A matter of life and death.

Welcome to the review of Iron Maiden’s new offering. With daring constant themes of war and misusing religion to cause it , this may seem as a concept album. It isn’t that, although it is actually very close. As can be seen from the cover artwork down to the lyrics, this is a full-scale attack on the futility of it all. Contrary to their previous efforts, there seems to have been some serious thought put into this album.

I think that two of the tracks that stand out are ‘The Longest Day’ and ‘These Colours Don’t Run’. I can see the Longest Day as a stand-out in live shows while Colours is magnificent.

‘For The Greater Good Of God’ bleeds into another big arena swinger , with changing tempos and three way lead solos that will leave you quaking. It’s another Maiden classic that does not compromise heaviness in achieving its nine-minute span. Nine minutes! There are actually five tracks over seven minutes long , and two niners.

‘The Pilgrim’ and opener ‘Different World’ are straight to the balls standard rockers, while Bruce lets go with an amazing vocal performance on the balladic ‘Out of the Shadows’.

I’m sure many fans will revel in the gallop and surge of ‘Brighter Than A Thousand Suns’, Steve Harris’ bass twanging high in the mix, while the closing track, ‘The Legacy’ – concluding the theme of war breeding more war – features a call-to-arms fanfare of electric guitars blaring intermittently through movie soundtrack ambience and acoustics.

I think that Iron Maiden have really bitten the bullet with this album. I am sure that many will not find it too palatable, but long time fans will surely persevere beyond the first two spinnings of the CD. Because I honestly did not like it at all!!! Yep , there I was on my bed listening to the CD through headphones, and I really had to check the CD Display to see whether the tracks were really advancing.

Why? There is a ‘sameness’ to the tracks, especially the intros and choruses. This is something that I have been noticing when Bailey replaced Dickinson as singer. ‘Brave New World’ and the (really good) ‘Dance of Death’ confirmed this trend. The latter had ‘Rainmaker’ which really stood out in the old style of Iron Maiden. Musically of course, hats off to the guys…so I will treat this cd as a concept when I am listening to it. Obviously on subsequent spins, the album grows on you. I can guarantee that.

Maiden are gradually evolving into a different breed of metallers. Any old rocker worth his salt remembers the galloping and so ‘tuneful’ Run to the Hills , The Trooper , Somewhere in Time and similar tracks. I miss those days so much , but the guys are thankfully moving on…as it should be.

On a high note, I am really enjoying the way that many ‘big guns’ are recording their albums these days. No laying down of individual tracks, but a ‘live’ studio performance where the band plays all at once. I think that this sounds really good on the final product, and the emotion of playing is transmitted to the listener at a broader level.

The conclusion? I feel that new Maiden fans will struggle to get to grips with this album , but for us seasoned rockers, another grand album that is worth every cent….thanks guys!

Rockin at Marsaxlokk

It’s 3am on a Sunday morning…and the Hunchback of NotreDame has conveniently forgotten to stop his work!

There’s this incessant buzzing in my ears…the reason? Simply a great night of good old-fashioned rock music at the little sea-side village of Marsaxlokk.

But as the saying goes….’If your ears ain’t ringing at the end of the show….it ain’t been loud enough!’…and I heartily agree.

So , four bands hailing from the local scene were invited by the local council for a rock-festival. In order of appearance the bands were Frenzy Mono , Stillborn , Angelcrypt and the mighty FIRE.

I met up with my mates Silvio (with Sue and Tiny terror Sarah), Paul, Robert and Mario at the venue, and obviously made our way to the front! Some of my usual rocking mates were there too….can’t keep a good guy (or girl) away. So a big hello also to Damian, Alex, Jade and Tony. Keep it hanging my friends!

OK then, let’s see what the guys cooked up.

First off with Frenzy Mono. To be frank, I hadn’t heard from this band before the Farsons beer festival, but if they keep the momentum going, they will be big. Hmmm, so how am I going to describe this band? Easy actually, think of the rolling blues-rock of Led Zeppelin (all kneel) mixed with a healthy dose of Guns n’ Roses, and you have Frenzy Mono. A true pity that this band started
first out, as there were only a few people who had showed up yet. Cool, tight riffs and a brilliant singer shone in the offerings. The band did a few of their own numbers, which I thought were really good. They also covered ‘Welcome to the jungle’ by the Guns, and ‘Heartbreaker’ by Led Zeppelin.
Absolutely brilliant. I simply adore the Zeps so I will make sure to order their album as and when it is out on the streets. Great mixing of the audio delivered a crisp, professional impression. Great Stuff. Sometimes I wonder why these guys don’t simply leave this little island and make a fortune on
European shores.

After a short break for beer and a wee-wee, the second band, Stillborn, was promptly on the (tiny) stage. Raphael , the guitarist from this band works with me, and I only knew about this concert from him. Nothwistanding our friendship, this is an honestly unbiased review of their performance. So,
Stillborn are a seven piece progressive metal band, with longish tracks in the deepest tradition of Rush. This band were the only one with all original compositions, and the songwriting simply is fantastic. I must confess to liking their tracks….a lot…they should be seen when they get into the groove and rhythm…you could tell that they were really enjoying themselves, a clear sign of
confidence. As for their tracks, I think that ‘Thy Feeble Soul’ is simply awesome , and for the final track , ‘Cross of Fire’, words simply fail me. I humbly confess to not liking this track when I heard it first, some months back. But wait…it was recorded in a garage, and still a ‘work in progress’.
The final version is beyond comprehension. I dig this style very much, and will be first in line for their album. Come on guys …. save our souls!!!! Give us your album! We don’t care for the cover sleeve. On a negative note, I think that the amps were way too loud, which distorted the sound a lot. I also feel that the vocalist needs to tune her voice a little deeper, but maybe that is only because of the (extremely) bad mixing. However I see a bright future here! The small free space on stage constricted them a little as I felt that they were more than ready to gallop away to the rhythm. I am honestly a great fan of prog and symphonic metal, so I obviously enjoyed Stillborn a lot.

Next up were Angelcrypt, after a long period of being out of the scene. This band have been, in their own words, in hibernation. The mixing was not very good again, but one can tell that there is real talent and work behind this band. Personally I thought that the guitarist and bassist are simply
awesome, chugging out riffs with a tight precision. Marvelous. Surprisingly for a thrash metal band, they had a keyboard player…and their compositions made allowance for the keyboards to sound really up-front. Good stuff. I think though, that the vocalist was nothing special. Again, this could be
because of the bad mixing, because on the official recorded demos from this band, I thought he was quite good. The two covers this band played were amazingly glorious…first up was ‘Seek and Destroy’ , my favourite Metallica track ever. They played this to perfection. One could close his eyes and think that the guys from LA were on the stage themselves. Their second and final offering was
the Lordi blaster ‘Hard Rock Hallelujah’. Suck me sideways! What a rendition! Great stuff. People strolling around outide the area reserved for the festival were also stopping and taking a peek at what was happening. This band also has a group of fanatically loyal supporters who headbanged
their way into bliss.

Finally it was up to the mighty FIRE to take the stage. By this time the numbers in the audience had swelled to an admirable amount. FIRE have been around for a long number of years. Hell I remember going to Laurence, Robert and Pejxa’s initial concert in 1981 in the old Orpheum at Gzira!!!

FIRE started off with ‘My Sharona’ … and never looked back.

Kenneth, Laurence, Charles, Robert and Pejxa are building a fast-growing reputation as being THE premier rock band in Malta…I heartily agree!

The band covered the following tracks between their own (high quality) compositions.

My Sharona (Opening song). A crowd pleaser. Soon had us jumping.

Walking in the shadow of the blues (Gary Moore). My goodness what a song. Laurence the drummer was in his trademark shorts and barefeet, belting out the pounding rhythm on his drumkit.

Don’t break my heart again (Whitesnake).Another great song by Whitesnake, and really performed well by the band. Kenneth really surprised me with his singing here as Coverdale is a notoriously hard man to imitate vocally.

Speed King (Deep Purple). Who’s this dude Blackmore? Give me Pejxa anytime. the guy was going
absofuckinglutely nuts on his Strat. The crowd here went simply wild. Charles, the bassist was
magnificent. One could see that he studies a lot of RUSH. His playing is quite similar to Geddy Lee’s.
Robert traded solos with Pejxa, showing their familiarity.

Play that funky music. I never heard this track in a heavy version, but I tell you it was great. A different kind of boogie, one can say.

Saturday night’s all right for dancing(Elton John). Another song not usually associated with metal, but a great re-write nonetheless and a pleasure to listen to.

At this point the fuzz wanted the band to stop, since it was well past midnight. But the audience pleaded for more , and the band were granted another ten minutes.

Highway to hell. FIRE finished off their performance with this belter from AC/DC. I tell you we were past caring at that point. The crowd sang and chanted to this metal anthem as if we were at Wembley. Finally , the band regretfully gave us their farewell, and with another umpteenth reminder from Kenneth that their album IGNITE was on sale at a stall at the back, stepped down. I have been waiting for the album for a long time, and eagerly made my purchase.

I am listening to it as I write. Do NOT lose out on a piece of magnificent work. Well worth every cent of the cost. PLEASE do not copy this album. Give the band what they deserve! It is the fourth time that I have listened to the album, and each spin is better than the previous, as the tracks settle into familiarity. Surprisingly there are no filler songs in the album, as all the tracks gel into a complete listening experience.

So to the conclusion. Four bands that are easily up there with the best, and my only wonder is this. How come their music isn’t heard more away from our shores? I think it is the marketing, as all of the mentioned groups are of the highest quality, and far better than some of the big names that have been hitting the metal scene lately.

I cannot imagine, for example, how much time, patience and money has been spent by Stillborn on ‘Cross of Fire’. IGNITE is similarly highly finished production, totally produced locally, and the sound is far brighter and clearer than any sony or mercury production I have heard. Anyone who has heard the latest Ozzy and Metallica offerings know that they sound crap!

OK, I’m off to bed now, maybe that damned hunchback will cease his tolling, but I won’t bet on it! Ah well, at least I won’t hear my wife snoring! Metal rules!

Drinking is worse than eating!

One involves chewing. The other involves sipping. But when it comes to calories, drinking can be the same as eating.

“Oh sure,” you might be saying. “I know that. I’ve cut out soda, wine, and beer. All I drink now are healthy things like juice.”

The problem, unfortunately, is that what appears to be healthy often isn’t.

Some of the worst offenders are fruit-flavored drinks. These drinks are only 5 percent fruit juice, and because they’re full of sugar, a 20-ounce bottle packs 300 or more calories (as much as a cream-filled doughnut)!

Another no-no? Nutritional energy drinks. Your body derives energy from calories, so (surprise!) that’s what these shakes deliver: 240 extra calories a day, enough to make you gain a half-pound per week. Instead take a daily multivitamin to get the vitamins without the spare tire.

Remember to stick with what’s real. A glass of 100 percent juice, skim milk, herbal tea or (best of all) good, clean, calorie-free water. Flavor it with a little sugar-free drink mix, if you need something sweet.

Back again!

Well after a good long summer break, here I am again, with another instalment of ‘Back to the funny farm!’…hehe.. as if!

A lot of water has passed under the bridge these last couple of months on which I was absent… but so much has happened that I am loathe to leave it all undocumented.

Number one has been the victory of the Italian national squad in Germany2006…what a night that was. And no less important was the demotion of Juventus to the second division in Italy after a ‘match-fixing scandal’. Looking back on the court proceedings I can see that it is all a plot to discredit just the one team. Loads to say here, and it is not over yet. More on that as soon as I have some time to fill in the blanks in the diary!

Well , health-wise I am just a bit better, though not by that much. The pain is still lingering down my right leg. Thankfully, by doing regular exercise, and of course…a LOT of rest, especially in the afternoons, I can get to live a nearly-normal lifestyle. Thanks to my bosses at work for that. My fear is that I don’t know how long they can keep up with my needs. A change in the time would nearly necessitate a change in job….aaaargh…can’t even contemplate that! Simply too many friends and a nice job too!

Thankfully another drop in weight has also resulted following the dieting and training. Mostly walking you know, but still a big help.

Maybe another post tomorrow!