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Reviews Written by
Justin G. RSS Feed (Northern Virginia)

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When the Mirror Cracks
When the Mirror Cracks
Price: $27.26
23 used & new from $9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Very different from Steel the Light, but such a great melodic rock album, November 30, 2015
This review is from: When the Mirror Cracks (Audio CD)
Originally released in 1985, When the Mirror Cracks was the second album from Seattle-based heavy metal band Q5, which was formed by guitar hotshot Floyd Rose and pretty much the entire TKO lineup. The band made a splash with their hard hitting 1984 debut Steel the Light, but took a very different approach with When the Mirror Cracks.

While Steel the Light was a melodic album, it was still very much a heavy metal album. When the Mirror Cracks is definitely not. Q5 softened their sound to try and catch some commercial success. Keyboards dominate the album, as do lyrics devoted to love. Instead of keeping company with Riot and Fifth Angel this time around, Q5 sounds more like Aldo Nova, Shogun and White Sister.

Here’s the thing though: Q5 played this kind of melodic rock really well. Sure, metal purists will hate this album (and understandably so), but melodic rock fans should absolutely love When the Mirror Cracks. It has great melodies, the guitar work is very impressive, and while the keyboards definitely date the album, they are a big part of what makes that era’s melodic rock so memorable.

Again, When the Mirror Cracks is a very different album than Steel the Light, but each album works very well in its own way. This one is a melodic rock album, and one that any serious fan of the ‘80s hard AOR sounds, especially bands like Aldo Nova, Tobruk, Craaft, Shogun, White Sister and Pretty Maids should enjoy.

Edition Notes: High Vaultage reissued When the Mirror Cracks in 2000. Their deluxe version features digitally remastered sound, the bonus studio track “Freedom” and a thick booklet with band interviews, lyrics and vintage photos. It’s a really nicely done reissue, and enough to bump this 4-star album into 5-star territory.

Price: $11.99
28 used & new from $8.31

5.0 out of 5 stars Cult metal classic - reissued, November 25, 2015
This review is from: Mystification (Audio CD)
Originally released in 1987, Mystification is the sixth album from Kansas band Manilla Road, one of the most consistently overlooked American heavy metal bands ever. The band has been toiling in relative obscurity since the late 1970's, remaining a cult favorite while leaving a lasting impression on a generation of bands that followed them.

Mystification is essentially singer/guitarist Mark Shelton’s conceptual tribute to Edgar Allan Poe. It’s a heavy metal album dedicated to horror. It isn’t the first of its kind, nor would it be the last, but it is one of the best intersections of metal and horror. In terms of overall style, Mystification has the same mix of heaviness, speed, power and drama Manilla Road is known for; a strange NWOBHM/thrash/doom hybrid. You can hear the full range of their influences in songs like “Spirits of the Dead” and “Dragon Star.”

Mystification remains an absolute classic entry in the Manilla Road discography, as well as being an album that just about anyone into heavy, traditional and doom metal really needs to own. Whether you’re into Iron Maiden, Angel Witch and Candlemass or Visigoth, Night Demon and Atlantean Kodex, you need some Manilla Road in your collection, and Mystification makes a perfect introduction.

Edition Notes: There have been a few different reissues of Mystification. Shadow Kingdom’s 2014 CD reissue features digitally remastered audio and a nice booklet featuring an essay by Mark Shelton.

Edge of Excess
Edge of Excess
15 used & new from $16.90

4.0 out of 5 stars It IS a Triumph album, and a really goood one at that!, November 24, 2015
This review is from: Edge of Excess (Audio CD)
Ah, Edge of Excess. The black sheep of the Triumph catalog, and the one Triumph studio album that hasn’t been reissued. The 1992 album was the first (and only) Triumph album recorded after Rik Emmett left the band, and that was apparently too much for fans to handle. It didn’t help that Edge of Excess came out right in the middle of the grunge revolution either.

Listening to it all these years later though, especially along with the rest of the Triumph studio albums, you realize Edge of Excess is actually a really solid album. Gil Moore handles vocals just fine, and “Phil X” is definitely no slouch on the guitar. The songs on Edge of Excess would not have been out of place on albums like Surveillance or Never Surrender either. It’s exactly the kind of melodic hard rock album you expect to hear from Triumph. It has a slick AOR production, plenty of catchy melodic rock songs and even a passable bluesy ballad in “It’s Over.” Had it come out in 1989 or 1990, it might have actually done well for the band. By 1992 though, that ship had sailed.

Edge of Excess gets a bad rap, but it’s a totally solid, totally enjoyable album, and a more than worthy chapter in the Triumph legacy. Unfortunately it has remained a closing chapter, since despite some recent live activity the band doesn’t seem likely to record another album. If you’re a Triumph fan, Edge of Excess belongs in your collection. Fans of the early ‘90s melodic rock bands like Giant, Tyketto and Bad English will also find this album well worth tracking down.

Pivotal Living Band - Activity + Sleep Tracker
Pivotal Living Band - Activity + Sleep Tracker
3 used & new from $15.00

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Even at this price point I had hoped for better, November 22, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I've been wanting to try one of these activity trackers for a while now, and this band from Pivotal made for an affordable alternative to the more well-known Fitbit bands.

The pros:
Price - obviously that's a big selling point here. You can track activities for a fraction of the cost of the more popular brands.
Fit - the band is slim and unobtrusive.
Step Tracking - the Pivotal band did a great job tracking steps throughout the day. I found it reliable and accurate.

The cons:
App Syncing - I could never get the band to successfully sync with the app (for my iPhone). I'd be at 5,000+ steps and after syncing the app would show step counts in the low hundreds.
Time - The clock on the band started right, but soon went way off, no matter how often it was synced.
Non-Step Tracking - activities like weightlifting never "moved the needle" no matter how many sets/reps I did.
Charging - It charged easily enough, but to get the band free from the charger I literally had to use a butter knife to pry it off. That seems like a serious flaw in design.

In the end, this irritated me more than it helped. If you want a simple, affordable pedometer, this band works well enough. If you're looking for anything beyond that, Pivotal probably isn't going to meet your needs.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 24, 2015 10:07 AM PST

10k White Gold with Diamond Heart Pendant Necklace (1/5cttw, I-J Color, I2-I3 Clarity)
10k White Gold with Diamond Heart Pendant Necklace (1/5cttw, I-J Color, I2-I3 Clarity)
Price: $179.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Simple, stylish necklace, November 22, 2015
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a very stylish and elegant piece. The design is simple enough - a stylized heart with diamonds set along the edges - and the overall appearance is quite nice. The chain is extremely thin, which makes the necklace look that much more delicate, and is long enough that the heart hangs a bit below the neck. The diamond are very small, so they don't really show from a distance. Close up though they really give this piece a lovely finish. My wife was delighted with this necklace, and wears it well.

Show Your Colors
Show Your Colors
Price: $10.40
23 used & new from $6.40

3.0 out of 5 stars 3.5 stars - a stop on the way from death to power metal, November 20, 2015
This review is from: Show Your Colors (Audio CD)
That sound you hear is the sound of technical death metal fans weeping as Finland’s Amoral abandons that genre for melodic metal success. The band added clean vocalist Ari Kouvunen and changed their sound – dramatically – for their 2009 album Show Your Colors.

Go ahead and call Amoral sellouts. It’s probably true. Show Your Colors is extremely accessible like no previous Amoral album was. It’s still has technicality and heaviness, but they’re obviously going for the same audience who’s buying Trivium and newer In Flames albums. It’s a ridiculously catchy album, with all clean singing. Well, clean and sort of shouted. Honestly, it doesn’t always work, but as a whole this is a fun album.

The band would further refine their sound to a more progressive/power metal style (along the lines of Circus Maximus) with their follow-up album Beneath, and that’s when they really start to shine. Show Your Colors seems like a transitional album. The band’s death metal fans will hate it, and their power metal fans might be a bit thrown off as well. Still, if you dig catchy, modern, melodic metal (think Amaranthe or the new Dynazty sound), you’ll probably dig this one.

Legions of Frustration
Legions of Frustration

5.0 out of 5 stars 4.5 stars - a total lost classic in dire need of a reissue, November 20, 2015
This review is from: Legions of Frustration (Audio CD)
Buffalo, NY-based thrash metal band Telepathy released their debut (and only) album Legions of Frustration in 1993. That was hardly the time to launch a career as a thrash band, especially one with a strong traditional metal side.

Actually, Telepathy had a killer mix of thrash, traditional and even progressive metal elements. Legions of Frustration slides right in there with what bands like Tension, Mercury Rising, Helstar and Sanctuary were doing around that time. It has speedy riffs, just enough melody, high-pitched vocals and some really impressive drumming. The musicianship is tight and the songwriting is quite good, but this being a self-released album, it also has not-so-great production.

Legions of Frustration really is the definition of a lost gem. It came out at the wrong time and the band never made an impact. And of course it’s ridiculously hard to find now, so all the die-hard fans and collectors of classic and underground heavy metal – who would love the hell out of this album – can’t hear it. It’s in dire need of a good, remastered reissue. In fact, if anyone knows the band members, do us all a favor and beg them to let a label (like Divebomb Records, who would totally do this one right) put Legions of Frustration back out there.

Bottle Rocket
Bottle Rocket
Offered by MediaWarehouseUSA
Price: $14.99
53 used & new from $0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars 2.5 stars - when melodic rock bands go "alternative", November 20, 2015
This review is from: Bottle Rocket (Audio CD)
1997’s Bottle Rocket was the sixth album from Christian rockers Guardian. The band emerged at the height of the “hair metal” and hard rock era, but by 1997 had moved on with the times…unfortunately.

You know how many melodic rock bands made a successful transition to “alternative” rock? Zero. You can’t sound like Mr. Big one day and Toad the Wet Sprocket the next. Yes, the musicianship on Bottle Rocket is tight and sure, Jamie Rowe sounds good (if subdued), but the songwriting is bland and unremarkable, just like 1997 in general. There’s really nothing here that fans of Miracle Mile or Fire and Love would recognize.

Unless you’re a Guardian super-fan that needs to have every one of their albums (sigh, like me), or just really like the idea of ‘90s alterna-rock with a Christian message, you’d be better off with literally any other Guardian album over Bottle Rocket. At least it’s cheap.

Evil Deeds
Evil Deeds
Price: $3.99
40 used & new from $1.36

4.0 out of 5 stars Evil Deeds...done dirt cheap, November 19, 2015
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Evil Deeds (Audio CD)
Ah, we have yet another Swedish stoner/doom/heavy rock band to enjoy. The Graviators are the latest band from Scandinavia to decide that the world needs more Black Sabbath-inspired grooving riffs. And they’re right!

2012’s Evil Deeds is the band’s second album, and it’s a fun one. Like Orchid and The Sword, The Graviators aren’t reinventing the wheel (though they could probably hollow it out and smoke out of it). This is a heavy, grooving, slab of Black Sabbath worship. It’s a little less bluesy and a little more metal than, say, Graveyard or Kadavar, which may or may not be a good thing depending on your tastes. I dig it, and think the band plays this kind of music really well.

Again, The Graviators aren’t anything you haven’t heard before, but they are good at what they do. If you’re into the heavy/stoner/doom, this is one more band of bearded Swedes that you need to hear.

Fated to Burn
Fated to Burn
Price: $8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Scorching old school heavy metal, November 18, 2015
This review is from: Fated to Burn (MP3 Music)
Fated to Burn is the second album from American progressive/power metal band Darkology, which features vocalist Kelly Sundown Carpenter (Adagio, ex-Outworld) and guitarist Michael Harris (Thought Chamber, Arch Rival). It comes after a six-year absence, and the band seems to have built up a serious well of energy in that time.

This album grabs you by the throat from the very start. Carpenter uses every bit of his considerable power and range here, screaming (for vengeance) like the love child of James Rivera and Sean Peck. And the guitars are just as insane, thrashing one second, shredding the next, and then getting all proggy in-between. Fated to Burn could sit easily in the power, thrash and traditional metal genres, sounding at times like King Diamond, Tad Morose and Vicious Rumors. And Darkology's technical side – and there's a lot of it – never overcomes their steel.

Fated to Burn is a monster album, crossing genres and scorching the earth (and the eardrums) in the process. If you like your metal powerful, heavy, thrashing, technical and traditional, it's time to take a crash course in Darkology!

Disclosure: I was given an MP3 copy of this album by the label for review.

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