Big Al’s Metal Shop

Pittsburgh is a metal town, if you haven’t noticed by now. In the last month, we have been graced with many outstanding bills, from the triple threat of Soilwork, Mnemic, and Threat Signals at the Rex Theater to the stellar Paul Stanley rocking Greensburg the day after Halloween. Want more, you say? How about the meat-and-potatoes rock of Soil and Shinedown as they opened for Godsmack last Saturday? If you missed it, don’t worry — interviews, reviews, and the whole deal are coming your way soon enough. And while some trudge home after a semester of no sleep and a belly full of noodles, those remaining will continue the rock with Killswitch Engage and Hatebreed on December 13 and Clutch and The Sword on December 27th, both at Mr. Small’s in Millvale. For all the gifts that the local scene is giving us in the coming weeks, though, we must take a look at the holiday season upon us. Here’s a few ideas for the metalhead in your family:

Iron Maiden’s A Matter of Life and Death: Maiden’s latest follows nicely on the path set by its two post-reunion releases. Rarely does a band like this get better with age as far as songwriting goes, but Maiden of course defies any sort of critical review. A stuffy magazine like Rolling Stone can call this album a more “mature” outing, but I simply say bollocks to that. Part prog, part power-metal, the Maidenites of this world have a gem that sits well beside their re-re-reissue of Piece of Mind. That’s good. Up the Irons!

Manowar’s DVD The Day The Earth Shook — The Absolute Power: Perhaps the irony of loin-clothed American metal warriors bringing the Viking thunder is lost on their rabid European fans. Perhaps that is the point. Who knows? All I can truly say is that these men rock, and hard. Proclaimed by the Guinness Book of World Records in the ’80s as the loudest band on Earth, Manowar is also a group of consummate musicians. All of this creates a package that fans will follow to hell and back, which is documented on this DVD. Worth checking out even if you’ve never heard of them.

Children Of Bodom’s Chaos Ridden Years — Stockholm Knockout Live: Once the wunderkinds of our scene, now all grown up and touring with Slayer, this disc perfectly (almost too perfectly) captures them at their best live. Nice packaging too. All the hits, live and louder than ever.

Paul Stanley’s Live To Win: As I mentioned earlier, Stanley played these parts a month ago, and it was worth every penny I paid to see him. Opening with “Live to Win,” the title track off his latest solo album, the show lasted way into the night with many Kiss favorites played. “Strutter” was the highlight for me, but this solo album is surprisingly... good. As the odds of a new Kiss record get slimmer with time (unlike me), this could be it for new material. In any case, check it out and buy it for anyone you know who even moderately likes music. Chances are there is a closet Kiss fan in your family. At the show I ran into everyone, from a cop from Buffalo who brings his beautiful wife and kids to anything Kiss-related across the country, to the young ladies from the Midwest who got turned onto Gene-Paul-Peter-Ace as kids by their older brother-sister-cousin-friend and have never left the fold. Maybe it’s time you joined too.

Mnemic’s The Audio Injected Soul: This is awesome Euro-metal, played well live or on your headphones. This is a headphones record — the first to produce 3-D sound with two speakers on your ears. In fact, the 3-D effect requires the use of a headset.

Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy: Hey, you never know!

Before I head out, please accept my thanks for reading my column and for keeping the scene strong here. Whether it’s coming out to the venues or listening to WRCT late night (awesome stuff, natch), you all make it happen. Many thanks and happy holidays to you and yours, and a big thanks to all of the publicists out there: Loana and George at the Nuclear Blast Family, Maria and all at Adrenaline, Kelli at Metal Blade, Debbie at Mazur, and Katie Notesworthy, among others.

Rock Hard, Ride Free

Big Al