MEGADETH – Anthology: Set the World Afire

Despite the fact that there are a total of three other MEGADETH compilations issued by Capitol Records, the label has put out their fourth entry, Anthology: Set the World Afire. As purely a greatest hits compilation of the band’s Capitol years, this is the best collection of songs so far. The songs spread out across two CDs run in predominantly chronological order featuring songs from all of the band’s Capitol albums, which are coincidentally the band’s greatest era of quality output. They are taken from the remixed/remastered reissues of the albums. Anthology: Set the World Afire is not meant for the tried and true MEGADETH fan as all the songs have already been released on some official release. This compilation has the greatest value to new or casual MEGADETH fans, who are looking for a gateway drug into the band’s legendary back catalogue. Disc One features the band’s first decade of thrashing, manic, speed metal as well as the beginning of the more mid-tempo mainstream metal style that the band would eventually embrace. Disc Two features many of the band’s best songs from the 90’s/00’s. While Risk was critically bashed for its noticeable stylistic shift, the two songs from the album hold up considerably well today. One of the best aspects of Anthology: Set the World Afire is that it features “Crown of Worms” and “New World Order,” which are criminally underrated, harder to find songs. The compilation also does not forget to include three gems featured previously on Hidden Treasures/various movie soundtracks. At the end of the day, Anthology: Set the World Afire should not function as a stand alone release but as an intro to the absolutely mandatory albums of MEGADETH. (Capitol Records)

MEGADETH – United Abominations

Dave Mustaine set the tone for United Abominations with the well-received comeback album, The System Has Failed. So what how does the second album of MEGADETH‘s second life measure up? First off, United Abominations is the most politically charged album in their career with Mustaine vehemently expressing his opinions on the current state of the world with the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United Nations, terrorism, the U.S. government, etc. Just the album artwork’s allusion to the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the mass murder scene inside the U.N. displays Mustaine‘s unabashed viewpoints on the subject. However, it’s probably a safe bet that one would best be served by not blindly adopting the political viewpoints of a historic flip flopper as Mustaine has proven to be.

Opening track, “Sleepwalker,” is easily the heaviest and most intense track and sounds like a compromise between Rust in Peace with the more streamlined mainstream metal approach of the early to mid-90’s material. “Washington is Next” is a proto-metal track that eases back on the throttle while maintaining an uptempo tone. The majority of the album is reminiscent of material found on Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, and Countdown to Extinction: riffy, catchy, and polished and accessible enough to avoid being intense or abrasive. The title track sees Mustaine spouting off extremely damning criticism of the United Nations. Musically, it’s solid and catchy, even though hearing Mustaine sing the line, “United Abominations,” sounds a bit sour. “Blessed are the Dead” is one the best songs on the album with its meaty riffs and flawless songwriting. Unfortunately, longtime fans will be turned off by the fact that Mustaine chose as the song’s topic, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – the same four horsemen that METALLICA used to rework the Mustaine-penned “Mechanix.” Similar to The System Has Failed, there are some throwaways in the form of “You’re Dead” and the ill-fated guitarathon of “Burnt Ice.” Perhaps the biggest atrocity on United Abominations is not the flat soda-esque Gears of War video game song but the re-recording of Youthanasia‘s “A Tout Le Monde.” Mustaine has not made it a secret in the past that he intentionally wrote Youthanasia, Cryptic Writings, and Risk for maximum radio airplay and this stunt is no different. Cristina Scabbia, from the flavor of the month band LACUNA COIL, lays down a duet with Mustaine that simply adds little substance to the original. Scabbia‘s adequate albeit unexciting contribution actually sounds like Amy Grant.

United Abominations clearly shows that MEGADETH in 2007 can still dish out strong riffs, catchy songs, some guitar wizardy, and solid song arrangements. However, it’s safe to now say that we’ll never see MEGADETH going for an all out speed metal massacre and that the band is satisfied with their streamlined mainstream metal sound of the 90’s. Unfortunately, it also seems as though we also won’t be seeing another classic album from MEGADETH. (Roadrunner Records)

MARTY FRIEDMAN – Loudspeaker

Let’s face it…if you don’t know of the brilliance of Mr. Marty Friedman, you are either new to this genre of music or you’re a total moron. What you have with Loudspeaker is 11 songs of pure guitar domination in every sense of the word. You don’t have to play guitar or music at all to be able to appreciate the absolutely soulful, memorable, and high quality music here. As with all of his releases, Marty plays with such ease and natural flow. Every note comes out so smoothly and precisely that it cuts through you like a fine, fine laser. “Elixir” starts off Loudspeaker like a hammer to the head with its bludgeoning heavy riffs and pounding drums. It’s the perfect soundtrack for getting a speeding ticket. The next two tracks blend in heavy punk riffs (that would make Johnny Ramone proud) with infectious melodic riffs. It becomes obvious as the album progresses that this is not some “shred album” but a well-balanced instrumental album full of variations in its twists and turns, riffing, and moods. The melodies on Loudspeaker will undoubtedly have fans in Japan, as well as the rest of the world, going nuts. “Glycerine Flesh” has got to be one of Marty’s best songs with its soul melting melodies atop acoustic rhythm guitars. “Coloreas Mi Vida” would make QUEEN’s Brian May very proud as the leads absolutely own. The guest appearances by Billy Sheehan, John Petrucci, and Steve Vai blend in seamlessly into the songs. The more you listen to Loudspeaker, the more the brilliant intricacies come out like an unending well. Score another victory for Marty Friedman. (Shrapnel Records)

MEGADETH’s United Abominations Hits Stores May 15th; On Tour with HEAVEN AND HELL

MEGADETH will release their 11th studio album, United Abominations, May 15 via their new label, Roadrunner Records. Frontman Dave Mustaine recently completed tracking and mixing the album in rural Derbyshire, England with producer Andy Sneap.

Of the new CD, Mustaine says listening to it “puts a smile on the inside of me for the first time in years. We all can smile on the outside, but the project has satisfied me, and I am completely content deep inside. I can’t remember when I had such a pleasant time making a record. It is fast, heavy, melodic, and of course controversial, as well as hooky with some unexpected twists.”

The album was recorded in Los Angeles and England by Mustaine (guitar/vocals) with Glen Drover (guitar), Shawn Drover (drums) and James Lomenzo (bass). “Metal needs a really good old school record again,” says Mustaine. “I believe I have delivered.” The album’s first single is “À Tout Le Monde (Set Me Free),” a newly recorded version of the early MEGADETH classic that now features guest vocals by Cristina Scabbia of LACUNA COIL. The album’s 10 other songs are: “Sleepwalker,” “Washington Is Next!,” “Never Walk Alone…A Call To Arms,” “United Abominations,” “Gears Of War,” “Blessed Be The Dead,” “Play For Blood,” “Amerikhastan,” “You’re Dead” and “Burnt Ice.”

In other news, the band recently announced they’ll tour North America with HEAVEN AND HELL (BLACK SABBATH) and MACHINE HEAD beginning March 11 in Vancouver, BC.

Meanwhile, MEGADETH released the electrifying live DVD, That One Night: Live In Buenos Aires, March 6 via Image Entertainment.

Tour dates w/HEAVEN AND HELL and MACHINE HEAD:
Tue 3/13 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place
Wed 3/14 Calgary, AB Saddledome
Fri 3/16 Regina, SK Brandt Centre
Sun 3/18 Winnipeg, MB MTS Centre
Tue 3/20 Sault St. Marie, ON Steelback Centre
Thu 3/22 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
Sat 3/24 London, ON John Labatt Centre
Mon 3/26 Montreal, PQ Bell Centre
Tue 3/27 Quebec City, PQ Colisee Pepsi Arena
Wed 3/28 Ottawa, ON Civic Center
Sun 4/22 Phoenix, AZ Dodge Theatre
Tue 4/24 San Jose, CA HP Pavilion
Wed 4/25 Los Angeles, CA Forum
Thu 4/26 San Diego, CA Coors Amphitheater
Sat 4/28 Albuquerque, NM Journal Pavilion
Sun 4/29 Denver, CO Broomfield Events Center
Tue 5/1 San Antonio, TX Verizon Wireless Amphitheater
Wed 5/2 Houston, TX Cynthia Mitchell Woods
Thu 5/3 Dallas, TX Nokia Theatre
Sat 5/5 Chicago, IL All State Arena
Sun 5/6 Minneapolis, MN Theatre at Target Center
Tue 5/8 Cincinnati, OH US Bank Arena
Thu 5/10 Philadelphia, PA Wachovia Arena
Fri 5/11 Cleveland, OH Tower City Amphitheater
Sat 5/12 Detroit, MI Cobo Hall
Mon 5/14 Albany, NY Times Union Center
Tue 5/15 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
Thu 5/17 Lowell, MA Tsongas Arena
Fri 5/18 Baltimore, MD Merriweather Pavilion
Sat 5/19 Holmdel, NJ PNC Arts Center

Marty Friedman’s New Album, Loudspeaker, in Stores March 13th

Loudspeaker is an album that will change all preconceptions about instrumental albums. It is an emotionally fueled work of genius, mixed with brilliant guitar solo mastery that has become Marty Friedman’s signature.

Loudspeaker features guest appearances by Steve Vai, John Petrucci, Mick Karn and Billy Sheehan. “For me it was a big experiment,” Friedman explains. “I knew they were amazing, but I wanted to get these guys to play the most aggressive way they could because as a fan I really wanted to hear them like I never heard them before-in a full metal context.”

Loudspeaker is an aggressive, passionate and absorbing collection of that exposes the beauty and the beast in Friedman’s personality. Friedman reveals his true diversity with the hypnotic opening strains of “Stigmata Addiction” to a poignant rendering of “Coloreas Mi Vida.” The album continually travels between moments of claustrophobic density “Black Orchid” to the razor-sharp shred of “Elixir.”

Marty Friedman began his career as a Shrapnel solo recording artist and later joined forces with Jason Becker to form the unrivaled dual guitar unit, CACOPHONY, who have a strong influence on today’s top guitarists. Amassing worldwide acclaim as a guitar superstar, he came to the attention of MEGADETH and the rest is history. Racking up sales of over 10 million records with MEGADETH, Friedman continued to record solo records, often embarking on adventurous musical forays far removed from his work with MEGADETH, including an album with Golden Globe winner, Kitaro.

In a bold move, he left the legendary MEGADETH to pursue new musical goals and has succeeded tremendously. Friedman’s many accomplishments make him currently the only musician to be a fixture in the top class of the Japanese domestic as well as international music scene. His music performance (songs from Loudspeaker) on national TV with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, to charting high with his own music and with Japan’s top artists, has spurred Friedman into new celebrity territory.

Now residing in Tokyo, Friedman has become a television celebrity appearing as a regular on 5 major networks, he can be seen on mainstream hit TV programs almost every day in Japan. “It’s all these insane experiences the last couple years in Japan that couldn’t be musically farther from my roots that make it so rewarding to make an all-out aggressive album now.”

Loudspeaker is exactly the kind of record that Friedman fans have been waiting for. It is heavy, melodic and digs down deep to his roots, and in spots reminiscent in style of his best selling Shrapnel solo record, Dragon’s Kiss.

Loudspeaker will be released on March 13th, 2007 in the U.S.

BLACK SABBATH’s Dio-Era Reunion, HEAVEN AND HELL, Tour Dates Announced

Putting to bed the longstanding rumors of a reunion tour, HEAVEN AND HELL have announced their first tour dates for 2007. The tour will feature 11 Canadian shows, along with an exciting one-night-only performance at one of the most prestigious venues in the world, New York’s Radio City Music Hall. HEAVEN AND HELL reunites Ronnie James Dio, Tony Iommi, Geezer Butler and Vinny Appice for the first time in 15 years.

Currently there are 12 scheduled stops, starting on March 11 in Vancouver and ending on March 30 in New York City. The world tour will continue until the end of the year with shows in the US, Asia and Europe. Additional dates will be announced shortly.

Multi-platinum recording artist MEGADETH will be joining the tour, and previewing never before heard material from their upcoming release on Roadrunner Records, United Abominations. The tour also brings the return of DOWN, featuring Phil Anselmo and Rex Brown from PANTERA, as well as Pepper Keenan of COC.

The heavy metal icons are also scheduled to release a new anthology entitled BLACK SABBATH: The Dio Years. Anticipated release date is April 3, 2007 on Rhino/Warner Bros. Records.

The HEAVEN AND HELL Tour 2007 will include the following stops:
March 11 Vancouver, BC Pacific Coliseum
March 13 Edmonton, AB Rexall Place
March 14 Calgary, AB Saddledome
March 16 Regina, SK Brandt Centre
March 18 Winnipeg, MB MTS Centre
March 20 Sault St. Marie Steelback Centre
March 22 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
March 24 London, ON John Labatt Centre
March 26 Montreal, PQ Bell Centre
March 27 Quebec City, PQ Colisee Pepsi Arena
March 28 Ottawa, ON Civic Centre
March 30 New York, NY Radio City Music Hall

For more information about HEAVEN AND HELL please go to www.heavenandhelllive.com. Tickets are on sale January 26th/27th .