Sunday, September 24, 2017

Iron Maiden Remasters: Live

I don't know if there is another band that releases as many live albums as Iron Maiden. Since reuniting with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, they have followed up every studio album with a live one documenting their latest tour. For a while, I was kind of tired with the live album cycle and felt it was unnecessary. Lately though, I've been more like, "Fuck yeah! More Iron Maiden live!"

I'd initially missed out on the Rock In Rio vinyl when it was released back in 2002. Iron Maiden came back with a vengeance, touring for Brave New World, and refusing to just play the hits. Playing a full six new songs from their last album, plus as an extra treat, we get Bruce singing two songs from the Blaze-era with Sign Of The Cross and The Clansman...this live album shows that Iron Maiden aren't just fucking around.

I initially passed on the initial picture disc pressing, because at the time the price for a triple LP seemed ridiculous to me, as I had grown accustomed to $15 CDs. Over the years, prices jumped up well over $100, and I was left with regret for passing on it the first time around. Just when I started to entertain the idea of putting up the cash to finally own the vinyl, Maiden pull through with these vinyl remasters, saving me a lot of money and from having to own another stupid picture disc.

Death On The Road was another live Iron Maiden that I didn't bother with on vinyl at the time, and resigned myself to only buying the CD when it was released in 2005.

Once again, Maiden include six new tracks from their latest studio album in their set, and throw in a bonus song from the Blaze-era with Lord Of The Flies, making this another live album you can't miss.

Flight 666 captures Maiden on their Somewhere Back In Time tour, which was one of their nostalgia tours that basically only covered their career up to the Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son album. No new songs here, just a setlist full of songs from Maiden's classic era.

The En Vivo album finds Iron Maiden out on the road, supporting their Final Frontier album. Sadly, Iron Maiden did not bring this tour through Massachusetts, as I would have loved to have seen this setlist full of their "reunion era" songs. The band still squeeze in enough "hits" for the fans, but for me, this was all about the five songs from the new album, Dance Of Death and Wicker Man.

These albums are a perfect time capsule for what Iron Maiden were doing out on the road at the time, and I can't get enough.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Iron Maiden Remasters: Studio

A couple of years ago, Iron Maiden started reissuing their back catalog on black vinyl. This covered the band's first eight albums...from 1980's self titled debut, through Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son that was originally released in 1988. This was the band's classic period, and since I have my original pressings, I paid no attention to these reissues.

When there was talk earlier this year, that Maiden were going to finish their vinyl reissue campaign, that was when I sat up and started paying attention. I love the Maiden "reunion" albums, which started with Brave New World in 2000, but up until 2015's Book Of Souls, the band annoyingly would only release the vinyl option on picture disc. It was maddening, but as the only option, I stepped up to buy them every time. To finally have a regular black vinyl option, was like a gift from the gods.

Of all the "reunion" era albums, when all is said and done, Dance Of Death is probably my favorite. There isn't a weak spot on this album, and I still never tire of it. Shame about that cover art though.

Dropping the needle on the black vinyl, and comparing it with the initial picture disc pressing for this record, the improvement in sound quality was obvious, and reaffirmed my stance that picture discs are garbage.

With each new Iron Maiden album since reuniting with Bruce Dickinson and Adrian Smith, I would inevitably think that it was my favorite since they'd gotten back with together, and A Matter Of Life And Death was no exception. I placed this one above Dance Of Death and Brave New World when it was released in 2006, but as time has marched on, this one probably ranks last in my list of the "reunion era". That is no knock on the album, as I love all Maiden records, it is just the one that I reach for the least.

The last studio album in the Maiden reissue campaign was 2010's The Final Frontier. It has been a blast revisiting these records, and now I'm torn if I should bother to keep those picture discs.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Relentless Pentagram

It has been an amazing year for my record collection. I've knocked some true heavy hitters from my list, and over the Summer, I had the opportunity to cross off another big ticket item.

I had a great experience buying The Effigies record through Discogs. The record was in great shape, it arrived quickly, and the seller seemed like a good dude and we exchanged a few messages back and forth...also, it turned out that the seller was Rob Moss, who was a member of Artificial Peace and Government Issue. He seemed like a good dude, and when he sent me a message saying that he listed some more records on Discogs, I decided to browse his list and see if he had anything else that caught my attention.

Right there at the top of his list was an original first pressing of the debut Pentagram album.

This record is a straight up Doom classic, and for those in the know, it is held in the same high regard as the early Sabbath records. I've wanted an original pressing of this album for a while now, but they don't come around very often, and with the high price tag it usually carries, I haven't really actively pursued it. Seeing it there, available through this Discogs seller, made it incredibly tempting...regardless of the price that he had listed it for.

Initially, there was some inner conflict if I should really go for it, so I turned to Doug's old posts over at We Will Bury You, looking for some guidance. In these times of turmoil, I can count on my record collector friends to show me the light, and there it was, right in Doug's blog post. "Fuck it, when would be the next chance to get one?" So let it be written...so let it be done. Guided by his divine hand, I clicked the Add To Cart button and made it mine.

There were times when I questioned my decision, and wondered if maybe I shouldn't have spent so much for this record. Any feelings of buyer remorse were erased when the record arrived and took it out of the box. Holy shit, this thing was nearly dead mint, and as the needle on my turntable hit those first notes of Relentless, I knew that I'd made the right choice.

I was surprised to find this record in such great shape, but according to Rob, he got it direct from his bandmate in Government Issue, Tom Lyle, who as it turns out, also produced this Pentagram record...and between the two of them, they knew how to take care of their records.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In Need Of A Miracle

There was a lot of hype around the new Miracle Drug record that was being released this summer. The band features some older Hardcore dudes...no one that I'm terribly familiar with, but they have been around, playing in bands like Mouthpiece and By The Grace Of God, so when preorders went up, I figured that I'd take a chance on it. Seemed like everyone was excited for it, and I didn't want to miss out.

I had downloaded the Miracle Drug demo last year, but I never really spent any time with it. I didn't even bother to chase the vinyl release for it, but with the new release I figured that I'd give them a fresh shot. To be honest, I wasn't really hooked after the first couple of listens...it was solid, straight forward Hardcore...but my first impression left me a bit disappointed. After sitting with it, and letting the songs sink in with repeat listens, I'm starting to appreciate it more.

When I placed my order, I couldn't resist the blue vinyl with the screened b-side.

It seemed a bit odd to screen the image in reverse, but when you check the a-side with some nice back lighting, it looks pretty cool.

100 pressed.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Soul Power

The past few years I've struggled to stay interested in newer Hardcore bands. That's not to say that some cool shit hasn't been released...I just generally didn't care to stick with it after a handful of spins. Considering there was time when I was on top of just about every new release, this was a dramatic shift in my mindset.

Earlier this year, that spark to hunt out some newer bands was reignited, and after being blown away by a string of Triple B records, suddenly I found myself hot to check out some other new bands and see what I'd been missing out on.

This summer, Marcus posted about a new record from a UK band named Higher Power. I'd never heard of them, but looking back at his previous blog posts, he had apparently brought up their name a few times. I must have been pretty headstrong in my resistance, because even though I follow his blog closely, neither of these posts had stuck with me...and I didn't bother following up on his recommendation...until now.

Aesthetically, there was something about this record that grabbed my attention. The bright colors and cover photo just reminded me of some early 90's Euro Straight Edge record. With a bit of nostalgia, and Marcus' recommendation, I decided to take a chance on it.

There is definitely a Desperate Measures-era Leeway vibe here, and at times the vocals take me back to the first Into Another album. Man, there is something about this record that I can't shake, and I want to listen to it over and over again.

300 pressed on clear with orange haze.

Thursday, September 07, 2017

Spark Of Influence

Last year, I was crushing pretty hard on 90's Hardcore. I spent a lot of time stuck in daily playlists from that era, and found myself obsessively hunting down records that I thought I'd lost passion for long ago. One of those bands was Sparkmarker. It had been a while since I'd really spent any time with them, and revisiting their discography had me head over heals and hunting down pieces of vinyl that were missing from my collection.

I posted about it at the time, and it created a kind of Butterfly Effect that carried it's way across the Atlantic, influencing Marcus to dust off the Sparkmarker catalog, and buy a piece of vinyl that he had been missing.

And that influence comes full circle, as his blog post sparked me (excuse the pun) to chase the vinyl that he recently picked up.

When I was picking off Sparkmarker targets last year, I decided not to mess around with their split with Mystery Machine. I ignored it for two reasons. First, the Sparkmarker song on this split, Keep The Quarter, shows up later on the band's full length record...and second, I'd never even heard of Mystery Machine before, so who gives a fuck about their song?

Still, Marcus made a point of saying that he'd never even seen the blue vinyl pressing before, and that they didn't seem to come around too often, and of course now that he had one, two more were available on Discogs. I took the bait, and 5 minutes later, there was only one left on Discogs. I'm not going to be left out like a sucker.

Not to let Marcus get one up on me in the Sparkmarker game, I had to grab the clear vinyl pressing as well. It only cost me $3.50, so why not. So within the span of 10 minutes, I'd gone from not caring the least about the Sparkmarker/Mystery Machine split, to owning two copies.

The recording for Keep The Quarter here was done a few months prior to the LP, and this version sounds really cool with the more raw production...and surprisingly, the Mystery Machine song here does not suck. I'm not sure if I'd be interested in hanging with them for a full length, but I dig this song.

Okay, now that I had every 7 inch pressed for Sparkmarker, the only hole in my collection was the 500wattburner@seven LP...and for less than $10, I was able to cross that one off the list.

I was kind of surprised that this was such a cheap find. Sure, I would expect Sparkmarker vinyl to fly under the radar these days...but colored vinyl...from Revelation's weird cousin, Crisis Records? I thought it would still take a bit more effort than that.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Haunted Town

I've slowly been cutting back my record collection, and selling some pieces that I no longer wanted through Discogs. My rule of thumb when selling something has been to immediately turn around and spend twice what I received on a new record. Selling something for $30, means that I can invest that into a $60 record. Makes perfect sense to me.

I had some cash sitting in my Paypal account from a recent sale, and I wanted to put that to good use, and hunt down another Hardcore Punk classic. I've done a pretty good job this year, knocking off some serious records from my Wantlist, and I wanted to continue the trend.

With a serious early 80's Punk obsession brewing, I've had the Haunted Town record from The Effigies in my sights for most of this year. With the songs in constant rotation in my daily playlists, I was just waiting for the time to be right to make my move.

The Effigies were out of Chicago, and alongside Articles Of Faith and Naked Raygun, that area seemed to have it's own sound. Those bands don't seem to get the spotlight or recognition that bands from Boston or D.C. receive, but these days, I find myself appreciating them more and more.

Original 1981 pressing on Autumn Records.