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Monday 15 November 2021

Reviews: Unleashed, Hammerall, Wonders, Jim Peterik & World Stage (Reviews By Matt Bladen)

Unleashed – No Sign Of Life (Napalm Records)

The 14th album from Swedish Viking metal crew Unleashed is the continuation of the Odalheim story created by band leader Johnny Hedlund, now in its fifth chapter this Norse storyline is pretty much what Unleashed are recognised for. They can be considered the originators of the Viking Metal genre, using their history and storytelling to imbue their death metal sound with life. Having been around for 32 years now, they are considered to be one of the Big Four of Swedish death metal along with Dismember, Entombed and Grave, so you pretty much know what to expect from Unleashed, its old school Swedeath with a modern flavour in the production. 

Johnny’s powerful basslines and ravaged vocals set the tone as the band lay down blastbeats and fret slides galore on the title track, some death n roll on The King Lost His Crown while The Highest Ideal has a grind to it as it sings its praise to Odin. No Sign Of Life is a continuation not just of the storyline but of what Unleashed originated those 30 odd years ago. Savagery of the highest order with hints of melody and technicality to make sure you’re paying attention, mainly on final track Here At The End Of The World. No Sign Of Life has plenty of signs that Unleashed have no intention of dying yet, they still produce quality death metal that will have you longing for endless battles and feasting in Valhalla itself. 7/10 

Hammerfall – Renegade 2.0 (Nuclear Blast)

Renegade was the third album from the Swedish Templars Of Steel Hammerfall. It was their breakthrough release and set them on a path of keeping the flame of classic European heavy/power metal right the way through nu-metal and beyond. 20 years later (21 due to the pandemic) the band have released this epically expanded anniversary edition that has been remastered by producer Fredrik Nordström with modern technology. It gives the record a bigger depth of sound than the original but seeing as these are not re-recordings or re-interpretations, the music is pretty much exactly as it was back in 2000. Since this release only founding guitarist Oscar Dronjak and singer Joacim Cans remain but this record is something that long term fans can dive back into. 

Re-experiencing some of the classic tracks here such as Templars Of Steel, Always Will Be, Let The Hammer Fall and the title track. Mainly it’s to reminisce how good the record actually is. As the music is the same (with newer production) there’s little I can do in terms of reviewing it, as if you liked it the first time you’ll like it now, but there’s a whole host of extras included that make it worth purchasing if you haven’t already got the record. (If not shame). Other than that it makes for an entertaining little history lesson and anniversary while we wait for new album proper. Musically an 8 but as a re-release it doesn’t really add much so that’s a 6 giving Renegade 2.0. 7/10

Wonders – Fragments Of Wonder (Limb Music)

Not content with releasing high quality progressive, melodic metal in Even Flow, brothers Giorgio (drums) and Pietro Paolo Lunesu (guitar) have formed a new band with the multi-talented Bob Katsionis. This Mediterranean collaboration has borne, be beautiful rich and ripe musical fruit that is the band Wonders and the debut album Fragments Of Wonder. Although the title is a little bit of a misnomer as these are more than fragments, this is a fully formed project that is just different enough from Even Flow to stand out against the brothers day jobs. Here they up the progressive flourishes, never relying too heavily on long run times or lots of instrumentals but there’s a technicality to the tracks Pietro Paolo’s guitars and Bob’s keys playing off each other like the classic Stratovarius twosome of Timo Tolkki and Jens Johansson, who seem to be major influence on this project.

If you listen to Indigo World you’ll think that it is a lost Stratovarius song, while the title track feels like a more recent offering from the legendary Finns. As usual Katsionis does a brilliant job on production making the album bright and gutsy, allowing the performances to breathe as well as constructing the orchestrations in the background to bring cinematic feel to the anthemic Freedom, which also sounds the most like Even Flow. It’s not a two man show though as Giorgio’s drumming is incredibly dexterous linking to some rapid gallops with bassist Luca Negro on to Beyond Redemption, while followers of the Italian metal scene will recognise the powerful pipes of Marco Pastorino of Temperance behind the mic.

His voice is brilliant and ideal for the project especially on the more emotional numbers such as Where The Sun Doesn’t Shine. The founding trio have collaborated brilliantly here finding the right people for the job and writing an album that feels as if it was just for me. I love this kind of music and Wonders take the best parts of Stratovarius, Sonata Arctica and Fates Warning to make something that is quality music from start to finish. Come and witness the Wonders. 9/10 

 Jim Peterik & World Stage - Tigress - Women Who Rock The World (Frontiers Music Srl)

Created to celebrate the women of the rock world, Tigress is the fourth(?) album from songwriter/guitarist Jim Peterik and World Stage. Jim will be known to many as being the writer of Eye Of The Tiger (Tigress! Yeah? Get It?) along with numerous other hits for plenty of bands in the 80's. After his 2019 album Peterik approached Frontiers to make this release where he could celebrate some of the women in rock music that he admires. Some of those involved are more recognisable names such as Janet Gardner (ex-Vixen), Cathy Richardson (Jefferson Starship), Jennifer Batten (Michael Jackson), Mindi Abair, Kate French (ex-Chastain), Kimi Hayes, Chez Kane, Rosa Laricchiuta (Trans Siberian Orchestra) along with some newer names as well. 

As well as being written by Peterik who catered the songs for the female perspective and to suit each singer involved, most of the instrumentation comes from him as well with the exception of drums and most of the lead guitars. But what does the album sound like? I hear you cry! Well it's alright if you like melodic rock, a mixture of mid-paced rockers, big ballads and full of that slickness that you'd associate with anything Peterik has been a part of. In terms of picks Live For The Moment and Full Moon Crazy both which feature Cathy Richardson on vocals are two of the best offerings but mostly it's all a little flat to be honest. 6/10  

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