HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Steve Vai - Live At The Astoria London
(Favored Nations)

Steve Vai is the kind of guy who turns a mirror to his watchers and asks, 'What are you gonna do with YOUR life?' He's that inspiring. The guitar is like a part of his wiry body, but it goes beyond that. Vai is both over the top and laughing about it the whole time. His plumage is flashy to the point of ironic, yet it's tasteful and (post)-modern at the same time. And the persona he projects, through that, his moves, and his stage raps, is one of innocent fun, the daunting musicianship of the man and his army (for this set, two other axe virtuosos Dave Weiner and Tony MacAlpine, plus Billy Sheehan and Virgil Donati, best-in-show among their realms) looking not that daunting through the filter of good groovy music. That is all here on this exquisitely recorded and filmed late '01 theater show comprising 21 tracks. It is an avalanche of sound, plus sight, some of that sight, goofy, guitary choreography all in the spirit. A second disc provides more light, understated humour, pertaining to fake interviews, tofu dogs, underwear, interaction with Steve's legendary guitar tech, and nuts and bolts assemblage of a show blessed with the very best gear, tuned beyond out of the box perfection. A modicum of marks doffed for the rudimentary, not all that imaginative nature of the extras, the dank clubiness of the show, no booklet, and the crappy front cover, even if, after all, this is a live DVD, and its essence appropriately sticks to that concept.
Rating 8.5

Damageplan - New Found Power

Well, this can be summed up pretty simply (and I'm about the 120th guy to say it): Pantera meets nu-metal. By far the best thing on this album is that vicious modulated riff that breaks out on track one Wake Up. From thereon in, what you get is a wetter, sludgier, bassier, lower version of Pantera, basically hard doomy nu-metal, oddly, with evocations of Superjoint and Down included (and if not Down, how about Crowbar,or the drinking buds in BLS?). Let's not forget, there's a lot of Pantera in nu-metal, as there is in a lot of thriving yet underground metal styles. That damn band is incredibly influential; an infection, really. So it's not surprising. And then Pat Lachman reinforces Dime's new murk and Vinnie's phat grooves with a full deck of vocal styles and sonic treatments which have all become cliches of nu for the past five years. Still, with 14 songs on the thing, gems emerge, such as the aforementioned and Sep-styled Wake Up, Crawl, Blunt Force Trauma, Moment Of Truth and AiC-ish ballad Soul Bleed. I dunno, a lot more people are digging this than I would have thought (and some dismiss it, with justification, as a third-rate Pantera), and truth be known, it gets better toward the back half. Still, I'm sorta on the fence, not ready to gleefully headbang, all caught up in the idea of old guys (or at guys from a weird metallic 'tween generation) trying to play angry young music or sumthin'.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 3