Hammerfall - (r)Evolution

Artist: Hammerfall
Album: (r)Evolution
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Heavy Metal

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Hammerfall are a generally preposterous band but one I have a little bit of a soft spot for. This opens well with “Hector’s Hymn," a song that really fires along and gives you some hope that the band have returned with something close to their best.

But sadly it appears to be a very early mild peak. Once its cheesy and infectious anthems are aside, the album is just a little flat really. Hector may have his “hammer high” but very quickly it falls and it’s more of a case of “hammer droop”.

The songs aren’t bad exactly but they just sound like Hammerfall. Over and over again. The title track is as lazy as it gets, their attempts to add some mood sound a tad pedestrian, and the closing “Wildfire" tries a real offbeat section that flops.

This all comes from someone who has dipped into Hammerfall over the years. If you’ve never heard them before and like your metal leaning towards power then grab it - but don’t be surprised when you find the back catalogue is mostly the same.

But then if you like your metal with a good power lean then you probably have Hammerfall’s catalogue already! This then won’t stand out.

13/20

Audio Porn - Midnight Confessions

Artist: Audio Porn
Album: Midnight Confessions
Label: JK Records
Genre: Hard Rock

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Band name, album title and sleeve all have me running for cover. Fortunately the songs are a little better than the generic sleaze rock I was expecting - but only just.

There is a nice marching riff to opener “This Ain’t Paradise" but it is then let down by fairly dull singing. "Sin" then follows with a good build up that is then again lacking when Azriel St Michael starts to strut his fairly lame vocals.

I don’t actually think he’s that bad but he’s been turned right down in the mix

and comes across as subdued. Most of the singing sounds like a chorus! It’s odd as it isn’t as if that is because they’ve pumped up the guitars instead.

This is a little wet and twenty five years too late. I doubt it would have survived “back in the day” so don’t think the 2014 prognosis is much better.

10/20

Overkill - White Devil Armory

Artist: Overkill
Album: White Devil Armory
Label: Nuclear Blast
Genre: Thrash Metal

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You kind of know what to expect from Overkill but that doesn’t mean this is predictable, more following a well tried formula.

There is a real mix of “tick-offs” - great lead guitar elements on songs like “Where There’s Smoke”, brooding expansion on “Bitter Pill" and the anthemic qualities of "Armorist”.

But whilst not wholly predictable it is all a little familiar. A few songs here may sneak their way into future live sets and there aren’t any real duds on the album but it is perhaps a little bit more of the same from this long serving outfit.

The band’s Facebook page says their next album is out in March 2012 and that is as good a summary as I could think of - yes it’s good but it is a little of yesteryear, just with a fresh production.

14/20

Amplifier - Mystoria

Artist: Amplifier
Album: Mystoria
Label: Superball Music
Genre: Space Rock

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This launches into proggy electronic enthusiasm immediately, some atmospheres building and there’s certainly enough from the outset to warrant continuing. The beat is fast and the parts build nicely on opener “Magic Carpet.” I hadn’t actually realised this was an instrumental before listening but it’s pretty obvious early on.

And that’s the type I prefer - where there is no obvious slot for some vocals. In fact the tracks that do have lyrics have them very sparingly and they are almost used as an instrument rather than in a more conventional way.

So guitars soar, vocals tend to float when they do occasionally appear, and the rhythms keep a good pace. The only down is that they do stick to that formula time and again. It is full of atmospheres and floating layers, all very well played but there isn’t much variety.

OMG" gives it a shot and is a real quirk of a track, but the one real trend breaker, the slow and melancholy "Crystal Mountain" doesn’t do it.

Overall it is a bit of a puzzle - what they do they do well but they do seem to do it quite a lot! The closing “Crystal Anthem" does inject a bit of extra energy to the mix and I would prefer a little more in that direction and beyond.

15/20

Mind Maze - Back From The Edge

Artist: Mind Maze
Album: Back From The Edge
Label: Inner Wound Recordings
Genre: Power Metal

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Soft guitars trickle us into some out and out power so it is a surprise when a generally melodic female vocal arrives on the scene. But this is US power, not European.

The opening title track goes on a little and starts to feel a little samey. Yes the music is well played and the sound immaculate but the assured vocals of Sarah Teets don’t really vary that much.

As the album goes on they do play with the power approach a little, chucking in some more progressive patches here and

there but the vocal style is generally the same throughout. It’s very pure but could do with a few changes to spice things up, more suited to the progressive elements.

It’s a tricky one. The music is intriguing and very good to listen to but I do feel that the vocal isn’t the best fit. There is no denying its quality but song after song I find myself waiting for the vocals to stop so I can get on with enjoying the music more. I’m also not sure that this will satisfy Euro power metallers. Personally I would push the progressive parts more and get the vocals to take a few different approaches.

15/20

Sarea - This Is Not Goodbye

Artist: Sarea
Album: This Is Not Goodbye
Label: Doolittle Group
Genre: Melodic Metal

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This Swedish band start things off with some futuristic sounds, soft sirens, a helicopter overhead and radio transmissions, before really launching into something.

There’s definitely content much more interesting than “melodic metal” on opener “Conform With Me”. It has an accessible beat with some hardcore vocals that give way to melodic choruses and the keys keep a real march going the whole time.

And that is generally how it continues.

This is fresh and the best I’ve heard from this label by a long way. The songs are similar in style but not repetitive, reminiscent of others but original. I think trad melodic metallers may get a shock!

So if you want a heavy melodic album with huge amounts, in the vocals at least, of hardcore coupled with some strong music then get a hold of this one. Everything on it is strong.

18/20

Reviews

Thanks to all of you following and reading. I haven’t had many live reviews on here for a while and any that do now come along will appear exclusively on Through The Wire Music. For ease their long hand web address is http://throughthewiremusic.com/

CD reviews will still appear here and then go on to The Rocktologist!!!

Ace Frehley - Space Invader

Artist: Ace Frehley
Album: Space Invader
Label: eOne
Genre: Rock

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I’m no fan of Kiss but it is pleasing to hear Frehley try something a bit different to start. The title track has vocals just a little faster than spoken and is very space rock as you would hope from the title.

As the album goes on it’s got a few cool riffs slowly spun out but doesn’t steer too far from a solid middle ground. Those vocals don’t ever kick in much faster than the start and after a while it all starts to sound a bit samey.

And a lot like Kiss.

The songs are all pretty much on repeat verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and don’t go anywhere special. Maybe Frehley just didn’t get the chance to have many of his songs played by Kiss and has been saving them up - if you want to know what this sounds like dig out one of those 1970s vinyls and you have it, with a different vocal.

If old style safe rock is your thing then go for it. I’ve moved on and did so many years ago! Only the closing, generally upbeat and vaguely fresh “Starship" has much for me to return to.

9/20

Asia - High Voltage Live

Artist: Asia
Album: High Voltage Live
Label: Frontiers
Genre: Prog Rock

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Only Time Will Tell" starts off this recording from High Voltage and the sound is fairly rough to be honest, the vocal suffering the most. As a live recording is normally a whole load of songs we have heard before, especially for such a long established artist, the sound is perhaps the most vital component.

Some spoken crowd interaction at the end of the opener is almost impossible to hear and whilst they went on to celebrate their first album in this show the recording has done all it can to ruin it.

I’m amazed they have put this out to be honest such is the perfection they normally attempt. This show sounds like it has some energy in it, a stark contrast to when I saw them a few years ago, but it is more like something out of a 1980s club on a bootleg cassette.

Collectors and completists only! Maybe the DVD will help save the aural experience.

10/20

Neil Morse - Songs From November

Artist: Neal Morse
Album: Songs From November
Label: Inside Out Music
Genre: Rock

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Having generally loved most of Morse’s prolific output I could have a good guess at what this would score. But I was wrong.

The album opens with the light “Whatever Days” which is similar to some past offerings and reminiscent of the likes of Billy Joel, all piano, horns and smoke filled bar. Yes it is light and fun but not really what I was I hoping for.

Heaven Smiled" follows and is a soft, slow ballad with a choir. Then the style changes again, some country from "Flowers In A Vase” before another ballad.

It chops too much really to have a lot of balance and whilst the skills shine through this starts to feel like a compilation album rather than a piece of its own.

If you are looking for some fairly light quality rock that goes off in numerous directions then go grab. I prefer my Morse with just a few little teeth.

13/20
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