Things have been hectic around here, so I'm a little late writing up this month's Year A Month purchases. For some reason Amazon wanted more money for MP3s than for physical discs on just about all of this year's albums, and that delayed things even further.
Black Sabbath: TYR - Black Sabbath, since Dio's departure, has been pretty unsure of who they are. This album sounds just like a Dio-era Sabbath album, except a little less polished. It's always sad to watch a once-great band stubbornly hang on while fading. But overall this isn't a bad album - it just isn't a Sabbath album.
Judas Priest: Painkiller - without a doubt, this is my favorite Judas Priest album to date. The band was unhappy with the way Ram It Down was received, so they decided to move more into speed metal. Unfortunately, there was also growing tension within the band, leading to Rob Halford leaving, and 7 long years will now go by before we hear any more from Priest. But what a goodbye show this is! I can't listen to the title track without air-guitaring (dangerous while driving), and now that I have experienced the entire Halford-era Judas Priest collection, I feel I've grown as a metal fan. Halford actually returns in 2005 on Angel of Retribution, but that's 15 years away.
Iron Maiden: No Prayer for the Dying - Bruce Dickinson toyed with a raspier singing style for this album, eschewing the more operatic sound of prior Maiden albums. The band also attempted to get back to its heavier roots by stripping out most of the keyboards that infested them in 1986 and 1988. Critics were unimpressed, and I see their point - this album sounds like a band trying to change their sound, but focusing more on what they didn't want to sound like than what they did. Nevertheless, I like the attempt, and I'm optimistic that they'll figure it out in 1992.
Dio: Lock Up the Wolves - Ronnie James Dio fired his entire band after Dream Evil in 1987, which might explain the long delay. This album is classic Dio, though, and a solid addition to the collection.
Megadeth: Rust In Peace - this was a huge success for Megadeth, bringing them to the attention of a mainstream audience. I actually purchased the 2004 remastered edition so I could get the extra tracks, without knowing that Mustaine had re-recorded the lead vocals of several of the songs. That definitely explains how modern his voice sounds throughout this album. In any case, it rocks.
ZZ Top: Recycler - critics didn't care for this album, noting its heavy use of electronic effects. It nevertheless had three hits and sat atop the album charts for a few weeks back in 1990. Just goes to show you that critical reception is not a proxy for popularity. Having now listened to it myself, I have to side with the fans on this one.
Danzig II: Lucifuge - I'm struck by how much Danzig sounds like Jim Morrison when he sings. He takes advantage of this by using similar brooding dark sound mixes, albeit somewhat harder than The Doors ever were. But The Doors might have had a heavier sound in 1990 than they did in 1970 - it was a different sound for a different time.