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Friday 25 January 2019

Reviews: At The Gates, Toby Hitchcock, Starbreaker, Delfinia (Reviews By Paul H & Matt)

At The Gates: With The Pantheons Blind (Century Media) [Paul H]

In support of their European tour with Behemoth and Wolves In The Throne Room, ATG has released a special digital EP. What you get are six tracks from 2018’s excellent To Drink From The Night Itself, but with Rob Miller (Ambiex, Tau Cross) adding guest vocals (The Mirror and Daggers Of Black). Opening with Daggers Of Black Haze, this EP is a reminder of just how good ATG are. Raped By The Light Of Christ, The Chasm and The Mirror are all superb slabs of melodic death metal which Rich covered in his review back in May 2018. Full of jagged riffs and Tomas Linberg’s trademark gruff vocals, this is an appetizer to what promises to be one of the gigs of the year. 7/10

Toby Hitchcock: Reckoning (Frontiers Records) [Paul H]

2019 promises an onslaught of melodic hard rock as the Frontiers label goes from strength to strength. Toby Hitchcock is the lead singer of Pride Of Lions, handpicked by Jim Peterik, founder member of AOR giants Survivor, way back in 2003. Joining Hitchcock on this solo release are Daniel Flores - all keyboards and drums, Michael Palace - guitars and bass and Yngve "Vinnie" Str├Âmberg - drums and percussion. Hitchcock has a soaring, powerful voice, in the style of Bobby Kimball, Jimi Jamison or Lou Gramm and Reckoning is the perfect showcase for him. With Pride Of Lions currently on hiatus, Hitchcock has taken the opportunity to deliver 51 minutes of polished, AOR which will appeal to fans of Survivor, Toto and Foreigner.

As you would expect, it is drenched in thick keyboard sounds, and the lyrical content focuses on relationships and expressions of love so beloved of the genre. It takes a mere two songs before we arrive at Show Me How To Live, the typical ballad which is sickly in its sweetness. Behind The Lies is reminiscent of Mr Mister, with bombastic keyboard riffs dominating. Melodic rock is not my genre of choice, the lightweight pomp and ghastly lyrics rarely appeal whilst the multiple harmonies that drench the choruses do little. However, in terms of quality, Hitchcock has a voice that is amongst the best in this field, smoother than Rob Halford’s head. Reckoning is stuffed full of similar songs, some impressive musicianship and follows a traditional path but in the world of melodic rock, this is one of the better offerings. 7/10

Starbreaker: Dysphoria (Frontiers Records) [Paul H]

Another Frontiers release and album number three for Starbreaker, the collaboration between former TNT frontman, Tony Harnell and Primal Fear and Allen/Lande guitarist Magnus Karlsson. Starbreaker started as Harnell's side project while he was still in TNT but although this was initially a solo project, it soon morphed into Starbreaker with Karlsson, former TNT drummer John Macaluso, and bassist Fabrizio Grossi. The band recorded its first self-titled studio album in 2005 with the sophomore Love’s Dying Wish released in 2008 featuring new bassist Jonni Lightfoot. It’s been 11 years since that second album but with Harnell no longer in TNT, the time for Dysphoria has come.

Joined by new drummer Anders K├Âllerfors, this is another solid melodic rock release with the occasional jagged riff giving the album a bit more grit. Dominated by Harnell's strong vocals, the content follows a familiar pattern; Tracks such as How Many More Goodbyes, Beautiful One and My Heart Belongs To You should be all the clues you need to confirm that there are no lyrics about rotting meat, chopping off heads or grinding genitalia on this release. A respectable cover of the Judas Priest song Starbreaker from 1977’s Sin After Sin closes this release, Harnell showing the appropriate level of reverence in his singing, wisely avoiding the Halford scream at the end of the song and Karlsson capturing the solo work perfectly. 6/10

Delfinia: Deep Elevation (Self Released) [Matt]

Sometimes you need a bit of power metal, all the intelligent metal in the world can sometimes be surpassed by galloping riffs and a wall of synths so along comes, especially when one opens with a intro that reminds me of Terminator with a plaintive piano. Delfinia is a project from vocalist/sound producer Konstantin Laars Naumenko and singer/keyboard player Daria Naumenko who along with a number of musicians such as Olaf Thorsen (Labyrinth, Vision Divine), Aldo Lonobile (Secret Sphere), Ross VC Thompson (Van Canto), Jocke 'Aerendir' Johansson (Twilight Force), Krzysztof Gunsen Elzanowski (Pathfinder) and most famously Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween).

The majority of the instruments are played by Konstantin with numerous session musicians adding bass, guitars and solos, vocally he's also very strong sounding a little like Tony Kakko of Sonata Arctica fame, something that you can also hear in the music itself, the synths pulsate, the riffs bounce along leading to soaring melodic solos, it's standard power metal by the numbers, simple, dumb and after a while a bit dull, still for power metal purists this will satisfy. 6/10

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