I've been dreading writing this review for a really long time, but I can't dodge it any longer. As much as Iron Maiden is one of the CORE bands of my entire existence, saying that BRITISH LION is anything but mediocre to subpar drivel is impossible. Certainly, the guys from Iron Maiden have done projects outside the band before. Bruce Dickinson's solo career is astoundingly good. Adrian Smith's Psycho Motel albums weren't bad either. But this...ugh. It hurts to write, because more than anything else, Steve Harris basically IS Iron Maiden. He's the maestro of their sound, the creative force behind the band. He's the producer. He's just about everything for Maiden. That said, you have to wonder just why he brought NONE of that skillset to this project that has his name on top of it. BRITISH LION is a dull, drab collection of songs with fairly subpar production value (for which Kevin Shirley should be ashamed for taking a check considering the mix of this turd). Listening to this and even remotely comparing this sound to ANYTHING Iron Maiden has released since, say, 1985 leaves you wondering why Harris didn't just scrap this or put more money into it to make it sound better.
24 STRINGS & A DRUMMER: LIVE AND ACOUSTIC
Night Ranger and Loverboy were two bands that were, pretty much in my eyes, linked together back in the 80s. There was something about the two of them. They weren't quite metal bands at the time, and there was something that was catchy about both but never led you to think they were anything more than cookie cutter hard rock bands. Night Ranger was my favorite of the two, because they weren't all whiny and wrote better songs than Loverboy. I'm sure many of the chicks that were 15 or so during that era would probably disagree with that assessment, but so bet it. It's interesting how at this phase of their careers, both have re-recorded their hits right now for releases to appease the old guard. For Loverboy, their re-recordings was an abortion of epic proportions that pretty much proved they should retire. While Night Ranger is probably a few decades too late to be releasing an UNPLUGGED effort, I'd be lying if I said this wasn't fairly catchy and fun.
33 Love Child
33 LOVE CHILD
So many times, new bands get all wrapped up trying to reinvent the musical wheel so much that they forget to actually showcase the core influences that made them what they are in the first place. 33 Love Child is a band that features vocalist Whiskey Diamond, who many metalheads might remember as the vocalist behind ex-Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman's solo material some years ago. That said, he's brought his strong voice together with some qualified musicians to create an album chock full of material that doesn't really break any new musical ground, but just kicks ass because of one simple reason - it rocks.
There's been several incarnations of Krokus, at least as I hear it. There's been multiple versions of the band, so much so that I think that there hasn't been a single member that's been along for the entire ride of the band. They have had a metal period, a hard rock period, a hair metal period, and a blues rock (spelled AC/DC) period. While they have had some really bad albums from time to time though, they have never fully lost their edge or their ability to be, ultimately, a solid band. On the heals of their highly successful album HOODOO, Krokus has taken the more blues rock sound from that album and furthered it with their latest, DIRTY DYNAMITE. While certainly not the best thing they've ever done, DIRTY DYNAMITE is a fun, bluesy album chock full of solid songs. While it's almost certainly not going to attract any new audience, it's definitely not going to push anyone that's been following along away.
There's just a feeling of anticipation for the majestic when you hear that a new Saxon release is forthcoming. You know each and every time that these English rockers are going to deliver something that just sounds big, triumphant and awesome. Sure, they have had their albums that weren't that good. But overall, they are one of those bands who's disappointing albums are not so bad that you would ever write them off completely.
STRAIGHT OUT OF HELL
When you history is as long as stoic as a band like Helloween's, people tend to come into each release with a series of expectations. They also tend to judge anything new they release by comparison to the rest of the catalog instead of as a standalone release. Certainly, that's justified. For me, I first remember discovering Helloween when I was stationed in Korea. They used to play their videos in a bar called the "MTV Club" in Itaewon, Korea. I watched for a year as videos for "I Want Out" and "Halloween" played over and over in this club. I remember buying KEEPER OF THE SEVEN KEYS: PART 1 in some bootleg shop in Seoul, and literally wearing that tape out in only a few months. From that point on, I've never missed a release of a disc by Helloween, and I've compared every release to KEYS 1. Some have been hit and some have been miss, but all have pretty much maintained the core sound of the band. Even changes in core members hasn't derailed Helloween...at least to my ears.
Black Veil Brides
WRETCHED AND DIVINE
The Black Veil Brides have certainly come from out of nowhere to capture the Hot Topic community of modern metalheads. There's no denying their success. Ultimately, they are a fairly average band, even if they make efforts to fuse both modern elements and some old school into their music to create what I'll call "hybrid rock". They blew up with SET THE WORLD ON FIRE, and their REBELS EP was well received as well. That said though, the band is clearly at a crossroads for their career where they can emerge as superstars or fall back to the pack. Or, after listening to WRETCHED AND DIVINE, they can probably stay exactly where they are.
THE BEST OF US BLEED
As a fan of both death metal and Cryptopsy, I have to question why this band, or any other death metal band for that matter, would even bother with a greatest hits release that is fleshed out with live tracks and demos. Especially a band with years on them like Cryptopsy. I wonder specifically about the demo inclusion for any band like this. Let's face it, as a fan of death metal over the last 20 years, we've all learned to accept some pretty demo sounding music in these types of band's actual releases. To say the least, so many great death metal albums had terrible sound to begin with, so hearing songs even more poorly recorded or before they were fleshed out really has no appeal to me. Additionally, Cryptopsy is one such band that's had some dodgy sounding material in the past, so hearing this music contrasted against a few new recordings really points that out as well.