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Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Reviews: Wolfsbane, Orden Ogan, Diagonal

Wolfsbane Remasters: All Hell's Breaking Loose Down At Little Kathy Wilson's Place & Live Fast Die Fast (Self released/Orginals on Def America)

Tamworth terrors Wolfsbane will always probably be known as Blaze Bayley's pre-Maiden band. All Hell's... is the band’s first E.P and Live Fast Die Fast is their first full length. These albums have just been remastered and re-released and like with most remasters this is the most recent part of a money spinning exercise, both of these albums have not been available on CD for a while and with the reformation of the band and their newest album the band have remastered these original albums. This is a good thing because the albums sound much louder than the originals and with this increased clarity comes a reflection of the bands power.

Live Fast Die Fast

As a first introduction to a new band you could do worse than Man Hunt which has a relentless riff some explosive drumming from Steve 'Danger' Ellet and its shout-along chorus. This is Wolfsbane's manifesto writ-large, barn-storming muscular metal mixed with bruising hard rock, it's the sound of a young band showing their chops and also showing their hunger. With the benefit of hindsight it baffles me why with a debut like this the band were so overlooked, admittedly they were better known for their live performances than their recorded output, but this is great debut filled with big songs that match Bayley's big voice. The remaster has made the songs clearer and louder and it shows that if they had the breaks they could have been as big as some of their compatriots. Money To Burn is what they could be making if they had been given the breaks. So Wolfsbane's debut is the sound of a band in their young, greasy, turbo-charged glory. 8/10

All Hell's Breaking Loose Down At Little Kathy Wilson's Place

From the opening staccato riff of Steel which is a perennial live favourite and bursts into a great guitar solo from Jase Edwards the foot of the band is never really off the gas pedal with every track having a full-on party metal vibe with all the songs about drinking, fighting and generally having a good time. The frankly mental Loco follows until the break with the acoustic Hey Babe which shows that Bayley can actually sing before the dirty Totally Nude ramps up the filth factor before the Sci-Fi title track finishes things off in truly 'theatrical' style with one of their biggest tracks. This is a great mini-album that has had everything ramped up to 11 and was a great stopgap between full lengths as it perfectly distils Wolfsbane's sound. 7/10

Orden Ogan: To The End (AFM)

When talking about German Symphonic Power Metal it's immediately Krefeld's Blind Guardian that comes to mind however the mighty Bard's now have some serious competition from Orden Ogan who have the same lightning fast guitars, thundering drums, huge choirs and lots of symphonic elements. Things kick off with the awesome title track which after the rampaging first part breaks into a huge guitar dual between guitarists Seeb and Tobi. Despite sounding exactly like Blind Guardian this is by no means a bad thing as if you’re going to imitate then imitate the best. The frankly epic The Things We Believe In comes next with its huge sing-along chant refrain of "Cold, Dead and Gone!" this is a very epic album that features all of the hallmarks that make symphonic power metal so entertaining and will remind fans of why they love the genre. The album is filled with light and shade with folky The Ice King bringing to mind the Bard's Song with its acoustic melodies, the tornado riffage of Dying Paradise and Mystic Symphony both hark back to the speed metal classics before the technical Angels War shows that the band are not averse to 7 minute plus tracks filled with time signature changes. Frontman Seeb has a very Hansi Kursch-esque voice albeit with a lower register but he fits the music perfectly with a wide range which is added to by the fantastic choirs. This is essentially the best Blind Guardian album Blind Guardian never released and Orden Ogen have taken the classic Imaginations From The Other Side sound and made it their own. A great album of stirring power metal that despite its similarities to their countrymen is still very worthy on its own merit. 9/10

Diagonal: The Second Mechanism (Rise Above)

After some severe line-up changes Brighton prog-rockers Diagonal have somehow become less accessible on this sophomore effort than they were on their debut. Having shed at least two members the band have also shed most of their rock leanings now favouring a more jazz orientated approach which brings to mind Van Der Graff Generator and many of the Krautrock originators. The band are very ambient with their keyboard, organ and synth based with jazz drumming and lots of parping sax. The five tracks on this album are very instrumental based with vocals only appearing on the 10 minute mammoth Hulks. This is less of an album more of an experience, it will alienate many people with it's almost anti-rock approach to progressive music but those of more of a 'chemically dependent' lifestyle and anyone who favours the output of Tangerine Dream and Can to Pink Floyd and ELP will discover that this is just one long strange trip. 6/10

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