UPDATE April 2016:
INTRINSIC- Nails (Divebomb Records)
Life for a true die hard heavy metal fan wasn’t too easy in the early nineties. Grunge was the new hype and heavy metal was pushed backwards to the underground scene. This led to some strange and awkward situations. Bands started to sound different. METALLICA’s black album was simply called “Metallica” and didn’t sound like their previous releases at all. There were also bands, that stored their new releases and put them on a shelf, waiting for better times to come. In that category, we can add INTRINSIC pretty easily. They recorded their new full-length album “Nails” and shelved it for twenty-five long years. Now is the moment to reveal these recordings. Over seventy music of power thrash metal are ready to be absorbed. Let’s turn back the time for twenty-five freaking years and enjoy this piece of art with an open mind. Fans of old school thrash and power metal can dig in blindfolded. If you have the patches of HEATHEN, FORBIDDEN and LAAZ ROCKIT on your denim coat, then you can’t deny that you didn’t get a smile on your face, while listening to opener “State Of The Union”. And already in “Fight No More” I noticed, that my head was slowly moving up and down. It was a bit too difficult to write this review this way, so I stopped, but the urge is there for sure. I hear some influences of IRON MAIDEN, because the vocals of Lee Dehmer have a bit of the same sound as Bruce Dickinson and the good man can take that as a big compliment here. The music however follows a more progressive path. Just listen to the mid-piece with the spoken word part and you’ll catch my drift. After that, you might hear some Geoff Tate (OPERATION MINDCRIME/former QUEENSRYCHE)-like vocal parts, before the impressive instrumental part starts, which surely highlights this given song. I’m on top of my chair already from excitement, when this sound enters my room. If you think that was too progressive, then lend yourself an ear to “Die Trying”. The flashing guitar work of Mike Mellinger will rip the paint from your bedroom walls. It sounds brutal, it sounds vicious, it sounds mean, but I like this a lot. And for those, who did like this instrumental piece of art in the previous track, you’d better fly “On Gossamer Wings”. The intro sounds majestic and you’ll know that a piece of art is unfolding itself here. I really understand the decision that this album was shelved in1990. It would drown in the releases of the hype called grunge that killed heavy metal back in those years. Now, the time is right to release an album like that. People want to hear the honest heavy metal sound again. Well, here you have it. Listen to the Dickinson type of screams and the riffs, you banged your head upon during the eighties. The speed and mood swing in the middle of the song will remember you of “Master Of Puppets”, and the good old days of METALLICA. Or maybe one of the many breaks in “Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” of IRON MAIDEN from their glorious “Powerslave” album. The guitar work in “Pilar Of Fire” sounds just brilliant and breathtaking. Another surprise comes along, when the band starts “Mourn For Her” with an intro that you could even categorize as jazzy in a way. Sometimes the band can’t stop from having small heavy eruptions, but the overall sound of this one is a nice progressive jazz song, that can easily please the average QUEENSRYCHE fan out there. “The Vicious Circle” starts perfectly and horror-like. It could very well fit in a movie. Once the groove is there, you’ll hear a song that would do very well in the nineties maybe. Names like MUCKY PUP come to mind. And I must admit, that I always liked that band. But INTRINSIC delivers the song without the funny lyrics. The groove returns in “Denial”, which also contains choir vocals and a more lengthy impressive instrumental part. And just when you think it’s over, another mood swing follows for the last groovy, riff filled segment. This is called high class metal, in my book, I can tell you that much. “Yikes!” is a weird song title maybe. It’s a freaky instrumental tune, in which the title is spoken out in the very last second. Fans of WATCHTOWER may like this weird shit, so I count myself in. “Inner Sanctum” is a mix of PSYCHOTIK WALTZ, QUEENSRYCHE and LED ZEPPELIN to me. And what a coincidence, because the next track on the official album is a cover of LED ZEPPELIN, called “Dazed And Confused”. What a good choice, gentlemen. They didn’t spread it out, like THE ZEP did in a live situation, to a twenty-five minute version. But the five minute version did the trick as well, I think. What a great tribute to LED ZEPPELIN. The next track is called “Too Late, But Not Forgotten”, which is another MUCKY PUP type of crossover track, that will definitely remind you of the old school ANTHRAX stuff, because of the vocals and rhythms, that are used here. Bonus track “Cannabis Sativa” is the odd one out in a way. It could be a nice joke, but it also could be a tribute to someone like FRANK ZAPPA, who really could have written something like that. I’m glad that someone took the liberty of dusting the old shelfs and bring this masterpiece back to life again after a too long period of eating dust. INTRINSIC from San Luis Obispo, California consists of Lee Dethmer on vocals, Garrett Craddock on guitars and backing vocals, Joel Max Stern on bass, Chris Binns on drums and Michael Mellinger on lead guitars and vocals. Website: http://www.facebook.com/intrinsicofficialpage. (8,6/10- Toine van Poorten)
UPDATE March 2016:
RIPPER- Third Witness (Black Widow Records)
I never break any promises. I promised my good friend Rob Graves of RIIPER that I would write a review of the new album “Third Witness”, when I would receive a copy. That last part was the most difficult one. The distribution of Black Widow Records isn’t great in Europe, but we were kinda lucky to be in touch with Pino Pintabona, who helped us resolving this matter on the record fair in Utrecht. The third album of RIPPER is a fact and the first notes sound like heaven to me. US metal with a touch of doom and occult horror lyrics enters my ears, that are sensitive for mighty sounds like that. “Dead Dreams” is the perfect opener on this album, that contains eight tracks and is worthy of about forty-five minutes. It’s a mix of progressive sidesteps, doomy cult rock and SABBATH-like structures with a catchy bite, which invites you to sing along to the chorus part. Those first riffs, don’t they remind you of “Symptom Of The Universe”? Well, that song always gives me a good feeling and so does this “Dead Dreams”, which simply sounds amazing to me. “Fragnant Earth” is a bit darker and slower. It’s like Aleister Crowley himself is speaking out his spells through the microphone. The guitar work sounds mind-boggling again and it’s the RIPPER as we know it, but now with a more traditional occult sauce to it. “Morphinia” is on next. Don’t take too much at once or it might put you in a trance. This music will put you in a trance real easy. The repetitive singing of the song title gives you the idea, that it will slowly take possession of your soul. “Geneticide” sounds like the later songs of HALLOWEEN. They also have got that mysterious sound, you just can’t stop listening to. It’s doomy, yet powerful. It’s the sound, that I love so much. It easily becomes one of the highlights on this album for me. Raw guitar riffs start “Into The Realm”. It’s a genius song with many interesting hooks and a freaky end. The songs are a little bit more accessible, but luckily enough they still have the sound of the underground. The lads of RIPPER never showed any borders and always sounded underground. It’s no music for the mass, it’s only there for connoisseurs. “Cryptonight” is a title that they must have thought about for a long time. The repetitive riffs do their thing. No kryptonite can stop the spell anymore. I think, I will be sleeping in my crypt tonight. Sorry, but this one I just couldn’t turn down. “Goin Green” has got another rhythm, that will put you in a trance. It’s the combination of the music and the voice of singer Rus Gib, that will make this happen. The biggest surprise comes at the closure of this CD, when RIPPER teams up with Steve Sylvester of DEATH SS, who takes over the vocal parts in the BLACK SABBATH cover “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. That marvelous combination completes the whole picture, that I had in my mind. This cooperation sounds like magic on paper, but listening to it hear on CD is the real deal. Magic can happen, when you put these two dark hearted heroes together. This is the perfect match between dark occult horror and heavy metal. A combination, which simply can’t go wrong. Prove is given on this six minutes version of the BLACK SABBATH classic. RIPPER nowadays consists of Rus Gib on vocals, Rob Graves on guitar and bass guitar, Robert Bogle on drums (track 1-4), Don Ramirez on drums (track 5-8) and Stephen Boggle on synths. The great artwork is the cherry on the cake on this new amazing release. Website: http://www.blacwidow.it.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
UPDATES BEFORE 2016:
ABANDON- Time Served (Strength Records)
What a nice compilation album this is of ABANDON! The band has captured HALLOWEEN members Brian Thomas, George Neal and Bill Whyte in their previous line up, which was the main reason for purchasing these CDs. The music is groovy, capturing the metal sound of today, instead of the old true metal spirit of HALLOWEEN. Nowadays ABANDON exists without HALLOWEEN members, but the music still remains interesting. Like I mentioned before, we’re dealing with some kind of compilation album here, consistsing of various material ranging from 1993 to 2005. I don’t know, if it is the voice of Brian Thomas that I liked best in the first couple of songs on this CD. That’s the only reason I can think of, because the overall sound is quite the same. Especially the song “Religion” is very strong, in my opinion. It could very well be on one of HALLOWEEN’s demos. Don’t get me wrong. The other songs without Brian’s vocals are sure worth listening to also. “Reach” for example is very groovy and sounds a bit like BLACK LABEL SOCIETY jamming with PANTERA. Can you feel the groove already? The bonus tracks consist of a song from the “Embryo’s” demo and another song from 1995, re-recorded in 2004 by Brian Thomas and Shawn Moore. A great overview of what ABANDON is all about, eleven tracks and worthy of forty minutes of groovy US metal.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
ABANDON- Project Unreality (Strength Records)
This five tracker contains twenty minutes of groovy metal by this Detroit based band. Among these five songs, we hear a track, called “Reach”, which was also to be found on the compilation CD “Time Served”. Again, it’s definately one of the highlights on this MCD. “In Sorrow” has got the right groove and attitude, although with a bit more power, the song would be much better to comprehend for me. Bill Whyte performed all the drum tracks on these songs. His innovative drumparts stand out very well in opener “Awakened”. Whereas the vocal parts in “Unreality” sound like METALLICA (new style) to me, the song has got a great groove. Although this is not exactly the sound that I am looking for, it’s good enough to have a listen to.Visit their website at: http://www.abandonmetal.com.
(7/10- Toine van Poorten)
ABANDON- Abandon (Strength Records)
This the new full-length release of ABANDON, as it consists today. The band from Detroit has got a rich history and because of the connections they have with HALLOWEEN, I know they’re worth checking out. On this album are fourteen songs with a total length of a little bit over one full hour. I would describe the music of ABANDON 2006 as a mix between RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, METALLICA (new style) and PANTERA (groovy riffs). I like the mood and speed changes in a song like “Hide” a lot, and it’s these small things, that lifts the band up to a higher level. Same goes for the song “Monster”, which is another highlight on this album. “Gone Away” sounds a bit softer, but with last song “Sorry” we have another highlight on this album. Again I would like to say, that this is maybe not the kind of music that I prefer to listen to most, but it’s sure worth checking out, because of the link they have with the real monsters from Detroit; HALLOWEEN. Website: http://www.abandonmetal.com.
(7,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
AMULANCE- The Rage Within: And The Aftermath
AMULANCE are the underground kings of speed metal. This ‘best of’ CD emphasizes this once again. Fast, flashing guitar solos, high pitched vocals and a haunting rhythm is what you’ll get in the next fifty-five minutes or so. “Black Moon Rising” is a good opener, although the beast really gets unleashed in “Living On The Run”. Just listen to the high screams of Rik Baez at the end of this song. My poor ears! Next song “7th Son” has some great early IRON MAIDEN structures, very similar to “Wrathchild”. However, it received the specific AMULANCE treatment along the way. While “Deathwish” sounds fast and furious, leaving absolutely no time for a breathing-space. Hear those guitars wail on and on, like they will never give up… This is truly another awesome track! “Witch’s Sin” opens slowly, but after a few seconds it turns into a great headbanger, including more MAIDEN influences. Somehow, it reminded me of “Children Of The Sea” by BLACK SABBATH. “The Rage Within” is the last track taken off the demo, which is included on this compilation at large. “World Of Corruption” sounds ultra loud and brutal, although “Bounty Hunter” brings back some melody to their sound. Well, at least for a little while. In general, I think that AMULANCE sounds more melodic in their later (and more recent) work. For example, I almost hear a slightly old RUSH-like sound in “Monsters”, mixed with some WATCHTOWER influences here and there. While “Aberation” brings back more brutality though. However, one of the highlights for me is “Haunted”, an amazing track with many mood changes and a lengthy instrumental break, that sounds very exciting. The CD closes with “Daughter’s Hell” - another fine and extremely varied headbanger , which makes it a very pleasant listen. AMULANCE consists of Rik Baez on vocals, Thorn Braddish on bass, Bob Luman on guitar, Vince Variale on guitar, Eric Wedow on drums on the first nine tracks and Tony ‘T-Bone’ Divozzo on drums on the other tracks. AMULANCE will make its debut appearance on European soil at Headbangers Open Air in July 2010. Don’t miss it! There you can buy a limited EP, called “Deutschland”, especially recorded and issued for this event only. People, who will not be able to go there, can watch the band by viewing the videos, that are added to this CD. A live clip of “World Of Corruption” recorded in Illinois 1989 and “The Rage Within” recorded live in Wisconsin in 1988. A nice bonus to this wonderful speed metal CD, that carries an extensive booklet with lyrics, pictures and a biography. Don’t hesitate, just buy!!
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)
ANVIL- This Is Thirteen (VH1 Classic Records)
Thirteen has always been an unlucky number. Not for ANVIL though... Finally, after more than thirty years of struggling hard to get some recognition, the road to fame and fortune has become reality for these guys from Toronto, Canada. Most of this sudden change and different attitude by metal reviewers all over the world has got to do with the documentary that’s made about Lips and his band. For the review of the band’s thirteenth album, I took the opportunity to review the double LP set instead of the CD, because these vinyl records contain three free bonus tracks, which is a treat for the real connoisseur. Opener “This Is Thirteen” is a killer song already. This is ANVIL in a nutshell, it’s “Forged In Fire 2010”. The slow speed adds a certain heaviness to this particular song, which is indeed one of the highlights on the album for me. “Bombs Away” is a great ANVIL anthem, on which you can shout your balls off. Watch out for the killer guitar solo, that Lips cranks out on this one. “Burning Bridges” sounds a bit more like album opener “This Is Thirteen”, but the guitar solo can easily compete with the one in “Bombs Away”. ANVIL never disappointed me over the years. Not with their albums and neither with their energetic live shows. Now, finally more people are discovering their strength as well. In “Ready To Fight”, the band is willing to press the pedal to the metal deeply. The band came to rock, and rock they will. They are ready for it as you can hear, so be aware and let out some sweat on this one. I don’t envy you to go “Flying Blind”. You’d better leave this up to ANVIL, as they are more experienced. The drum work on “Room No. 9” reminded me of “Smoking Green” in a way. If you want to know what exactly happened in that room number nine, then you’d better check out the song. A full speed metal attack starts off in “Axe To Grind”. The song title fits just perfectly to this grinding speed metal song. Now it’s time to “Feed The Greed”, a nice MOTÖRHEAD-like tune to close this first LP. On the second record, the band celebrates a small private party for being “Big Business” right now. You can’t organise a festival these days without inviting ANVIL over. I hope, this success will last very long, but with all the trends and hot bands coming and going, it also might be over before they could really enjoy it all. Anyway, it’s a good thing to finally get the recognition, that they deserved so much over the years. “Should A Would’ A Could’ A Worry” is already entering my room at full speed and it’s time to bang your head again. “Game Over” is on next. Nope, the game is not over yet as far as the album concerns, but this fast song just carries that title. Rock it out! “American Refugee” is on next and before you know it we have come to the bonus tracks on this double album. First of all, there is a song called “Thumb Hang”, which was already mentioned in the documentary. It’s a new song about the Spanish Inquisition. Hang people by their thumbs, if they don’t buy this brilliant album… Now that’s the spirit! The furious speed appears halfway through, when Rob Reiner sets the pace. The guitar solo is again breathtaking and it fits very well to the driving edge of the rest of the song. The last two songs are reworks of old classics, namely “Metal On Metal” and “666”. I thought these would be live recordings, but who cares a damn anyway with classics like that! “This Is Thirteen” turned out to be a blast from back to forth and a must to every ANVIL fan out there or for those of you, who still have to discover these Canadian pioneers after thirty-five years plus. Website: http://www.anvilmetal.com
(9,2/10- Toine van Poorten)
ATTACKER- The Unknown (Sentinel Steel)
I prepare myself for the unknown, when pushing the ‘play’ button on my stereo set. Fifty minutes later, including two minutes to come to my senses, I know that ATTACKER did it again! They’ve recorded another old school US metal album, which comes close to their “Second’s Coming” release. Vocalist Bob Mitchell screams “This Is Power” in the opener of this fourth album by New Jersey’s pride of heavy metal, ATTACKER. From there on, I’ve got his point. This will become a real heavy ride for the listener, who dares to expose himself to the earsplitting power of the five attackers on your eardrums. Sometimes I hear some resemblance with OVERKILL’s Bobby Elsworth, like for example in “Anger Agression”. Bob’s voice has got the same anger and aggression, which explains the title perfectly. In some parts he also sounds like my all-time hero Brian Thomas of HALLOWEEN. In “Nail it Down”, drummer Mike Sabattini sounds like an uncaged animal. What a mean intro! Some drummers are invisible and they only keep the rhythm together. Mike however is very innovative and he constantly asks the listener for their attention with his fills. While the guitar players are in battle with each other all the time, like they are competitors. At the end we have two winners, in this uneven battle. The long “Devil’s War” is a true masterpiece. I like epic songs like this. It slowly builds itself up to a real classic. The guitarwork is absolutely mindblowing. The artwork for the CD is also very well done, and asks for some special attention. The clock we see is different than the normal time indication. And who’s this mysterious, ‘unknown’ person in front of the window, with the icely breath? Will this man, who desperately grabs his head in anger, survive the attack of the unknown? These are questions, that are running through my head, while listening to the music and reading the CD booklet. The CD contains three bonus tracks. One of them is the short instrumental track “Tieneblas”. ATTACKER can be really proud of their new album, which they will present in their homecountry during some live shows with HALLOWEEN (the true Gods of US Metal from Detroit) and ELIXIR (the true Gods of NWOBHM from London, England). And I still hear people say, that heavy metal is as dead as a doornail. I bet, they’ve never witnessed “The Unknown”, because it will change their opinion right away. Website: http://www.attacker.tv.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
AXEHAMMER- Lord Of The Realm (Sentinel Steel Records)
Their album “No More Changes” sadly never saw the light of day. So we consider “Lords Of The Realm” as the debut of L.A. based U.S. metal band AXEHAMMER. The nine songs here have a total playing time of about forty minutes. “Princess” opens the album in an old Maidenesque way. While in “Lord Of The Realm”, we hear the icely high laughs of Bill Ramp, one of his characteristic horror outings. At least, when we saw him live at the Keep It True festival in Germany. After a balladesque intro, “Break Down The Walls” develops itself into a fast headbanger. In “Axehammer”, which opens with a spoken word intro, we hear the laugh of Bill Ramp once more. “Axehammer” was actually the first song to see the light of day on a compilation called “Satan’s Revenge”, released by New Renaissance Records in 1984. Jerry Watt plays several superb lead solos in this song and there’s a wonderful break near the end of the song, showing that AXEHAMMER is much more than just another average US metal band. They have a good singer and a great guitar player. The rhythm section consists of Joe Aghassi on drums and Kit Carlson on bass. The bonus tracks on this album are “Wings Of Fire” and “Sword And Shield”, both introduced by a radio commercial for a live show of AXEHAMMER together with MANGE, WANTED BREED and AGENT STEEL. These bonus tracks were recorded in 1984 with Mark Sky on drums, instead of Joe Aghassi. The last song is the 1984 demo version of “Axehammer”. Cult material and finally available on CD. Read on for more AXEHAMMER in the review of their new album “Windrider”.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
AXEHAMMER- Windrider (Sentinel Steel Records)
The CD cover pictures the ‘Metal Giant’, which has been the mascot of AXEHAMMER for many years now. This album shows, what the release of old material can lead to. While “Lord Of The Realm” contained material, that was eating dust for a long time, this is their new material. However, I must admit, that it sounds like it was written in the mid-eighties. Powerful heavy metal enters my room, when listening to opener “Stand Up And Fight”. AXEHAMMER is back and for many old school fans, this sounds like a dream come true! It’s not some kind of a reunion either… On the contrary, this line up contains three out of four official AXEHAMMER members. We still have Bill Ramp on vocals, Jerry Watt on guitars, Joe Aghassi on drums and the new person in the band is Colin Sauers on bass. The band still breathes the well-known JUDAS PRIEST power, including some old school ACCEPT riffs and drum rolls. “Rise Up” opens with a short spoken word part. It’s good to hear, that the band succeeded in capturing today’s power on a silver disc. And what about the horror laughs of good ol’ Billy Ramp? Well, listen very carefully to the beginning of “Back For Vengeance” and “Dancing With Demons”, and you’ll definitely hear them. To me, they have become the singer’s trademark, who has got the voice of an opera singer, reaching many octaves. He focusses on the sound of a metal singer here of course, but he proved that he can do so much more with his voice during live shows. Bill uses his hoarse voice in a song, called “Power”. Quite remarkable in the sound of AXEHAMMER is, that their main influences are from European bands, and it is sometimes hard to believe that we are dealing with a US metal band. Fans of JUDAS PRIEST can’t go wrong, when listening to this material. Although the recognisable voice of Rob Halford is not there, their music shows some resemblance here and there. At least, they have got the same power as the metal Gods. Just listen to the riffs in “Dancing With Demons”. It’s like listening to the well-known riffs of “Screaming For Vengeance”. The ten songs have a total playing time of about forty-five minutes, and in fact I didn’t hear a weak moment at all on this album. An album, that was pre-produced by NEW EDEN’s Horacio Colmares, who also made it possible that the old demo recordings of AXEHAMMER got transferred to CD. Beware of the Windrider, because he will attack you soon, armed with axe and hammer!
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
BENEDICTUM- Uncreation (Locumotive Music/Rock Inc.)
The gossip is really true! That’s my conclusion after hearing these eleven tracks and fifty-five minutes of mighty fine heavy metal on this debut disc. BENEDICTUM certainly is the next hot band in the metal scene. The band started their career as BOUND, and they hail from San Diego, California, where bands like WARRIOR, ROUGH CUTT and the mighty PSYCHOTIK WALTZ are also from. The sound of BENEDICTUM is fresh and it contains some influences of SAVATAGE (“Benedictum” and the long and great sounding “Valkyrie Rising”) and DIO, but they gave the original sound of these bands a new, fresh boost. Raw riffs are mixed with pounding metal drums and chanting vocal lines (in the style of DIO). Taking their sound a little bit away from the traditional themes, you might expect. BENEDICTUM consists of Pete Wells on guitar, Chris Morgan on keyboards, Blackie Sanchez on drums, Jesse Wright on bass and Veronica Freeman on vocals. Veronica is not a new name in the scene. She used to sing in a band called MALADY. Pete Wells also played in MALADY, by the way. The band has been discovered by DIO guitar player Craig Goldy, and the album was produced by DOKKEN bass player Jeff Pilson. It’s always good to have some well-known friends in this business and they also look good on your CV. Not that they need this, because when it comes to creating good new songs, they still have to do everything by themselves of course. And that is something, you can definitely leave up to BENEDICTUM, if you’d ask my opinion. On “Uncreation”, you’ll also be able to enjoy two BLACK SABBATH (DIO-era) covers. Halfway the album, you’ll find a long version of “Heaven And Hell”. At first you won’t recognise this classic anthem, which proves that they have given their own twist to it. I would instantly recognise the original in the very first seconds, but this time I had to listen carefully, and finally when the vocals started, it became obvious that this was the SABBATH classic, that they were covering here. At the end of the CD, they do the same with “The Mob Rules”. They don’t make songs like that anymore in 2005, so why don’t you give this expensive heritage back to the youth of today with new versions (or covers, if you like). Good thinking, especially when you can say that you added your own vision to the song, and gave it your special mark, like BENEDICTUM did. This album is an essential buy for every metal fan of today, who has got a big place in his heart for traditional metal bands as well. BENEDICTUM brings the metal back to San Diego, and we love them for that. Brilliant release! [Note: If you want to read an interview with the band, go to http://www.metalmaidens.com/benedictum.htm]
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
BENEDICTUM- Seasons Of Tragedy (Locomotive Records/Rock Inc.)
Can BENEDICTUM hold on to the high standard, that they set after releasing their debut album “Uncreation”? My answer can be very short. Yes, they can and they actually put the standard a bit higher than before. “Seasons Of Tragedy” may be even a little better than their debut album. “Dawn Of Seasons” is the short instrumental opener, before the brutal “Shell Shock” is launched from your speakers. Veronica Freeman sounds more brutal than she already did on “Uncreation”. What a powerful voice, this lady has got! “Burn It Out” contains some marvellous twin guitarwork, which reminded me of the good old days of JUDAS PRIEST. People responsible for this metal guitar battle are Pete Wells and GRAVE DIGGER stringpuller Manni Schmidt. This feeling comes back, when listening to a great piece of aggression, called “Beast In The Field”. A great song with an absolute ‘over the top’ chaotic ending. Inbetween these aggressive outings, we also hear a more doomy side of this band in “Within The Solace”. “Bare Bones” is a rocker with George Lynch (DOKKEN, LYNCH MOB) guesting on lead guitar. As far as covers are concerned, BENEDICTUM pays tribute here to ACCEPT with “Balls To The Wall”. On this song, the band is guested again by George Lynch (DOKKEN, LYNCH MOB) on guitar and Jeff Pilson (DOKKEN) on bass. Then, it’s time to shake your heads again on this classic metal anthem. “Steel Rain” (which is a great song title!) is on next and it shows the brilliancy of this band. The emotional lyrics are in such a big contrast with the aggressiveness and brutality in some of the other tracks, that it’s almost impossible to believe you’re listening to the same band. It contains a certain SAVATAGE feel, because of the song structure and the vocals. The CD closes with “Seasons Of Tragedy”, which shows the more progressive side of this San Diego based band. Well, at least it does in the intro of this song. Later on, some more progressive aspects are added to the song, turning it into one of the highlights for me. I even hear some DREAM THEATER like parts on this twelve minutes CD closer, while the remainder of the song is pure metal of course. The digipack version of the CD is a real must for RAINBOW fans, because the band cranks out a majestic version of “Catch The Rainbow”, with a guest role for Craig Goldy (DIO, GIUFFRIA, CRAIG GOLDY’S RITUAL) on this bonus track. “Seasons Of Tragedy” plays for a full hour. A full hour, in which BENEDICTUM proves that heavy metal is still very much alive and the band is here to stay. And not like many well-talented bands quit after releasing a great debut album. Check out the bands website at http://www.benedictum.net and raise your swords for Veronica Freeman and BENEDICTUM.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
BLACK STEEL- Hellhammer (Steelheart Records)
Maybe this second full-length album of our Australian friends BLACK STEEL is even better than their debut release. This is true metal to the max, without rudely copying every standard riff from the book. On the contrary, the band knows how to survive with strong riffs, great axework and a singer, who can sing ballads and powerful songs as well. The band asks for your attention all the time. For example, if you think, that “Relentless Force” is the second ballad off the album, you’re absolutely wrong. Okay, it starts out as a BON JOVI type of tearjerker, and just before you want to skip on to the next song, the tempo starts to go up and the power of another strong true metal song starts to grow. It reminds me of the way, that the mighty band PEGAZUS used to handle these kind of songs. They also constantly knew to surprise their listeners. It must be something in the water in Australia, I guess. Most other albums start to loose their power in the second half, but there are a few strong survivors to be found at the end of “Hellhammer” as well. I think about “The Holy Devil” here for example, which is certainly one of the highlights of the album. Again they start this song like a ballad, but soon they change it into a real heavy rocker! BLACK STEEL surprised me again with a great album. Please give some attention to the great artwork on the CD cover. Talk about true metal to the max here. BLACK STEEL has got it all, a great CD and the right attitude - and that’s final!
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
BLACK WIDOW USA- Soldiers From Hell (JAB Productions)
I believe, a lot of our readers might still remember BLACK WIDOW USA, who surprised us with their brilliant debut album "Satan's Playground". The band is back with "Soldiers From Hell", sounding even stronger than their already astonishing debut album. BLACK WIDOW USA consists of John Anthony on guitar and keyboards, Tommy Azzinaro on drums, Wayne Turpin on bass and Cat on vocals. After the short instrumental intro "Moonshadow", we are confronted with the strong opener "Comfort In The Dark". I already hear a crowdpleaser coming up in that first song. It has a chorus, in which the crowd can chant along, while raising their fists. Thumbs up for the vocal abilities of Cat, who reminds me of Erika Swinnich (former singer of IGNITOR) in a way, which is a huge compliment, because IGNITOR is sacred in our book. "Just His Wish" continues very strong, including PRIEST-like metal riffs in the middle, and some flashing guitar solos. Just listen to the icely scream of Cat at the end of the song. This is pure metal, and once again they prove that BLACK WIDOW USA is a real survivor in the scene. "Lay Me Down" opens with more strong metal riffs and some thundering drum rolls. Title track "Soldiers From Hell" is one helluva track. This is exactly how heavy metal should sound like, dear friends! The ten minutes plus epic metal song is more a gift from hell, and I couldn't think of another metal worthy title track than this one. Again it is a song that you can sing along to, completed with a great instrumental piece right in the middle of the song. The guitarist sharpens his claws, before attacking his six strings. Cat will have a short rest, while John fights for his life there, like a real 'soldier from hell'. The ending of the song, where the speed goes up, is magnificent. I can't stop banging my head anymore. What a great tune! OK, it’s time to take a little piece of rest now and let this metal anthem settle down for a while. "The Serpent" is a short instrumental track with acoustic guitars. Dagger sharp riffs introduce us to the next song; "When The Angels Cry", which gives me more goose bumps, when listening to the vocals of Cat. I must admit, that I’d expected a ballad at first with a title like that, but it’s another fantastic metal attack. My compliments for the great guitarsolo in this song, by the way! With "Widows Web", we're in for another long, epic metal tune. Another song that is catchy where it should be and on the other hand, it also has a strong metallic feel. Just listen to the immense riffs here, topped with the great vocals of Cat. Doesn't this give you the drive to bang your head like a madman? If not, you're just no metalhead and you might as well be dead. (my thanks go out to the band PILEDRIVER for this last quote). I'm caught in the widows web and I’m damn proud of it. I swallow the guitarsolos, like they were the last ones I will ever hear, and in this song they seem to go on and on, ‘till death do us part. Need I say more? With "Venom", the horns are up for the last time. The guitars cry one more time, and you’ll only have one more chance to raise your fist in the air to the sound of real metal. Can someone pull the plug from that guitarplayer, otherwise he won't stop playing these venomous guitarsolos! Man, what a great sound! I can recommend this album to every surviving metalhead on this planet. My name is Toine van Poorten, my rank was corporal, when I was in the army, my serial number was 630318296, and after listening to this album I want to be a Soldier From Hell, too. Hail to BLACK WIDOW USA for carrying the heavy metal torch. Not too many bands know how to make a decent heavy metal album anymore. They can have a listen to this one, to have a good example. A full score reward goes out to BLACK WIDOW USA, with deep respect from yours truly for this great album (nine songs, fifty-five minutes of pure mayhem) and for keeping the faith in heavy metal music. I wish, that there were more bands like this on the globe. Website: http://www.blackwidowmetal.com.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
BYFIST- Preserving The Past (Rock It Up Records)
This was my album of the year in 2008. All the more reason to add a review of this awesome album here as quickly as possible. Yeah I know, it’s almost two years later, but better late than never. Anyway, the first time I heard this fifty minutes metal monster, I pushed the ‘repeat’ button right away to have another go. “Mary Celeste” opens and this is just the beginning of something that sounds awesome beyond believe! High (and I mean HIIIIIGH!!) vocal screams and a guitar solo that blew my mind! “Eternal Damnation” brings back a smile on my face, even in a time of crisis, war and nature taking so many lives with earthquakes, mud flows and volcanic ashes. When I hear those screaming guitars, my mind floats back to a world far outside this earthly thing. A place, where you can go within having to worry what the next day will bring you. “Left To Die” brings out the best in this band from Texas (where else?). While in “Meltdown”, they gain some speed and the metal feeling falls to place somewhere in the middle of this song. “Should Have Known” is a great headshaker. “Eyes Of Geneva” contains some sharp riffs and a guitar solo, that you must hear to believe it. “Midnight Mass” contains some unbelievable guitar sounds again and in “Inspiration”, we even hear the band nailed to some acoustic guitars for the intro. The song develops from there. First it starts off like some kind of ballad, but after a speed change, it turns into a mid-tempo song. It’s a very varied song and the ultimate metal track. “Judgement Day” however gets your neck twisted around again with some real filthy guitar work. Count me in for songs like that. “Love Will Find A Way” is the love ballad on this album. Just suffer the pain in this song and you’ll soon end up in “Hour Glass Of Time”, which will make you gasping for air again. Heavy guitar solos and high screams are all over the place. “Guaranteed Death” is the so- called bonus track on the album and a final chance to let out some sweat on this brutal grinder. BYFIST preserved the past very well with this compilation of their former EP’s “Adrenalin” and “You Should Have Known” on one silver disc, completed with the single “Hour Glass Of Time” / “Love Will Find A Way” and a special bonus track. If this album won’t satisfy your heavy metal hunger, you are definitely reading the wrong page! Website: www.myspace.com/byfist. Note: Also check out REVEREND – the other band of Davey, Nacho, Marco, Robb and Dave, when they aren’t involved with BYFIST.
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
CHOZZEN PHATE- Chozzen Phate (Counter Attack Records)
Another band, of which we only know a line up. This time it’s in the US metal style. CHOZZEN PHATE is from San Antonio, Texas. Where else? Their five track LP is a real must for fans of bands like old style FATES WARNING, SA SLAYER, HELLSTAR, MILITIA and WATCHTOWER. The guitarwork is f*cking fabulous, and singer Paul Deleon regularly screams his lungs out. That’s the way, we’d like to hear it. The songs are longer than average, ranging from five to seven and a half minutes, and full with exciting speed changes. Especially their singer will quite atonish you, I guess. Besides Paul, we hear John R. Castin on guitar, Reno Ozzram on guitar, Ted Wawrzyniak on bass and Joe Anthony Cramanti on drums. I keep on asking myself, how the hell it is possible, that a band like this never got famous. Just listen to the magic sound of “Lost Forever” on the B-side of this album, and you’ll know why the rating of this rough diamond is so high. Closer “The Ing” is another classic tune, which never received the recognition of a bigger audience. A real shame, considering the high potential this band shows us here. John Castin played in SYRUS, before joining CHOZZEN PHATE. The band started off their career, and in 1994 they pulled the plug. Much too soon, in my opinion, because this is the stuff the Texas metal scene is so well known about in the underground scene.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
COMMANDMENT- No Mercy (Pure Steel Records)
High pitching vocals is what I like to hear. David Nava of COMMANDMENT is high on my list, when it comes to impressive high screams. For me, this “No Mercy” album is a tribute to David, who died much too early. “Corrupted Youth” is a great opener already, but if you enjoy the high screams, better check out the next song “Betrayed”. I bet your flesh will creep! COMMANDMENT was already known for their LP “Engraved In Stone”, but this album is certainly a worthy follow up, which features more great material by this legendary US metal outfit. “Road To Nowhere” sounds quite balladesque . At least it has a slower vibe, but the screams of David sound perhaps even more maniacal than on “Engraved In Stone”. The “Guitar Solo” is short and it’s kind of like an introduction to “The Cell”. Besides the amazing vocals, you will also be positively surprised by some breathtaking guitar work on this one. Title track “No Mercy” sounds powerful and energetic and leaves nothing to be desired anymore. It contains a great drive and is a perfect mix between the best work of LIZZY BORDEN and JAG PANZER. While “Holding On” has got a more melodic edge to it. COMMANDMENT consists of Michael Anthony on drums, John Remesnik on guitar, Kevin Clayton on bass and David Nava on vocals. After the dead of David, the band was put on hold, but it seems like they have risen from the grave again and are working on a new album, with a new singer. The last two songs on this album are “Kamikaze”- a tremendous killer track, that takes off in fourth gear. David almost reaches the heights, that only Mike Soliz (MILITIA) is able to touch. My god, what a voice! He really has got “The Voice Of The Sphynx”, which is also the title of the very last song on this great album. David may not longer be with us, but his music and his magical voice will live on forever!!! Website: http://www.myspace.com/commandmenttheband.
(8,6/10- Toine van Poorten)
CRESCENT SHIELD- The Last Of My Kind
(Cruz Del Sur Music)
CRESCENT SHIELD already exists for a while. They were founded in 2000. Back then, the band was still not much more of a project. But when ONWARD decided to split up in 2003, the project became a real band. CRESCENT SHIELD consists of Dan DeLucie (ex-DESTINY'S END) on guitars and backing vocals, Michael Grant (ex-ONWARD ) on vocals, Craig Anderson (ex-IGNITE / ENGINE) on drums and bass 'beast' Melanie Sisneros (ex-NEW EDEN, THE IRON MAIDENS, SINERGY) completes the line up of this pure true metal outfit. Fans of NEW EDEN, DESTINY'S END and ONWARD don't have to hesitate. They can dig in without any doubt. Other influences, that I hear are from HELSTAR, JAG PANZER, MANILLA ROAD, early MAIDEN and early PRIEST, and perhaps the Australian metal band PEGAZUS. "The Last Of My Kind" is an ode to true metal, containing eleven songs and it lasts about fifty minutes. When the epic metal songs enters my room, I slowly start to raise my fists in the air. CRESCENT SHIELD has released one helluva album, which will surely get the adrenaline flowing through your veins. No wonder, when you have such veterans in your line up, although this doesn't always tell you anything about the musical direction of the band. Covered in beautiful artwork, this CD is a real 'must have' for all true metal warriors out there. Let the CRESCENT SHIELD guide you through the battlefield in real life. I am sure, you won't be able to find a better protection, because it's made of some of the purest metal around. Website: http://www.crescentshield.com.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
CROSS- Metal From Above (Steel Legacy Records)
Yet another rough diamond appears on vinyl. This time, it is the heavenly CROSS, a white metal band, who recorded these songs already in 1986. I always considered white metal as high quality music. But I also must confess, that I’ve only been interested in their music and not really in their holy message. If they would have sung about satan, I probably would have liked it, too. The music on this album sounds just awesome! Starting off with an instrumental tune, called “Sign Of The Cross”, comparable to for example the IRON MAIDEN classic “Transylvania”. However, CROSS certainly develops a style of their own, which has some influences of the old FATES WARNING and very early IRON MAIDEN sound. Just listen to titletrack “Metal From Above” and “Deliverance” and you’ll know what I mean. “The Ascension” sounds a bit slower though and could even be categorised as doomy. The first five songs on the album are taken from their demo, while the last three songs were recorded live at the Palace in Alberquerque. Clearly, we are dealing with a very promising band here and they also like to show us the more heavy side of the band. “Black Death” is almost a speed metal track. The lack of money kept the band from releasing an official album. Twenty years later, Steel Legacy rediscovered this rough diamond and released it on vinyl, thank heavens. “Final Journey” is one of the highlights from the album. It’s a good example of how to write an exciting epic metal anthem with a message. CROSS consisted of Steve Cano on drums, Mike Cano on bass, James Sanches on vocals, Tom Salas on guitar and Henry Chavez on guitar. I must warn you though, that the quality of the live songs is not that great. You could even call it poor, but it’s the exclusivity that counts. Throughout the years, I discovered a lot of interesting bands by demo tapes/CDs, that sounded much worse than this, so I’m more than fine to check out the band’s live abilities here as well. CROSS is a band, that might have been remembered by their name only, if someone didn’t take the time to release their stuff on vinyl. Now we can also remember what they sounded like. People, who are also interested in the message of the band can read the lyrics on the sheet, that comes with the album.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
DEADLY BLESSING- An Eye To The Past (Hellion Records)
I stood there and watched with my mouth wide open, a couple of months ago at the Keep It True festival in Germany. Now, that same feeling grabs me again, when listening to “An Eye To The Past”. Opener “Search And Destroy” is a true classic already. Biggest trademark of the band are the high, pinching vocals of Ski, who shows us that he’s a wonderful singer. That the band is also capable of writing some great metal songs, is made clear to us in a long anthem, called “Demise Of Faust”, comparable to the PURGATORY classic “Dante’s Inferno” for example. “Queen Of Sin” is a great song to sing along to during their shows, and “Headed For Disaster” is another cool song with the great vocals of Ski. “Cry Of Medusa” opens with the icely screams of MR Ski. What a great throat! Not too many singers are able to impress me more by their vocal abilities, than this man. And I should almost forget these great twin solos too. A good example of the quality of the axemasters is also given in “Cry Of Medusa”. A lot of power gets unleashed in “Warrior Unknown” and perhaps even more in “Immortal”, which sounds real close to the old sound of ICED EARTH for me. The CD closes with great versions of “Still In Vengeance” and “Strange Twist Of Fate”. Man oh man, metal can be so beautiful. This CD is a must to every devoted US metal fan out there. It’s “An Eye To The Past” and a whole future still lies ahead of them! DEADLY BLESSING consists of Ski (who also sings in FAITH FACTOR, his Christian power metal band!) on vocals, Nick Douglas on bass (who also plays with DORO and BLAZE), Tony Sgro on guitars (who is also a singer in his new band INSEX & ANGELS), Tom Umba on guitars (who also performs in a band called SOUL BE IT) and Wayne Sigman on drums (who also plays in Philly based band LECOMPT). This CD is really a (deadly) blessing to your ears. http://www.deadlyblessing.com.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
DEATH DEALER- Death Dealer
(Fils Du Metal Records / High Roller Records)
DEATH DEALER are the real deal in the Canadian speed metal scene. This double album is a brilliant overview of what this band, from the French part of Canada, is all about. DEATH DEALER consists of André Larouche on vocals, Marc Brassard on guitar and vocals, Yves Pedneault on guitar, Jean-Pierre Fortin on bass and Michel Larouche on drums. This double LP contains twenty high quality metal songs, starting off with a real highlight already, called “Sherry”, that takes away in fourth gear. In “Overshoot”, drummer Michel has to do some overtime. There is a certain amount of aggressiveness in André’s vocals, that adds a special touch of power to this great uptempo song. “Occident Tale” opens with a riff, that was directly taken from the big book with great metal riffs. It gives you some time to breath and takes back a little in speed. It reminded me of “Eternal Dark”, the well-known PICTURE song. “No Colors” is like an orgasm of guitar solos accompanied by a fast rhythm. While in “Cross My Way”, this waterfall of string bending simply continues… You just can’t stop banging your head here! This song, by the way, was also captured on the well-known “Metal Massacre 4” compilation. The B-side starts with “The Screamer”, in which we hear a good example of how two guitarists should share their lead parts with one another. While in “Far And Away”, the band steps on the gas again and takes away at full speed. “We Can’t Come Back” starts off with that very recognisable, super metal riff…. Simply awesome! Then it’s time for the band’s own anthem “Death Dealer”. I think, that every band should have one. The next highlight for me is “You Said Rock”, which is another firm metal song. “Under To Over” closes this record with more breathtaking guitar parts. “The Faddist” opens the second vinyl disc (side C). A video clip has been made for this particular song. “Just Until The Day” could almost be categorized as the ‘obligatory ballad’ on this double album. This song is supposed to have the biggest impact during their live shows as well. Live shows, that they did with bands like CONEY HATCH, ANVIL and VOI VOD to name but a few. “Coercion To Kill” is the title track, taken from their compilation album on Cult Metal Classics. “Just A Victim” is…… Hey, that’s “The Zoo” in DEATH DEALER style! It’s a nice tribute to the SCORPIONS, which is done in a very original way. I guess, we’ve nearly reached the end now. The D-side features five previously unreleased tracks, taken from the very early days of the band. They match very well to the other (and much better produced) songs on the album and give you a good overview of how the band sounded in the beginning. In “Die Hard”, we hear some JUDAS PRIEST influences, that are wandering around in some of the other songs as well. Although the sound quality is a little blurry at times, the songs are still highly enjoyable. In 2009, DEATH DEALER did a reunion gig with VOI VOD in Canada. And if my information is right, they might be playing at the Keep It True Festival in 2011 as well. Something to look forward to indeed, after hearing these high quality metal songs on this album. The compilation album contains many nice pictures, lyrics and extensive song by song comments and liner notes. A brilliant document and a ‘must have’ item for all metal fans out there!
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
ENCHANTER- Defenders Of The Realm
(Arkeyn Steel Records)
ENCHANTER was formed in 1984, in Jackson, Michigan, USA. The ten songs on this CD show you the talents of this epic metal band in almost fifty-five minutes. Already in opener “Thor” prove is given, that the band is surely able to deliver the goods. A solid rhythm, a fast pace, a good singer in the highs and lows and some mighty guitars with a lot of balls is presented in this great song. While in “Reckoned With A Call”, we’ll hear that the band is far more capable than playing some pretty much straight forward metal songs. Progressive metal influences pop up here as well and reminded me of early QUEENSRYCHE or older FATES WARNING stuff with the very high screams of the vocalist. It’s almost unlikely that this mighty instrumental interlude, is the same band as the one that bursted out that mighty opening tune. Listen to the many speed and mood changes that turn this song into a very exciting metal song indeed. Title track “Defenders Of The Realm” is on next, which opens with a fast rhythm. During the song, we hear another nice instrumental interval, which shows the talent of the band in addition to gain some more excitement. “Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier” opens with Bruce Dickinson-like vocals. It’s one of the highlights on the album for me. Again with a beautiful, sphereful mid-piece, followed by some ultra fast guitar attacks. It really showcases the mighty talent of this band. Officially, the song consists of three parts, being “Requiem”, “The Seventh Gate” and “The Resurrection”. The four songs you heard so far all came from the “Defenders Of The Realm” demo, recorded in 1988. The next four tracks are taken from the “Time Gone, Past Nevermore” demo from 1989. Starting with the title track, which shows more progressive outings and the music might be even more difficult to comprehend at once. It’s so technically educated, but I think I like this natural evolution a lot. Not only it shows the progression of this band, it also shows that the band is definitely willing to give all they’ve got. “Reckoned With A Call” is on this demo again in a re-recorded version. Vocally, the singer comes very close to JAG PANZER’s Harry ‘The Tyrant” Conklin, which he can take as a huge compliment! “Keepers Of The Dawn” is a great QUEENSRYCHE old school track with a great speed change at the end. The band constantly knows to surprise me with these unexpected changes. The last song from this four track demo from 1989 is called “Imaginary Throne” and once again it shows the epical, progressive side of the band, including the JAG PANZER-like vocals. The missing piece, recorded in 1990, but never used on any album before, closes the CD here. It starts with an “Intro”, followed by a lengthy, epic song, called “Ethereal Quarter”. It reveals the influences of the old FATES WARNING sound again. This band really had the capacity and potential to become very huge, but unfortunately that never really happened. Guitar player James Shellberg is now in a band, called LONGINGS PAST, which continues where ENCHANTER left off somewhere in the early nineties. ENCHANTER consists of Brian David Osborne on vocals, James Shellberg on guitar, Rich Nowlan on guitar, Jimmy Delamater on bass, Richard J, Copeland on drums and Harold Larue on keyboards on the first demo recordings. On the second demo the band introduces Kelly Rider on bass guitar. This line-up is also responsible for the lost track, but now with keyboards coming from Kelly Coleman.
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)
ENERGY VAMPIRES- Energy Vampires
(Shadow Kingdom Records)
I've never heard of a band called ENERGY VAMPIRES before. Shame on me, because once I heard this marvellous CD, I am really becoming a fan of the band. The album contains fifteen songs and fifty-five horror metal songs. If you listen very carefully to opener “Packin’ A Pistol” you’d almost believe, that you’re listening to unreleased material by CIRITH UNGOL! Yes, it’s that good. Perhaps “Blood Money” sounds even better and it shows the same influences. It’s exciting and full of pretty unexpected changes. It sounds wild and untamed and makes you wish for more. “Pull The Stake Out” contains some weird sounds, making it even more spooky than it already is. The high pitching screams will make your flesh crawl. “Rock ‘N’ Roll” has got a low rock level at first with the keyboard / piano sounds, but later on the screams return and it will positively surprise you! “Battle Axe” is another killer in the book of horror related US metal. But who exactly are these vampires, that come up to us from out of the blue? Well, main character is John Steart of SLAUTER XSTROYES and their high quality metal slowly becomes a lot clearer now. This is the band that John formed after SLAUTER XSTROYES quit in 1990. “Battle Axe” is a reworked version of the SLAUTER XSTROYES classic. “Mother Fucker” later on, will be the second reworked song from that era. “Different From The Rest” already blows my speakers and I can assure you, that you must hear this to believe it. It reaches the same high standard horror metal, that was already granted to RIPPER and HALLOWEEN. It sounds breathtaking and mindblowing at the same time. “Laboratory Door” must be played backwards to understand. “Footsteps In The Snow (On With The Show)” is a killer horror story in a nutshell, including an unexpected saxophone solo. What the heck, it still sounds like a killer track to me and I’m thrilled to hear more. The aforementioned classic “Mother Fucker” is on next, before the “Shock Treatment” rushes by, which is a powerful assault to your ears. “Broken Winged Angel” is a short spoken word interlude and an introduction to “My Eyes”, which we hear in the piano version next. Obviously, it’s a ballad-type of song, but it carries so much emotion without getting dull. “Livin’ In Peace” gives the album a kick start to the end. “On The Run” has got that specific creepy atmosphere, that simply makes it an outstanding song. The CD closes with the acoustic guitar version of “My Eyes”, a nice bonus to such an essential release. Next year a reunion of SLAUTER XSTROYES has been announced for Keep It True XIV, maybe the vampires will decide to come out the year thereafter, which would be absolutely awesome! Don’t say, this will never happen, because we’ve seen stranger things happening there. This reunion is high on my list, next to CIRITH UNGOL, and to be honest it probably will be a closer call than a CIRITH UNGOL reformation. Anyway, this is truly a killer CD and in case you are wondering, what the marvellous show of these vampires looks like…. The whole album is released on DVD as well, entitled “Exumed”. If you’re lucky enough, you might still be able to find yourself a copy of these wonderful items. This comes close to a full score.
(9,3/10- Toine van Poorten)
GRAVEN IMAGE- People In Hell Still Need Ice Water (independent)
Very high vocals and a powerful beat. Okay, you have my attention. “Warn The Children” is a great opener on this compilation album of GRAVEN IMAGE. It captures some songs of the band, recorded in 1982 already, the picture disc version of “Warn The Children” / “No Rest For The Wicked” and “The Dungeon Demos”. All together worthy of twelve great old school US Metal songs and a playing time of about fifty-five minutes. The sound of the demo recordings is a bit stuffy and softer than the other songs, but it’s the exclusivity that counts with these kind of products. The big man behind GRAVEN IMAGE is Rob Griffin. He has put this all together. The underground sound, this band created, has got some influences of old school IRON MAIDEN (Paul Di Anno era) here and there. Just listen to the way “Wings Of War” is build up, for example. But then with a singer with a much higher voice. “Locked And Loaded” has a heavy drum sound and is build upon some strong, solid riffs. Most of the demo songs are instrumentals, but they still give you a good idea of the strength of this band. One of the highlights is “Graven Image” / “Fool’s Tomorrow”, a medley of two songs, that starts slowly and ends with an uptempo part in the second song. I wonder, what it would sound like with lyrics. Now it’s more like a long instrumental jam of about seven and a half minutes, yet still sounding very exciting. The CD, which is also available on vinyl, sold many copies at the metal market at the Keep It True festival last April. I think, we can talk about a real cult classic here, that is a must for every devoted US Metal freak out there. For more info, visit: http://www.rockhausrecords.com.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
GRAVEN IMAGE- Emperor Of Eternity
(High Roller Records)
“People In Hell Want Ice Water” was my first thought, when buying this record. How could I be so wrong, as this is a different GRAVEN IMAGE, my friend! This band hails from Kansas and actually their music sounds almost as exciting as the other GRAVEN IMAGE. By the way, there are a handful of other bands, called GRAVEN IMAGE. This one however intended to release their second album “Modern Alchemy” before they unfortunately split up. From the first moment on, my thoughts immediately go out to that other well-known band from Kansas (besides KANSAS of course), namely MANILA ROAD. Heraldic, epic lyrics and lengthy songs that grab you by the balls. In that respect, “Emperor Of Eternity” is a worthy opener, and you’ll know at once what to expect from this double album, that contains fifteen songs. “Skies Of Hail” probably sounds even better and sometimes I hear the nasal sound of Ozzy Osbourne’s vocals, backed up by some great guitar work, that splatters in the second part of the solo, which is really mindblowing! This song is so fascinating and maybe a comparison to the old RUSH sound should be in its place here. They also knew to amaze me with their surprising breaks and amazing licks. A definite highlight in my book, that’s for sure. GRAVEN IMAGE already recorded an EP in 1995 with most of the songs from this double album and an album, called “Emperor Of Eternity”with all the songs available here as well. One question remains though: what the heck happened to the recordings of “Modern Alchemy”? Maybe we should ask the members of DOOMSHADE about it, which is in fact a resurrection of GRAVEN IMAGE but under a different name. Anyway, let’s go back to the album with “Leif’s Saga”. This is another song with a nice speed break in the middle, right before the guitar solo starts. It’s another tribute to the Vikings. The B-side starts off with “Avalon”, the GRAVEN IMAGE version of “Goodbye To Romance” (to give you an idea of what to expect). “The Search” opens slowly, but when the guitars take over the battlefield and the heads start banging to the high speed rhythm, there’s no escape! There’ s a lot happening here, so you’d better sit down and absorb it well. “Walking Dead” contains the kind of singing, that made MEGADETH’s Dave Mustaine famous in the first place and it sounds very different from what I’ve heard until now. The axework though is mindblowing as ever. “Given” shows the huge influence of OZZY and BLACK SABBATH to the music of GRAVEN IMAGE… Just listen to these mighty riffs in this one! The B-side closes with another SABBATH-like song, called “Take You”. That voice is a dead ringer for Ozzy in his glory days. The C-side of the record opens with “Graven Image”, a nice epic tribute song to the band’s name. “Game Of Iron” starts slow, but little by little it evolves into a fast headbanger with some nice mood changes. “Crusaders” takes you back to the old dark monasteries with Gregorian chants. Quickly, it becomes the second highlight on this double album for me. It’s fast, furious, mysterious and after hearing this excellent metal tune, you almost feel like a real ‘crusader’ yourself. Believe me! “Dancing With The Devil” closes this third side. “Lost In A Dream” opens side D with some very interesting choir vocals. A more doomy sound is being displayed in the live version of “Burn It Down”. Showing that the band is also capable of performing these great epic songs in a live setting. With “The Beast”, we have come to the closure of this album, which is also done live. The two live tracks were recorded at the Agora Theater in Cleveland, Ohio, USA in 2002. These songs were actually meant to be on the “Modern Alchemy” album. I am getting even more curious now…. Responsible for all these beautiful epic metal tracks on “Emperor Of Eternity” are Maxx Christopher on vocals and guitar, James Haupt on guitar, Olly Oliver on drums and Charles Galipeau on bass. Fans of BLACK SABBATH and MANILLA ROAD can easily dig in - they won’t be disappointed!!!
(8,8/10- Toine van Poorten)
HALLOWEEN- Evil Pieces 6/6/6 (MGM Records)
When the band starts off with “Angel Of Evil” on this twenty minutes six tracker, I am already gone! The sound of the Detroit based HALLOWEEN, in combination with their world famous horror show is simply unbeatable! And to me, they are one of the ultimate US metal acts out there. It’s a short song, which contains all the ingredients that you need for a good metal song. Great singing, a good guitar solo and played at full speed. “Hell” contains a bit more PANTERA like grooves, but the voice of Brian Thomas is so recognisable, turning it into another fine HALLOWEEN classic. After that we hear three ‘old classics’ in a stunning 2006 version. “Don’t Metal With Evil”, “Evil Nation” and “To Fight The Beast” get this treatment and I think, they all stood the test of time pretty easily. Last, but definitely not least, you can go to hell, if you don’t like these five songs already. Sorry, but then you’re definitely listening to the wrong band. The German band is spelled as HELLOWEEN. Oh, by the way, the last song is called “Go To Hell” and it’s a cover of the old ALICE COOPER classic, which matches very well to the sound and image of this Detroit US Metal outfit. Just listen to the voice of Brian. You can’t tell the difference between Brian and Alice, can you? And this is only the beginning, the review of the full-length album will be on next. It’s good to hear that the guys, who created ‘The Heavy Metal Horror Show’ are back with a bang!
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
HALLOWEEN- Horror Fire (MGM Records)
After the spoken intro “I Am”, the band cranks out the dark “Wake Up Screaming”. Yes folks, this is the beginning of the new HALLOWEEN CD “Horror Fire”. Listening to this, it gives me the same feeling all over again, while listening to their debut album. The magical voice of mastermind Brian Thomas and the mindblowing songs are another treat for the fans. There is pain in his voice. It has the sound of an ominous curse that comes down upon you.You can hear, that the story does not have an happy ending. And it fits perfectly to the sound of the band. It’s all horror metal to the max. As you can see, this album is only suitable for people with strong nerves. The instrumental force on this brand new album comes from guitarplayer Donnie Allen, who is great in playing riffs and solos, that are as sharp as a dagger. George Neal is on the four steel threads, that music lovers mostly refer to as the bulldozer bass guitar. Rob Brug brings the thunder into HALLOWEEN’s sound with his exploding drum sound. “The End & The Beginning” is a short ‘song’, that resumes the ‘Amytiville Story’ in about two bloody minutes. Very well done, and pretty spooky! You won’t be very happy after listening to all the dark stories, that have espaced from Brian’s mind, but the music and the sound of the band will make up for that pretty easily. “Horror Fire” is the soundtrack to your worst nightmare. For all the weak-hearted I would like to say, pleasant dreams, you suckers! The diehards will have another listen to the album, before they go to sleep. Because there are also some backwards messages to be found on this new album of HALLOWEEN, I thought it’s wise to put my score for the album upside down on the bottom of this review as well. That’s the only way I can reward this album the proper way.
(66’6/01- Toine van Poorten)
HALLOW’S EVE- History Of Terror
Wow! What a great overview of the history of HALLOW’S EVE. A remarkable speed metal band, based in Atlanta, Georgia. The band consisted of Stace Anderson on vocals, who lets out some high screams every now and then. He could be categorised as a metal singer rather than a speed metal singer. Furthermore, there’s Tommy Stewart on bass, Skellator or Skully on guitar, Ronny Appoldt on drums and David Stuart on guitars. “Tales Of Terror” is a cult album in my book. It contains timeless speed metal classics, like opener “Plunging To Megadeath”, “Valley Of The Dolls”, “Metal Merchants” and “Hallow’s Eve” (including “Routine”). It has got the excecutioner on the front cover of their debut album, in combination with the great fast songs, which turn this into a must have album in your metal collection. The first CD in this package contains a remastered version of this album. After that, there is a remastered version of the band’s second album “Death & Insanity”. Their music matured on this second album and maybe it even sounds a little less raw than on the debut album. There is one big highlight on this album and that’s the lengthy track Lethal Tendencies”. A short instrumental interlude like “Obituary” would never have been allowed on “Tales Of Terror”. Now it has become a nice, short piece of rest, efore the band sink into “Plea Of The Aged”. On “Suicide”, we hear that they have slowly developed their sound into a more thrashy style. In those days, Skellator had left the band to pursue a more theatrical and heavy direction. Exclusive on this first CD are the rehearsal tracks “The Mansion” and “Metal Prisoners” from 1984. Despite the poor sound quality, it’s a nice bonus for the diehard fans of the band. The twenty-one songs on this first disc have a total playing time of about seventy-five minutes. That’s what I call value for money. The HALLOW’S EVE story continues on disc two. This CD contains a remastered version of “Monument”, and is worthy of fourteen songs with a playing time of about seventy minutes. It contains a raunchy version of the QUEEN classic “Sheer Heart Attack”. What a classic! It can be heard after the CD opener and band classic “Speed Freak”. Title track “Monument” sounds very much like ANTHRAX in their glory days. “Madhouse” might come very close to “Monument”. However, the riffs in “Pain Killer” sound more like early TESTAMENT, very brutal and raw. Let me be honest with you here. I think, that “Monument” is a really good album, but their debut remains the highlight in their career so far. Listening to the two songs on their demo “Tales Of Terror”, I can only conclude that these two songs were maybe even better (read: rawer) than the songs on their debut album. The eight minute “Hallow’s Eve” is a rough diamond and “Metal Merchants” has always been one of my favorite songs. The second CD in this package closes with some rehearsals from 1984. Hear the band crank out nice versions of metal classics, like “Screams In The Night” (EXCITER) and “Eighteen” (ALICE COOPER), next to own penned material as “There Are No Rules”(very punky) and “Hallow’s Eve” with drum outtro. The third disc in this full package contains four different live parts. Together worthy of eighteen songs and seventy-five (!!!) minutes of live power, recorded in 1985 and 1986. Of course, the different sound quality is something to be aware of. The recordings are from different sources, but they give you a good idea of what a live show of HALLOW’S EVE sounds like. A valhalla for old tape traders like myself. On the first nine songs, recorded at CBGB’s in Manhattan, New York City, we find back the previously unreleased track “Evil Offerings”. The set closes with a blurry sound of “Hallow’s Eve”, but this is only for a single minute. This long set is followed by two songs, recorded in Essex, Maryland, which both have a fair sound. Five songs were recorded in 1986 at a place, called Swizzles in York, Philadelphia. They have a much darker sound, but these recordings are still a good listen. And they also mark a different time, containing some more material of the “Death & Insanity” album. The live CD closes with two songs recorded at the Montreal Palladium in Montreal, Canada. What more can you ask for? The CD booklets hold a treasure of information and there is a fourth disc included as well, which contains DVD material recorded in Poughkeepsee, New York, Middletown, New York, Swizzles in York, Philadelphia and Brooklyn, New York, where the band opened for CRUMBSUCKERS and ANTHRAX. What a great package for an underrated band. Their comeback on the European stages was not a big success so far. I do hope, that the band gets their shit together and will return to their sound in the glorious days, like we can relive on this magnificent package. A must for every devoted HALLOW’S EVE fan and the heavy metal fan in general.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
HEATHER LEATHER- Princess Leather (independent)
It’s about time somebody here in Europe will write about this superb all-female heavy metal band from America. HEATHER LEATHER consists of Sylvia Garza on guitar and backing vocals, Sandy Garza on drums and backing vocals and Ruth Garza on drums and vocals. Opener and title track “Princess Leather” obviously has a very underground feel. This is not a perfect production, but it’s all-female heavy metal pur sang. The CD was recorded in 1988 already and now it finally sees the light of day in a very limited quantity of 250 copies. There are eight songs on this thirty minutes CD, including the seven inch single these leather princesses released in 1985. Some of the pictures show the ladies in an outfit that could have been worn by a MARIAH CAREY or CHRISTINA AGUILERA, but in general they are dressed in the well-known leather, chains and studs outfit, that you probably will know of bands like JUDAS PRIEST, TYRANT or DESTRUCTION. Same applies to their music, but here the differences are not that extreme. Opener “Princess Leather” is awesome, while “Angel Lover” sounds quite average. “Screaming Angels” makes up for that little mistake pretty easily. Great drum sounds, high screaming vocals and guitars that cry even more. Perfect! Same goes for “Let’s Rock”. These latino babies are so damn hot, it’s very hard to believe that they didn’t become real super stars in their days of existence. They sound incredible! The machine gun like drum fills are almost a point of recognition and turn the album into something really special. “Now You Return” is the obligatory ballad here. I think, every good metal album needs one. “Pretty Shy Boy” shows us the latino salsa origin (Mexico) of the band members. SANTANA fans may like this, but it’s not metal. Next we hear “We Came To Destroy”, which sounds like true metal again and contains a great guitar solo of Sylvia. You may recognise this song from their seven inch single in 1985. The CD closes with the song “Undercover”, which sounds very much like LITA FORD. But if you listen carefully, you might recognise the flipside of this seven inch, which was at that time called “Child Molester”. Literally, it has gone undercover now! Never thought, we would run into a full-length album by this sexy, all-female cult metal band, but I am glad we did anyway. If any former bandmember(s), relative(s), or other person(s), who reads this review and knows the ex-band members of HEATHER LEATHER, please be so kind to get them in contact with us, so we can finally find out what happened to these three hard rocking ladies, that sometimes looked like MARIAH CAREY, but sounded more like JUDAS PRIEST. I bow deeply for “Princess Leather”, because these three latino girls are HELL BENT FOR (HEATHER) LEATHER!!
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
HEXEN- Dark Crucible (Eternal War Records)
There are many bands on this planet, who call themselves HEXEN. This one is for me the most exciting of them all. This is HEXEN from New Jersey, who present their debut CD, called “Dark Crucible”. Twelve songs, worthy of a full hour of merciless heavy metal are pushed on this silver disc, ready to be explored by hungry metalheads like me. “March Of The Tyrants” is a true opener, in which the band likes to present themselves. “Sever The Wicked” points in which direction we must think to get a proper description of the sound of the band. I hear influences of MANILLA ROAD on one side and also a good dose of firm US true metal with touches of death metal here and there on the other side. “Requiem” is an uptempo song. “J.A.I.” is fast as well, but it starts off slower. Once again my thoughts go out to MANILLA ROAD, mainly because of the vocals parts, I guess. I liked the sudden speed changes in “J.A.I.” a lot, by the way. The galopping beat in the beginning of “Bloodsucker” (no, not a DEEP PURPLE cover!) would be just perfect for some headbanging, so you’d better be prepared, when they are about to play this live! “A New Age” is much slower and it has a more epical approach. The speed change and guitarsolo at the end of this song sounds quite impressive! Next one, “Rebirth”, sounds very brutal. It contains some blast beats and it has got a great double bass drum part. The lengthy “Never Tempt A God” shows some resemblance to JAG PANZER in a way, especially the icely high scream of The Warlord, which is a heart-rending cry. The sound of the battlefield leads to “Under The Banner Of Blood”. Followed by a brutal thrashy monster, called “Carving A Crimson Career”. “The Battle Of Port Royal” is on next and together with the previous two songs, it forms some kind of trilogy, which is actually based upon the 1935 movie “Captain Blood”. I think, this is probably the highlight of the album. The CD closes with a song, called “Korax”, which has got a very powerful drive, especailly at the end. HEXEN has proven to be a good powerful, epic metal band and they have delivered a solid debut album, that’s very moreish. Now you only need be sure that you pick the right HEXEN album, when this music appeals to you.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
HYDROGYN- Bombshell (DARecords LLC)
This band was recommened to us by TWILIGHT ODYSSEY's guitarist Ben Asaro. Thanks Ben, without your help, this review would not have been possible. And Ben did an excellent job here, because we're dealing with one of the very few new bands, that is not scared to play straight forward hard rock or classic rock. Rock to fill huge arenas and stadiums. Throwing me back in time about twenty years ago, where it was still cool to let your hair hang down and bang your head to the sound of AC/DC or any other famous band back in those days. I name AC/DC with a reason here, but more about that later on. Let's first introduce HYDROGYN a bit closer to you. We have Jerry Lawson on drums, Dave Moody on bass, Jeff Boggs on guitar, Jeff Westlake on guitar and Julie on vocals. Straight forward 'in- your-face' hard rock with influences of bands like WHITESNAKE, SKID ROW, GUNS 'N' ROSES, CINDERELLA, HEART, DEF LEPPARD and of course AC/DC. A song like "Breaking Me Down" would not have looked bad on any of the later WHITESNAKE albums for example. Yes, there is a little touch of "Still Of The Night" in there, but you will only recognise it, if you're 106 years old, like me. Young people, who dig this sound, won't even give it a moments thought. Most of the songs on this album will make your adrenaline level rise. And if the sound of the band doesn't take care of that, the looks of Julie will definitely do the job. I like her clear sound. She's definitely not a screamer, and you can easily understand what she is singing about. The album contains fourteen tracks, and has a total running time of about fifty minutes. Last but not least, the album was produced by Michael Wagener, who we may know for his work with million selling acts like OZZY OSBOURNE, SKID ROW and ALICE COOPER. Not a bad accomplishment, when you know that the band only consists about two and a half years now. There is still a market for bands like HYDROGYN, because their music is timeless. Perfect for long highways, a night in a bar playing pool, or at a festival with 200,000 people shouting and screaming, you name it. The sky is the limit for this band. It's a bomber, it's a bomber! Oh, and before I forget it: here's the link to AC/DC!! They do an excellent cover of "Back In Black", which should be an important reason of buying yourself a copy of "Bombshell". Julie's voice sounds a bit like P.J. of TWILIGHT ODYSSEY here. Great! HYDROGYN is a name to remember. Julie's 'naughty' picture (HEEEEEEEELP, this girl is on fire!!!!), signed with "Keep Rocking", is hanging above my bed now. Not that I need to be reminded to keep rocking, but it surely reminds me that hard rock is still alive through bands like this (nudge, nudge - wink wink - say no more!). Need I say more? I will definitely try to get in touch with Julie and this band, because they scream for more attention. To be continued. Website: http://www.hydrogyn.com (For an interview with this band, have a look at the Metal Maidens website at http://www.metalmaidens.com).
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
JADED- Jaded (independent)
Last year, it was SCARLET ANGEL, who rocked our world. This year, it is JADED! The press map they send us is quite IMPRESSIVE, to say the least. Their looks (high heels and lots of glitter, glamour, latex and looooooong hair), their music, the CD, the way they write their name, the pictures of the ladies, it's all too good to be true. From opener "Get Up" on, my fist goes straight in the air. This is the sound I would like to hear. Think about GIRLSCHOOL, think about WASP, think about KISS - it's all there. Catchy, yet still very heavy indeed. I hope, they will have a stable line up, so we can enjoy this band for a long, long time, because there is a lot of hidden talent in these four ladies, that go by the name of JADED. The line up of the band consists of Julie Steel on vocals, Britt Lightning on guitars and vocals, Abbey Dragon on bass and vocals and Hillary Blaze on drums and vocals. All together, they are a dream come true for every true rocker out there. Okay, sometimes a song like "Fire" may sound to modest for people, who only dig the hundred miles per hour speed monsters. But when I hear the opening riffs in "Tragic", then I know for sure we're dealing with some hot, well-talented ladies here. Just listen to a song like "We'll Be Strong" or "Fever" (is that Eddie Van Halen playing the solo??) and I bet, that you're dying to hear more from these four ass kicking ladies. The band has already shared the stage with great names like DAMAGE PLAN, GEORGE LYNCH, SKID ROW, STRYPER, TESLA and WASP. I guess, they even made Blackie Lawless look pale after their show. They are ANIMALS, they R*ck like a beast! I will sacrifice myself to enter the lion's den and I kindly ask for permission to do an interview with these four 'Metal Maidens Of Steel', as they call themselves. If you do not hear from me anymore after this review, dial 911 and ask for help immediately. I take the risk, because I urgently need to be JADED! Killer stuff, full score, no further questions please, for more information go to: http://www.jadedrocks.com (For an interview with the ladies, please go to the website of Metal Maidens at http://www.metalmaidens.com).
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
KINGSCROSSING- Kingscrossing (independent)
Metal fans raise your swords, because the debut album of KINGSCROSSING is a true killer!!! Eleven songs with a total playing time of forty-five minutes, showing us that true metal is still very much alive. The band hails from Arizona, where they polished their best armour and sharpened their axes, before going to battle. The five warriors of metal can be proud of their album. No clichées, no GAMMA RAY or HELLOWEEN-like galloping beats, but powerful metal hymns is what you get, spiced up with some great twin axework. Just listen to a song like “Powersource” to get the idea what the two axemasters have in mind for you. “Brainwashed” starts off quite interesting and it will catch your attention right away. Get a load of riffage in this song, it’s great! “Nightmares” opens with a drum intro similar to “Run To The Hills” of IRON MAIDEN in 1982. The rest of the song could well be on any old SAVATAGE album. While “Reflections” sounds more like the old QUEENSRYCHE stuff in the early days. As you can see, there is plenty of variation in the sound of KINGSCROSSING, and they sounds like some of the best old school metal bands. In “Angels In The Night”, singer Michael Adams sounds like a Ronnie James Dio. The song shows some similarity with “Stars” of the short lived HEAR ‘N AID PROJECT. “Stalker” and “Bed Of Nails” can be categorised as great songs, but in my opinion “Rapid Fire” is one of the definite highlights on this CD. It’s not the JUDAS PRIEST cover, that goes by the same name, but it does have the same power as this metal anthem. ‘You live by the sword, die by the sword’, backed with an ultraheavy riff, yes that’s the shit I wanna hear. The CD closes with the short “Stuck In A Hole”. Just one last check. Was this album recorded in 1982 or in 2006? It was recorded in 2006 by a band called KINGSCROSSING, consisting of Michael Adams on vocals, Zack Grimm on lead guitar, Richie Pagan on lead guitar, Rob Shock on bass and D. Hying on drums. KINGSCROSSING, a name to remember, if old school heavy metal is your thing!
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
KING’S RANSOM- Curators Of The Realm
(Steel Legacy Records)
Think about the Texas metal scene, think of the eighties, think KING’S RANSOM, and you’ll know that we have an interesting release here. KING’S RANSOM consists of Don Edwards on vocals, Richard Ibanez on bass, Allen Brunelle on drums and John Anthony Alvarado (ex-WYZARD) on guitar. Four ‘curators of the realm’, compiled on twelve exciting songs here. The first four songs were taken from the EP “Curators Of The Realm”, originally released in 1989. The rest of the material on this LP is previously unreleased. Another exciting release from Steel Legacy Records, where the past relives. Opener “The Palace” might have been a crowd pleaser during their live gigs back in those days. It invites you to shout along to the words ‘into the palace’ during this song. The second track is a very powerful song about “Caged Animals”, where the animals also shout their lungs out during this visit in their territory. In “New Horizons” we hear the spirit of old JETHRO TULL wander around. While in “Pipe Dream Visions” we hear a leading role for former WYZARD, Texas guitarist John Anthony Alvarado. The rest of the material is previously unreleased and captured live, starting with “Ares God Of War”. During the last song on side A, it’s time to introduce the band to you in a song called “King’s Ransom”. The songs are recorded live and what you hear is what you get. Hard biting guitar attacks generate the perfect backdrop for the old RUSH-like song structures. In “Witches’ Castle” and “Feel The Power”, you can already sense that magic combination. The main reason why I chose to compare the band to the old RUSH material is because of the voice of Dan Edwards, that shows a lot of resemblance to Geddy Lee’s. Just listen to some parts of “The Lost Masquerade” here. Okay, the guitars are much louder and perhaps more aggressive, but I hope you’ll get my point. If you didn’t, then a good listen to “Prophecy Dreams” might help you. Here, the music even shows some comparison to RUSH’s “YYZ”. “Chess” continues and shows a more epical side of the band, because of the synthesizers. This marvellous song ends with an incredible guitar solo of John. One of the absolute highlights on this great album for me! The solo goes on and on, but fades in the end. “Nomad’s Lust”, a fast rocker, closes the B-side of this album. KING’S RANSOM is a diamond in the rough and ready to be explored by all the heavy metal fans out there. The inlay contains some pictures, the lyrics to all the songs and a short biograpy of this Texas metal outfit.
(8,7/10- Toine van Poorten)
LEATHERWOLF- World Asylum (Massacre Records)
It’s weird, but I always like to compare bands with their early work. In the case of LEATHERWOLF, I have to turn back the time about twenty-five years. However, the mid-seventies until the mid-eighties are still so clear in my mind, that it’s really easy to compare this new stuff to their material from that given time. And I must say, that LEATHERWOLF never disappointed me. Their music may have undergone some changes, and it dwells with a more new fashioned sound here and there, but it still rocks like hell. Guitarplayer Geoff Gayer and drummer Dean Roberts are the ones who survived the battle. The other band members nowadays are Eric Halpern on guitars, Wade Black (ex CRIMSON GLORY) on vocals and Pete Perez (ex RIOT) on bass. The power metal on “World Asylum” sounds ultra cool and songs like “Live Or Die” will start you headbanging like a madman. Listen to the killer axe attacks in all the different songs, making you realise that this is just a very strong new metal album of the wolves in leather. “Institutions” is a dark song, which sounds a little bit different, including some sick, distorted vocals. Maybe it’s the odd one out, but to me it’s one of the songs that keeps this album in balance. Other bands use a ballad for that. LEATHERWOLF decided to use a dark, slower song. With “Derailed” though, they spit fire again. Then they start their search for the holy grail. In “The Grail”, Wade sings like Brian Thomas of HALLOWEEN. Not in the slower parts, but the parts in the beginning of the song. The CD closes after forty-five minutes with “Never Again”. But I think I will definitely give it another spin or two-three, because LEATHERWOLF proves there is still room for decent power metal. Check out the bands website at http://www.leatherwolfmusic.com.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
THE GREG LEON INVASION- Unfinished Business
GREG LEON is a well-known name in the metal scene. WISHING WELL was one of the bands that he played in, with whom he recorded a great album. He also was in DOKKEN, before George Lynch and collaborated with Tommy Lee in a band, called SUITE 19. He was Randy Rhoad's successor in QUIET RIOT, when he left to play in OZZY OSBOURNE’S BLIZZARDS OF OZZ. But you may also know him from his work with bands like ROUGH CUTT and MARSHALL LAW (which is a quite impressive list, if you’d ask my humble opinion!). As a guitarplayer he sure knows to astonish people like me. His playing comprises several styles, from sensitive to fast and ultra heavy. “Unfinished Business” contains ten songs and has a playing time of about fifty minutes. The musical influences on this CD range from FRANK MARINO (“The Answer” sounds a bit similar to the FRANK MARINO song that has the same title!) to old VAN HALEN stuff (“In The Middle”, where the singer sounds like a mix between David Lee Roth and Ian Astbury of THE CULT). The more sensitive side of Greg can be heard in “Could Have Been In Love”. My personal faves though are CD opener/title track “Unfinished Business” and CD closer “Fever”. To hear them both, I played the whole CD again, because all the other songs contain some extremely hot guitarwork. And although the band only consists of three people, they really know to create a full and powerful sound. Next to Greg Leon on guitar and vocals, we hear Greg Stevens on drums and backing vocals and George Roelke on bass and backing vocals. Some people consider bonus tracks or hidden tracks (some people even like to call them ‘eastern eggs’) a waste of space or fillers. I won’t call the long nameless jam on this album a filler though. Greg likes to show his appreciation for the long instrumental parts of FRANK MARINO here in a great instrumental outing, that lasts for over fifteen minutes. I would say, they saved the best for last. Bring these guys over to Europe soon. They’ll make you relive the good old days again! Website: http://www.gregleoninvasion.com.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
MAXINE- Don't Hate Me (Angelina Records)
“Don’t Hate Me” is the title of the second solo CD by Maxine Petrucci. And my answer would be: certainly not! I will never hate someone, who released such awesome songs, like “Max Attacks” (from her 2005 CD “Titania”), which is still in my CD player quite frequently! While listening to “Arithmetac”, the opening track off her new album “Don’t Hate Me”, I know that I will walk around with a bright smile on my face for at least the rest of the year, after hearing all these great hard rock anthems! The blistering guitar sound of MAXINE is the absolute highlight on this forty minutes ballbiter. “Check Me Out” is a song, that you really must check out and it contains more fabulous axe sounds by Maxine. The title track opens with some very vicious opening riffs. I must be in heaven. What a gorgeous sound! That shredding (lead) guitar solo is so f*cking mean! It reminded me of VINNIE VINCENT for a moment - a guitar shredder extraordinary in my book of faves. After three serious kicks in the nuts, I’m down and already gasping for some air. MAXINE has respect for the situation and takes back some speed in “Left Behind”, however in the guitar solo she loses control again and knows to impress me one more time. “Generation Me” sounds a bit punky and it’s back to full speed ahead again. And if this isn’t enough, the speed goes up even more in “My QT”, that will probably remind you a bit of “Hot For Teacher” (VAN HALEN). What a great song! I think, that “Don’t Hate Me” (the album) maybe sounds better than the already incredible “Titania” (if that’s possible, in my eyes). The next song; “Need You Here” is also packed with a lot of power again. Maxine’s partner-in-crime on this album is Charlie Grover (PAPER STREET SAINTS) on drums. They are helped out by Roxy Petrucci on drums, Paul Petrucci on bass and Darren Trentacost on keyboards. “Caught Off Guard” reminded me of “Black Velvet” (ALANNAH MYLES) in a way, which is meant as a compliment. While “Razzed” is raging on again and keeps you foccused and sharp. The CD closes with “Spent”. MAXINE is back for sure and her new album made a huge impression on me! This lady is a real guitar wizard of her own kind, and nobody can come close to her skills being a true shredder. We don’t hate you for this new CD, we just LOVE you for this fabulous new album! A real must have album for everyone, who loves his (or her) music loud and appreciates a good wild and sharp guitar solo!!! Website: http://www.myspace.com/maxinepetrucci.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
MILITIA- Released (Scythe Records)
When you are one of the very few lucky people to own a copy of their original EP, you have some pure gold in your hands! MILITIA from Texas released “The Sybling” in1986, which is by far the most wanted EP in the metal scene of today and people are still willing to pay outrageous prices to get their hands on one. The CD, I have here also sounds like pure gold to me. Now this is what I’d like to hear! Song after song, it’s really fascinating to hear the high screams of Mike Soliz and the inimitable guitarwork by Jesse Villegas and Tony Smith. Add to this, the innovative rhythm section part of Phil Achee on drums and Robert Willingham on bass guitar, and you’ll have the perfect thrash metal combo. Already from opener “Metal Axe” (that invites you to scream along!) on, you will get an idea what MILITIA is all about. Mind you, they are not playing the most simple material and you must really like a speed change or two (or three or four) to comprehend the complex song structures. But once you’ll understand the beauty of it all, this is a document to enjoy to the max, especially when you turn up the volume full blast. “Search For Steel” is on next and of course the high pinching screams are there, too. One of the highest notes, that Mike ever reached, are in the beginning of “Regiments Of Death”, the title track off their 1985 demo, from which these three songs were taken. Like I mentioned already, “The Sybling” EP was released in 1986, consisting of “Objective Termination”, “Salem Square” and title track “The Sybling”. Listening back to those songs in 2009, I can easily understand why this EP is worth so much money. Just listen to the title track and you’ll catch my drift pretty easily. Phil starts up this wonderous piece of art. It sounds as if the band RUSH gets in the ring and their music is being quadruplicated. After this part of percussion juggling, the fun starts… The first riffs are worth a million already. Then there’s the precision, by which they lay down this instrumental muscularity, before returning to that million worthy very recognisable riff again. I would gladly donate my left leg, if I could come up with such an innovative structure like that. This song sounds really brilliant from the beginning until the very end and nobody can offer any resistance. Mix the old RUSH sound with a touch of thrash metal and you’ll come close to the fabulous sound on this EP. Oh, and don’t forget to check out the icely high screams of Mike at the end of “Salem Square”, too. After the release of the EP, MILITIA released another demo, which is on next here. “Talking To The Stone” and “No Submission” sound less thrashy, but the guitarwork and the complex structures are still there. Only two songs were recorded for the “No Submission” demo. I wonder, what happened to songs like “Bangathon” and “The Nights Of Sarai” from that same period? Who knows, they might turn up sometime. “Thrash To Destroy” simply completes the whole picture. It’s one of the first songs, that has ever been recorded by MILITIA, but it was never released on tape or whatsoever. MILITIA was a starting band and didn’t really have the means to record four songs instead of three on this first demo. So the song was polished in 2008 and now we’re able to hear the ‘complete’ “Regiments Of Death’ demo with the addition of this song. “Onslaught” is on next, recorded in a raw rehearsal version. The mind blowing guitar parts will easily make up for the lesser sound quality. It’s one of the earliest recordings of MILITIA back to 1984 and it simply can not be missed on a compilation album like this. The last two songs are live recordings of “Objective Termination” and “Regiments Of Death”. People, who complain about the sound quality will be executed, because these recordings are priceless for the real MILITIA fan. A professional sound quality may follow in the future maybe, but for now it’s the exclusivity that counts. After fifty five minutes, it’s all over, but I do have a ‘repeat’ button on my stereo set and the impressive CD booklet is a great read as well. It comes with a comprehensive biography, written by bass player Robert Willingham, loads of great pics and some absolutely mega awesome flyers of the many live shows are listed in a chronological order in here. Meeting the band in person in April of this year was one of the most memorable moments of my entire life. These guys are absolutely the most friendly, down to earth, warm and nice people, you can ever imagine! And their live show was just perfect. So forget about the different sound quality here and there, and enjoy this great album. There is no doubt in my mind about a full score for these guys from Texas! That should say enough to people, who know me. A must to every devoted heavy metal and thrash metal freak out there. Thank you Mike, Robert, Tony, Jesse and Phil for making such excellent music! MILITIA RULES!
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
MOURNING SUN- The End Is Imminent (independent)
MOURNING SUN is a continuation of the horror metal band NIGHT CREATURES from Detroit. That’s only some information in a nutshell, before I’d like to review their CDs here. MOURNING SUN released two CDs, both under the same title. Why? Why not, there’s no punishment on that. One CD has the English title, while the second CD title is in Latin. Since my Latin is not that well, I took the liberty to listen to “The End Is Imminent” first. What we hear is very powerful metal. Opener “Fortress” already tickles my papillas, but the train gets rolling during “The Breath Of Charon”, with its ultraheavy, sludgy, BLACK SABBATH-like speed. Yes, this is the stuff I like to listen to. In “Emily”, we hear a very nice guitar solo, and I jump up again during “Broken Jaw Of Fate”, where strong guitar riffs open the song. “Night Princess” is another nice rocker, which starts with some grinding guitar parts. The CD closes with a song called “Evilize”, which bears some METALLICA elements. Later on though, it transforms into the old JUDAS PRIEST-like sound, especially because of the icy screams of Eric W Johnson. This makes my mouth water! Eight songs and forty minutes of solid heavy metal is what you get on this CD of MOURNING SUN. The band definitely knows to create a bridge between the old school heavy metal, which forms the foundation of their sound, and the metal of today. Knowing that most of the band members are from the old school generation, their sound especially leans towards that old style. Despite their frontcover (which I like very much) predicts a more black metal sound. And also the name of the band might point in that same direction, I am glad their music can be catagorized under pure US metal instead.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
MOURNING SUN- Omnium Finis Imminet (independent)
On this second CD, you can find eight other quality metal songs, worthy of forty minutes of high octane fueled, energetic headbangers. From opener “Acceptor” on, you are able to enjoy the furious guitarwork on top of the powerful beat again. “Axe To Grind”(great title, by the way!) is catchy, yet quite heavy. While “In The End” has got that same old PRIEST feeling again, I talked about in my previous review, mainly because of the vocals of Eric. This feeling is getting stronger, after listening to “More Than Mortal”, which is easily one of the highlights on this CD for me. I wouldn’t be surprised, if the song was inspired by METALLICA’s “Creeping Death”, and I mean this as a huge compliment. The band closes with some of their most impressive songs like “No Stone Unturned” and “Metal Wings”. Just listen to the guitarsolos and you’ll know what I mean. MOURNING SUN is definitely a name to check out. If you like a band, that has got its roots in the glorious eighties, and music which is powerful and still bears some melody, don’t look any further and check them out. And when the end is imminent, just reach out for the ‘repeat’ button on your stereo set, to make these two CDs last forever and ever.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
MÖTLEY CRUE- Carnival Of Sins (SPV)
These past few months I get the feeling more and more, that I underrated this band a little in the past. Especially when I have a listen to this two live CD set. All their hits, with the exception of “Smoking In The Boys Room” are included, and the band is in a perfect shape. It’s a shame, that they only play in America with their large show, and the European market is not really interesting for a million seller band like this. Anyway, we sometimes get a piece of the action as well. This double live CD is a good example of that. And recently the band has also released a double live DVD from the same tour, with lots of extras. Let’s focus on the CD set, that we have here though. It contains twenty-three rock classics. It looks like the more heavy songs are put on CD one, while the ballad like songs are presented to you on disc two.The show, which is recorded at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was recorded this year, and it proves that MÖTLEY CRUE still sounds ultrahot. For example, listen to my personal fave “Live Wire”, and you’ll get an idea of the power, enthusiasm and the heaviness the band plays these classics. Whatever the magazines made us believe in the righties, MÖTLEY CRUE is definitely not meant for wimps. This is so far away from their poser look and sound, for which we may know them from their MTV period, that I would highly recommend this double live set to the open-minded metalheads out there. At the end of their set, they grab back to their roots with two covers. First they play “Helter Skelter”, which is originally a cover by THE BEATLES, and they close this minute motherf*cker with “Anarchy In The UK”, made famous by the ultimate punk band THE SEX PISTOLS. When you put both discs in your DVD player, you get to see two live videos of “Too Fast For Love” and “Dr. Feelgood”, which can be seen as apetizers for the live DVD of this tour, which is also on sale now. A good marketing strategy of some damn fine musicians, who show us, that they are more than just another glam rock band.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
EDDIE OJEDA- Axes 2 Axes (Black Lotus Records)
We all know Eddie ‘Fingers’ Ojeda for his brilliant guitar work with TWISTED ‘f*cking’ SISTER. This is his first solo release, and I must say that I really like this forty minute eleven tracker. It contains a lot of variation in styles, just as the guitar playing of this true hero. Sometimes he plays with a lot of tenderness, sometimes he plays some cool riffs, while at other times he’s a real shredder. Eddie cooperated with some different vocalists here, and he also sings some songs himself. The opener of the album “Tonight” is recorded with RONNIE JAMES DIO on vocals. But we also hear DEE SNIDER (on a heavy version of the BEATLES classic “Eleanor Rigby”) and JOE LYNN TURNER on “Living Free”. Some stuff is a bit more commercial than you might expect from Eddie (for example “The Reason” and “Senorita Knows”), but sometimes he sounds really dirty and metal, like we want it. There are two instrumental songs on this nice release, title track “Axes 2 Axes” and “Funky Monkey”. Rudy Sarzo play some bass on the album, too. Given the fact that TWISTED SISTER won’t possibly make a new studio album soon, this is a nice replacement instead, but it definitely does not have the magic of a TWISTED SISTER album. Nice release though.
(7,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
OTHYRWORLD- Beyond Into The Night Of Day (Othyrworld Recordingz)
The name OTHYRWORLD may not ring a bell to the average metalhead out there. But when you have a good look at the CD artwork of “Beyong Into The Night Of Day” and you dig really deep into your metal memory, you may still remember a band, called SACRED BLADE. If you already liked the musical steps of Jeff Ulmer and Ted Zawadzki on the only album of this band, which is called “Of The Sun & Moon”, then you must have a listen to this album as well. If it was only for old time sake, because “Beyond Into The Night Of Day” is one big reprise of “Of The Sun And Moon”. The two brains behind SACRED BLADE actually re-recorded this fantastic album and added some extra tracks to it. Finally the rumour, that the album would be re-released in some kind of re-recorded version, has become reality. It’s very strange indeed, that a band existing for about twenty years, does not know to release more material than only one album. But this album has become a real masterpiece with a good mix of authentic US Metal and progressive influences. I ask myself, if their first album “Memory Cloudz” will ever be released. And if there ever will be a release of their album “Seven Moonz Of Xercez”, which is only available as a bootleg. For the fans, there’s now an opportunity to enjoy a digital version of “Of The Sun And Moon”, which I would quickly describe as a mix of old PINK FLOYD or THE MOODY BLUES with a US Metal underground. The songs on this album are played by mastermind Jeff Ulmer, together with his friend Ted Zawadzki, who handles the drums and percussions. Of course we are still waiting for other material to be released, but this is a CD that may not be missed in a good metal collection.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
OVERDRIVE- Remembering The Basher (independent)
There are many bands, that go by the name OVERDRIVE. The most important one (at least for me) being the Swedish band of Janne Stark. But this American band is definitely worth checking out, too. The band started out as DAMASCUS, renamed the band to CROSS BREED, and later on, they changed their name to HEAVEN QUEST. These recordings however were made under the monnicker of OVERDRIVE. The name of the CD is related to the nickname of drummer Bobby Collins, who was called ‘The Basher’. The music of the USA outfit OVERDRIVE can be described as melodic white metal. Think about BARREN CROSS, BLOODGOD, BELIEVER, WHITE CROSS, but also a band like KISS or VANDENBERG could come to mind here as a reference. The lyrics are sometimes a bit too sweet for the average metalhead, but when you’ve practised your ears to hear the things beyond the lyrics, than you will soon discover the beauty of their songs. Or you just skip songs like “Shelter And Strength” and “Light A Candle For Me” and you’ll end up with a great, white metal CD, worthy of fifty minutes of powerful Christian metal. The second CD in this package contains material of the early years. There is the “Sacred Heart” demo from 1987 and the “Damascus” demo from 1985. Alltogether, the eight tracks are worthy of thirty-six minutes of heavenly music. The “Sacred Heart” stuff sounds a bit symphonic to my years. Opener “Gotta Have Faith” gives me that feeling. “Shelter And Strength” can be found on the other CD as well. A ‘skip’ moment for the headbangers among us. While “Never Too Soon” contains more sweet lyrics and “Child Of The Father” has a bit of keyboards. In general, these songs are much sweeter and softer than the OVERDRIVE material, which is definitely more metal. The DAMASCUS stuff sounds rather amateurish and you probably won’t play this stuff a second time, once you’ve heard it. The CD closes with a five minute interview with the band. This double CD is a good overview of what this band is all about. Christian metal with a good, melodic sound. OVERDRIVE consists of Jimmy Prior on guitar, Stacy Puckett on guitar and keyboards, Doug Levy on vocals, Joe McLaughlin on bass and the sadly missed Bobby ‘The Basher’ Collins on drums.
(7,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
PHANTOM X- Storm Riders (Mausoleum Records)
This second album by PHANTOM X is a grower, whereas their debut overhelmed me with its power. Still, the band knows to come up with the most facinating metal riffs, solos and songs imaginable. Yes, Texas metal still rules, dear friends! Kevin Goocher is still one hell of a performer and his voice will remind you of Jon Olliva in his younger days. And opener “Storm Riders” could even have been a HALLOWEEN song, if you listen very carefully. Aggressive and mean, Kevin screams out his lyrics, backed up by an amazing band consisting of Glenn Malice on bass, Danny White on drums and Eric Knudson on guitar. And especially Eric has stolen my heart. He is a great guitar player, who knows to add some melody to this guitar playing. From opener “Storm Riders” on, the fantastic sound invites you to bang your head. This is old school heavy metal pur sang. Try to sit still, when the “Texas Death Squad” enters your room. You must be a zombie or just as dead as a door nail, when you don’t want to bang your head to this one! Or listen to the subtle speed change at the end of “Dark Divinity”, that strongly reminded me of a part of “Kill The King” by RAINBOW. A song like “Day Of The First Dawn” sounds like it was inspired by the earlier material of the SCORPIONS. “Ancient Anthem” is the odd one out for me. Okay, the title tells you already, that we’re dealing with an ancient anthem, but it sure sounds a little bit misplaced on a metal album. “13th Hour” breathes the old school SAVATAGE sound and contains some amazing axework again. The CD closes with “Road Killer” at full “Ace Of Spades” speed. A killer closer of a good, solid metal album, containing eleven songs and with a running time of about fifty minutes. After the release of the album, a lot has happened. Kevin had to undergo an hip surgery and had to cancel the European shows with PHANTOM X. Eric Knudson left the band and formed his own EKG (Eric Knudson Group). The music of his band is superb, and the songs on his MySpace site sound like the ultimate true metal to me, including some amazing axework. Danny White also left the band and returned to his former band mates of ASKA. I hope, this will not mean the end of PHANTOM X, because after releasing two killer albums, they really put themselves in the premier league of heavy metal bands for me.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
POWERS COURT- The Red Mist Of Endenmore (DRagonheart records)
It’s so good to have this band back again with their new album “The Red Mist Of Endenmore”. Frontlady Danie Powers (vocals, guitar, mandolin) sounds stronger than ever. Her band consists of Steve Murray on bass and backing vocals, and Daniel Nydick on drums. The new album contains twelve songs and has a running time of about forty-five minutes. After a short, instrumental intro (“Ab Initia”), we enter “The Prophecy”, which is a good reflection of what POWERS COURT is all about. Dark power metal and vocals, ranging from high and pinching to low and growling. Their sound will certainly remember you of MANILLA ROAD. A comparison, which I already made in ’96, when the band released their self-titled debut album. In “Power Tapestry”, Danie’s voice sounds much higher than in “The Prophecy”. The dark powerful instrumentation remains the same. Fast, killer riffs embrace “A Somber Day”, resulting in a great guitar solo of Danie at the end of the song. This is top notch material by a band, that knows what true metal should sound like. With “Kingdom Falls”, the band gains even more speed. The choir vocals reminded me of KING DIAMOND and MERCYFUL FATE. “Darkness Calls” sounds less dark at first, but later on, the first progressive parts are finding its shape and turn this song into something special. What strikes me the most is, that all songs are quite short, but there is still a lot going on in these three to four minute stories. Title track “The Red Mist Of Endenmore” contains some thrashy SLAYER-like riffs. It’s a killer song, galloping along at high speed. One of the highlights on this album for me is a song, called “There Once Was A Time”. A great epic metal tune with a wonderful guitar solo, which is captured again in a bit over three minutes. While “Vain Regrets” on the contrary sounds very modest indeed. Before we know it, we have arrived at the last song already. The bonus track of the album is called “Cold Day in Hell”. It’s another true highlight: the massive speed, the aggressive vocals, the haunting riffs. What a great way to disappear into the red mist of Endenmore! Unless you push the ‘repeat’ button on your player, which I did right away to have another good listen to this great, dark power metal album. I raise my sword to Danie and POWERS COURT, and put both thumbs up. This album contains heavy metal for the believers in the true metal spirit! Website: http://www.powers-court.com.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
RAPID FIRE- Brace Yourself (Villain Records)
Thirteen songs containing a high true metal level and songs, that rock your soul from A to Z. That’s what RAPID FIRE from the USA is all about in a nutshell. The songs are easy on the ear and have a playing time of about thirty-five minutes. Still, there is something about this band, I’d really like to share with you. Although their music sounds pretty cool, they are a bit over the top for me. The songtitles, the names of the bandmembers, and the songs itself, sometimes give me the feeling that the band is exaggerating their metal attitude. They’re almost becoming a parody of the metal scene, and I don’t think that was the general idea of the band in the first place. It’s all very much overdone, and it nearly turns out to be a SPINAL TAP kind of approach in my eyes. Nevertheless, I really had a good time listening to the warrior metal of RAPID FIRE. Their name doesn’t relate to the JUDAS PRIEST cover whatsoever. Their lyrics go more into the direction of the old MANOWAR, old HAMMERFALL stuff with a more US metal like approach. In general, the band plays their songs at very high speed, and the choruses constantly invite you to sing along. When I look at the picture on the CD cover, I give these guys the benefit of the doubt. They could possibly become the metal stars of tomorrow, and with a nice stage show they could definitely have a major breakthrough. If this is a SPINAL TAP joke, because of their overdone image, then I must admit it’s a damn good one. Swords up for these young metal warriors! RAPID FIRE consists of Ian ‘Battleaxe’ Walden on lead guitar, Brandon ‘Warhammer’ Kinchen on bass, Leith Walden on vocals and keyboards, Matt ‘Sweet Valley’ Reed on drums and Dan ‘Shredder’ Fox on lead guitar. “Brace Yourself” was made to play loud! Website: http://www.itsmetal.com.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
RIOT- The Tyrant Sessions (7” single) (Narita Records)
This is a very special single, that is limited to a seven hundred copies only. It contains two songs, that were recorded during the “Nightbreaker” rehearsals. We hear two songs of RIOT, with Harry ‘The Tyrant’ Conklin on vocals. It would have been stupid not to record this remarkable cooperation. All that I ask myself, listening to this magic combination, is why these two songs never showed up before. And were these the only two songs, that were recorded during this session? Anyway, as to be expected, the two songs on this 7” single, sound like pure magic. The ‘metal’ side is called “Medicine Man”, and the ‘steel’ side has “Magic Maker”, both food for about six minutes of JAGRIOTPANZER music. Listen to the duels of Mark Reale and Mike Flyntz, topped with the icely screams of Harry Conklin. A combination, that was doomed to last short, much too short, if you’d ask my opinion! But it can be relived by means of this limited single. Buy or die and you’re not worthy to be called a metal fan, and definitely not worthy to read these words!
(9,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
RIOT- Army Of One (EMI Japan)
This is the japanese version of “Army Of One”, which contains one bonus track. And I must admit, that I liked the album a lot. The sea dog is imprinted in the guitar on the front sleeve. This is definite prove to me, that they have returned to the more original sound of RIOT. If you like the sound of RAINBOW, then you may have the right album in your hands. The guitars however may sound a lot more heavy than RAINBOW, but the vocal sound of Mike DiMeo comes close to Joe Lynn Turner’s at times, which he can take as a huge compliment. It’s good to hear, that the holy fire still burns in the hearts of these New York rockers. Thirteen melodic metal songs with some venomous guitarwork fill this piece of art. Just listen to “The Mystic” for example. For me, this is definitely one of the highlights on “Army Of One”. The spirit of RAINBOW wanders around again, and it still has got that heavy touch to it. On this album, RIOT consists of Mark Reale on guitar, Mike DiMeo on vocals, Pete Perez on bass, Mike Flyntz on guitar and Frank Gilchriest on drums. There are no weak brothers on here. And I am especially pleased with the fact, that they added a live version of “Road Racin’” to the album, recorded at Club Citta in 1998. It brings the total playing time to almost seventy-five minutes. Another reason for being very positive about this new RIOT CD. “Army Of One” sounds like it can be beaten quite easily, but there is nothing wrong with the power and the strength by this army. It will easily destroy your worst enemy with one strike. It’s good to hear, that RIOT still stands tall after all these years, and they seem to have regained themselves. “Army Of One” is the definite prove of this statement.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
RIPPER- The Dead Has Rizen (Black Widow Records)
I have been waiting such a long time to finally hear the new studio album by Texas horror metal legends, RIPPER. And it was worth the wait every second… The new album is a true killer, a ‘must have’ or what other description do you need to believe me? Just push the ‘play’ button and experience the full blast of the rizen RIPPER right at your face. The intro of “ The Grave” will certainly give you the shivers right away and after hearing the first sounds of “Hemicidal”, you’ll know that RIPPER is ready to take their horror metal to the next level. A level, that is so much higher than the high level they’ve already reached with “….And The Dead Shall Rise”. The crystal clear production, the dark vocals and mindblowing guitarwork, it’s all there. Master of ceremonies, Rob Graves, laid down his best vocal outings so far on this album. Listening to “Driller” makes you think, that Rob Halford has joined RIPPER. It’s the true metal sound of the old JUDAS PRIEST, that I hear in this song, but then ten times darker. Rob’s partners-in-crime are Stephen Bogle on guitars and vocals, Alan D’Angelo on bass and vocals and Don Ramirez on drums and vocals, who complete the line up of RIPPER these days. Judging by their sound, you almost can’t tell the difference between the old days and the RIPPER, that wanders around in the dark alleys in 2009. In “66 Angel Eyez”, I discovered a slight DAVID BOWIE-like tone in Rob’s voice, which perfectly matches the darkness of this song. The high screams in this song really make my skin crawl in a very positive way. While the distorted vocals in “US Tank” makes the song even more threatening, than it already is. Don’t say, I didn’t warm you! The speed goes up in “Love Me To Death”, which also introduces the sound of keyboards. “The Tall Man” (are they referring to me, here? I hope not!!) starts off with some fast and very mean riffs. It’s an instrumental song, in which the guitarplayers are in the full spotlight. If you have studied the CD booklet really well, you will find out that the song was inspired by the character played by Angus Serimm in Phantasm. Phew! For a moment I really thought they meant me, what a relief! In “God Of Thunder”, RIPPER pays tribute to their heroes of KISS and the masked foursome can be proud of this achievement, in my opinion. “In The Raw” is the final track on this album. It sounds brutal and once again it proves, that the horror metal of RIPPER is timeless. Old PRIEST-like vocals with a dark metal sound underneath, a combination sounding so perfect, that you’ll just have to reach out to the ‘repeat’ button, while the outtro “Dark Dominion” still has to conclude the album. RIPPER has rizen and I hope, we don’t have to wait another twenty-four years to enjoy a new album by this legendary Texas metal band. Quality needs time and it doesn’t come in wagonloads. It’s one piece at a time and sometimes you’ll have to wait for a rough diamond to come for a long time. But once it is there, you can enjoy it inmensely. This diamond was worth the wait and I think that I can speak for all the RIPPER fans, when I congratulate Rob and RIPPER with another perfect album. They don’t make them like this anymore! The most current line-up of RIPPER consists of Rob Graves on guitars and vocals, Jeff ‘Spike’ Wong (AMBUSH) on guitar and vocals, Alex Bortoni (HELSTAR, DARKANGEL, INSECTICIDE) on drums and vocals and Sadie Paine on bass. Yes, you’ve read that right: Sadie Paine returned to RIPPER and she is not willing to pull the tombztone over herbody, before she has ripped the raw flesh off your bones. The graves are empty again, RIPPER has rizen and they’re out for blood! Pleasant dreams, but don’t sleep too tight, because the RPPER will come out at night!
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
RUFFIANS- Desert Of Tears (Metal Heaven)
RUFFIANS are well-known for their great melodic power metal songs. With this most recent album “Desert Of Tears”, they are back with a vengeance. The masters of compact, catchy melodic hooks strike again. The riffs on this album are as sharp as a dagger and show some resemblance to Dutch bands like GILGAMESJ or VENGEANCE or a band like SAVATAGE. Their music is easy on the ear and still quite powerful at times. The perfect example of what RUFFIANS is all about, is a song like “I Will Fly”, which captures energy and power, topped with a melodic sauce. Brilliant in making such a catchy ball breaker, that is ready to sing along to and has the power of a whole army. While “Live By The Sword”already proved to be a good live track during their recent shows. The vocals of Rich Wilde, in combination to the music, reminded me of the SCORPIONS in their wildest days. “Darkness Of Light” contains some great powerful guitarsolos, and is therefore one of the outstanding tunes for me. But you can pick your favorite song yourself from this twelve song and fifty minutes disc. The limited version of “Desert Tears” contains a bonus track, called “Risen”, by the way. So go and find the limited edition version, if you’re willing to buy this one.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
SACRED RITE- Resurrection (Spandimeve Music)
SACRED RITE is one of those bands, that are truly sacred in my book of heavy metal history. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they have released a new album, called “Resurrection”. The nine songs are worthy of almost fifty minutes of SACRED RITE in the new millennium. And I must say, that it tastes really well. Sure, considering what the (heavy) metal scene is like nowadays, it certainly gives me a good flashback to the old days. And when this is happening, I’m very happy and a positive review will be the result of it. “I Didn’t Mean To Do It” starts off. It’s a fast rock song and it could very well be a great opener for one of their future live shows. I hear some STRYPER influences and it also might invite you to sing along to the chorus. “Resurrection” sounds slower and Mark Kaleiwahea’s voice will possibly remind you of the raw vocals of Paul Shortino (ROUGH CUTT, QUIET RIOT) in a way. “High Society” has really got my head shaking. It’s a fast rocker in the best VAN HALEN tradition. Most difficult part on this album are of course the drums. However, after the death of Kevin Lum in 2002, they were able to add the original drum parts of Kevin and insert them into the samples used on this album. It’s a good example of what ‘resurrection’ is all about, which will probably give this title a special meaning. “Long Way Down” proves that the sound of SACRED RITE has evolved during their long period of absence. The intro is a nice example of this long lasting evolution. Once the intro is gone, the song simply rocks, so don’t be afraid that it won’t appeal to you. I like the guitar sound and the solo in this particular song a lot. “Cry” carries the dark sound of Mark’s voice and again the ghost of the good old VAN HALEN sound wanders around (and in the next song as well, as a matter of fact), but it’s no shame to be influenced by one of the most successful American hard rock bands. I really like the artwork on this CD, too. It creates some kind of curiosity, to have an immediate listen to the album, no matter what it sounds like. SACRED RITE released some very good albums in the past, which makes me prejudiced, but it helped me to be very open in a certain way. In the meantime, I’m getting goose bumps from the flashing guitar work in “Schizophrenia”. “The Phoenix” rises from the ashes with a melodic sound. It has an exciting instrumental mid-piece as well, finally resulting in a fiery guitar solo. The CD reaches the end with the lengthy yet exciting “The End Of Time / Resurrection Part II”, including guest violin player Louis Lamp. Besides Mark Kaleiwahea, SACRED RITE consists of Jimmy Caterine on guitar and vocals and Peter Crane on bass, keyboards and vocals. Hawaii once was a breeding place for some very good heavy metal bands, like ALOHA, HAWAII and SACRED RITE. I’m glad that SACRED RITE has found its way back to the metal scene after a too long time of absence.
(8,3/10- Toine van Poorten)
SALEM’S SPADE- Witch Hunt (Steel Legacy Records)
After digging deep into the metal vaults, these recordings of SALEM’S SPADE from Colorado Springs were found. The songs presented here are demos from 1988 and 1989, opening with the title track taken off the “Witch Hunt 1991” demo. Influences of JAG PANZER, FATES WARNING and IRON MAIDEN come to mind, when hearing this first song. The JAG PANZER influences might seem a bit obvious, because on guitar we find the brother of JAG PANZER drum beast Richard Stjernquist, Pat Stjernquist. Besides Pat, the band consists of John Secrest on vocals, Kevin Emerson on guitar, Travis Leroy on bass and Scott Davis on drums. “Word To The Wise” sounds heavier and much more straight forward. While “Castle Walls” contains more progressive elements. Just listen to the busy beginning of the song. It could very well be on a DREAM THEATER or early RUSH album. “Council Of The Elders” brings them down to earth. Still with some good song structures, but it sounds less technical. “Children Of The Wasteland” is the last song from this first demo. John’s high vocal screams take it to a higher level, in my eyes. The IRON MAIDEN influences are very obvious in this one. The “Legacy Of Hate” demo from 1989 is on next. The production sounds less clear than the previous demo. It contains four tracks; starting off with “Stage Kill”. It has a much more speedy ear attack and a more technical approach. The IRON MAIDEN influences are pushed aside and the influences of FATES WARNING became bigger. The band also shared the stage with the likes of FATES WARNING, JAG PANZER, HELIX and GREAT WHITE. In “Pocketbook Beast”, vocalist John sounds very much alike Harry ‘The Tyrant” Conklin of JAG PANZER, especially in the beginning. The thrash influences are also much more present here. “Dusk Till Dawn” is on next, which has some MAIDEN influences in the guitar parts. The title track closes this demo with another splendid, more progressive metal song containing many speed changes. However, the final song on this album was taken from the “Sleepless” demo, released that same year. It’s called “Twisted Mind” and you can hear the thrash influences became bigger and bigger. These recordings are from a different line up. Vocalist John Secrest and guitarist Pat Stjernquist left and they were replaced by John Forman on vocals and Greg Chavez on guitar. To be honest with you, the thrill has really gone and not long after the release of this demo, the band decided to quit. Which is a shame of course. Their legacy can be found here, together with the video clips recorded for “Castle Walls”, “Council Of The Elders” and “Shadows Of Illustrations”, which make this release all the more interesting buying, I guess.
(8,1/10- Toine van Poorten)
SCARLET ANGEL- Enter The Magic (Road Pizza Records)
The self-titled debut CD of SCARLET ANGEL was a true heavy metal gem in our book. Our curiosity was high, if the band could keep up this high standard on its successor as well. We can only conclude, that SCARLET ANGEL didn’t dissappoint us at all on “Enter The Magic”. Lots of riffs and guitar solos, many icely high screams and the perfect dose of heavy metal enter my room with these twelve new songs. The first two songs “I Wanna Love Ya” and “Burn” both capture that little piece of catchiness, which is necessary to reach a bigger audience. While the spirit of AC/DC wanders around in opener “I Wanna Love Ya”, we hear a touch of JAG PANZER in “Burn”, because of the vocal parts by Jackie (who is helped out by drummer Kim on background vocals). “Out Of The Void” is a short spoken intro (great!!), followed by a short close harmony piece called “Harmonic Concordance”. The CD continues with the power ballad “Open Door”, which sounds in the best QUEENSRYCHE tradition. Remember “Take Hold Of The Flame”? Well, think in that direction, and you’ll come close to the sound of “Open Door”. It sure sounds like magic to my ears!! In fact, it’s some kind of a ‘three-in-one’ song and it delivers me goosebumps all over for the first time. “Fear Of Squirrels” is an instrumental piece, in which the band shows their strength to create an exciting instrumental song, including all the ingredients that I liked on their debut album. Especially the innovative drum parts are excellent. Although the title might be a little bit odd, the song is definitely one of the highlights so far. “Chasing The Wind” lies on the other end of the musical universe. This is more or less a country and western gospel and I would rather expect it on an album by THE CARPENTERS for example than SCARLET ANGEL. Don’t get me wrong. The band is spreading a positive message here and everyone is free to speak out their belief. However, in comparison to another great metal anthem like “The Czar”, it feels like the difference between day and night or black and white. Although a band like HEART has also written many songs like this one, it’s still the odd one out here. “The Czar” (with some excellent lead vocals by Kim!!) is definitely another highlight on the album. This song is what true heavy metal is all about. It’s wild and fascinating and it fits perfectly to all the material on the band’s debut album. It reminded me of JUDAS PRIEST in their “Screaming For Vengeance” days. “Shut Up You’re Stupid” is on next. The band presses the pedal to the metal here, and we can categorise this as speed metal, I think. The guitars cry, and the drums are probably even more flashing than ever. I believe, I’m gonna turn up the sound a little. “The Northmen” has got a spooky intro and again I’m impressed by its powerful sound. Rich Wilcox sings on this one, and he may sing some more in the future, as far as I’m concerned. He is a good, powerful singer, performing the song (which has got many great breaks!) in a perfect way. He has got a leading role in this song and the keyboards are very impressive in this song as well. URIAH HEEP meets old school DEEP PURPLE would be a good description. Next on is “Eyes Of Thieves”, which is a solid metal hymn with again some great instrumental parts and very powerful vocal chords. The song, that I was most looking forward to hearing, is album closer “Axed By The Angel”. And the band didn’t let me down. The sirens start, and Kim performs the lead vocals on this song, which tells the story of SCARLET ANGEL very briefly. A worthy closer of the album. Yes, SCARLET ANGEL did it again and they didn’t let me down on this new CD, which was created over the past two years. They can be proud of what they have achieved here. The band consists of Kim Yates on drums and vocals, Michelle Armiger on guitars and vocals, Jackie ‘Joyce’ Glenn on lead vocals and Rich Wilcox on bass, vocals and keyboards. Despite “Chasing The Wind”, which we will call the obligatory ballad for now, I will reward this album with the full score, ladies and gentlemen. SCARLET ANGEL still carries the torch of true heavy metal! I suggest to “Enter The Magic” as well, because you’ll be in for a very pleasant surprise. SCARLET ANGEL are real winners and you can forget about the rest! Go to: http://www.scarletangelrocks.com or http://www.myspace.com/scarletangelrocksband for more information about these heavy metal believers from Baltimore.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
SEPTER- Transgressor (Pulse Records)
Yes I know, this album is already available for three long years now. But it’s kinda tough to find out that it actually exists. The Christian rock scene is very rich, but it’s rather unusual to read about these bands in the so-called ‘regular’ metal magazines. Listening to the eight songs on this album though, it would be a shame to leave this for what it is, and enjoy it on my own. Songs like “Transgressor” and “Blood And Dishonor” are rough diamonds, and a real must for fans of JAG PANZER or WATCHTOWER. Great instrumental parts with many speed changes and a good vocalist, who screams his lungs out. SEPTER consists of Hawk on guitar, Paul Dailey on guitar, Kevin Truell on vocals, Jeff Kmiec on drums and Matt Weaver on bass. “You Better Believe” is a very balladesque song, but with “Tonight” they hit the nail right on the head again. While “Vesuvious” is another hot and steaming tune, as the title predicts already. Add to this the mighty powerful vocals, which makes it to another highlight. The only disappointment is that the album only lasts for about thirty-five minutes. But these were thirty-five heavenly minutes, if I may say so. “The God Key” is the title of the newest release by this band, and I am definitely going to check that one out as well, because after listening to “Transgressor”, I really want to hear more. “Slipping Away” and “Last Days” close this marvellous CD, which deserves to be reviewed in this section, even three years after its original release. Is it that good? Better judge for yourself!
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
SEVENTH OMEN- Majestic (Septagram Records)
This is a review of three CDs by a band, called SEVENTH OMEN. We didn’t know about this band, until we found them on the internet. We saw, they had released three CDs already in 1995, 1999 and 2001. While we have never read anything about this band before, we decided to write at least something about these releases, so nobody can forget them. After all, the band is playing some high quality heavy metal with a touch of progressive metal in their sound as well. SEVENTH OMEN consists of David Alsing on bass, Bob Behnke on drums, Damon Bernklau on guitars and Clay Yoksas on guitars and vocals. Their sound could be compared to bands like NEVERMORE, ICED EARTH, HEIR APPARENT, METALLICA (when they were still good!), QUEENSRYCHE and SANCTUARY. Many fast riffs dominate the sound and the vocals are strong and powerful as well. Vocalist Clay is not the screaming kind, and you can easily hear what he is singing about. The band sometimes uses samples to beef up their sound a little, like in the beginning of opener “MJ-12” and in “The Fall Of Mu”. Their music is definitely not for those, who only want it loud and fast. There are many different aspects in the music of SEVENTH OMEN and many speed and mood changes in the longer songs, which can easily last about seven minutes in some cases. “Blind” is the odd one out on this CD. It’s a slow ballad, and a bit too sweet for me. In general though, I like the music on this one hour CD from 1995 very much. In “Scraping Ground”, I also hear some uncommon sounds, which I don’t really like. But they fit very well to the rest of this experimental song. If you like the bands that I mentioned above, then you can definitely check out this CD and be amazed by the strength of this band.
(7,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
SEVENTH OMEN- Polarized (Septagram Records)
This is the second album by this band from Illinois. Again we hear thirteen songs with a total length of a full hour. The big picture remains the same though. Loads of riffs, loads of hair, high quality music with enough melody not to make it sound thrashy. The influences are still the same. So we’re dealing with an exciting metal album here. I like the artwork the band used on the cover. The front cover is divided into two parts, whereas the left part represents ‘hell’ or ‘the bad things in life’, and the right part represents ‘heaven’ or ‘the good things in life’. Songs like “Treading Water” are not really my cup of tea. I prefer a bit more power, but you can hear that we’re dealing with some high quality musicians here. “Clear Water” is more my thing. And I also count “Hate Breeds” to one of the better songs on this album. “Fear Feeds” is a short piece of about two minutes. “Blame” is another highlight for me, and this song also closes this second album. You can hear the progression of the band on this album. In 2001, the band released a third album, but this one contains early recordings of “Abstractions” and “Date With Destiny”. Watch http://www.seventhomen.com for more information about this band.
(7,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
SEVENTH OMEN- Abstract Destiny (Septagram Records)
This last CD contains the old stuff of SEVENTH OMEN. And like with many other bands in the US Metal scene, the older stuff is by far the best and most powerful stuff. Okay, there are some melodic parts as well of course, but the riffs are more unpolished and definitely rawer than the ones on “Majestic” and “Polarized”. The first five tracks on this nine track compilation are from the “Abstractions” demo, released in 1992. The last four tracks come from the “Date With Destiny” demo, released in 1990. What striked me the most is, that the band has never had any line up changes in their career. A remarkable fact indeed. Darrell Raap played second guitar in the song “Date With Destiny”, but he was soon replaced by Damon Bernklau, and from there on the line up of the band remained the same. These very last recordings are absolutely brilliant, and I am very glad that I’ve purchased these three CDs, which introduced me to this great melodic power metal band from Woodridge, Illinois. Check out http://www.seventhomen.com for more information about the band.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)
STEELER- Metal Generation, The Anthology (Majestic Rock)
The first steps to success of YNGWIE J MALMSTEEN were made in this band called STEELER, when he was seventeen years old. STEELER is a collaboration of LUST and SNIPER, both bands from Nashville, Tennessee. His mentor was Ron Keel, who we also know from KEEL and FAIR GAME. What we hear is a nice compilation with fourteen tracks from different time frames from the band’s career. The first two songs are the original single version of “Cold Day In Hell” without Yngwie on guitar. He comes in the picture in the second and third (and most legendary) line up of the band. We hear a previously unreleased track, called “Ready To Explode” and my personal fave “Hot On Your Heels”. I was expecting most of the live songs on this anthology album, but the quality of the recordings are not really perfect. Like the liner notes in the CD booklet say, it’s more or less the exclusivity that counts here. Especially Yngwie’s guitar solo is a treat to your ears. The bonus tracks are recorded with the final line up of the band including Kurt James and Greg Chaisson (BADLANDS). The very last song is an acoustic version of “Serenade”, recently recorded by Ron Keel. STEELER supported bands like SOUND BARRIER, RATT and METALLICA and their album “Steeler” was the best selling independent product back in those days. This compilation is a good overview of what this band stood for: catchy, melodic heavy metal songs with good guitarwork, yet still heavy enough to become a cult name in the history of heavy metal for many fans. After the final line up collapsed, the band tried to continue with guitar players like Mitch Perry and Adam Bomb, but all without success. Forty-five minutes of good music for the old metal generation is yours with this release.
(7/10- Toine van Poorten)
STEEL PROPHET- Shallows Of Forever (Steel Legacy Records)
STEEL PROPHET are definitely one of the icons of the progressive metal scene. These demos were recorded for the record industry to get signed and officially, they weren’t even meant to get public. Steel Legacy Records however gives you the real deal on this almost eighty minutes CD, containing fourteen tracks from two different demos. The CD however opens with a song taken from the “Iron Tyrants Compilation”, called “In The Dream”. The madness of STEEL PROPHET starts right here and this is just the beginning! This crazy song is followed by the “Visions Of Force” demo from 1988, which contains six tracks and opens with “Sungazer”. The line up of the band at that given moment is Steve Kachinsky Blackmoor on guitar, Nick Mantis on vocals, John Tarascio on drums, Dominic Chavira on guitars and Vince Du Juan Dennis on bass guitar. “Revenant” emphasizes the force of the band. Complex structures are being played like it’s the easiest song in the book. “The Reign Of Christ” is a lengthy, more epical song, which displays a bit of the doomy, heavy rhythm, you might hear every now and then. Besides that, the crazy rhythm changes seem to go on and on, especially in that particular song. The dark mid-part in this song reminds me in a way of “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner” by IRON MAIDEN. What a great piece of art, they made out of this fantastic, instrumental song! And the joy continues in another great track, called “Parthenogenesis”, which was originally not on the official demo, by the way. The sound quality of this song is varying and not as good as the rest of the material. “Firestarter” is very much up tempo again. “Eyes Of The Night” starts off as a ballad, but hey if you know STEEL PROPHET, than you will also know that this is about to change soon. The song contains a great guitar eruption by Steve and after this explosion, the band slows down for the final seclusion. The second demo, that is represented here, is the “Steel Prophet” demo from 1986. It has a slightly different sound quality again. It opens with “Dogs Of War”, in which the instrumentalists will show you their skills. This fast opener is followed by the much slower “Life”, which has got a more QUEENSRYCHE-like kind of approach in the beginning. Later on, some IRON MAIDEN influences show up as well. This is definitely one of the highlights here. The counterpart of “Life” is of course “Death” and this one starts off with a great guitar solo. It’s a shame, that the sound quality of these recordings are not really perfect, but the exclusivity makes up for it, I guess. “Masters Of Eternity” is full of variation as well. “Passage Thru Time” sounds dark and ominous. On this demo, you’ll hear Wayne Faircloth on bass and Dave Brooks on vocals. The title track is on next. It opens with screams and some spoken word vocals. Shortly after that, the band explodes into a furious piece of delight, followed by another fine prog metal-like piece. There’s a lot of variation in this song and many speed changes, like we are used to of the band. It feels like heaven for all the fans of this particular music style. The CD closes with “Visions Of Force”, which marches along, until reaching the end. STEEL PROPHET may not be accessible to every metalhead out there, because of their technical sound, but they do know how to please me. If you’re a perfectionist, as far as sound quality is concerned, then I’d suggest to leave this for what it is. Otherwise, go for it!!!!!
(8,7/10- Toine van Poorten)
STYGMATA- Bleed (Karma Records Group)
STYGMATA is a great name for a metal band. The letter G in their logo holds a cross, which is turned upside down, while the letter T has a normal cross. On the CD cover, you can see a blonde lady holding up a white Flying V, while the blood is dripping through her hands. This combination will grab your attention immediately and after seeing that STYGMATA is Kathie Jarra’s new band, I cannot wait to put the silver disc into my stereo set. This new album contains nine tracks, and has a running time of about forty-five minutes. Eight songs are new and the last song is a cover of SLAYER’s “Spill The Blood”, but more about that later on. Besides Kathie on lead & backing vocals and rhythm guitars, her recording band consists of Mike Armstrong on drums, Judas on guitars, HB Abels on bass and Brent Guiterrez on male backing vocals. Great metal riffs enter my room, when the music starts to play. And with “Sea Of Red”, I can almost see the sea coloring red with blood in my imagination. Kathie’s voice matches very well with the thick riffs and rough-edged guitar solos, that embrace a great song like “Haunted”. Her raw voice gives the music the unpolished and raw feeling, that it needs. It also takes care of some kind of ominous character, that these songs have. The same could have been done by Tom Araya (SLAYER frontman), but then with a loud screaming voice. The result would be the same. I’m being blown away by title track “Bleed”, which has some mighty riffing in the beginning of the song. It has got the same atmosphere as a song like “In Trance” of THE SCORPIONS, when Uli Jon Roth was still in the band. It’s this threatening dark atmosphere, these songs simply need, which is really done very well. I already knew “Kill The King” by RAINBOW (talk about a classic here!). But now we also have “Kill The Rainbow” by STYGMATA, which sounds like the 2007 version of BLACK SABBATH’s “Heaven And Hell”, which they can take as a big compliment. “By Myself” opens groovy again with some killer riffs. SEVEN WITCHES’ frontman Jack Frost will be playing these riffs, when STYGMATA will be touring, which makes it even more exciting. “Crawl” has another awesome guitarsolo, and you can almost feel the hate in “Hate”. When you take into account, that the intro to this song was played by a drummer who is…blind, then you only can have deep respect for this guy. Some drummers can’t even do this with their eyes open! He also seems to have a sixth degree black belt in karate. This gives me another vision of his skills, I can tell you that. The title is just perfect for this brutal piece of music, containing some great SLAYER-like riffing. Like I mentioned before, the CD closes with the SLAYER cover “Spill The Blood”. This makes the CD really complete. STYGMATA is ultrahot and I hope to be able to catch the band on tour, when they invade Europe. Kathie astonished me before, but this band goes beyond my wildest dreams. Bleed for me Europe!! Website: http://www.stygmata.com.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
SYRUS- Syrus (Steel Legacy Records)
SYRUS, another band with a legendary sound, compiled on this self-titled album. The LP contains the demos of 1986 and 1987. In “Blitzkrieg”, these mighty Texan warriors already raise their swords to heaven. The guitar solo is mind blowing and vocalist Michael Vasquez really knows to impress me with some high notes. If you fancy the Texas metal style, SYRUS will please you in every way possible. Their dirty guitar sound is astonishing and the songs have such a high technical standard, which will blow your mind! “Through Thine Knights Eyes” contains all of the aforementioned ingredients, while instrumental “To The Demon Or The Deity” reflects the slightly epical side of the band. This song also sets the course to all the maniacal rhythm changes in their music. They can make it as crazy as hell for me. The madness continues, especially in “Unbroken Rhymes”, where the guitarists spoil us again with their excellent solos. “City Of The Sky” closes the A-side on this LP. The band proves, that they are also capable of putting some sensitivity into their songs, guitar wise. Side B takes us on to 1987, where Ray Alder (FATES WARNING) takes over the position of frontman and singer. Who can ask for more? The four songs from that era have a slightly blurry sound though, but it’s the exclusivity that counts here. “Tales Of War” shows a continuation from their 1986 demo, but in “The Hunt” they also added some more melody to that sound. Maybe it’s the FATES WARNING influences, that Ray brought along? “Breakout” contains some lengthy guitar work, but comparing to the old material, it all sounds a bit too modest and laidback. “Mirror Mirror” is the last track, that has Ray Alder on vocals. The bonus tracks are taken from a 1986 session, which have never appeared on demo or whatsoever before. They are called “Into The Twilight” and “VD 101” and a nice addition to the demos. Especially the last instrumental song, which is the absolute highlight on this album. SYRUS has meant a great deal for the Texas metal scene and San Antonio in particular. After all, they were part of the well-known LA SLAYER vs. SA SLAYER gig, together with MILITIA. Need I say more? Definitely not, I guess. This is a real ‘must-have’ for every devoted metalhead on this planet.
(8,6/10- Toine van Poorten)
TEMPLE OF BLOOD- Prepare For The Judgement Of Mankind
(Temple Of Blood Publishing)
After hearing this amazing CD by SEPTER from the Christian rockscene, I was flabbergasted again by a band from this underrated scene. TEMPLE OF BLOOD is definitely a name to remember, my friends, whether you’re a Christian or not. If you are a metal fan, you must have a listen to this one, if you want or not. The band plays thrash the way is was meant to be played. They sound like a mix between TESTAMENT and MEGADETH, with the melodic input of IRON MAIDEN. And they don’t limit themselves to the clichee thrash riffs on this record. Listen to the adventurous speed changes, that they put into their music. Lyrically, the bible takes a central place in their songs. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as the music is good. And there’s no doubt about that. The ten songs on this debut album have a running time of about forty-five minutes. And the cherry on this thrash cake is at the very end of the CD. TEMPLE OF BLOOD covers DEADLY BLESSING’s “Deliver Us From Evil”, with DEADLY BLESSING’s Ski (now FAITH FACTOR) on vocals. Man, what a mighty tribute to true metal that is! Jim Mullis voice shows some resemblance to Ski’s, to give you a point of recognition here. Besides Jim, who also plays guitar, the band consists of Matt Barnes on guitar, Garth Lovvorn on bass and Lance Wright on drums. TEMPLE OF BLOOD delivered an outstanding album with “Prepare For The Judgement Of Mankind”. Enter the temple yourself and you’ll be positively surprised. Website: http://www.templeofblood.net.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
THRUSTER- M.I.A. (Fils Du Metal)
“M.I.A.” stands for “Missing In Action”, while THRUSTER stands for a mix of furious power metal and speed metal. Bands like LEATHERWOLF, VICIOUS RUMORS or CHASTAIN come to mind, when listening to the nine re-mastered tracks on this album. THRUSTER consists of Russ Willoughby on guitar and vocals, Clark Connley on guitar and vocals, Dell McFarland on vocals, Jimmy Brink on drums and vocals and Greg Hilvers on bass and vocals. They start off in fourth gear with “The Conflict”. “M.I.A.” was previously only available on tape and it’s a good thing, that more people are finally able to enjoy this great power metal outfit. “Only Fools” contains a lot of great instrumental parts, which made the biggest impression on me. “Illusions” shows even more power. Still, it never loses any melody along the way. “Screams Of Pain” can easily be called ‘How to get neck-pains’. Just try headbanging to this song and your neck will feel sore for the next three successive days. An absolute highlight!! I wanna feel the power unleashed in my stomach! I slowly raise my fist during “Enemy Below”. Yes, this is the real deal. What a great metal song. I wonder, what kept this band twenty-some years ago? I think, nobody will ever know. “Can’t Take It No More” tells you about the status of my neck muscles. Hey, I’m getting old! Still music like this keeps me young, happily enough. “Heroes Finish Last” continues and after that, the soldiers will enter your room for “M.I.A.”, the title track off this album. “Thruster” closes the album and these last two tracks show you the strength of this Ohio based band one more time, where as the latter invites you to scream out your lungs for all time’s sake. The album cranks it all out: form the beginning until the very end. And I must say, that I am really glad this piece of vinyl got finally released. THRUSTER really deserves a break and their music is definitely a must to those, who love it loud. So if speed metal is your thing and you wanna hear some good old stuff from the late eighties, then this is your chance to work out your neck muscles with “M.I.A.”. Oh, by the way, the band is not missing in action at all, because they are still alive and kicking and new material is being written right now. You won’t be disappointed and you can t(h)rust me on my word for that!
(8,4/10- Toine van Poorten)
TWILIGHT ODYSSEY- Twilight Odyssey (independent)
Yes, it’s there: one of the most precious hard rock diamonds of this year. We were already blown away by their three track demo CD, but this release simply beats everything. Ten songs and a total length of a bit over a full hour, TWILIGHT ODYSSEY provides you with the best true metal imaginable. When the CD kicks off with “Plaza Del Torros”, we get a flashback of our one-day event with this band in their rehearsal room in New York City. The IRON MAIDEN like choruses are mixed with the flashing guitar work of Ben Asaro. And this is only just the beginning. I slowly start to raise my fist to the beginning of “Zero Hour”, again beefed up with early MAIDEN like riffs. “Near Dark” is definitely (Rita and I agreed on that!) our favorite song. Don’t ask us why. It’s the unexplainable magic that was there from the moment we heard the song in the rehearsal room. PJ’s vocals are clear and she’s not the screaming kind, thank God! Ben is a guitar hero pur sang, but the good thing is that his solos are in duty of the songs. He is not the MALMSTEEN-like big ego tripper, that starts a solo in the beginning of the song and ends it when the last notes slowly fade away. Wow, what a big punch on the face! With “Under The Black Flag” we finally get a little room to breath, after a great, almost overwhelming start. “Under The Black Flag” is a lengthy song with a lot of speed and mood changes. To me, this is sufficient proof, that the band knows to create a good song without stranding in too complex structures. It slowly builds itself up into a nice climax, in which drummer Sal Pellerito beats the shit out of his drum kit like he was chased by a seven-headed dragon. “Defiler” is another lengthy metal song, in which we hear the strength of PJ’s vocals very well. The icely scream at the end of this song will make the temperature drop a few degrees in your room, that’s for sure. In the beginning of “The Endless Days Of A Stranger”, the four legged and armed drummer is unleashed again. The chorus invites you to raise your fist and yell the words out real loud. This will be great, when they play this fantastic song in a live setting. Also Ben is warming up his fingers in this song. One of the highlights on the album, that’s for sure. After that, there’s again some time to take a deep breath during “Onward To The Games”. It opens with some relaxing guitar work of Ben, and it’s a little piece of rest with some great axework of the maestro himself. You’re gonna need it, because the band has got some more impressive pieces of art left for us at the end of the album. “The New Queen” is build upon a nice riff, and the speed goes up once more. “Gettysburg (The Blue And The Gray)” is from the demo. The riff is still magic and it contains just about everything that a good metal song needs. Just listen to the awesome guitar solo, and you’ll be flabbergasted for life. And the canonballs of destruction have just begun…..(remember WARLORD). Even MANOWAR would not have to be ashamed of themselves, if they would come up with a song like this. The CD closes with “Gift Of The Southern Oracle”, which is another, great, eight minute metal experience, written by one of the most fantastic US metal bands of this moment. Besides PJ, Ben and Pat, the band consists of bass player Gennady Khirich, who seems to be invisible, like a good bass player should. But without his input, the rhythm just wouldn’t be complete, believe me. TWILIGHT ODYSSEY went for the highest score available, and they have reached their goal with an album, that could end very high in our list of best metal albums of 2005. Congratulations! Website: http://www.twilightodyssey.com.
(10/10– Toine van Poorten)
VAINGLORY- Vainglory (Rebellion Records US)
Sirens, alarmbells, metal alert!!!! People, youve been warned, because there is a new metal sensation on the horizon. Their name is VAINGLORY and nobody else but Kate French is the frontlady of this magical outfit. Their debut album is a first-class killer product from the first note on until the last one slowly fade away. Its pure metal to the max. For over sixty-five minutes, you’re caught in a web of heavy riffs, loud screaming vocals, pounding drums, galloping rhythms and a never ending salvo of guitar solos. The album also has a lot of variation. First, you get four up tempo power metal tracks attacking your ears. Then Midnight Hellfire is a hellish motordrivers anthem. “Undying Love” is a more ballad-like song with lots of power, whereas “Decapitation Attack” is an instrumental song, which could well be written by YNGWIE MALMSTEEN. The guitarwork in general has got a lot in common with this Swedish guitar juggler, by the way. And the axemen Corbin King and John Michael Youngblood may see this as a big compliment. Corbin can easily be put in the category new guitarheroes. He can show his skills in every song, and people who like ultrafast guitarwork will enjoy this CD even more. The rhythm tandem consists of Chris Banja on bass and Dan Lynch on drums. Together they form a very tight team. Kates voice comes very close to the strength and power of Jon Oliva (SAVATAGE, JON OLIVAS PAIN), but she looks so much better than the mountain king. She lifts VAINGLORY to the highest level imaginable. Sometimes with high screams, sometimes with a sensitive, very emotional sounding voice, but always with a lot of power. CHASTAIN was a very good start for this blonde metalvixen, but believe me, VAINGLORY is the real thing for her. And people still think that heavy metal is dead? Give me a break. I guess, they’ve never heard of VAINGLORY. Welcome back, Kate! Our metal fists will rise again for you with this new album.Were behind you for one hundred percent and reward this album with the full score. Buy or don’t call yourself a metalhead anymore!!!
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
VARIOUS- One Foot In Fire - A Tribute To CIRITH UNGOL (Solemnity Music)
If there is one heavy metal band, that deserves a good tribute, it must be CIRITH UNGOL, one of the biggest cult heavy metal bands ever. These guys made heavy metal pur sang and this was the reason for eleven bands to pay tribute to these kings of the undergroud. The “Cirith Ungol Overture”, a short instrumental piece, opens this CD. The Dutch band ROTTEN is a cooperation of Hans Kuurstra on drums, who has actually met CIRITH UNGOL several times, and Martin van den Bergen on guitar and bass. They put short excerpts of five songs together and created a new tune out of it. Very well done this mix of recognisable pieces. FALCON comes very close to the sound of CIRITH UNGOL, which isn’t strange, because Greg Lindström plays guitar in this band. They chose for “Shelobs Lair”, including a short spoken intro. Although their sound comes very close to the original, this is a song from their debut album “Falcon”, and it is NOT a CIRITH UNGOL leftover or cover. Can you get any closer to the original than this one? FALCON consists of Perry Grayson on vocals and guitars (who now lives in Australia) and Darin McCloskey on drums, next to Greg. Wonderful stuff! On with SOLEMNITY from Germany with “What Does It Take”. SOLEMNITY is well-known for their entertaining show elements during their stage performances. They introduced the keyboard sound nicely in their metal sound and also the icely high screams of their singer shows some resemblance to the great voice of Tim Baker. SOLEMNITY consists of Sven The Axe on vocals and keyboards, Ralf ‘Red Monk’ Gromer on bass, Nosferatu Kuba on guitars and Stefan Huber on drums. Italian metallers HOLY MARTYR took “Frost And Fire” to cover. They speeded it up a little to come closer to their own original sound. Okay, every band is free to do what they feel like, while covering these magic tracks. HOLY MARTYR consists of Alessandro Mereu on vocals, Carlo Oilia on bass, Ivano Spiga on guitars, Giacomo Macis on drums and Andrea Mucelli on guitars. DAWN OF WINTER is Gerrit P. Mutz (SACRED STEEL) on vocals, Joachim ‘Bolle’ Schmalzried on bass, Jörg M. Knittel on guitars and Dennis Schediwy on drums. And a true doom metal band chooses a true doom song of course. “Doomed Planet” is a good choice, because the pace is turned down low here. Great axework on this one. ASSEDIUM from Italy jump on their “Black Machine” for a short ride. The band consist of Marco on vocals, Drake on bass, Guido ‘Barbarian’ on guitars, Daniele on drums and Chicco ‘The Beast’ on guitars. The band chose this song, because it came very close to the guitar playing of their guitarist Guido. Therefore, the guitar solo is the most outstanding part in this song. “Heaven Help Us” is performed by the Swiss band EMERALD. It comes from the album “Paradise Lost” and the band thinks it’s a true metal anthem. EMERALD consists of Ivo Julmy on vocals and guitars, Anreas Bächner on drums, Alain Stucki on guest guitar, Michael Vaucher on guitars, Thomas Vaucher on keyboards and Stephan Kaufmann on bass. MONSTRUM is on next with “Fallen Idols”. The band turned this song into their own style. It was not their idea to stay close to the original version, but they still wanted to pay tribute to CIRITH UNGOL. As you can see, there are many reasons why people think they need to pay tribute to one of their favorite bands here. MONSTRUM hails from Poland and consists of Mariusz Waltoœ on vocals, Waclaw Dudek on guitars, Marcin Habaj on guitars, Tomasz Guzek on bass, Damian Zajac on guitars and Przemyslaw Rzeszutek on drums. Italian band ROSAE CIRCUS comes with “Death Of The Sun”, a song about the end of this planet. They also chose to rearrange the song a little, and gave it a progressive twist in the middle of the song. There’s a lot of power unleashed here, and also the vocal parts come close to the high screams of Mr. Baker. ROSAE CIRCUS consists of Giuseppe Cialone on vocals, Massimiliano Salvatori on bass, Andrea Magini on guitars, Piero Arioni on drums and Tiziano Marcozzi on guitars. BATTLE RAM from Italy, asks us to “Join The Legion”. Well, didn’t we already do that by buying and /or listening to this wonderfull tribute CD? BATTLE RAM consists of Danielle DiLoretto on vocals, Mirko Santini on bass, Davide Natali on guitars, Pierpaolo Sita on drums and Gianluca Silvi on guitars. You can only say ‘yes’ to this request. Yes, we do want to join the legion, my friends. When the end of the CD comes near, we’re in for a nice surprise here. The Polish metal band CRYSTAL VIPER cooperates with Paul Taylor and Phil Denton of ELIXIR. An unique cooperation, which also stands for a unique version of “Chaos Rising”, which lasts for almost eight minutes. A very worthy closer of this great tribute CD. CRYSTAL VIPER consists of Marta Gabriel on vocals, Pawel Szczubial on guitars, Adam Kowalczyk on guitars, Tomek Stanicki on bass and Mariusz Pawlowski on drums. The ultimate dream come true would be a reunion by the origianl band. Since that won’t happen, this is a great initiation to relive the wonderful, excentric music by this legendary cult outfit. The exclusive foreword, plus many pictures from the private collection of Robert Garven alone is already worth buying this silver disc.
(9/10- Toine van Poorten)
VICE/THE KILL- Complete (Stormbringer Records)
VICE is derived from the ashes of BREAKER and RUDE AWAKENING. The demo songs, you hear on this album, are from 1984. “Take Cover” already gets my full attention. Fast guitars, steady beats and a good singer. “Running Wild” is on next and they added some more melody here. VICE consisted of Dave Samalin on vocals, Kenny Wexler on bass, Chuck Terhune on drums and the extraordinary guitarist Ken Villeneuve. The sound quality is a bit low budget maybe, but definitely not bad at all. “When It’s Hot” opens with loud screams and a pumping bass rhythm sets the pace. It’s the title track of this first three track demo. The second demo “Vice Kills” starts with “Mutant’s March”, which easily flows over into “Ready To Fire”, a fast headbanger. The highlight on side A however is the last song “Do Unto Others”. A fast metal tune with some exciting guitar masturbation. What a power! Okay, if you flip the LP over you’ll hear the continuation of what Ken Villeneuve and Chuck Terhune did with their band THE KILL. Besides Ken and Chuck, the band consisted of Joe Petrosine on vocals, Chris ‘Gus’ Mongon on bass and Dave Frame on bass (last two songs). “Kill Or Be Killed” is found twice on this side, as it was recorded on the first and on the second demo in 1985 and 1986. It’s a true speed metal killer with again some awesome guitar work by Ken. It’s a shame, that he didn’t reach a higher status than those demos, because he’s an awesome guitar shredder, I can assure you! Anyway, the sound is a lot more speed metal than VICE, which was actually more heavy metal. “Metal Messiah” is on next and the guitar solo seems to come from out of nowhere. What a monstrous sound! Definitely another highlight for me. VICE fans will enjoy “Mutant’s March / Ready To Fire” for the second time here, as it was re-recorded by THE KILL on their first demo. The 1986 demo contains two songs, namely “Murder By Metal” and the aforementioned “Kill Or Be Killed”. “Murder By Metal” sounds brutal and ultrafast and comes close to what ABATTOIR or AGENT STEEL was all about. “Kill Or Be Killed” also received a speed metal makeover, that makes the song even better than it already sounded. A killer album on nice white, marble vinyl in a gatefold sleeve with liner notes written by Chuck. It even includes some nice pix. This is what they call a diamond in the rough to every metal addict out there!
(9,1/10- Toine van Poorten)
VICIOUS RUMORS- Warball (Mascot Records)
With an amazing line up, to good for words, VICIOUS RUMORS returns to the US metal scene. Armed with a new album, that will bring out the best of these true metallers. The line up consists of Geoff Thorpe (who else?) on guitar, James Rivera on sirens, Larry Howe on drums, Dave Starr on bass, Thaen Rasmussen (ex-ANVIL CHORUS) on guitar and Brad Gillis (ex-OZZY and NIGHTRANGER) on guitar. That this cooperation will lead to some exciting material will be no big surprise. And opener “Sonic Rebellion” is a good example of this all. It’s short, it’s catchy, it has got powerful vocals and lots of great guitar work. In the past few years, VICIOUS RUMORS sounded a bit industrial at times. Like they wanted to be part of the metal scene of the new millennium. This album sets them back in the mid-eighties again, which is a huge compliment. Gone are the slightly industrial elements and the band is ready to attack their fans with some true metal again. “Immortal” has got some Halford-like screams of Rivera, who proves that he is still one of the best heavy metal singers around. The whole song breathes the well-known PRIEST atmosphere, by the way. Title track “Warball” sounds a bit darker and slower. While “Wheels Of Madness” turns up the speed again. “Windows Of Memory” is an acoustic ballad and a short piece of rest, before “A Ghost Within” explodes in your face again. Together with the magnificent CD closer “Oceans Of Rage”, they bring back the PRIEST influences, especially vocalwise. “Warball” is a solid ball of rock and a good comeback album of VICIOUS RUMORS. It’s a shame, that this line up wasn’t going to last for a long time. Rivera went back to HELSTAR, and also Thaen Rasmussen and Brad Gillis left the band, to persue their own career. But as long as Geoff Thorpe pulls the strings, there will always be VICIOUS RUMORS.
(8,5/10- Toine van Poorten)
WOLFEBLITZER- LOnely World (independent)
I will always continue to support the underground, because it’s where it all happens. The best music doesn’t necessarily come from the huge names in the scene. And we are there to inform you about these rough diamonds. We’ve already introduced you to WOLFEBLITZER from Texas. Well, this band has released a new album, called “Lonely World”. It contains ten brand new songs, including one cover and it captures forty-five minutes of some of the purest metal mayhem. The CD opens with a mindboggling guitar solo in “Eyesore So High”, completed with the high pinching vocals of Val Seals. That’s the way I wanna hear it and this is only just the beginning. Sirens wail, when “Hells Present” gets delivered, and some icely high screams are on next. Yes, this is indeed the ultimate start for another metal anthem. My flesh starts to creep, which is a very good sign, my friends. The music sounds like a good mix of JUDAS PRIEST, old style PRIMAL FEAR and IGNITOR. The cover song is called “Diamonds And Rust”, which is originally a JOAN BAEZ song, but most of us only know the PRIEST version. WOLFEBLITZER’s version comes very close to the way the PRIEST performs it nowadays, which is a lot slower than on “Unleashed In The East”. If you like that version more, just wait until the band presses the pedal to the metal, because that version is captured here as well. Two versions in one, and I must admit that this sounds like the ultimate version to me. What power, what a perfect way to pay tribute to the worlds greatest heavy metal band. And the fun ain’t over yet. “Forgetta ‘Bout It” is loaded with more PRIEST riffs and PRIMAL FEAR-like chorusses. “Rollin’” contains a lot of power and the guitars cry out loud. “Hungry For Love” opens with another perfect riff. The song invites you to sing along to the ‘Hungry For Love’ part. And still not a weak spot in sight. WOLFEBLITZER proves that they are true believers of heavy metal on this album and they really lived up to my expectations. Together with BLACK WIDOW USA and IGNITOR, they are at the top of true heavy metal for me. Right now, the band consists of Val Seals on vocals, Lee Seals on guitar, Ben Matthews on guitars, Chris Shields on guitar, Dean ‘Dino’ Gibson on drums and Michael Millsap on bass. Yes, you’ve got that right, there are three guitar players in this band. “A Matter Of Importance” opens in a balladesque kind of way and then slowly develops itself into a good power ballad with the icely high Halford screams of Val. “Murky Water” captures a nice long instrumental part, in which the guitar players can do their thing. No, they ain’t tired yet, they just go on and on. “The Vermin” is another strong metal tune, ready to bang your head upon. The CD closes after forty-five minutes with title track “Lonely World”. For the last time (well, I hope not), the band astonishes me with their strength and power and will to play true heavy metal to the bone. Turn back the clock to 1983 and remember the sound of metal in these days. It’s 2009 now, and WOLFEBLITZER proves, that you can still capture the metal sound of twenty-five years ago without sounding old-fashioned. They simply bring back all cool memories of those days on an album, that breathes true metal from the beginning until the very last note fades away. Hail to the kings and queen from Houston, who made this great album possible. I carve the full score on my computer with my metal sword for these people. Metal ain’t dead. Maybe it has gone asleep for the eyes of the world, but it was brought back to life by Val Seals and her guys. WOLFEBLITZER rules!!!! Website: http://www.wolfeblitzer.com.
(10/10- Toine van Poorten)
WRETCH- Reborn (Auburn Records)
WRETCH feels reborn, and the world has got to know. The eleven powerful metal tracks on this album have a running time of about fifty minutes and show us that WRETCH has got a lot to offer. The sound comes close to bands like HALLOWEEN (just listen to the vocal parts in opener “Mental Wars” for example) and other US metal warriors. Colin Watson is a great singer and frontman, which is extremely important for a band. In title track “Reborn” I feel being thrown back into time. That riff could be on any of the early SAXON albums. Sometimes we hear touches of today’s metal sound too, but they’re well-hidden fortunate enough. “The Winners” is the obligatory ballad on this album, which the band turned into a more power ballad, if you like, including a great speed change somewhere at the end of the song. While in “Till Death Do You Part”, some IRON MAIDEN influences appear, showing their European roots. WRETCH is absolutely a band to believe in and a great addition to the US metal scene of today.
(8/10- Toine van Poorten)