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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't Let Politics Keep You From Watching This Movie, May 27, 2016
I have to admit, I did not want to see this movie because of the politics surrounding it. With some trepidation, I gave it a watch and found myself enjoying it immensely. It is an incredibly intense and tragic film that really pays respect to those in uniform who fight for and protect our freedoms. Whether you think President Obama and Hillary Clinton are to blame, or if the Republicans shamelessly exploited this tragedy for their own benefit, don't let the politics keep you from the watching the film. Michael Bay wisely keeps away from the politics, which I think adds to the authenticity of the film, emphasizing that no one at the embassy knew what was going on at the time of the attacks. People who give it one star because it didn't call out Hillary or think the movie is regurgitated conservative conspiracy theories are doing the movie - and themselves - a disservice. 13 Hours is easily the most mature film Michael Bay has made to date, and it focuses on the tragedy of the event rather than the politics - which to me, is the most important thing. It's not typical Michael Bay fare - it's far darker and more serious than his typical film, and the depressing nature of the film may impact its re-watch value for some. Otherwise, this is a very good movie that actually humanizes a tragedy that has been mired in ugly politics.

Kentucky (Deluxe Edition) [Explicit]
Kentucky (Deluxe Edition) [Explicit]
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Album by a Great Band, April 1, 2016
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Black Stone Cherry is what I like to refer to as "Southern Fried Grunge," a combination of old school southern rock ala Lynyrd Skynyrd and 90's grunge ala Soundgarden / Alice in Chains. Personally, I think they are one of the best rock bands on the scene today. Many fans felt they took a step backward with their last album "Magic Mountain," and although I love a handful of tracks from that album, I pretty much agree overall. However, that was then and this is now. "Kentucky" is a very solid effort from BSC that seems to combine elements from all their albums to date: tracks like Soul Machine have that hard rocking party edge similar to "Blame it on the Boom Boom" from the "Devil / Sea" album, while "Born to Die" and "The Rambler" could have fit nicely on "Folklore & Superstition." In other words, there should be something for everyone who has followed BSC these last 10 years.

The album is diverse in its sounds and lyrics. Lyrically, "Kentucky" covers a wide range of topics from sex and binge drinking to war, politics, sadness and regret. Musically, BSC continues to impress. They are damn good musicians, and Chris Robertson is one of my favorite vocalists.

There are several songs that make the album worth purchasing - "Cheaper to Drink Alone" and "Feeling Fuzzy" are two of the bluesier hard rockers on the album, "Soul Machine" gets down and dirty with its hard edged riffs, while "Way of the Future" kicks off the album with a hard rocking message about the dark times we're living in. "In Our Dreams" is one of the early releases from the album, and it's another excellent track worth mentioning. "War" is a remake of the Motown classic that is every bit as relevant today as it was in the late 60's during the Vietnam War protests.

However, the album saves the best for last. The last two tracks, "Born to Die" and "The Rambler" are, in my opinion, the standout tracks of the album, and probably my favorite tracks by BSC to date. Both tracks harken back to BSC's first two albums. I love the storytelling elements of both tracks - especially The Rambler, which is probably their most heart felt song since "Things My Father Said."

For fans who felt there was a drop off with Magic Mountain (which still gave us "Me and Mary Jane", so you can't knock it too hard), Kentucky is a return to form that I think the majority of BSC fans will be pleased with.

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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Early Contender for Best Metal Album of 2016?, March 18, 2016
This review is from: II (Audio CD)
I never heard of Lords of Black until I was searching for upcoming releases on Amazon. Yes, I admit I saw the cover and immediately had to sample some of the songs available as early downloads prior to the album's release. Now I have listened to the entire album several times already on its release day, and I am thoroughly impressed.

The sound is a unique melodic hybrid of Dio and Iron Maiden with progressive metal elements similar to Queensryche. There is plenty of in-your-face double stroke kick drumming and incredibly impressive guitar work throughout the entire album, but it's also enhanced with softer moments of piano and synth that makes the album diverse: nothing gets old and repetitive. Each song is fresh, catchy and melodic. The instruments are fantastic and the lyrics tend to be thought provoking with a theme of conflict between good vs evil throughout. Let’s also give quick, well deserved nod to the vocals. The lead vocalist is terrific and sounds a bit like Ronnie James.

Stand out tracks include:

Shadows of War – One of my favorites on the album, this is fast, in your face melodic metal to the core. The guitar solo is really impressive.

Ghost of You – This was one of the early releases from the album, and I loved it upon first listen. The introduction begins with a soft acoustic guitar arrangement and gradually builds up to a sold hard rocker. A long instrumental segment in the middle with some truly insane guitar. This song does not seem like it’s 9:00 minutes long.

Tears I Will Be – Another early release, this one starts with a piano intro and is one of the catchiest tracks on the whole CD. I thought it was okay upon first listen, and it continues to grow on me the more I listen to it. The chord progressions on this track make me think of early Queensryche.

New World’s Comin’ – Another soft piano intro that quickly becomes one of the catchiest, most memorable tunes on the album. Great guitar and piano from beginning to end.

Other standouts include: Everything You’re Not and Live by the Lie, Die by the Truth.

The only relatively weak track (in my opinion) was "Only One Life Away." It just doesn't pack the punch the other tracks do. Still, it is impressive to find a CD these days with only one weak track on it.

I give the CD five stars because there isn’t a bad track on the entire thing. I would not be surprised if these musicians studied classical music much like guitar legend Randy Rhoads did back in the day, as each song is layered and complex: I have been able to pick up new things on each listen that I didn't catch with previous listens. This one will be in the CD player for a long time.

Macbeth (2015) [Blu-ray]
Macbeth (2015) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Michael Fassbender
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113 of 122 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Movie of 2015, December 14, 2015
This review is from: Macbeth (2015) [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
This is hands down my favorite movie of 2015. I saw it twice on its opening weekend at the local cinema. Everything from the acting to the eerie and haunting soundtrack to the cinematography is amazing. You could literally pause this movie at any point and the screenshot would make for a terrific poster. The soundtrack really adds to the overall atmosphere of the film, which is as bleak and grim as anything I've seen in a long time. The acting is what really solidifies this film, however. Michael Fassbender (Macbeth) and Marion Cottilard (Lady Macbeth) should simply be handed Academy Awards for Best Actor / Actress. It has been a long time since I've seen acting of this caliber on the big screen. Watching Macbeth's deterioration from a once-honorable and respected warrior to a man whose overly ambitious actions drive him beyond guilt into paranoia and madness is astonishing. Equally astonishing is Lady Macbeth's gradual fall from wretched co-conspirator (she feeds the poison into her husband's mind) to witnessing the manifestation of the monster she helped to create and the guilt that follows. Her "Out Damn Spot" soliloquy might be my favorite scene of the whole movie. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth have often been portrayed as unforgivable soulless monsters. This interpretation of the film portrays the two main characters not as soulless, but as tortured souls that have transgressed beyond any redemption.

If you aren't familiar with the story, this is the plot of Macbeth in a nutshell: upon achieving a great victory in battle, a warrior is told by three witches that he will become the king of Scotland. Macbeth tells his wife what the witches told him, and she becomes hell bent on seeing the prophecy through. She is determined that the best opportunity for her husband to become king is to kill the king while he sleeps under their roof. From the moment they plot to kill the king, everything- including his sanity- begins to unravel.

While I would give this movie six stars if I could, I do urge that Macbeth is not for everybody. This is not a film intended to win the hearts of mainstream audiences. The first time I saw it, some people got up and walked out. The second time I saw it, someone booed at the end. There was no applause at the end of either viewing. While the music and cinematography are breathtaking, if you don't particularly enjoy Shakespeare because of the difficulty understanding the poetic language, then be forewarned. While there is plenty of violence in this move, there are long scenes of dialogue and quiet self reflection (soliloquies) that can make the film hard to follow and thus boring.

The language is meant to invoke questions about the meaning of evil, predestination and free will while focusing on the isolation and meaninglessness that result from cruelty and selfishness: a true fan of Shakespeare would argue that the language is a type of cinematography (so to speak) all it's own.

If you are not familiar with Macbeth and do not particularly enjoy Shakespeare, I'd think twice before seeing this movie. However, because the movie is so amazingly realized, I suggest picking up a copy of "No Fear Shakespeare Macbeth" (it has the original Shakespearean verse on one page and a modern interpretation on the page next to it so you can easily translate the meaning). Once you read through it, then I highly recommend seeing the movie. There's a reason why Macbeth has been re-told for over 400 years after being written: it IS just that good. This is Game of Thrones before there was Game of Thrones.
Comment Comments (8) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2016 2:38 PM PDT

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66 of 69 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slaves to the New World W.A.S.P., October 9, 2015
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This review is from: Golgotha (Audio CD)
Being a fan since the 80’s and growing up with W.A.S.P.., I have enjoyed the highs and prefer to forget the lows. While opinions vary, many fans (myself included) believe that “Headless Children” and “Crimson Idol” are W.A.S.P’s best efforts to date. Personally, Headless Children is one of my favorite metal albums of all time, and Crimson Idol never ceases to move me every time I listen to it. From there, however, the band became hit or miss with me as they experimented with different sounds (particularly with “Still Not Black Enough” and “KFD”). While critics were rather harsh with “Helldorado,” I enjoyed it as a return to their raunchier, pre-“Headless Children” days. Otherwise, I had pretty much written them off as a great band whose best days were behind them.

Dominator showed a return to their old school form and offered some of the best tracks they had produced in years. In particular, the epic track “Heaven’s Hung in Black,” which is one of the best songs the band has ever made.

And now, finally, we have Golgotha – managing to achieve the same levels of grit and intensity as Headless and Idol. A new fan of the band would be hard pressed to detect the 20+ year gap between albums: Blackie’s vocals are just as good today as they were then – which in itself is rare for a vocalist with such a long career. Besides the vocals, the guitar work is absolutely phenomenal. Doug Blair’s guitar work is simply fantastic from start to finish - it would be easy to have a friendly debate over which track offers the best guitar solo. I don’t think I could settle on just one track. Regardless which track(s) you prefer, let younger bands take note: this is how guitars are meant to be played in heavy metal music! Musically, Golgotha may be the band’s best effort to date, and instantly earns its place alongside Headless and Idol. Anyone who has ever loved those two albums really should add this one to their collection. Period. It’s that good, if not better. Besides the technical merits of the musicianship, it's the authenticity of heart and raw emotion behind the musicianship that makes Golgotha such an amazing listening experience. Blackie and Co. will take their listeners on an emotional roller coaster ride over the duration of 55 minutes.

Which brings me to production quality, which is something we should be able to take for granted, but (sadly) cannot. It seems that audio quality increasingly diminishes in the music industry these days: more and more CD’s have flat, matted, poor sound quality. It seems to be the growing norm nowadays. So I feel it necessary to praise the production quality of a CD when it’s warranted. Golgotha’s audio quality is top notch and pristine –clear separation between vocals and instruments, and no instrument is drowned out or overpowered by another. Both rhythm and lead guitars receive equal emphasis, bass and keyboards are distinctive, cymbals sound as clear as glass. The CD sounds first rate – I can only imagine how the vinyl must sound!

Standout tracks:

Scream (8/10); I f “Wild Child” (The Last Command) and “Crazy” (Babylon) has a child, this would be it. I first thought this was the weakest track on the album, but the more I listen the more it grows on me.

The Last Runaway (9/10) – This track is probably the most radio – friendly song on the album. It’s upbeat, melodic and has an incredibly catchy refrain. A few detractors have argued that the song has too much “bubble gum pop” influence. Well, this so-called “bubble-gum” track still rocks hard with not one but two very impressive guitar solos. And, of course, Blackie’s vocals are amazing. If pop music was THIS good, I’d actually listen to it! (As it stands, the quantity of quality pop music has greatly diminished since the close of the 90’s).

Miss You (10/10) – The vocals are tortured and heartbreaking. The ending guitar solo is beyond reproach, expressing the inner agony words cannot. This song completes what I consider to be WASP’s triumvirate of amazing, epic ballads – The Idol and Heaven’s Hung in Black. Interestingly, this song was originally written for Crimson Idol and for whatever reason did not make the cut. Actually, I have already added this track to my Crimson Idol playlist – right between “The Invisible Boy” and “Arena of Pleasure.”

Slaves of the New World Order (11/10) –If Last Runaway is a little too mainstream and bubble gum for your liking, worry not. Slaves more than makes up for it. The guitar solo in this song is balls to the wall - the type of stuff that puts hair on your chest and makes men out of boys. Get ready to hit the replay button over and over. Not only is it my favorite track on the album, it may be one of the best tracks they have produced to date. Classic metal at its finest.

Fallen Under (10/10); Another standout track with incredibly catchy riffs. I can easily see this track being a fan favorite, as it really sounds like old school W.A.S.P. at their best. This is another track I find myself hitting the repeat button.

Eyes of My Maker (9/10); This song tells the story of pride and falling from grace told from Lucifer's perspective. One of my favorites on the CD! Once again, the quality of the guitar work on this mid-tempo rocker just oozes from the speakers.

Golgotha (10/10) – The album closer, and one of the best on the album. This track is told from the perspective of one of the two thieves who was crucified with Christ at Golgotha. One thief mocked Jesus, the other believed him to be the Messiah. This track is told from his perspective. Again, excellent guitar work, thought-provoking lyrics and terrific vocals. The track, like the entire album, exudes quality from start to finish. Sublime.

Only time will tell whether Golgotha will be deemed a metal classic. It is hands down one of the best metal releases of 2015. From start to finish, Golgotha is old school metal at its best – and proves why old school metal is still the best the genre has to offer.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 27, 2016 8:17 AM PST

by Brian Panowich
Edition: Hardcover
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, Gritty and Brutal Tale of Family, Crime and Revenge, July 20, 2015
This review is from: BULL MOUNTAIN (Hardcover)
Bull Mountain tells the blood-soaked story of the Burroughs family spanning three generations, from their crime origins of running shine to growing marijuana to making crystal meth. The story itself is non-linear and each chapter jumps to a different period of time.The only drawback, in my opinion, is that the characters were pretty one dimensional. This is bound to happen in a short novel that covers such a broad scope of time. The lack of character depth didn't really detract from the story so much, but it did make me wish the book was longer with more fleshed out characterization. I think deeper drawn characters would have made the tragic components of this tale much more profound.

That being said, the novel itself is well written and has a brooding sense of tension from the very beginning. Bull Mountain tells a dark tale and has some very nice twists and turns throughout. It is a relatively short novel (around 300 pages), so it is never slow or boring. Beneath its violent surface, it's also rather through-provoking: I finished reading it two days ago and I'm still pondering what I've read. If you like southern fiction, crime drama, or both, then you should definitely consider reading this book. I could easily see an Academy award - winning film adaptation for this book.

The Purple Album [CD/DVD][Deluxe Edition]
The Purple Album [CD/DVD][Deluxe Edition]
Offered by B68 Solutions Limited
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deep Purple Gets Sleazed In A Good Way, May 19, 2015
It will be impossible not to compare these remakes to their original counterparts, but do not expect carbon copy re-hashes. The original Deep Purple tracks are more polished and nuanced, funky and bluesy. Whitesnake, however, remains true to the sound that made them famous- their versions are stripped down, pure sleaze rock. And it works incredibly well. This is one of those rare albums where every track is a delight to listen to. The musicianship is top notch – from drums to bass to lead guitar and the occasional keyboard solo, each instrument gets its moment to shine. These classic tracks from Deep Purple are in good hands.

Some people may criticize Coverdale's vocals, but for a man in his sixties he still brings it strong. In fact, the older and raspier vocals are a natural fit for some of the "sleazier" tracks (particularly "Love Child," which is one of the standout songs on the album). Another stand out track is"Sail Away," which is completely revised as an emotional acoustic ballad; “Stormbringer” is probably my favorite on the album, which I actually prefer over the original version.This song truly delivers the hard rock goods. I cannot listen to this track just once.

This is terrific pure old school rock and roll which pays true homage to the original versions. Hopefully it will inspire listeners who are unfamiliar with Deep Purple to give them a listen and hear for themselves why they are revered as one of the greatest rock (metal) bands that ever existed.

Endless Forms Most Beautiful
Endless Forms Most Beautiful
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Titans of Symphonic Metal Have Returned With Another Power House, March 31, 2015
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When it comes to symphonic metal bands, there is Nightwish and Within Temptation... and then there is everyone else. Not only are Nightwish the titans symphonic metal, they are one of my favorite contemporary bands of any genre. With only 8 studio releases across a span of approximately 20 years, there are very few bands whose albums I anticipate as eagerly as Nightwish. There are very few bands with a discography as solid and impressive as theirs, and Endless Forms Most Beautiful is a terrific addition to that discography. Some of the songs on Endless Forms easily rank with the best the band has to offer. These already impressive tracks become even more and more impressive with each listen as songs as so layered that multiple playbacks reveal something I haven't picked up on previously. Standout tracks include:

1) Elan (10/10) - This song has a beautiful Celtic feel to it. I can see why this was selected to be the album's first single.
2) Empty Hope (10/10) - This is the heaviest song on the album and has a bit of that "Dark Chest of Wonders" vibe going for it once it kicks into gear about 25 seconds in. There are a lot of change ups in this song, and has a terrific refrain.
3) Our Decades (9/10) - This is an interesting track. I wasn't overly impressed upon my initial listen, but this one has been growing on me. It's a haunting track that over time has the power to seep into your bones.
4) My Walden (9/10) - This has a bit of "I Want My Tears Back" vibe going for it and is one of the more "theatrical" songs on the album.
5) Edema Ruh (10/10) - I love this track. The song itself is very radio friendly, one of the more "poppy" tracks on the album. The song is inspired by a series of fantasy novels called "The Kingkiller Chronicles" where Edema Ruh is the name given to troupes of travelling minstrels. Nightwish, one of the hardest touring bands in the industry, are sort of modern day Edema Ruh.
6) Alpenglow (10/10) - Probably my favorite track off the album. It has an old school Nightwish sound, like it could have also been Century Child.
7) The Greatest Show on Earth (10/10) - This song is nearly 25 minutes long and covers everything from the big bang to creation and evolution of man. The orchestration is beautiful. It takes about 7 minutes for the guitars and rock elements to enter, but the bulk of the song focuses mostly on the orchestral components. Once the song gets going, it reminds me of the soundtrack to Avatar a little bit. It's amazing how quickly 25 minutes goes by. This is the most grand and epic track Nightwish has ever produced. It's ambitious and it's fantastic.
8) Eyes of Sharbat Gula. (8/10) This instrumental didn't do much for me upon initial listen. I thought it was the weakest track. However, the more I listen to it, the more it has grown on me. Because it is an instrumental, I unfairly compared it to Last of the Wilds (one of my all time favorite Nightwish tracks). The two are nothing alike. "Eyes" is an incredibly haunting and atmospheric instrumental.
I guess the ongoing debate over the favorite vocalist can now add Floor Jensen to the mix. I think her vocal chops proved her worthiness on the previous live album. Overall, this is another terrific release by Nightwish, nothing short of epic in both scope and sound.

Swing Of Death
Swing Of Death
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply WOW!, January 30, 2015
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This review is from: Swing Of Death (Audio CD)
Jorn Lande's albums can be hit or miss. This album is amazing, arguably his best to date. First and foremost, the musicianship on Swing of Death is simply fantastic. The guitar work is utterly amazing throughout - however, the 2+ minute guitar solo at the end of Queen of the Dead stands out above everything else. I can rewind and replay that solo over and over without tiring of it.

The music on Dracula Swing of Death is incredibly varied, fluctuating back and forth between theatrical and metal- and the contrasting sounds compliment each other much better than one might think. While I tend to give high scores to the music I review (why waste my time listening to and reviewing music I don't enjoy), I would give this album more than 5 stars if I could.

DSOD is a cut above the traditional hard rock album: I read an online review that said the album took more than 3 years to make, and it shows in the final result. This album is a must own for lovers of guitar centric hard rock / metal- especially if you also happen to be a fan of all things Dracula.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 1, 2015 5:43 PM PST

Unholy Savior
Unholy Savior
Price: $9.49

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Symphonic Power Pop Metal Hard Rock Album of 2015!, January 13, 2015
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This review is from: Unholy Savior (MP3 Music)
If you took the decisively 80's sound of Lita Ford, added a generous helping of power and symphonic metal, hard rock, and a dash of bubble gum pop, the result would be Battle Beast. Some songs are fast and heavy, a few are ballads, there's an instrumental that could be on a soundtrack for an action fantasy movie, and a song that borders pop-disco. So many different sounds on one album, and all share one thing in common: the music is pretty damn good.

Like their last album (the self titled "Battle Beast") nearly every song is infectious in its own right. The vocals are about wide ranging: Noora's vocals can sound harsh and Udo-eseque one moment, and almost as angelic as Sharon den Adel's the next (particularly with "Sea of Dreams").

Song overview:
Lionheart - Good melodic metal tune to start the album off. Driving drums, good guitar solo - 9/10

Unholy Savior - Great hard rocker with an epic chorus. Probably my second favorite track on the album - 10/10

I Want the World... And Everything In It - Starts with a few lines of dialogue from "Scarface", then kicks into high gear. The guitar licks are impressive. Another great heavy tune. Listen for the Udo-esque vocals in the refrain - 9/10

Madness - One of the singles released prior to the album. Another great hard rocker with throbbing drums and a mean guitar solo - 9/10

Sea of Dreams - Reminiscent of something you'd hear from Within Temptation or Nightwish. This is a beautiful ballad with great, haunting lyrics and heart felt vocals. My favorite on the album - 10/10

Speed and Danger - Easily the fastest, most straight forward metal song on the album, with a very melodic refrain. - 8/10

Touch in the Night - The other single released prior to the album. This song borders disco, pop and rock with a refrain that makes me think of what ABBA might have sounded like if they were a rock band. The song itself feels somewhat out of place on the album, and it should not work as well as it does... but it's actually a very solid track, arguably one of the best on the entire CD. - 10/10

The Black Swordsman - a short track (a little over a minute) interlude into the next track. While short, it's a very beautiful peace. I wish it were a longer, fully fleshed out track. I would gladly have sacrificed the next track to make the Black Swordsman a complete song - 8/10

Heroes Quest - The 2 1/2 minute instrumental that could be on a soundtrack for a cheesy sci fi / fantasy film. Not bad, but not entirely neccesary. Similar to the instrumental "Golden Age" from their self-titled album, but not nearly as good - 5/10

Angel Cry - Another ballad. This has a decisively 80's sound with some pop elements to it. Solid song - 7/10

Push it to the Limit - Remake of the song from Scarface. Anyone who has seen the movie will instantly recognize the song. It has the same disco-pop feel as the original, jacked up with some nice guitar work. Cheesy, probably not necessary, but still well done. Makes me want to watch the movie again - 7/10

Overall, an excellent album that will get plenty of repeat listening. May not be for everybody, especially those who don't want pop music mixed with their metal. On the other hand, the musicianship is excellent. I personally enjoy the wide range of genres covered on the album. I did not think I would enjoy the pop-infused with metal tracks, but they work better than expected. Battle Beast is currently one of my preferred metal bands. Catchy, fun, cheesy in parts, and terrific musicianship throughout. Outside of the unnecessary "Heroes Quest," every track has something solid to offer. A great companion album along with the self- titled "Battle Beast" CD released in early 2014.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2015 12:23 PM PST

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