to pull some weight in this modern anime era, and I for one am thankful oldtaku & new find it a treat. Lovely Angels indeed!

The Dirty Pair OVA gets an 8.5 to 9 out of 10.

And that was my review for the Dirty Pair OVA. I’m so glad I was able to get this series when I was able to, as it’s a stone cold classic! In an era where modern anime reigns supreme (For better or for worse), it’s nice to watch a show that’s filled with so many old-school vibes. So, I got another anime review for next time, and it’ll be near the end of a classic series. See you next Friday!


***
If you’d like to watch the series with subtitles, click on the link below:

Dirty Pair: OVA (Nozomi Entertainment)

If you’d also like to listen to the soundtrack for the series, check out below:

Dirty Pair OVA Soundtrack (Full Album)

Friday, May 10, 2024

Album Review: Devin Townsend's Empath

Happy belated birthday Empath!

On the 29th of March in 2019, Devin Townsend first solo album in years was released, and to say anything other than amazing would be a crime. Coming in like a Prog Metal juggernaut, it took the fanbase by storm, and wound up being one of his most highest rated releases of last decade. It would make it to no. 3 on my top 5 albums of 2019 list (Read Here), but in the just over 5 years since it came out, I’ve grown to love it even more than I did back then, as it’s healing energies are perhaps needed now more than ever. Upon listening to it again in recent memory, it seemed only right to celebrate the album’s 5-year presence on this planet, so without further delay.....here’s Empath!

Background
Taken from Devin Townsend’s website:

I have been ‘holding it up to the light’ for the whole process in hope that the effort and difficulty that went into this project ultimately helps people.

My career has spanned several decades and I have been trying to work through the phases that present themselves in order to learn more about myself. I knew that Empath was on the horizon several years back when I became restless in my musical world and began to feel a pull towards something uncompromising. I felt a need to confront a fear of myself on some level if I was ever going to be able to progress as an artist. The result is this album you hold in your hands, and it was a heck of an experience bringing to completion. It is not an easy listen, but I hope my reasons for doing it are clear. It was about taking it all apart and laying it out for myself to take stock of.

I needed to explore a lot of avenues, and it took me to some frightening places. By the end of the process though, the resolution that came from ‘going there’ proved to me that I had become capable of moving past it.

The theme of Empath was always about going into that fear – the uncertainty of life and ‘middle age’ – then confronting it and coming out the other side of it with some sort of realization. Although life is not easy, it can be within us to rise to those occasions that are demanded of us and I wanted to write something that represented many angles of life with an overarching theme that ultimately is one of hope in uncertain times.

In a world that is more divided than ever, Empath was written in order to participate in all those emotions that bubbled up over the past two years without judging them or letting them define the process. I feel that when we do so, we are more able to understand how others, different from us, may feel. Empathy is a trait that seems to be equated to weakness in this day and age, when ultimately it is the one thing that could help us understand each other.

Music, in my opinion, does not come from us individually. Maybe it comes from a collective pool of human experience, and artists ultimately have the job of pulling that from the ether, filtered through our own trip, and then simply trying to do a good job in representing it?

Regardless, I’m proud to be able to play for you all and hope my work in a small way does justice to the inspiration from the infinite source. I am humbled by it. Thank you to the countless people who help and support me on this journey, there’s no conceivable way I could do my part of this without friends, family, co-workers and the audience. It means so much to be able to participate in this and I do not take it for granted. Thank you again.

My intention with representing this music is only to help and honour. I hope you enjoy this and hope you may find some catharsis here. Please take care of yourself and let’s stick around… we can do this. Don’t give up.

With all my love and light.


Basic Description
You’re Going To Be Okay.

Let’s rewind the clock a bit: it’s March of 2019. By that point, we’ve had a little over 2 years of donald trump, political tensions between both sides was getting hot, a giant majority of us were probably not doing our best, and perhaps most soul crushing of all, us 90s kids were in our early 30s at that point. Coupled with a lot of other political & social factors, it’s easy to see why the whole “Doomer” attitude was really beginning to kick in then, and just this overall blanket of hopelessness getting put on us all. Then, Empath comes out, and just hits a lot of us right in the feels. Devin’s always had a positive disposition on a giant majority of his releases, but this one is perhaps the living embodiment of that word. There’s still some rough patches here & there, but I dare you to find just a single song on here that purposely crushes your soul into a thousand pieces!

Best Track
It is an absolute crime to pick just a single song off of Empath as the best track. From opener to close, you will experience what might very well be the most spiritual thing that Devin has ever crafted, and considering how awe-inspiring a lot of his music was before this is saying something. That being said, if I had to pick a favorite tune, then it’s gotta be Spirits Will Collide. Though the totality of Empath is devoted to the feelings of getting through the worst of things, it’s on this song that the message is most apparent. The instrumentation is loud & bombastic, but there’s immense feelings of hope and comfort with each note. Vocal work is interesting here, as it’s split between a giant choir & Devin himself. HevyDevy does a really good job here, as while he's loud, it's oddly not as overwhelming as you think. Again, any of the songs off of the main album could be put here, but Spirits Will Collide just hits right.

Spirits Will Collide

An of course I gotta point out the Tests Of Manhood tune known as Methuselah. Whereas Spirits Will Collide was loud & bombastic with plenty of emotion, Methuselah funky & soft with plenty of emotion. The instrumentation is played rather ethereally & strange, and Devin’s vocals and rather soft but not in the realm of whispering, & the end result is equal parts weird yet oddly cozy. However, it wasn’t just the more interesting using of instruments & HevyDevy’s singing that got me to really like the song. Here’s the story!

It’s opening night for Avengers: Endgame. My Mom got me & a friend tickets, so I drove up to his place, and then we drove to the nearby mall he lived close to, and to say inside the theater was packed was an understatement. Every seat from all the way in front to the high seats in the back, there were people of all ages watching what is perhaps the truly final good live-action Marvel movie. The credits roll, and we make our way back to his place, and then I went home. I had just gotten Empath about a week prior, and decided to put Tests Of Manhood in the car stereo. I don’t know what it was, but something about driving through the streets at midnight, mixed with the oddly calm vibes from outside the car, made for a weirdly comforting time. Definitely can’t replicate that today!

Methuselah

Worst Track
I hinted at this in my review of Lightwork late last year, wherein I said that it was too calm and relaxing at times. Empath suffers from a similar issue, in that at times it’s too loud for it own good. That feeling is relaxed on Tests Of Manhood somewhat, but on Empath itself? For an album about how it’s going to be okay & not to kill yourself, it’s surprising at just how loud a lot of the songs are. Like on Lightwork this doesn’t make the music bad in any way, but it does clash with how the music is trying to be presented.

Other
If you’re curious about listening to this album & Tests Of Manhood, then click on the links below:

Empath

Tests Of Manhood

Also, interesting fact: Empath cost Devin $100,000 to make (Translated from Canadian & includes Tests Of Manhood), which means that this is HevyDevy’s most expensive record to date at this time.

Overall Impression & Rating
Empath was a massive breath of fresh emotional air for many fans 5 years ago, and oddly enough would act as a piece of body armor for enduring the harsh year after it. Even before all of that plague-ridden time, it was a spiritual bandage for those within the HevyDevy community, who were seeking something to alleviate the mental pain & anguish they were more than likely feeling at that point. Even if you didn’t listen to this back in 2019, I recommend this to you now. If the rest of 2024 gets as bad as I think it might, we’ll need al1 the help we can get.
    
Empath gets a 10 out of 10. It may have been at my no. 3 spot back in 2019, but the emotional impact & incredible quality makes it a number 1 in my book!

So that was my belated birthday review of Devin Townsend’s end-of-last decade smash that was Empath. Hopefully, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel by the end of this year, but until then we can only wonder. In the meantime, I got a few anime review ideas in the works, so I’ll see you soon!

Friday, May 3, 2024

Album Review: Alice Cooper's Road

Alice Cooper.

What is there to say? For over 6 decades, one of the pinnacles of Shock Rock & Heavy Metal has carved a niche for himself, and he’s never left it. From the more humble times when a chicken was killed in the crowd, to hitting rock bottom when drugs & alcohol gripped him completely, to regaining control and embracing faith, & all the way to now, our dear Alice has lit the stage with the ultimate example of showmanship & scares. It didn’t matter what record you were listening to (Save for a rare few), as the myth & mystique from Mr. Cooper surrounded you, and wouldn’t let go until it wanted to.

In recent memory, Alice has put out 2 albums since the start of this decade: Detroit Stories back in 2021, and the subject of today’s review, Road. Released on the 25th of August in 2023, this album is also something of a concept/personal record. Whereas the previously mentioned release was all about the musical history of the city he came from, Road was about.....the Road! In the man’s own words:

The concept’ll be, where do we know’ em? The road. That’s when we see each other all the time,” Alice explained. “I want you guys to write anything about the road. I don’t care if it’s funny, tragic, silly, horrific — it doesn’t matter. And then we’re gonna take it and we’ll mold those songs into an Alice Cooper album. So it’ll be 13 songs, different stories that tell one big story.

And it wasn’t just the stories & themes that gave Road it’s character, but the musicians as well. Unlike prior release, Alice got his touring band in on this, which included guitar wiz Nina Strauss (She was also on Detroit Stories if I recall correctly). However, even with a proven group of musicians, Mr. Cooper had a strict requirement when it came to recording the album. More specifically, he wanted everybody in the studio together when it came time to record. In Mr. Cooper’s own words:

I want everybody to play at the same time. No beds. I don’t want to put a bed track here. I said, ‘You guys are good enough to just play it live,'” he recalled. “What this does, though, is it doesn’t give the song a chance to get old.

The end result of all this work is Road. A highly personal album about life on the road, and all of the struggles & optimism along that path. Alice himself has lived this for an incredibly long time, and plenty of the musicians in his touring band as well. On top of that, Road is the kind of album you put in your car’s stereo system (If it still has that kind of thing), put the windows down as the sun is setting, and just letting the music play as you drive. The music is really good stuff, and in comparison to my review from last week (As well as my final no. 1 review in November), it’s perhaps the most optimistic out of the three.

So as to what I think is the best track off of Road, it’s gotta go to the first single revealed for the album, I’m Alice. While some of the lyrics might come across as goofy to some, it’s also a fun look into the mind of Alice as a character: the showmanship, the personality, the fact that he knows what you want, and that you & him won’t forget the other. Alice’s singing is still on point, and everybody in the band is doing a damn good job as well. Nina Strauss shows that girls can kick just as much ass on the guitar as guys can, and I hope she stays in the band until things end. As a way to open Road & to show off what it’s about, I couldn’t think of any other song than this one.

I’m Alice

So, if there aren’t any bad songs on this album, does that mean it has any issues? Well, it does have one problem, but it actually took place after the record came out. I hinted at it last year when I did my top 5 albums list (Read Here), so I’ll summarize it here: in an interview, Alice was asked about the issue of transgender people (Kids & Youth more specifically). He said that he understands it in some cases, but basically said that more often than not it feels like a “Fad”, and then said something about “Wokeness” (Which immediately dispelled whatever fake conservative point he was trying to make) or whatever. This caused a minor stink among the metal community, though the only real damage that was done was a deal with a makeup company was ultimately cancelled causes of what he said, and the stink in question didn’t really last all that long. Now on the one hand some of the stuff he said was really stupid, and really disappointed me since Alice was one of the good ones, but on the other hand he didn’t go into a wild rant in his answer.....so I guess that’s okay?

Road gets a 10 out of 10. One political fo-pa post release aside, it’s a testament that the classic king of shock still manages to put out consistent, well-produced, meaty albums filled to the brim with fantastic songs. If he can get one more album out before he retires or passes away (Hopefully it’s the former), then he’ll have cemented himself as an eternal icon of Metal & Rock.

And that was my review for Alice Cooper’s 2023 release, Road. An absolutely wonderful release, it’s further proof that the old-schoolers of Heavy Metal & Rock still know how to put on albums that will stand the test of time until the world ends. So, now I have my honorable mention & no. 1 album reviews locked in for November, but we have quite a ways before then. See you all next week!


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If you’d like to listen to this album, then click on the link below:

Road

Also, if you'd like to read the interview where I got the quotes I used above, check out the link below:

Alice Cooper Didn’t Want Concept Album ‘Road’ to Sound ‘Perfect’ like Supertramp (SiriusXM)

Friday, April 26, 2024

Album Review: Waldgeflüster's Unter Bronzenen Kronen

It’s hard not to feel down in recent years fellow Otaku & Metalheads. By the end of 2023, it’s not difficult to see why: Gaza & it’s people getting wiped off the map, further political tomfoolery here in the United States, and the dark theory that Donald J. Trump might actually get away with everything sends an absolute chill up a lot of our spines. It’s kind of the reason why I concluded last year’s top 5 albums list with some rather serious releases. I got 1 saved for November like I normally do, but in the meantime I have 2 others to take a look at, and both of them (Technically one of them) take a sledgehammer to the feels, and you’re left on the ground like a baby. So to start with, let’s take a quick trip back to Germany for this one!

Like I’ve said a few times throughout this blog’s existence, I’m not the biggest fan of Black Metal. From the lo-fi production that felt lazy to me, to musicianship that sometimes feels like people just banging on instruments, and to the vocal work that comes across like screeching & screaming (Even though it really isn’t). All of those factors kept me away from the genre for a really long time, until I began to expand my horizons back in 2015 when I began getting into Darkthrone (Read Here). Even with opening up my musical tastes in that direction, I still wasn’t giving it the chance that it deserved. It wasn’t until early 2019 when, by genuine accident, I clicked on a suggestion in my Youtube page that I really began to appreciate Black Metal more than I did.

As you can tell by the title of this review, that band in question was Waldgeflüster. Translated into Forest Whispers, the band has been around since 2006, and began to properly put out albums since 2009. Unlike a lot of groups in the style that leaned towards the Satanic side of things, these Germanic fellows were incredibly influenced by Nature & Heathendom as the subject matter of their music (With other subjects being supplementary), and it shows. The music is still incredibly brutal and heavy, but there’s plenty of times where it’s incredibly beautiful, and oddly peaceful as well if you can believe it. I first showed them off back in 2019 when I had them on my top 5 albums list of that year (Read Here), and that was where my love for them began. It’s only grown over the years since then, and in 2023 it became solid when Unter Bronzenen Kronen was released on the 29th of September.

Unter Bronzenen Kronen, or Under Bronze Crowns, is essential Waldgeflüster distilled into a bite-sized package. 4 tracks compose this little release, and each one is nothing short of fantastic. Each song is nothing short of beautiful, emotional, & heavy, and they all feel satisfying to listen to. All of the tracks conjure up images of Autumn, the forest, old memories, and spirits from bygone times. The experience is easy to describe, yet oddly difficult to describe as well. It really does feel like everyone will have their own experience with Unter Bronzenen Kronen, but they’ll all talk about it with people that haven’t listened to it.

Picking the best track off of here was easy, and that honor goes to The Pit. A cover of the Panopticon song of the same name (Listen Here), it trades that version’s Kentucky Bluegrass clothes, and fully embraces Waldgeflüster’s brand of Black Metal. It’s sweeping, epic, powerful, and unless I’m wrong, marks the very first time that the lyrics were sung in English. You really have your heartstrings pulled incredibly hard the first time you listen to the song, and it doesn’t really let up on subsequent hearings (Especially if you watch the video for it). I’ve kind of been in a rough place for months, and for some reason I’ve found that this track oddly fits how I’ve been feeling all this time so far. If you’re in the mood for a track that’ll put you on the edge of tears, you can’t get much better than The Pit.

The Pit

The Pit (Music Video)

So, with all of the positivity out of the way, you’re probably asking if there’s anything bad about this release? To be perfectly honest, there really isn’t anything to complain about. Unter Bronzenen Kronen from beginning to end is truly a perfect release, and really shows that Black Metal can easily break out of the stereotypical Satanic shell. That being said, the release is a bit on the short side. Playing for 28 minutes & 10 seconds, to be exact. It’s really funny that it goes on for just that amount of time, because the 4 songs on here don’t feel short. Again, they’re incredibly substantial, and will hit you hard every time you listen to them.

Unter Bronzenen Kronen gets a solid 10 out of 10. It might be on the short side of things, but it’s one of the most fulfilling releases of 2023, and more than deserves to be at the no. 1 spot. So, we’ve got one of my number 1 releases out of the way, and the second pays homage to one of Shock Rock’s most iconic figures. See you all next week!



***
If you’d like to listen to this album, click on the link below:

Unter Bronzenen Kronen

Friday, April 19, 2024

Album Review: Devin Townsend's Infinity (Remaster)

Time for honorable mentions fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

That’s right, time to look at the albums of 2023 that didn’t quite make the cut. Like I’ve said numerous times on prior lists, just because an album made it to the honorable mentions section doesn’t mean that it’s bad or mediocre. Most if not all of the honorable mentions I’ve spoken about are genuinely quite good, and the subject of today’s review is no exception, and is from Devin Townsend, who I’ve spoken about many times in high regard. However, today’s review marks the first time that I will be throwing some criticism at a release of his. Some pretty big criticism, to be exact. So, without further delay, here’s my review of the remaster of 1998's Infinity. Let’s begin!

Background

Taken from Devin’s website about the original Infinity:

I remember once I had finished Ocean Machine and City, the idea of duality became a big thing for me. I began to find myself fascinated by the concepts of ‘this and that’ and ‘yin and yang’ (or whatever metaphors supported that idea). I realized that the things that were motivating me were (in hindsight) a relatively common ‘coming-of-age’ type of artistic view. I found myself engaging in drugs and relationships that were unhealthy, yet playing into the whole metaphoric nature of that period to the point where my whole world resonated with a very deluded sense of self importance that ultimately had much invested in the music itself.

I felt a very arrogantly gratifying sense of martyrdom in ‘sleeping on the studio floor’, feeling ‘persecuted’, and ultimately winding myself up to believe that what I was doing was of some sort of great significance. At the time it was very romantic, but in hindsight, it was very obviously engagement in chemicals and drugs that I was unfamiliar with. These experiences threw me into a psychological tailspin that resulted in a chaotic, dense, (at times glorious), but mostly very confused statement.

It was done on ADAT in my friends basement, and the recording was unfortunately a self-imposed hellish mess. Again, hindsight is 20/20 and currently it’s much easier to recognize what is legitimate drama from artistic gratification. At the time, I believed it was the last record I would ever make. Strangely, I feel that about most records I’ve done. Ultimately, Infinity is one of the most important records I feel I’ve been involved with, and it was a rewarding time for my process.


Taken from Devin’s website about the original Christeen EP + 4 Demos:

Nowadays, when I record too much music for a single disk, it comes out in double disks or bonus editions etc, but at the time, (without a label or management to guide), I would put out the bonus songs as things like this, or the ‘Ass-Sordid’ stuff. Japan wanted to make a video for Christeen with a famous photographer that ultimately got edited by someone other than him and was a disaster. The inclusion of the video, however, seemed an appropriate excuse for me to put the additional songs into one place that existed in tandem with the Infinity sessions.

Some interesting stuff here, with the final song ‘Love Load’ causing quite a ruckus among friends and band mates as being a horrible statement. A statement that distanced myself from the things that actually defined Infinity in the beginning. (Selfishness over community)


Taken from Metal Injection in September of 2023 about the reissue/remaster:

As I move into a new phase of my work, (one that requires the next two years to be spent writing and recording), I reflect on the Infinity album and the period it all happened in many ways. This was my first attempt at engineering and mixing an album, and without it, I wouldn’t have gotten where I am now on a technical level. It was like going to college at the time, and although it is primitive in many ways, it also reminded me of the amount of passion it takes to reach a new level.

The whole process during the making of this album was fraught with learning, turmoil, growth, and psychological development. In fact: I didn’t think at the time that I would even get through it, (let alone be here 25 years later writing and working with the hard-won experience that came as a direct result of making Infinity).

I realize now how pivotal this period of expression was for me, and how it was a testament to tenacity in the long run. As such, I’m proud that we’ve decided to re-release the record with all the bonus tracks and personal artwork from that period in one place. I was even asked to do an updated version of the naked cover album cover (!!!) so in the name of authenticity… I did that too.

I believe this to be the quintessential version of the record. It was a statement then as it is now. And for those who were there during that period as well as those who are perhaps interested in how it all began, I present to you ‘Infinity’ in an updated fashion. I’m grateful for the opportunity to release it in this light and thank you all for the support all these years. Please wish me luck as I delve into this next phase, and being able to reflect on Infinity during the start of this process has proven to be very useful.


Basic Description
Welcome yet Disappointing.

Let’s get this out of the way: Infinity is not a bad album, and the Christeen EP + 4 Demos release is not bad either. Having the two on one record (Split among 2 CDs) is a great way to re-introduce classics to a new generation that might not have heard of it, while at the same time giving longtime listeners a huge nostalgia blast. That being said......it’s not a great remaster. If anything, this is one of the most incredibly subtle remasters I’ve ever heard of. Just to check to see if I was having auditory hallucinations, I went back & listened to the original release to listen for anything different from them & this record, and if there’s any difference between the originals and the remasters, it’s an exceedingly small difference. Which is a crying shame, as again I find the original music to be great, and this re-release of it is great for bringing in old & new fans alike, but the lack of remastering signs really hurts it.

Best Track
Like I said in my review for the original Infinity (Read Here), I was a big fan of both Christeen & Noisy Pink Bubbles. They were the most normal sound & feeling tracks of the album, and I still stand by that. However, I can’t deny that even on these two songs, there’s still at least a little bit of weirdness (Especially on Noisy Pink Bubbles) to be felt, which I guess is a good thing.

Christeen

Noisy Pink Bubbles

And then there’s Sit In The Mountain. If the two previously mentioned tracks are the most normal on Infinity, then the middle track of the Christeen EP is the most normal for that release (Read Here). A groovy little number, it’s simultaneously peaceful, while still providing quite a bit of heaviness to the listener. Definitely a nice mix!

Sit In The Mountain

Finally, there are the 3 bonus track included, which I suspect are the only pieces of music that actually had the remastering work done on. They include an acoustic version of Sister & Hide Nowhere off of his prior album Ocean Machine, as well as a demo for the song Man, which I have no idea what that one was going to be on. Regardless, these little musical nuggets do round out this reissue rather nicely, and add a little extra meat onto what is already a beastly dish.

Sister (Live Acoustic)

Hide Nowhere (Live Acoustic)

Man (1996 Demo)

Worst Track
Again, this remaster’s only fault is that it’s so incredibly difficult to tell that it’s actually been remastered. Like I said above, I listened to the original versions then this one to see if there’s a difference, and if there was, it’s so small it might as well not be a remaster in the first place.

(The Acoustic tracks & Demo track are exempt from this, as they’re new material which, as far as I know, weren’t on the original Infinity release or anything after it.)

Other
If you’re curious about listening to this album, then click on the link below:

Infinity: Remaster

Overall Impression & Rating
Infinity: Remaster is a baffling one for me. On the one hand, as a remaster it stumbles somewhat. The way it was redone makes it difficult to tell that anything has changed in any meaningful way. On the other hand, it’s great that HevyDevy still recognizes Infinity & it’s EP as important steps in his career, as he is more than willing to put it back out for the public to listen to. If you’re buying this as a remaster, you’ll be incredibly disappointed. If you’re buying it for the general level of quality however, then you won’t be upset in the slightest!

Infinity: Remaster gets a 10 out of 10 for overall quality, but a 5 out of 10 for the remastering.

And that was my look at the remaster for Devin Townsend’s 1998 classic, Infinity, as well as it’s EP. The quality might be fantastic, but it still feels the same as it was over 25 years ago.....for better or for worse. Well, I’ll save the other honorable mention for November later on this year, but in the meantime we’ve reached number 1, and I’m starting things off with quite the emotional colossus. See you next week!



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If you’re curious about the original Infinity & Christeen EP releases, click on the links below to give them a listen to:

Infinity

Christeen EP + 4 Demos

Friday, April 12, 2024

Album Review: U.D.O.'s Touchdown

Closer to no. 1 fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

We’re not that far away from the highest spot of last year’s albums. 2023 had some surprising choices at the number one spot, but before we see what’s there, we gotta finish up here at no. 2. Last week I took a look at Firestar, which was Iron Savior’s newest release. However, those fellows were not alone, as another Germanic Metal titan stood alongside them! Since 2018, I’ve spoken about the legends U.D.O., and the wonderful material they’ve release since I’ve been paying attention to them for close to over a decade since I accidentally discovered them. Last year, they put out a monster of an album, so let’s not waste anymore time! Here’s my review for 2023's Touchdown. Let’s begin!

Background
Taken from Wikipedia:

In September 2022, bassist Tilen Hudrap got injured in Munich while playing a show during the Game Over world tour. Former Accept bassist Peter Baltes would step in as the temporary member. Hudrap announced his departure from the band soon after. In April 2023, Baltes was announced as the band's new bassist. The eighteenth studio album Touchdown was released on 25 August 2023.

Taken from Metal Invader:

After touring Australia and Japan as well as kicking off this year’s festival season by introducing new bassist Peter Baltes last month, U.D.O. – the iconic heavy metal five-piece led by legendary vocalist Udo Dirkschneider (official) – let the next cat out of the bag today: In between various live activities throughout the year, the band have been very productive having recorded a massive, 13-track album at various locations. Crafted with producer and mixing engineer Martin “Mattes” Pfeiffer at Redhead Studio (Wilhelmshaven, Germany) and mastered by Stefan Kaufmann at ROXX Studio (Solingen, Germany), Touchdown is scheduled to land in the end zone of the heavy metal world on August 25th, 2023 through Atomic Fire Records. Artwork & photos were provided by Martin Häusler.

Basic Description
Balls To The Wall.

Hehe, I couldn’t help but put in that little Accept reference. Even with that said, this album definitely comes across like the U.D.O. of old at times. There’s no frills, there’s no added features, no bells, and no whistles. Touchdown at the end of the day is classic Heavy Metal from the 1980s, but given a bit of spit & shine thanks to modern recording and production techniques. Not only that, but the record does manage to somewhat eclipse the equally excellent Game Over from 2021 by having a bit more energy than the previously mentioned release. Not enough to equal that of the phenomenal We Are One from the start of this decade, but definitely enough to put it in view of that release.

Best Track
I think for any first time listener of this album, they’ll definitely fall in love with the title track. Curiously found at the very end of the record, it’s a wonderful & intense song that keeps it’s energy going throughout the entire thing. The football imagery not withstanding, Touchdown is classic U.D.O. brought into the 2020s with fists raised high and can do attitude front & center. Possibly the most interesting part about the track is the brief few second of what comes across like violin playing towards the end of the song, and while it’s not bad in any way (If anything, it’s interesting), it is something of a double take for that brief period of time.

Touchdown

Worst Track
Kinda like Firestar from last week, Touchdown’s only fault is that there isn’t a ballad anywhere to be heard. The band always manages to have at least one power ballad on their albums, so it’s weird to not find one on this record. Unlike Firestar, there isn’t one as a bonus track on the Japanese edition, which makes that edition pointless unless you’re a diehard collector of that country’s releases of Western albums.

Other
If you’re curious about listening to this album, then click on the link below:

Touchdown

Overall Impression & Rating
Touchdown is damn good. Lack of a ballad not withstanding, U.D.O. continue to prove after nearly 40 years that they still have talent & relevancy here in the early parts of the 2020s. I may hold We Are One from 2020 in higher regard than this record (And Game Over from 2021 to a lesser extent), but Touchdown isn’t that far off. Definitely a release to not pass on!

Touchdown gets a 9.5 to out of 10.

And that was my review of Touchdown. Further proof that the old-schoolers of Heavy Metal still have weight in the 2020s, it's a testament to the overall quality & entertainment factor that this record stands so tall. So, we’ve reached the honorable mentions of 2023, and to say the releases I picked that year are.....odd to say the least. So, I’ll see you all next time, when we’ll look at a re-release that’s simultaneously delightful, yet oddly disappointing. Until then, take care!

Friday, April 5, 2024

Album Review: Iron Savior's Firestar

Now we’re at no. 2 fellow Otaku & Metalheads!

It’s not much longer before we get to the no. 1 spot of 2023, and that year’s honorable mentions by an extent. The no. 2 spot of 2023 definitely had perhaps the most upbeat & optimistic release of that time, and the first of the two I’m looking at I once spoke of back in 2020. Much like that previously mention album, this record was a much needed boost of positivity to help us get out of the disease-ridden mire of the beginning of this decade. I’m speaking of course.....of Iron Savior. For almost 30 years, this German band has crafted some of the Power Metal genre’s finest in Science Fiction record, but never forgetting to add just a little bit of Fantasy to even it out. So, without further delay, here’s a look at Iron Savior’s 2023 release, Firestar. Let’s begin!

Background
As I seem to be saying a lot lately.....2020 was an absolute crapshoot. I don’t need to go into detail like I been doing when bringing up this year, but it stands to reason that not a lot of good was going on. For Iron Savior, they didn’t let a once-a-century plague stop them from making music, and by the end of that year they had released the excellent Skycrest (Which I’ve talked about here). However, that wasn’t the end of their work, as by November the 19th of 2021 they would release a 10th Anniversary Edition of The Landing, which was completely re-recorded & including the Japanese bonus tracks (Which was a huge treat for those outside the Land of the Rising Sun). However, it wouldn’t be until 2023 that all new material would reach listeners, and on 6th of October that year, Firestar was released.

Basic Description
Sci-Fi Power Metal Fun.

This has pretty much been the band’s M.O. since they began releasing music back in 1997: a band firmly within the realm of Power Metal musically, but more often than not utilizes Science Fiction rather than the style’s signature take on the Fantasy genre (Though they do keep a little of that genre in their music.). It’s definitely makes fans of Power Metal who like the style more on the traditional side to do a double take, but more often than not they adapt to it very fast. As for Firestar itself, I say it’s fantastic! There is one weird fault with the album (More on that in a bit), but that weird fault doesn’t ruin the experience that this record provides. Firestar was definitely an album that was needed to help listeners continue to get out of the mire that was 2020. The upbeat energy, mixed with the heaviness of the instrumentation, and topped with the Sci-Fi syrup, just makes the whole listening experience a great time. Nuff said!

Best Track
It’s hard not to love the title track of the album, and for good reason. Everything about the song is infectious: from the pacing, to the instrumentation, and to Piet Sielck’s signature vocal work, it’s hard to not have this track at least be partially stuck in your brain. But as usual, it’s Iron Savior own brand of Sci-Fi Power Metal optimism that really shines on this tune, and Firestar as a whole to be honest. My only complaint is that this song isn’t the opener, and that’s it!

Firestar

Worst Track
In an absolute bizarre move, Firestar doesn’t have a single power ballad that’s pretty much been typical of Iron Savior since the beginning of their career. The European edition doesn’t have a ballad, and the American version (Which I have) doesn’t have one either. It’s only on the Japanese Edition that Firestar gets a ballad, and it’s a lovely little tune by the name of When The Tanks Are Rolling. Sadly, there isn’t a link to the song on Youtube, but I can say that it’s definitely within the ballad territory. Maybe not as sappy as something like Ease Your Pain off of their last album, but it definitely does have that Iron Savior ballad-grade emotional weight on it’s shoulders. If you by any chance grab/download the Japanese release, it’s definitely not a track to skip!  

Other
If you’re curious about listening to this album, click on the link below:

Firestar

Overall Impression & Rating

Firestar was an absolute blast! Sure, there wasn’t a ballad to be heard for the most part, but everything else is a nice slice of Power Metal cheesecake that just so tasty. Yet another example of an album that pulled many of us out of the disease-ridden depths of the first few years of this decade, it’ll be around for us whenever we need a big emotional pick-me-up!

Firestar gets a 9.5 to 9.9 out of 10.