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Saturday, 20 April 2013

Reviews: Avantasia, Gama Bomb, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats

Avantasia: The Mystery Of Time (Nuclear Blast)

Tobias Sammet has returned once again to his Metal Opera project and once again he is joined by an array of guest performers and this time the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg which takes a lot of the pressure off keyboard extraordinaire (and composer) Miro. At its core Avantasia is Sammet on vocals and bass, long time co-conspirators Sascha Paeth and Miro on guitars and keys and long-time session stickman Russell Gilbrook (who replaces Eric Singer). The orchestra really lend a movie-like feel to the record which makes it sound very similar to Trans-Siberian Orchestra in terms of the soundscapes it creates. Spectres kicks things off with Sammet showing off his amazing set of pipes, this track features Joe Lynn Turner who is the first of the usual host of guest vocalists that appear in this project, however unlike the previous efforts a few of the guest vocalist are drawn more from the hard rock and AOR scene than the metal one with Pretty Maids' Ronny Atkins providing gravelly tones to the rampant Invoke The Machine and Mr Big's Eric Martin making his presence felt on the radio rock ballad of What’s Left Of Me which would be at home on a Meat Loaf record. On the other side of the coin; Michael Kiske, Biff Byford and Bob Catley all return to their recurring guest posts supplying their unmistakeable vocals in spades. Thankfully Cloudy Yang, who made a fantastic impression on Angel Of Babylon, returns on the Mystery of Time and impresses again when dueting on the electronically backed ballad Sleepwalking. Again this is a concept piece (about science and religion) so it takes time to truly appreciate but after repeated spins this album shows just how good it actually is. Back to the guest front the only other outsiders come in the form of axe-slingers with Bruce Kulick and Oliver Hartmann providing the lions share but the most interesting to me is the contribution of Ayreon's Arjen Anthony Lucassen (who also not averse to a concept album or 6!). This is a fantastic album that moves between hard rock, power metal, AOR with some big progressive tendencies. It looks like Sammet has done it again creating another bombastic, dramatic, engaging and mostly an incredibly entertaining listen that is more of musical journey than and album. 9/10

Gama Bomb: The Terror Tapes (AFM)

Northern Ireland's premier thrashers return with their fourth album (their first in four years) in that time they have lost a founder member in the shape of guitarist Luke Graham and vocalist Philly Byrne has undergone vocal surgery. However they have now returned with a new guitarist and Philly's voice sounds exactly like it used to. Now Gama Bomb have never been the most serious of bands their crossover thrash has always been in the same vein as Municipal Waste their songs are full of horror, sci-fi, weed smoking and beer drinking. Clocking at just over thirty minutes this is a rapid thrash assault that encompasses hardcore punk as well. The riffs are honed like laser beams and the drums don't relent in their double kick smashing, Philly spits his vocals with tongue tangling speed. Gama Bomb are never going to change the world but with tracks like Beverly Hills Robocop, Terrorscope, Smoke The Blow With Williem Dafoe, Metal Idiot and the 18 second Shitting Yourself To Live, Gama Bomb are the sound of a booze fuelled party full of 80's action movie re-runs. 7/10

Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats: Mind Control (Rise Above)

Uncle Acid follows up on his 2012 album Blood Lust by releasing his follow up in under a year. Mind Control picks up where the last album left off with riff heavy, Sabbath worship heavy on the fuzz and brimming with occult imagery. Opener Mt. Abraxas sets the tone with some doomy riffage that changes pace throughout its 7 minute runtime before ending in a hammering riff that will incite some drone style head banging. The production and album presentation are both very retro with some definite hints to Ozzy and co. The eponymous Acid handles the Iommi like riffs, eerie Hammonds and fractured unholy vocals with his Deadbeat cohorts handling the drums and bass respectively. With tracks like the trippy 60's psych of Poison Apple, the stoner rock haziness of Desert Ceremony evokes the spirit of Sleep, the folky disarray of Follow The Leader which has the smoke-filled haze of Planet Caravan and the voodoo chug of Devil's Work. This is a great album from Acid and his not so merry men, classic British doom right from the heart of its birthplace. 9/10

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