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Slaughter Prophecy
Massacre Records 2001
Intro lays the soundtrack feel to the album, so fear not the gore flooding out in screeches and growl of the title track, rather a sonic caricature of King Diamond than serious attack which is “The Rites Of Sacrifice”. More so appears “Sacred Bloody Steel”, highly melodic anthem to the force, where Gerrit Mutz’s voice reigns proudly – there’s an immense strength in his vibrato pushed forward in “Lay Me To My Game”. Yet how much pathos can be devoured? Cartoons sold out to the tales of yore, “Raise The Metal Fist” feels repugnant in its seriousness if set against Lemmy’s ditty of similar title. Having two guitarists doesn’t give the band too much inventory to kick the bang alright, their imagination restricted on both lyrical and musical level. “Invocation Of The Nameless One” epic is a good sign of what might be – and it will be, lest theatricality prevails.


Soft Ride
Amir Perry 2001
Nowadays to be recording on 4-track is a unique yet rewarding experience – at least, for Israel’s Amir Perry. The start is a “Tom’s Funeral” dirge resulting in a puzzle electronica-squeezed soundscapes, and just before you’re up for some hip hop “Remedy” spills in fuzzed ’60s scenery. It’s an eclectic if pleasantly steady bag of tunes, in which “Kasandra” is THE SHADOWS-esque surf and “The Lost Pedos” KINKS-style exuberant overload that’s hard not to be stomping a foot to. Effects are in abundance here to envelope “For Today” and quirky “Pick Me Up” in exquisite light English psychedelia. With album like this you never can tell where you’re at but know it’s right where you wanted to be, even house beat of the title track hides a naughty aural undertow and “Plug I” sounds not unlike crazy tango. “Select Your Freedom” is a good definition, the gist of which lies in use of “select” instead of “choose” – we’re belong to now, anyway. Now, when “No Sun Today” is a glistening stream of sound.


Biscuits & Slavery
Record Heaven 2001
“Somethin’ Gotta Give” proclaim the band supplying funked-up riff, organ chunks and fierce attack. Great it might have been, had they not taken their name too literally. There’s enough sludge to this incandescent Delta blues to get dirty. While slide-caressed, harp-adorned walk of “SABBATH-loaded “Porchlight Blind” get close to the heart of the matter, sharing Zep’s view at the muddy water banks’ heritage in “Cabin” or “Make Amends” fails without Blighty perspective. Attitude can’t hide the weakness of Ad Cavalier’s drumming and unstable vocals of Adam Elliott. All the fire comes from Jeff Moir’s guitar and Tracey Scott’s bass flowing a lava river out of “Biscuits N’ Slavery”. Moreoever, blues isn’t something to freak out with, and slowing the “Dirty Boys” chops down makes the band a second hand STEPPENWOLF, which is hardly what they’re in for. Authencity doesn’t make for art, that is.


Steamhammer 2002
No sleep til’ you get hammered, yes? There’s something magic about Lemmy’s rock’n’roll as it always picks you up when you’re down. You’ve heard it all before – even “No Remorse” enters the band’s lexicon not for the first time, though this time it’s a tremendously overloaded song – but why not kick it again? Sharp joy told in Chuck Berry-shaped licks of “Mine All Mine” is a zest of this ensemble, and if you can’t get distracted sometimes from a feeling of fatigue overbearing melodics like in “Voices From The War”, that puts forth a bluesy fraction of the ‘HEAD’s soup. A relentless shake comes in on guitar buzz set against synth layer, very bright in “Brave New World”, and that’s a good addition to the sound. Maybe almost 6 mins of opening “Walk A Crooked Mile” is a stretch yet closing “Serial Killer”, a poem being read, makes for a compensation. For those objecting there always is a “Shut Your Mouth” quirky refrain (hear the boogie piano bash deep in the mix). It’s as romantic as it gets with “Red Raw” and “Dr. Love”, so the choice is simple: get hammered or die.


MECCA – Mecca
Frontiers Records 2002
Calling a bunch of second-row players from TOTO and WORLD STAGE a supergroup would be a word too strong even though MECCA are an attraction. Jim Peterik’s skills are the project’s main force but, at the same time, Mr. AOR’s recent prolificacy resulted in song conveyer whereas a produce should have been more exclusive. All of it tastes good anyway, and those into genre will fall for the swagger of “Velocitizied” and “Without You” that Joe Vana and Fergie Frederiksen deliver in turn over Mike Aquino’s chops to splice the leads only for “Can’t Stop Love”. You can’t go wrong with those titles. Yet ripping off FREE’s “Wishing Well” for the song of the same name feels an abuse. Towards the end the drift dulls: it’s not easy to become ASIA for a new millenium. Vana sticking to mellow tunes as “Silence Of The Heart” and Frederiksen swinging his balls off in “You Still Shock Me” seem a scheme too primitive for a listener to squeeze his imagination in though this is a pleasing hajj.


Final Tragedy 2002
After five-year struggle and two EPs under their belt, French duo make it on their own. Strangely, vocalist Delphine Cochand and multi-instrumentalist Jean-Luc Millot prefer to label their music as metal thus propelling just one of the ingredients of this witches brew pouring in with opening “Lethal Pursuit”: etherial voice slides over guitar strain, thick as wall here and silvery transparent there, making for a convoluted matter. Unless it’s measured epical like “Gift?”, long enough to be boring, there’s a soulfood for all. “On A Fall’s Night” is equally indie as metal, while “Evil Games” tends to high-time prog and shifting signatures create electronica-tinged jazzy undercurrent to fill “Speak The Words” with tears. Still, the music’s coldness may lead to alienation, which they’re aware of and speak out in Eastern scales of “Cold Sun”. Yet whatever great craftsmanship is, some catchy melody would be warmly welcomed. So in come acoustic web of “The Wait” and caressing piano to run through “One More Time”, the most exquisite tune of all – shades of RENAISSANCE flicker by – that sets FINAL TRAGEDY aside of the goth flock. This bird is up for catching and bounding to a label interested.


Witch Dance
Frontiers Records 2002
With the second album the foursome cut it too smooth to hit: “Messenger” is a typical example, full of brilliant parts yet falling between neo-prog and contemporary hard rock. Guitarist Magnus Karlsson may have invited drummer Jamie Salazar, his writing partner in MIDNIGHT SUN, into the fold but all the humour of that band had been left outside. The record holds a little of feelings, staying afar from rage that could lie in chops of “Bring Out The Brave” or “The Eternal Curse”. Even Rickard Bengtsson’s voice always sounds straight where it could divert. The more agressive, then, the better, so “Wake Up The World” appears compelling with its piano line running through guitar wall and “Man Of Peace” coming as close to sharp rock’n’roll as to dumb gamuts instead of real solo. Sheer space, vibrant with Dick Cowgren’s bass, just begs for some smut that doesn’t come, and “Wash Your Sins Away” is a fitting definition. Closing numbers, exquisite instrumental “Agadir” and kicking “Dreamer”, are worth the rest. What you say about the difficult second albums?


Silver Dollar Sunday
Jam Records 2001
You think of the Sixties, don’t you? Right! Dive in the sheer joy of these fourteen songs ticking in in 36 mins. “The Only People In The World” opens the gates for all to come marching to Mark Reynolds’ exuberant beat. “Here we go again”, an infectious line of “I Can Stand It”, warmly welcomes back the naivette of days thought long gone. It appears they not, as insists the voice of guitarist Tim Boykin, the drivng force behind the trio. Let’s not attribute the obvious references as a sunny surge laps around your ears, yet “Please Please Me” hook re-shaped for the title track is a refreshingly delightful statement too overt to ignore. “Who Am I Talking To”, awashed with deep bass from Walon Smith, a question to raise many a hand around the world. And harmonies, ooh those harmonies! And riffs too – spiky “I Can’t Go Wrong” and “See Yer Picture Too” have it all. Reliving your teens is what these songs are about. Be it heartbreak tears of “Long Time” or scintillating dance of the SHOES’ cover, “The Summer Sun”, it’s a happy day when a frown is momentary. But this moment of the past all your silver dollars can’t buy. Ah, the music – that’s what you can hold to yourself. A record to live with and to make love to.


Rude Awakening
Metal-Is Records 2002
Approaching the 20th year of their thrashing, MEGADETH eventually deliver their first live album. The songs on the offer are the ones that fans voted for on the band’s website and, therefore, represent the discography well, from “Mechanix”, written by Dave Mustaine way back in METALLICA, to 2001’s “Return To Hangar” following old “Hangar 18” in the set. The energy is exactly as expected and Storm Thorgeson’s artwork is second to none, yet the sound… The “official bootleg” tag would be a warning to those looking at the concert releases as the way to have the cream of the crop without cashing out on studio works. Save for fantastic “A Tout Le Monde”, the mix appears shaky, guitar solos dropping out and vocals often too frontal, like in “1000 Times Goodbye”. Mustaine struggles with notes – “Reckoning Day” builds very difficult – and his voice is very thin but, at the same time, on the choruses prominent support from his mates feels great. Instrumental prowess is out of question here, Jimmy DeGrasso thundering a drum solo out of “She Wolf”, Al Pitrelli entwining his guitar with the leader’s for “Train Of Consequences” and Dave Ellefson’s bass anchoring this punky circus together. This is a freaky kind of entertainment, going cathartic in “Sweating Bullets”. Rude, yes, though sometimes flat – easy to slip in, sleep in and not be awakened.


MOOK E. – Shma Israel
NMC Music 2002
That’s beautiful, Middle Eastern-flavoured hip hop and intelligent Hebrew rapping. That works good, all these violins come much more natural here than ZEP’s “Kashmir” incorporated into Puff Daddy’s prancing. An interesting bias from easy dance unto the joy fantastic. There is joy, fun oozing out from the singer’s phrasing of Latino-shaped “Weh De Girls Dem” or “Who Never Get It Yet”. It may go like: “I’m the King of the block, sleazy dog of the flock” but, contrary to gangsta, acoustic backing of “Talking ‘Bout Peace” makes it morph into urgent pacifist mantra, very dramatic in its “Everybody’s talking ’bout peace and no-one talks justice” anguish. Ecclesiastes musings of “Wouldn’t Change A Thing” as a soundtrack to Samuel L. Jackson preaching in the wilderness? Quite so – groove to “Roots Natty” skank yet don’t shun slow burn of “The Earth Is Crying” to see the depth of the Mook’s work, not sacrilegious in drawing the title phrase, a traditional pledging allegiance to God, into “Cross That Bridge”, very dramatic children voices against cutting dub. In this country politics penetrate life, that’s why “Time To Wake Up” convince – a sign ‘o’ the times.


Human Stain
Massacre Records 2002
It’s all started with Scottish warbler Doogie White auditioning for ROYAL HUNT – he’d failed – and striking a chord with Steen Mogensen. “Human Stain”, the second outing of their joint venture, is about the best in classic hard rock. That’s how it might have sounded had RAINBOW, White’s former gig, been led not by guitar player but bassist, like Steen. You’ll be forgiven then, to think “Some People Fly” was conceived while White hung out in Blackmore’s company because it was indeed, and fantastic “Future Rising” too. That experience lingers on into streamline “Midnight In Tokyo” and fits CORNERSTONE content well.

Profound bass lays out a foundation for chunks of guitar and organ clashing in off ringing “Unchosen One”, tight with singer’s silvery anger, and even supplies a solo for majestic “Sail On Stormy Waters”. And there are many layers to the music revealing one by one that sometimes take in Eastern motifs like those of “Wounded Land” or “Forever Young” kept up by “Kashmir” rhythm. At the same time, whatever philosophical is the drift, music feels effortless and never slides to sentiments, which has to do with occasional undercurrent of folk lurking deep in “Singing Alone” and “House Of Evermore”. Most curious appears “Resurrection Sympathy”: steel guitar against distorted voice make for a great effect resulting in compelling chorus – an articulation of the title. Thrown in this life, one has to fight and enjoy his struggle, a human stain.


Point Music 1999
Here’s a buried-treasure-to-be as an idea of marrying a rock band with an orchestra worn off in the last years. Still, this one was a part of a project that’s faded due to lack of attention – London Musicians Orchestra isn’t the most famous yet suitable for touring with a limited budget and the ensemble here are all names: Phil Spalding on bass, Zak Starkey drumming, Simon Townshend, Pete’s brother, on rhythm guitar, Geoff Whitehorn on the lead one and his former CRAWLER colleague Rabbit Bundrick laying down the organ parts. Anyway, it’s not them in the spotlight but the singers, the class of which is shown in the choice of backing vocalists, STYX’s Tommy Shaw and NIGHT RANGER’s Jack Blades. Moreover, the zest comes with casting a voice for a song.

Thus start seems rather awkward with Roger Daltrey struggling hard with “Kashmir”, and Ann Wilson’s help feels a blessing. Orchestra doesn’t work here too, because the original recording had one as well. And who could accomplish ZEP’s height? Ms Wilson at least does “Stairway To Heaven” convincingly, while THE WHO frontman succeeds only when he lets his rough voice share “Let It Be” with Thelma Houston’s clear tone. Not a big surprise, really, as well as Houston’s deep reading of “Ruby Thuesday” – what can’t be said of her version of “Comfortably Numb”, a tad pathetic rendition signals the first time a black artist handles FLOYD material. The closest one may come to it is Eric Burdon’s “animalistic” take on “Another Brick In The Wall”. Making a classic tune one’s own is a challenge, so “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” is noteworthy not only for Nigel Kennedy’s treatment of the Fabs’ gem and his violin duel with Whitehorn’s axe but also for Starkey’s attempt to veer away from his father’s canonical part.

The brightest, though, shines Paul Rodgers interpreting Lennon and McCartney. If duetting with Ann Wilson comes wonderful, a “Peace Suite” is a revelation: great songs in bluesy cloth. It’s a sublime moment, hearing Rodgers emphasizing “He got Muddy Water” in “Come Together”, swinging more fiercefully than ever. The lines Lennon would cut short are sustained for “Imagine” to become a gospel and “Give Peace A Chance” a spiritual. And other way round – going down-to-earth with “Penny Lane”, Paul then stretches a thread from his namesake’s “Blackbird” to BAD CO’s “Seagull” with rare elegance.

That is balanced with “Celebration Suite”, “Start Me Up” pushed to its funniest by Alice Cooper, and Tommy Shaw having a go at “A Hard Day’s Night”, and trilogy of “5:15”, “See Me, Feel Me” and “Listening To You”. The latter, an ode to the music, leads to understanding of the fact British Rock Symphony means more than it may seem: let alone band and orchestra, these classic cuts of British rock indeed seague into a symphony of sorts. A marriage bearing out not a philosopher’s stone but something not to gather dust.


A Tribute To The Beast
Nuclear Blast 2002
The Beast in question is, sure, IRON MAIDEN and there’s not too many impersonators as you could guess, which is a good point. The weak one is that many of the bands on display lose the focus. Those are the two categories, with balance between an original and personal input kept only by THERION in “Children Of The Damned” and – the most impressive of all – TERRA SANCTA’s “Flight Of Icarus” turned ballad. Then, if STEEL PROPHET reading of “The Ides Of March” feels not inspired yet good, “Hallowed Be Thy Name” from CRADLE OF FILTH sees vocal part desecrated to hysterical screech’n’bark, keyboards adding nothing to the proceedings. The ones who prick it right are SINERGY doing “The Number Of The Beast”, RAGE having a go at “The Trooper” and, strange as it may seem for such a “clean” group, SONATA ARCTICA handling “Die With Your Boots On” – those just played the music they love while the others were thinking too much on diversion not accomplished anyway. That’s why more natural come the DiAnno-era tracks like “Running Free” as treated by GRAVE DIGGER or “Prowler” that BURDEN OF GRIEF give even more paranoia than the writers. Luckily, then, nobody dared tackling “Run To The Hills”!


Loaded Mental Cannon
Record Heaven 2001
No-frills dirty mental rock from three girls and a guy, a drummer called Fredrik Haske. Michelle Meldrum’s guitar steers a sonic attack kicking off with “The Story Of Junk” taking a grungey swirl with Frida Stahl’s Geezer-influenced fluid bass and Moa Holmsten’s vixen voice which spits fury into “Aspartame”. Not a bad remake of “Zero The Hero” but the real feelings spill out only with the third track, “Feeding The Hope”, an eloquent title in terms of music, a bit of blues enlivening cruel bashing. That’s an attempt of turning modern indie ethics into mainstream, and John Norum and Brian Robertson come handy providing the solos for, respectively, “Through Shattered Eyes” and “Attakapa”, as here’s an abiding impression of superficiality under the crust, sitar of “Chaos” notwithstanding. The reason may lie in the fleeting suspicion: metal like that of “Two Lost Worlds” – another SABBATH clone – is not where female fare well, and their bold work reeks of histrionics. Naturally sounds raga-tinctured closing “Reign Mantra”, the one fitting the band best – no pretension, no overstretching. Why, then, not to follow their own words: “Keep it all from fadin’ when you are awake, all from rearranging, got to keep it clear”? Steer clear and go mental.


Breath Of Life
Steamhammer 2002
After an eight-year hiatus the pomp rock mammoths are back in action. At the first glance, they’re the same, with guitarist Tony Clarkin doing all the writing, Bob Catley in top vocal form and keyboardist Mark Stanway as solid as ever. But bassist Al Barrow coming over from Clarkin-Catley project HARD RAIN and grand intro of the opener “Cry” dissolving in drum machine rhythm signal of a new situation – no matter how Catley strives, expectations don’t get justified, especially from the perspective of the singer’s solo efforts. Even the title track doesn’t live up to the said title. Piano-driven soul of “Still” and jolly “This Heart” hold the flickering of the past glory – but where have the harmony choruses gone? Only “Just Like January” serves as a flashback; save for it, there’s no depth to the band now with all the appeal of “Let Somebody In”. It’s bits and pieces rather than songs, good refrains of “Everyday” or “That Holy Touch” unbalanced by overall demo feel, while “Dream About You” appears too maudlin – maybe, rightly for geezers like these. Was it all worthy re-uniting, then? Monumental “After The Rain” likeness to perennial “Tin Soldier” comes hardly a coincidence – old soldiers moved from their line.


The Headless Horseman
Nuclear Blast 2002
Not the Wild West but the Old World. Solid and comfortable, new singer Rob Thompson silver pipes struggling against rather dull instrumental backing, in the title track thick thanks to Cory Betts’ bass yet not imaginative to a bit – “heads will roll” line sums up the experience. That endures up to the closing “Ballad Of A Thin Man”, which preferrably be the Dylan’s one than dedication to Phil Lynott: great late wordsmith Philo wouldn’t have approved silly rhyming of his songtitles. OK, such are the rules of the game including “Dragon Slayer” but there’s a hookiness in “Nightstalker” and “Call To Arms” – if only guitar work matched vocal choruses. “Spread Your Wings” makes for it, a strong viscous ballad appears clever and rightly cut short before it becomes boring. At least, MAIDEN blueprint is paler here than elsewhere, and aimless “Forever Chasing Rainbows” proves its title until pure THIN LIZZY Irish solo pours in. Maybe, that’s impossible to clothe the winged horse in armour.


Pictures In Mind
Zephyrwood Music 2002
“Post-modern electronic ambient jazz” is a definition Woodall gives to his music. Quite intimidating for beautiful minimalistic melodies executed as if Rick Wakeman plays John Cale. Here’s the same method of “musical portraying” on display – rather literally: this collection is inspired by paintings exhibited in NY museums. So jazziness comes in equal measure as classicism: while “Stepping Out” sees vibes playing slow, bluesy ragtime, “128 Details From A Picture” is shaped like an orchestrated court dance. It’s New Age music that’s hard to fathom on the spot, the “Ariadne” thread shining in deceptively simple sonic tangle, and electronica strokes sweeping harmonium and fragile piano in “Bohemia Lies By The Sea” are charmingly emotive. That’s touchy: for “The Mountain” artist choses analog sounds where others would opt for electronic buzz. Abstract like in “Report From Rockport” or pacifying as “Sea Gulls”, there’s always a joy of looking at a masterpiece – paintings were, in Earnest words, “viewed & admired” – and translating the visual into aural. That’s why “Autumn Rhythm” is a fitting title for a tired pavane reeling alongside crickets-chirp-splashed “Evening” – call it a post-modern “Eine Kleine Nachtmusic”. Yet post-modern doesn’t define “Pictures In Mind”, the music tends to be out-of-timey and extemporal, if there’s any difference in the terms.


The Sky’s The Limit
Massacre Records 2002
Horizon is something you can’t reach, and the English/French combo show the limit of the chase. But the attempt noteworthy and one can’t escape getting hooked on mighty “Freedom”, a delicious melange of funk, hard rock and progressive – a combination of thick key pads, sharp guitar, swaggering bass and drums and soaring vocals not heard since KANSAS’ rise above confusion. There’s hardly a debut without a reference points, and “Don’t Hide In The Shadow” could be next SCORPIONS’ great ballad with its exquisitely-woven acoustic cloth. One Meine is enough so trick doesn’t work as good on heavy “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” and “Caught In The Middle” charged blues. Still, singing axeman Patrick Hemer holds the reins firmly – in “Keep On Fighting” gripping the vocal harmonies mighty, the only drawback lies in rather schematic approach that makes strong numbers like “Living In Danger” a touch lifeless, which balances drama of “The End” and sheer energy spilling out of “Hometown Star” and great instrumental “Atlantis”. Atlantis of yore sank, so keep an eye on HORIZON: they’ve come to stay.


Flower Bomb
Jam Records 2001
Bubbling sparkling emotions are what “Flower Bomb” is about. Shades of BYRDSian 12-string spread across “At The Bookstore” revealing joy hidden in everyday life, and here’s the title track scattered over three parts to fill the space with rupture of harmonies growing electric – a wonderful nod to Nick Drake in the beginning and BEATLES in the end. Angotti’s not shy to call out his influences – up to coming up with a title like “Being Colin Blunstone”. Yet he’s fresh, Phil’s world seems inhabited with jolly ghosts rather than zombies, humour everywhere. “Pain In The Brain”? How sweet this innocence appears in witty “Lazy Apple” (are Mods back?) or poignant “Try To Dream” and its simplified solo! Listening to songs like “Myself In Your Place” you can’t help but contemplate whether this shyness is what Britpop had lost – the guitar motif shared with the Fabs’ “I’m Happy Just To Dance With You” hardly a coincidence. Towards the end the drift gets modernized, some may compare chorus of “Sway” to TRAVIS’ “Sing”. OK, there’s the same source of inspiration, and ethic articulated in “Too Late Tomorrow” is great at least. Honest music, genuine feelings. A masterpiece.


Weight Of The World
Frontiers Records 2002
Melodic rock protagonists efficiently come back with a mature work drawing on as many genres. Mid-tempo title track develops from bluesy crawl into snappy thunder of frenzied Pete Lesperance’s guitar and Barry Donaghy’s deep bass – an immediate hit. Faithful to their past glories, SCAREM nevertheless keep with the times cutting “Killing Me” maybe a bit hollower but modern enough for teenagers to get hooked. For adults, there’s a posh lascivious waltz of “Outside Your Window” with wonderful acoustic lace. Harry Hess shines in vaudeville-shaped ballad “This Ain’t Over”, accompanying himself on piano not unlike great late Freddie, the impression’s bolstered by harmony guitar and backing harmonies – all very easy and sincere. And if that’s unexpectable than how can be described fantastic acoustical country blues instrumental which is “Interlude”? It resolves in powerful rock’n’roll of “You Ruined Everything” and jolly “If You” that make one sing and shout along. What else is to be desired of a new work? Boys, you’re gonna carry that weight for a long time!

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