Power metal from Sweden? Well, there’s a surprise! A debut album from the Swedes opens with Mad Hatter Shine, which initially hits all the right spots for a power metal track. Sounds like Helloween? Yes. End of story. Not quite, for this is nearly nine minutes for an opening track, which after a racehorse like start slows laboriously in the middle. Underpinned by thick keyboards, the traditional blast beat drumming and soaring harmonies, this unfortunately isn’t the most impressive of start's. I was yawning half way through. The Gunslinger improves matters, a pacey rip-roaring track and its where the band open the throttle that things are best on this album.
Fly Away is case in point musically, although Petter Hjerpe’s vocals struggle with the high parts. With the obvious influences that you identify in most power metal evident, it’s fair to say that if you love Helloween and Primal Fear then you should enjoy this. I particularly enjoyed the Chas And Dave piano interlude in the middle of Phantom Riders, which also nods to Ghost Riders In The Sky. The Maiden Style Face The Sky pins further unsurprising influences to the mast. I must admit that as the album progressed, it grew on me. Worth a listen if you like your power metal. 7/10
Due out at the end of March, the debut full length from Surrey techno death metal outfit Reprisal follows their Ichneumanity EP which was released in 2013. Ten tracks of a completely face melting combination of the thrash and technically charged death metal. Having seen the band support Bloodshot Dawn in January I can vouch for the ferocity of their live show and on record they hit just as hard.
With themes which examine the futility of human endeavour, the brutality of nature and the inevitability of death, this isn’t one for the faint hearted. Tommy Johnstone’s brutal death roars are underpinned by the powerhouse drumming of Sion Mason, Theo Brookes driving bass lines and the slicing assault of Oliver Du Toit’s fierce guitar work. It’s aggressive, turbo charged and laceratingly good. 8/10
Eldritch: Cracksleep (Scarlet Records)
It’s not every day that a metal band writes a concept album about the causes of insomnia. The 11th release from Italian progressive metal outfit Eldritch does exactly that. Having reviewed their 2015 release Underlying Issues which I found rather repetitive, it was with some reluctance that I approached this review. Eldritch remain a band whose fanbase is likely to centre on the likes of Dream Theater, Everygrey and classic Queensryche, with multiple time changes and signatures, heavy riffs and pounding drumming countered by rich keyboards and clean harmonies.
Reset, the main opening track is case in point; a rampant thundering track which segues neatly into the symphonic pomp of Deep Frost. Aberration Of Nature demonstrates that the band can thrash with the best of them whilst Silent Corner is a measured melodic rocker. As The Night Crawls In accurately captures the feelings of anyone who has suffered with insomnia, the wait through the dark hours as sleep evades you. The final few songs tended to drift by, with little to really grab the attention. This is however, an improved release in comparison to their previous effort. 7/10
Midnight Force: Dunsinane (Self Released)
There are occasions when your ears hurt when reviewing albums. The shrieking awful vocals of lead singer John on this debut release from Glasgow’s Midnight Force is one of those time. Opening track Killer didn’t start well, and by the time track 3, Down With The King had arrived, it was becoming inevitable that I’d hit the off switch relatively soon. For those that are interested, the band takes all its influences from the NWOBHM style of Tank, Angel Witch, Demon and Grim Reaper.
Unfortunately, they sound like they should still be in 1979, with a production quality that matches some of the real crap from that era. If you want your metal full of sword and chains imagery and recorded underwater, you may fancy a bit of this. If you value your hearing, I’d give it the swerve. 2/10