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Thursday, 16 June 2011

Reviews: Pagan's Mind, In Solitude, Hell

Pagan's Mind: Heavenly Ecstasy (SPV)

Pagan's Mind return with their fifth album in total and their first after the truly awesome God's Equation. Hopes for this album would be raised exceptionally high after the previous album but they do inevitably fail to meet the loft heights of God's Equation. That's not to say that Heavenly Ecstasy is a bad album, not by a country mile it is just trying to meet an unrealistic target. The progressive elements from the previous instalments have diminished slightly with a more overall melodic sensibility taking over the album. Some of the tracks are mid paced rockers some like The Master's Voice have the power metal element to their sound however it does counteract that with a nice breakdown at the end of the song. This album like the new Hammerfall one sees PM trying to adapt their sound to a more modern setting. The instrumentation is as usual excellent with Jorn Viggo Lofstad's guitar playing being a highlight that is beautifully counteracted by the jangly keys and powerhouse drumming. It is Nils K. Rue's vocals that are the star, he truly has a fantastic voice equally adept at soaring, crooning and screaming (sometimes in the same song) he is the icing on the PM cake. Some of the tracks on this album are samey because of lesser progressive touch, with Walk Away In Silence sounding very similar to I Don't Believe In Love by Queensryche. I am perhaps being overly critical only because it is hard to find any faults with this album; it is just that it is living in the shadow of God's Equation. By any other band this album would be their magnum opus, unfortunately Pagan's Mind have already achieved that. 8/10

In Solitude: The World. The Flesh. The Devil

It's 2011 and finally the legendary Angel Witch releases they're new...oh wait hold on In Solitude are a NEW band. Sorry it's just they are so retro it hurts (I mean really hurts but more on that later). With riffs straight out of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) In Solitude tread a fine line between homage and parody. The start of the album is strong bringing to mind the aforementioned Angel Witch, along with early Venom and doom like tendencies. Topped with Maiden style riffs, especially third track Serpents Are Rising which sounds exactly like Di'Anno era Maiden. The vocals however are from the King Diamond school of Demonic wailing this adds to the overall satanic atmosphere, when you can hear them. This flags up the first major problem with this album, bands that try to emulate the NWOBHM scene also try to emulate the production techniques of the time bands such as Cauldron do this well however In Solitude do not, whether there is a deliberate attempt to make the sound as muddy as possible I'm not sure but, on a few tracks the vocals are indistinguishable, the guitars seem to fade in and out as well. So despite the performance being good the production lets this record down. The vocals too much like King Diamonds can grate on repeated listens. All in all an album that is good for NWOBHM revival completest but not for anyone who has baulked at the mention of the previous bands. 6/10

Hell: Human Remains (Nuclear Blast)

Continuing on the theme of Satan and the NWOBHM, Hell were one of the bands that although good faded into obscurity due to lack of interest form the major labels and the suicide of original vocalist/guitarist David K. Halliday. Roll forward to 2011 and Hell are back with almost the original line up except for founding guitarist Kev Bowers's brother Dave on vocals and Sabbat guitarist and production legend Andy Sneap on guitar. The roles here are reversed In Solitude were a modern band trying to sound classic. Hell are a classic band that sound incredibly modern, mainly due to Sneap's world renowned production skill. This album was created from the original 1980's demos (also included on the ltd edition) and is pitched almost like a concept album about evil and the Devil. One song segues into another seamlessly yet they all sound different enough to keep it from being boring. Genre wise it ranges from galloping NWOBHM, to proto-thrash to crunching doom, very similar in fact to Sneap's other band Sabbat. The real hero here though is Dave Bower's vocals equal parts evil and theatrical. His delivery is fantastic and in places he can scream as high as Rob Halford. All the musicianship is excellent and the songs are brilliant, song short and punchy others are epics The Devils Deadly Weapon stretches to over 10 minutes and is full of atmosphere and heavy riffage. So it's a welcome back to Hell, who despite living in Purgatory for years are back with a vengeance. As their own song The Quest goes: "If you truly believe in what you do; Your dreams one day will come true" They have proved this prophecy to be 100%. 10/10

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