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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Review: Avenger, Astralion, Exlibris

Avenger: The Slaughter Never Stops (Rocksector)

With Hell, Satan and Angel Witch leading the way, the fashion for NWOBHM bands reforming in the present day seems to be very 'on trend' at the moment, the next in line are Avenger who gave up the ghost in 1985 after two albums before reuniting in 2005. As is the case with most NWOBHM bands their history is shambolic at best losing their first singer Brian Ross to fellow Geordie's Satan (where he remains to this day) Avenger promptly recruited Satan's singer Ian Swift to replace Ross. Like Ross, Swift is still firmly in place at front of the band his sonorous voice fitting the music excellently on Race Against Time, Fields Of The Burnt and he screams for his life on Into The Nexus. Founder member Gary Young still blitzkriegs the drums and as with most NWOBHM bands the guitars duel and the bass rumbles like cannon fire. Avenger sound like a band revitalised and they much like their revitalised peers they are unafraid to expand their sound incorporating other genres and more modern sounds Decimated is old school thrash with a Maiden-like finale something which continues on their cover of Maiden's own Killers. As good as the NWOBHM was for British metal for every Maiden, Priest and even Def Leppard there was a Hell, Raven, Satan and Avenger; bands that were followed with a passion at the time but were over shadowed and eventually forgotten, however in the intervening years these bands have become revitalised and have blasted back into the public conciousness. The Slaughter Never Stops is a testament to bands that never give up, yes they may drop out of sight for a while but musicians (especially those in the NWOBHM) never really give up so long as the music burns within them. Some may think that the music industry is dying but I think it's just pushing bands more underground meaning that older bands like Avenger are on more of an even playing field now. Grab your leather pants, hi-tops and some beers and get ready for a damn good thrashing. 8/10          

Astralion: Astralion (Limb Music)

As is the norm with bands on the Limb Music roster, Astralion play rampaging power metal with a huge amount of virtuoso guitar playing thrown in echoing Stratovarius and even Mr Malmsteen with the neo-classical over tones seen from opening salvo of Mysterious & Victorious. The Finnish band have risen out of the ashes of Olympos Mons with singer Ian E. Highill and Bassist/Vocalist Dr K. Lundell recruiting a new ivory tickler, tub thumper and axe wielder to the fold to unleash some strong power metal with lots of classical influences. The keys sparkle on At the Edge Of The World which is prime Helloween in it's composition and this style continues on When Death Comes Knocking all of which have that Germanic heavy metal feel, they even dip into Dream Evil territory with We All Made Metal which is a thunderous mid rocker about how we indeed all make metal, Black Sails moves into Rockin' Rolf territory with a Pirate shanty made with added embellishments that merge it with Alestorm albeit with less silliness. Highhill's vocals are great especially on the soaring ballad To Isolde. The album moves between rampaging metal tracks like Mary (Bloody) and Five Fallen Angels and slower classically influenced piano-led ballads like Last Man On Deck. A great little album from these Finns steeped in the elements that make power metal exciting, one for fans of keyboard and guitar driven neo-classical metal that is technically precise but with a reliance on songs rather than showing off. 8/10

Exlibris: Aftereal (Metal Mind)

More power/heavy metal now, this time from Poland, unlike Astralion though Exlibris come from the heavy end of the spectrum with nods to Beyond Fear and Primal Fear this is because of Krzysztof Sokołowski's glass shattering vocals, people may recognise him as the singer for Night Mistress (reviewed earlier this year), his vocals are very similar to those of Tim 'Ripper' Owens with the crooning baritone and the screeching highs. The musicianship behind it too is heavyweight with big guitar riffs from band leader and guitarist Daniel "Dani" Lechmański, who spars with keyboardist Piotr "Voltan" Sikora throughout and they even duel with renowned Polish violinist Zbigniew Wodecki on The Day Of Burning. Like I've said this is an album that harks to the gruffer, some would say more Germnaic style of power metal with tracks like In The Darkest Hour echoing Primal Fear, Omega Point having the Teutonic rush of Accept. However the band also encompass more progressive tendencies on the piano led interlude Before The Storm which features some great female vocals before King Of The Pit slithers with some fist pumping metallic stomping before it concludes with some orchestral backed Maiden-like galloping. Closer has the epic heaviness of Evergrey and actually features the pipes of Mr Englund himself who croons majestically his voice blending well with Sokołowski's harsher tones. Exlibris have displayed real panache and flair on this album so if you like technical, intelligent power metal then Aftereal will really float your boat. 8/10  

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