Ross The Boss – By Blood Sworn Review

guess what ? I invented Manowar therefore i can record & perform anything i want . Any more stupid questions ?

guess what i dont have to do anything. Esp. What brave knuckleheaded internet warriors like you want me to do . Bronx greetings to you

2304600 (1).jpgI talked about how Crematory had no success insulting people on the internet who disliked their music, and Ross Friedman who calls himself The Boss (there is only one Boss, but that’s a different topic…) is portraying a level of insecurity, immaturity and too much free time on youtube as well (above comments taken from /watch?v=KrzIcFcMrSo). The problem with Crematory was that the band (“Germany’s leading metal band”) couldn’t back it up with any sort of relevant releases since the ’90s. Mr. Friedman on the other hand is quite the legend, having shaped a part of Manowar‘s success in the ’80s with his guitar playing and some amount of songwriting on albums like Kings Of Metal, after which he left the band. Past glory aside, can Ross The Boss, despite his childish sobriquet, substantiate his attitude with powerful music blowing the POSERS away or is it as disappointing as Crematory‘s output?

Opening title track “By Blood Sworn” impresses twofold: the songwriting indeed sounds like 1988’s Kings Of Metal, the riffs and pulsating drums are reminiscent of Manowar‘s typical fist-pumping, chest-thumping adrenaline filled sound. The other impression, albeit negative, is the sound. Immediately you will notice the washed-out sounding drums and guitars. I don’t understand what Mr. Friedman was going for here – this doesn’t sound old school, it sounds like a 64 kbit/s conversion of an otherwise fine sound. No, it’s not my files, you can listen to the terrible sound yourself here.

Sound is not all, and I can forgive By Blood Sworn‘s poor production if the songs are good. Sadly, after the initial positive impression with the powerful title track, “Among The Bones” features some terrible ’80s glam impressions with a highly generic chorus. What is going on here? This is far from the usual high-octane sound Manowar are known for, and which even Mr. Friedman himself displayed with his first two albums in 2008 and 2010 as Ross The Boss. Granted, those albums weren’t high quality songwriting either, but they at least channeled the spirit of true metal.

 

It seems like two souls live in Friedman’s chest as immediately he follows up with “This Is Vengeance”, probably the best track on the album. That doesn’t make it a great track, but the generic heavy metal clientele will like it. Some nice screams, a catchy chorus and energetic drums make an enjoyable, if average Manowar style banger. With this one being the most thrilling song of By Blood Sworn, you know it is only going downhill from here. With tracks like “We Are The Night”, “Devil’s Day” and “Circle Of Damnation” Ross The Boss only reinforces the mix of groovy glam metal and heavy metal. The solos are utterly boring and generic, not what I’d expect from an expert legend like Ross. I don’t know why he is limiting his prowess to common Mötley Crüe type metal tracks.

By Blood Sworn not only suffers from a subpar sound and weird (not in the good way) songwriting, but singer Marc Lopes performs the finishing move on this album’s death. His voice only knows one note and one timbre, kind of aggressive, squealy mid to high “singing”. This is not a good fit for a rather melodic heavy metal genre and I could rather see him in a sleazy rock band or a thrash metal outfit. Here due to his incredibly inflexible voice, all vocal lines (and songs) sound the same and lack energy. While the singer of the two previous releases Patrick Fuchs could still pull off a sweet Eric Adams impression, Marc Lopes is less of a singer and more of a tortured chicken squealing the same notes over and over.

As such, By Blood Sworn is a gruesome follow up to two fine Manowar clone albums and can’t even be enjoyed by the most devout of true metal fans as Mr. Friedman is going some really strange directions with his sound. It took eight years, but maybe it is time to stop if that’s all he can pull off after this time. The album inexplicably features THREE Manowar cover songs. Come on, it’s over, stop living in the past. Oh wait, I forgot.

guess what ? I invented Manowar therefore i can record & perform anything i want . Any more stupid questions ?

Chris, 04/19/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 6
Label: AFM Records
Links: Facebook | ross-the-boss.com
Release date: 04/20/2018

Judas Priest – Firepower Review

Judas-Priest_Firepower.jpgI told myself I would not review this album, but upon further reflection (and listening) the return of the Priest impressed me to the degree that I felt I should add my own two cents. Initially I thought of a review as redundant because with acts like Judas PriestIron Maiden and the likes there won’t be great innovation and you basically get what you expect. Firepower makes no difference in this and my point stands that Priest will not disappoint old fans and won’t make new fans. I mean, whose first Priest album will ever be Firepower? Anyone looking to get into this legend, especially these days, will do a quick google search and start listening to stuff like Painkiller, Screaming For Vengeance or Defenders Of The Faith. I, personally, would not care for anyone’s opinion on Firepower because as a long time fan I will either buy it (and listen to it) or not.

All that said, I think Firepower deserves a few honest words because it is so much better than its two predecessors Nostradamus (don’t even start…) and Redeemer Of Souls. This is kind of continuing the upwards trend from Nostradamus to Redeemer. So I could imagine some Priest devotees in despair – should you get Firepower or not?

In short: Yes. Judas Priest get back to basics with this new release. It is only understandable that in their long career a band like Priest would experiment with epic symphonic releases like NostradamusRedeemer Of Souls kind of oversteered in the opposite direction, leading to a rather bland release. Firepower however presents the Metal Gods back in good shape. The story-telling escapades are lost and this new record can’t be called boring or average in the least.

The first two tracks on the album, “Firepower” and “Lightning Strike” serve as a kind of peace offering to fans of Priest‘s old sound. It comes as no surprise those were released as the first two singles. Nothing special here, but nice to see that Priest can still push out those ass-kicking tunes.

methodetimesprodwebbin77f23f24-22f8-11e8-8ccc-a83211a65142Real interesting it only gets after those two songs though. Judas Priest are showcasing diverse influences and styles they took on over the course of their almost 50-year career across the various tracks of Firepower. “Evil Never Dies” almost reminds of Mercyful Fate style songwriting, presenting Rob Halford at his best. It takes Priest 14 songs and 58 minutes for a wild ride from one end to the other of the Judas Priest cage. That cage is no bad thing in this instance, it merely means Priest are offering all the variance they have while staying true to the band name. Nostradamus for example absolutely broke out of this cage, disappointing a lot of fans. Firepower however features amazing tracks rich in variety such as “Necromancer”, “Rising From Ruins” and “Spectre” that all could have been released at different times of the Priest‘s discography, but probably not on one album together. That makes Firepower an intriguing album keeping you tied to the headphones to the end.

Between all the variance and ass-kicking there are a few tracks not quite living up to the excitement that stuff like “Evil Never Dies” has to offer. “Never The Heroes” reminds me too much of average, slow-rolling bores of Nostradamus and Redeemer, “Flame Thrower” is the other, less interesting, more bland side of the “Firepower”/”Lightning Strike” medal. You could as well cut off the last two songs of the album, “Lone Wolf” and “Sea Of Red” which would make a shorter, but more concise release. As it stands, those two tracks are adding nothing of quality to the album and just make the last few minutes insufferable. I am a advocate for long albums of 55+ minutes, but in Firepower‘s case it would have been smart to cut some of those slowpokes to get a more enjoyable experience with less skipping of tracks.

All in all Firepower is light years above Nostradamus and Redeemer Of Souls. There are a few great tracks, a few mediocre (Priest standard mediocre, mind you) and a few bad songs. The upside of all of this is that anyone who likes Judas Priest will like this album to some extent unlike the now often enough mentioned Nostradamus. As I stated in the beginning, the Priest fan will buy it, anyone who is not into the band (???) should not start with Firepower and most likely won’t.

Chris, 03/12/2018

Format reviewed: FLAC | DR Value: 6
Label: Epic Records
LinksFacebook | judaspriest.com
Release date: 03/09/2018

Mad Hatter – Mad Hatter Review

_Mad Hatter_ Cover
This picture was high quality on my computer, I don’t know what WordPress did to it.

Despite the seemingly generic band name, Mad Hatter from Sweden are indeed the only band bearing this moniker according to metal-archives.com. On the other hand, their music is anything but unique, drawing inspiration from 2000’s power metal greats like Edguy, Stratovarius, Gamma Ray and Helloween. All name-dropping aside, every other track on the band’s self-titled debut album will automatically remind you of one of the mentioned legends. In today’s world, this is not such a bad thing, though it won’t win you a prize for innovation.

Extreme Power Metal afficionados (an extreme afficionado for Power Metal, not an afficionado for Extreme Power Metal) will recognize the names of singer Petter Hjerpe and drummer Alfred Fridhagen from similarly underground (not to say “unknown”) act Morning Dwell, whose sophomore album “The Guardians Of Time” brought me great delight. As such, I was quite excited for this new project of the duo. I will probably mention Morning Dwell a few more times, and you should definitely check it out if you enjoy happy Power Metal.

Mad Hatter opens as one might say daringly with an almost nine minutes long track called “Mad Hatter Shine”. Luckily, the song manages to catch your attention right away with neoclassical melodies in the vein of Stratovarius and soon after with a captivating chorus. Five minutes into the catchy track we are greeted with a reduction in pace as part of an addendum which brings to mind Tobias Sammet style compositions such as “The Seven Angels”. No need to mention Mad Hatter don’t reach these epic’s qualities, nevertheless it is intriguing to listen to their rendition of what Mr. Sammet couldn’t achieve today.

Compared to Morning Dwell‘s charming, but rather subpar audio production, Mad Hatter is clearly backed by a superior recording and mixing work. Sadly, ostensibly professional mixing and/or mastering crews these days like to compress their productions to death, squeezing out every breath of life similar to a deathtrap flattening a mouse. This results in terribly mismatching walls of sound and makes a rather calm, Edguy-ballad inspired Power Rock song like “Dancing Lights” appear just as heavy and urgent as speed power tracks “Go” and “Face The Truth”, both compositionally extraordinary at their game.

Anyway, most listeners will ignore this very technical side of music production and just enjoy the clear mixing which presents singer and instrumentalists at their best. Fair enough, the tracks are mostly high speed power metal cascades which warrant the over-the-top production at any rate. Listening to “Go”, “Face The Truth” or “Vengeance In His Mind”, the olden days of 2000’s power metal beckon. One couldn’t wish for a more explicit homage to European melodies rendered immortal by HelloweenEdguy and Gamma Ray and repeated into oblivion by millions of Melodic Power Metal bands in the early 2000’s. Now, that sounds cynical but I assure you, for a devout disciple of the Power Metal scene in all its forms every tune of Mad Hatter‘s debut is a stroke of genius and joy. Even more so in 2018 where most bands seem to have forgotten the virtues of good old Euro Power and decide to water it down with misguided attempts of progressive influences to seem more distinctive and innovative. Sad! Mad Hatter don’t play pretend, delivering a heartfelt and honest Power Metal piece.

BandGranted, it is more of a piece than a masterpiece, but songs like opening epic “Mad Hatter Shine”, happy-go-lucky banger “Go” or the extremely catchy “Vengeance In His Mind” showcase the potential of the songwriting faction, which is kept in check by ferociously average, yet enjoyable fillers by the name of [all songs I did not mention in this review]. I don’t know if “Death Angel Sings (Bonus)” really is a bonus track for certain markets, or just marketed as bonus track so you feel like you got more value than you should, but in any case you should make sure to get the album with it, it is one of the best tracks and extremely fast (maybe that’s why). And a note to singer Petter Hjerpe: Do more of the squealy-screamy thing with your voice like you do with Morning Dwell. That’s the spirit of power metal.

Chris, 02/22/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 6
Label: Art Gates Records
LinksFacebook
Release date: 02/23/2018

 

Thaurorod – Coast Of Gold Review

DSbJn3KVwAEad4E.jpgIf acts like Rhapsody and Hammerfall were Italian-style oven-fresh pizza in 1997, Finnish Power Metal troupe Thaurorod could be classified as the cold pizza of the previous evening in 2018. Okay, to be fair, the pizza has at least been warmed up in the microwave. As already on their two previous albums “Upon Haunted Battlefields” and “Anteinferno”, the latter already five years old, Thaurorod play their brand of music on 2018’s “Coast Of Gold” somewhere between Power and Symphonic Metal. Corny, yet charming, the Finns refrain from imposing their own interpretation of the genre on an individual note characterized by possible prog escapades or similar gimmicks. Cobbler, stick to your last.

The opening speed banger “Power” already drives home that sentiment, and in tune with its name, it pushes the throttle from beginning to end and only reduces the double bass orgy for a brief moment in the chorus’ epic atmosphere. What Thaurorod is offering here is Finnish melodic speed metal in its purest form, as seen in Sonata Arctica songs like “Victoria’s Secret” or “8th Commandment”. Granted, the OGs of the up-tempo orchestrations are ahead in the battle of the dashing riffs with these songs and other contemporary anthems, but considering the Tony Kakko ensemble’s extravagances of today, it is no blasphemy to consider Thaurorod as superior in the genre.

991321Thaurorod don’t pretend to not be influenced by Sonata Arctica. “Power”, “Feed The Flame” and “My Sun Will Rise” could also have been released on “Reckoning Night”, “Ecliptica” or one of the albums of Jani Liimatainen band Cain’s Offering with their fast-paced riffs and wide keyboard tapestries. To be precise, atmospherically and, in this context, lyrically, the compositions do not match these examples, but they clearly draw their vital energy from the typical Finnish variety of Power Metal.

Speaking of lyrics. Singer Andrej Kravljaca, who replaced Markku Kuikka’s gruff voice with his own clean, high-pitched vocals in 2012, adds his fierce history interest to the lyrical claim of the Finns, as evidenced in songs such as “The Commonwealth Lives.” Striking as well is the noticeable development of the vocalist’s skills. Kravljaca sounded a bit weak-tempered on “Anteinferno”, which caused a lot of displeasure compared to the previous, more powerful singer Kuikka. He does a better job on “Coast Of Gold” and shines in deeper registers with strong power.

Besides Andrej Kravljaca, bassist Pasi Tanskanen also takes care of the lyrics with a slight difference in the source of inspiration. Songs like “24601” (Jean Valjean’s prison number) and “Illuminati” thematize fiction to semi-fiction. This succeeds, as can be heard quite outstandingly in the album highlight “24601”. Alongside the average, brutish numbers expected of a melodic power album, this 6-minute track was smuggled aboard and adds an extremely varied, atmospheric hymn to the album. Oh, what joy and potential this great arrangement promises! Yet it is buried beneath such generic songs! Does “24601” come from the hands of Thaurorod or Jani Liimatainen? One thing I can promise, another piece of this magnitude is found neither on “Coast Of Gold”, nor in the whole discography of the Finns.

Not every coast that glitters is gold; In addition to pleasant, easily remembered tunes and “24601” there is also the one or the other dud on the long player. In particular, these are the atmospheric, but ultimately languid “Cannibal Island”, the far too long and uniform “Illuminati” and the bland final ballad “Halla”. Anyone who dies of boredom during the latter’s runtime, however, has at least experienced the previous gems the golden coast bears.

Sure, Thaurorod do not reinvent the genre and do not seem to want that, but what they procure with typical Power Metal tracks is in line with the high European standard. It does not sound as fresh as in 1997, 2001 or even 2005, but nonetheless thrills the followers of this epic variety of metal. And then there are varied, salient compositions such as “24601”, “Coast Of Gold” and “Into The Flood” which add gravy to the roast. Undoubtedly, Thaurorod prove that they have the makings of crafting and composing to deliver larger things than mundane Sonata Arctica copies, but are mostly self-confined to just that. However, this is already enough for genre fans and thus brings a neat surprise in the still young year of 2018.

Chris, 02/20/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR Value: 6
Label: Drakkar Entertainment
LinksFacebook | thaurorod.com
Release date: 02/16/2018

Visigoth – Conqueror’s Oath Review

CoverThe second long player of the Visigoths, who actually hail from Salt Lake City, USA, was released a few days ago and praised by the so-called trade press more or less, making Visigoth a bit less underground and meaning I am too late with this review. However, where I am only a few days late, the young band seems to be several decades late with their music. For what comes out of the speakers here could have come straight from the eighties except for the clean production and could have been recorded by Manilla Road or Manowar.

Like many by Kris Verwimp’s artwork enhanced records, be it black, heavy or thrash metal, “Conqueror’s Oath” is deeply oldschool. Both points has the album in common with its predecessor “The Revenant King”, with which Visigoth already made a name for themselves in the epic metal scene in 2015. In the metal mainstream, troops of this niche are rarely seen, and the success of Sweden’s Grand Magus has not changed anything in the past ten years. Nonetheless, in recent years, memories of ancient times seem to be increasing, as evidenced by US epicists such as Visigoth as well as European and, specifically, Southern European (Italy, Greece) ensembles. The fact that the guys from Visigoth are bound to true steel by passion far away from the mainstream is also showcased by the dedication of two band members, who more or less secretively with the aliases Shield Anvil and Mortal Sword released 2013 under the band name Caladan Brood a fine, among scene connoisseurs acclaimed black metal work tapping into the style of Summoning.

BandVisigoth, however, is dedicated visually, lyrically and musically to classic heavy metal with a generous dose of epic. The denim vest that bears the “Conqueror’s Oath” is adorned with patches by Manowar and Cirith Ungol, but also Hammerfall and Accept. The Salt Lake City collective offers its own kind of Epic Metal; one that is less playful, more straightforward and, above all, riddled with catchy refrains. Quiet guitar sounds, diversified structured tracks and abundant choirs provide the epic foundation, while fast riffs, double bass and catchy melodies lead to memorable songs that have the listener carried away at the first attempt. The best example of the union of the two genres is the longest track of the album, “Traitor’s Gate”, which starts slowly, but can not hold on to itself and explodes in a riff and drum inferno. The whole thing garnished with a thick chorus and finished is the Visigoth recipe.

If you want to experience the epic side of Visigoth in pure form, listen to the title track “The Conqueror’s Oath”, which borrows from Manilla Road; If you want to enjoy the rockiest and maybe best song of the album, you can convince yourself with “Warrior Queen”. The latter boasts fat riffs, eighties gang shouts and a thoughtful middle section, culminating in the last, highly memorable chorus.

In their compositions Visigoth are less complex and focus more on simple song material, which is quite an advantage on stage and on fast car rides, but after a few runs in the CD player, the uniform track tristesse spreads out. Mind you, after a few runs, which are rather more than less, because with “Conqueror’s Oath” Visigoth deliver a quite capable heavy metal work that easily surpasses the recent gushes of the old genre guard like Manowar and Virgin Steele. For the future, I wish for more variety or aspiration, often characterized by more progressiveness and a more dynamic production. In its present form “Conqueror’s Oath” suffers from a small dynamic range and loud tracks, which unfortunately does not stop at the compositionally good, acoustic passages. Here, the music demands less compression and more air to breathe for atmosphere that is important in the genre.

Chris, 02/19/2018

Format reviewed: mp3 320 kBit/s | DR value: 6
Label: Metal Blade Records
LinksFacebook | Bandcamp
Release date: 02/09/2018