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Monday, 2 March 2015

Reviews: Level 10, Dracula, Pig Iron

Level 10: Chapter 1 (Frontiers)

Level 10 is probably not the best name for a band but as far as members goes this 'supergroup' has 10 out of 10 for membership in this writes eyes. Drawing half their membership from Primal Fear, drummer Randy Black, guitarist Alex Beyrodt and the hardest working man in metal Mat Sinner (this is his eighth simultaneous project) on bass. Add to this one ex-Helloween axe slinger in the shape of Roland Grapow, one great keyboardist in Alessandro Del Vecchio and the unmistakable vocals of Symphony X (and every other band)'s Russell Allen. So with a line up with that you'd expect rampaging melodic metal with nods to power and classic trad metal throughout and you would be right the band's musicianship is never in question all these men have proved their chops a thousand times before but with the three way duel of Del Vecchio and guitarists Beyrodt and Grapow makes the songs very exciting as all three men push each other in a game of musical one-upsmanship, while Sinner and Black lock in like they have done on so many Primal Fear records, their groove is fully established on Soul Of A Warrior which has a walking beat as the guitars swing loosely and Allen bellows at the top of his lungs. The tracks from riotous speed metal like When The Night-Time Comes to the more hard rock offering of One Way Street which echoes Sinner and Beyrodt's other band Voodoo Circle as Allen does his best Coverdale impression, this moves into the darker more symphonic Blasphemy and the blatant Priest feel of In For The Kill before the album moves through seven more brilliant tracks all of which show off these men's combined talent for all things metal. As with everything Matt sinner does this album sparkles with flashes of brilliance throughout and it combines all of the talents of those involved as well as giving them a wide pool of influence to draw from. A must for fans of any of those involved or indeed top quality power/melodic metal!! 8/10  

Jorn Lande & Trond Holter: Dracula:The Swing Of Death (Frontiers)

Jorn Lande has one of the most recognisable voices in rock music equally content with hard rock swagger and power metal bluster, but on this album he has teamed up with Wig Wam guitarist Trond Holter to write concept album based around the inner demons of Bram Stoker's version of Vlad Dracul with Lande taking up the mantle of the Prince of Wallachia and going full Meatloaf on this album that features so much bombast it would wake the dead. Hands Of God is a subdued atmospheric start setting the scene of a tortured soul, that then leads into the Walking On Water which features a huge hook from Holter that could have come off a Gary Moore album and gives us Lande in full flight full of bravado and bluster singing at the top of his lungs, before Swing Of Death which is actually a swing style song that echoes Diablo Swing Orchestra with the thrusting rock delivery of Holter, Wig Wam bassist Bernt Jansen and drummer Per Morten Bergseth. The dance begins and this leads into the dynamic Masquerade Ball which starts out with a piano and acoustic guitar work and sees Dracula chasing his beloved Mina as it erupts into a symphonic middle with some very good classical guitar playing from Holter as it plunges into the albums most metallic song Save Me which features Lena Fløitmoen as Mina Harker and later she appears as Lucy; Dracula's young victim in his search for Mina. This album has many stylistic shifts throughout due to it's conceptual nature but stays true to Lande and Holter's hard rock backgrounds; Queen Of The Dead is Alice Cooper without the Coop and ends with a tremendous guitar solo. With the right amount of jockeying and indeed financial backing this could be quite a live event with Jorn Lande definitely having the right stage presence and theatricality to be the Vampire Prince stalking his bride while the band play this muscular hard rock, add to that props and dramatics and you would get a show worth of this albums vision (Think the I Would Do Anything For Love video but on a much larger scale.) I've always admired Jorn as a vocalist and personally I prefer him when he is in full Coverdale/Dio mode, however I think this could be up there as one of his best works, if you like the pomp Queen, the theatricality of Alice Cooper, the baroque nature of Meatloaf and you wouldn't be far off. In a world of sound alike bands it's great to have something a little different from some very talented musicians. 9/10

Pig Iron: Sermons From The Church Of Blues Restitution (Off Yer Rocka)

Pig Iron are now on their fifth album and since their debut they have adapted their sound since then focussing more on the delta blues than on the more hard rock/stoner base they had earlier in their career. Sermons... continues in that vein with the choppy Mississippi country picking of Wildcat Birdhead kicking things off as Dan Edwards guitar and Johnny Ogle's mouth harp duel for supremacy with Edwards just pipping him due to the great rhythm he lays down. The cleverly titled One Million Mega Hurts has a bit more slide guitar and sees bassist Hugh Gilmour and drummer Joe Smith providing the voodoo groove as Ogle howls like a thousand wounded Lions. Pig Iron have always been a favourite of mine, I love the fact they are still very much an underground concern releasing albums when they see fit and playing their own brand of authentic blues based rock steeped in blues tradition while still harking back to the heroes, see the The Spell which could have come off Zeppelin III with it's pastoral acoustic guitar rhythm this is one of the most subdued tracks the band have ever released but it is very good indeed showing that this band are not all about heavyweight bluster. We are then taken to Zep IV on The Devil Is In The Woodpile which starts slowly and then builds up in the final part. In fact a lot of this album is more subdued than previous efforts going back to the roots of the blues on tracks such as High As A Pine which is driven by raging acoustics, banjos and mouth harps. In fact the entire middle section of the album has this stripped back sound, this isn't a bad thing at all as it shows that the band can do the blues as well as our American cousins, it's just it might be more of a departure than many fans will be used to. Still if you love bluesy rock music that stays true to the core philosophies laid down by Johnson, Hooker, Waters, King and Wolf. 7/10  

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