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Grade Scale adopted at MetalKings.com (starting from the lowest)

1 - Shite
2 - Could be worse
3 - Could be better
4 - Damn good
5 - Killer

 

3+/5
ANDRE ANDERSEN
Black On Black
2002
Frontiers / CD-Maximum
hard rock
The second solo album of Royal Hunt's chief yager did not please me more than the latest offering of his main band. And the reason behind my disappointment is the same in both cases- total lack of new ideas and shameless borrowing from one's own back catalogue. If "The Watchers" could be called "a tribute to ourselves", Andre Anderson's solo work can be called nothing else but self- and common plagiarism, even though I'm far from pleased to say so. While the record was spinning in my CD player, I had a constant feeling that I had heard it all before. And it was well grounded for half of the songs are in fact variations on Royal Hunt themes, where entire passages and even vocal lines are borrowed (the brightest example is the opener "Coming Home"). But that was just the beginning. I was much more surprised when I recognized the riff from Accept's immortal classic "Balls To The Wall" in the track "Tell Me Why". The more the better - the title track is fully based on the riff from "Symphony of Destruction" by Megadeth. But even that is not it. The final blow was the track "Sail Away" that also has a stolen riff, but this time not from Helloween or Metallica as you might have guessed, but from a project of Andre's former countrymen called Kipelov/Mavrin and their song "Castlevania"! After hearing that I fell in a stupor with occasional breaks of hysterical laughter, though I did manage to find one truly original and interesting song on the CD - "Desperate Times". In general, the album is nice and quite easy to listen, but it leaves you with some very unpleasant thoughts when it's over. As a result - three points for music and a half point for inventiveness. (Lynx)

5/5
AT THE GATES
Slaughter of the Soul
2002 (reissue)
Earache/Soyuz
Swedish Death
A reissue of an all-time classic, what else to be said here? Those who are still clueless about the Swedish school of Death Metal should go and check this out as a starter. Unblievable speed, heavy and melodic guitar-riffs, rhythm changes that were later to become the etalon of the genre, and, of course, the unique vocals of Thomas Lindtberg - angry, rampaging and mesmerizing with its inner brutal force. If Florida-school of Death Metal could be compared to a heavy-weight prize fight with its meaty guitar sound and KO rhythm section, that Thomas Lindtberg is the Death Metal Roy Jones Junior. Quick and menacing he dances his opponent around the ring throughout the whole album only to save his last deadly punch for the very last song sending the poor sob down on the carpet. The 2002 reissue is graced with 6 bonus tracks: three covers (Slayer, Slaughterlord and No Security), one unreleased track from Slaughter of the Soul, and two demo-tracks off the 1995 album. (Troll)

4/5
AT VANCE
Only Human
2002
AFM Records / CD-Maximum
neo-neo-classic metal
Less than six months passed since I reviewed At Vance's "Dragonchaser" album, and here I am, again holding a new record of these productive Germans in my hand. As I was looking at the cover trying to recall release dates of the band's previous albums, I realized that At Vance had already released four CDs with year-long intervals, which is an impressive result given that each record had a few real hits. "Only Human" is totally identical to their predecessors. The pace the band has chosen allows them no time for inventing complicated song structures and rich arrangements or for inviting guest musicials. However the guys do have enough time for composing simple but catchy melodies and adapting classical pieces (this time by Vivaldi and Bach) in style. Their work, of course, is reminiscent of Yngwie Malmsteen on a higher speed and with more monotony, but at the same time, the record is much more accessible than those of the Guitar Genius. "Only Human" begins with a powerful rocker, a 100 percent alloy of Malmsteen's drive with the band's unique melodies, The title track that goes next is a 200 percent pure Stratovarious composition based on the powerful guitar-keyboard riff. Next tracks are much more traditional, or derivative, whatever you prefer, and the only standout song is "Witches Dance" where Olaf Lenk comes up with a cool and, what's more important, original riff that can easily compete with works of much more acknowledged guitarists. An ABBA cover is not on the record this time around, it is replaced by At Vance's rendition of the Rainbow classic "I Surrender", that can easily win the first prize for photograhic copying from the Xerox company. (Fireball)

3+/5
BLUDGEON
Crucify the Priest
2002
Metal Blade/FONO
thrash death
This release is a typical example of the other side of the promotion campaign, namely too much fuzz about the album might lead to its total neglection. Yes, Joey DiMayo of Manowar did produce the record but so bloody what? Yes, indeed it's rather unexpected to see Joey's name on a death metal release but so bloody what? As if one would have thought that had it not been for Joey the music on the record would have become duller or poorer, curious but nothing more really. At the same time should we detach ourselves from the advertising chestnuts, we'd see an averagely standard, and highly dense and viscous Death Metal release with a curt nod to Thrash, very well-played and somewhat original but not to a large extent. A solid piece of work, which should surely be a nice treat for the Florida School-lovers (me inclusive), but which once again is not likely to provoke joy bounces. But let us not be so strict, the instrumental technique on 'Crucify the Priest' is indeed beyond praise, the vocals could have been a bit more pronounced, although they still match the overall background, so I'm not complaining. I have no idea whether this is the feat of our beloved laurel-bearing bassist or the band itself, but their labor obviously shall not pass unnoticed. (Troll)




3+/5
THE BLUE SEASON

Secede
2001
Greyfall / Prophecy / CD-Maximum
gothic rock
The only name that was familiar to me in the album's credits was that of Roman Schonsee (ex-Pyogenesis) who produced and mixed "Secede" together with The Blue Season. This made me guess that I was in for some gothic and melancholic stuff in the vein of The Bloodline or The Dreamside, the bands where Roman is now playing. And I was right, "Secede" indeed has something to do with The Bloodline, but it is much more reminiscent of Katatonia's latest releases. It is basically very melancholic gothic rock, but in comparison to the anguishing Swedes, the quiet Germans are much less depressing, desperate and suicidal. Their debut 38-minute record sounds more like a lullaby with beautiful melodies and soft male and female vocals. There are occasional outbursts of heavy guitars, for instance, on "Dreamdancer", but in general the record is much more polished and anything ever released by Katatonia. Even though "Secede" sounds just beautiful and spellbinding at times, it lacks catchiness altogether. As a result, if you have heard a few releases of that kind, you are unlikely to be willing to check out The Blue Season more than once. Let's see what the band will offer us on its next release. (Maniac)

4/5
CALLENISH CIRCLE
Flesh-Power-Dominion
2002
Metal Blade/FONO
melodic death

Callenish Circle are certainly not newcomers on the scene. FPD is already the band's third release, and if it is true what they say about the determining role of any third album in a band's career the CC boys can be absolutely sure about their own musical future. This future will be in bright steel-chrome colors blazing in the splendorous rays of the sun, its outlines growing with majestic grace against the blood-red skies. Their straightforward and high-speed breed of melodic death metal is not going to go out of fashion, and provided you do it with imagination and wits, you get the cigar. Callenish Circle make their 'statement of intention' right in the first track, confidently speeding their iron tank downhill right through the defense-lines of those who still doubt the dominance of the genre over all the other trends. The nine songs as if nine cast armor-piercing bullets will draw 9 tiny holes in your sorry skull, courtly relieving the head of the excess grey-cells. And for the dessert - 2 bonus covers : 'Pull the Plug' (Death) and 'When the Lady Smiles' (Golden Earring). (Troll)

4-/5
DAEMON
Eye for an Eye (And the World Turns Blind)
2002
Diehard Music
hardcore with a nod to death
Daemon was originally formed as a side-project of Konkhra frontman Anders Lyndemark and the notorious Nicke Andersson (Hellacopters, Entombed). However due to his enormous amount of work in other bands, Nicke was soon forced to leave the bamd. For the third album Lundemark started cooperating with such people as Tomas Fagerlind (bass) and cult drummer Jean Hogland (Death, Dark Angel, Testament). Although the musicians themselves classify the band's style as Death Metal I can hardly agree, if not because of anything else than at least because of the almost complete absence of growling and an excessively (by death standards) jumpy rhythmic pattern. But to hell with the theoretical speculations about genre speculations, better let us turn to the album itself, for it truly deserves our attention. Try to imagine a mix from Entombed, Biohazard, Soulfly and Prong - not bad, eh? That's what I say. The whole Molotoff shake was then bottled and poured into 11 equal portions, which we are offered to take - each in one shot one after another. Kills your head, improves the spirits, and - most importantly - no hangover. Shake before drinking. (Troll)

5/5
DARK TRANQUILLITY
Damage Done
2002
Century Media
Swedish death
Ahha, the return of the warlord, as Manowar once put it… Dark Tranquillity have unexpectedly decided to return to the times of 'The Gallery' and 'Mind's I'. I will surely spoil the surprise for everyone out there who has not yet heard the record, but what am I to? So, Dark Tranquillity are back where they started, that is in the kingdom of scream-growl vocals, eye-popping and melodic guitar riffs, and virtuoso double-bass attacks, or to cut it short in the realm, which, thanks to them, was long ago named the Goethenburg school of Swedish Death Metal. It won't take you long to find all of the classic elements of the genre on 'Damage Done', and, naturally, there is no doubt that DT know exactly how to put these elements together. As usual a great deal of attention has been paid to the lyrics, which time and time again raise the issue of putrid human existence and especially its dark side. It would have been silly to analyze each of the tracks, more so because it is extremely difficult to point your finger to anything outstandingly special - a good and even record and pleasing to the ear too. (Troll)

3/5
FORGOTTEN TALES
The Promise
2002
Union Metal / CD Maximum
фэнтези-пауэр без особой фантазии
If you have decided to play power metal and the only thing that you have to impress the world is female vocals, you still have to work very hard on the material, for singing ladies alone are no longer an attraction. After the second coming of metal women and excellent releases of Nightwish, Sinergy and Dark Moor, you have to be very talented to break through with music of this type. Canada's Forgotten Tales took a risk and… Well, it's hard to condemn loyalty to happy metal ideas, but I don't think that willingness and thorough observation of traditions is enough. Naive lyrics and naive song patterns made me smile, for they are copied note by note and nearly word by word from the above-mentioned bands whose level is still sky-high for such attempts. Vocalist Sonia is trying so hard that sometimes her singing turns to screams (of desperation??), boys are singing back-ups somewhat awkwardly, while the music is standard and not rich in melodies or beautiful solos. A mediocre release even for a debut. Check out Dark Moor's first album and see the difference. (Fireball)

5/5
HATE ETERNAL
King of All Kings
2002
Earache/Soyuz
brutal death
Throughout our lifetime on this planet we are constantly fighting our own inner demons. Some people manage to win over them, and become regular members of a civilized socium. Some, on the other hand, subside in this uneven battle and become murderers, rapists, maniacs or at best, psychos. But there is yet a third really tiny category of people who manage to tame these demons and put them to their own service. This was exactly what the Hate Eternal crew did, who let the devil into the creative process and thus gave birth to the 'King of All Kings'. Ruthless and cruel like a child, unstoppable as a stream of lava regurgitated from a volcano, and frightening as all of your child bad dreams, this disk may be considered an incarnation of all the human fear and phobias, a personal mitigating hell of Mrs. Rutan, Anderson, and Roddy. It is rather useless to try to find the epithets that would adequately describe this musical creation, and well we don't need to really, because it is enough to just put 'King of All Kings' into your CD player and open the door to the impending madness. (Troll)

5/5
ICED EARTH
Dark Genesis
2002
Century Media
power / thrash
One of the few surviving first-rate metal bands from the United States has always been distinguished for its passion to re-record and re-release its works in deluxe "limited edition" two- and even three-CD sets. This time Iced Earth outperform themselves by releasing a 5-CD box comprising their first (and only) official demo "Enter The Realm", first three full-length albums and an exclusive recording called "Tribute To The Gods" that contains cover versions of Kiss, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and the like. As usually, the product has a brilliant packaging (36-page booklet with new artwork and vintage pictures) that alone deserves five points, and if you don't happen to have "Iced Earth", "Night Of The Stormrider" and "Burnt Offerings" in your collection, the box is a doubtless must have. The demo alone is not worth the price, for all of its six tracks have been released before, though in different versions. "Tribute To The Gods", on the contrary, is brilliant - it contains 11 excellent tracks including such classics as "The Number Of The Beast", "Black Sabbath" and "Screaming For Vengeance". On this work, Iced Earth follow the path of Metallica - they adapt all cover versions to their own unique style, and therefore the disc is perceived like a 100 percent Iced Earth offering even though changes to the original versions are minor. However if you own the first three records and are unwilling to pay a high price for the box to get once again what you already have, I suggest that you wait a little and then purchase "Tribute To The Gods" separately - it will go on sale on its own sometime in late October. (Maniac)


4/5
MYRIADS

Introspection
2002
Napalm Records
gothic metal

When I first looked at the promo CD of this Norwegian band, its gothic-oriented cover with elements of computer graphics aroused serious concern in me for a while - I'm not the biggest fan of pure gothic or pure electronic/industrial stuff. However after I span the record my concerns were gone, but I got some ideas why the band had chosen the name Myriads. Apparently they did so because they are using myriads of various effects, patterns and styles in their music. As far as the vocals is concerned, the band uses growling, screaming, dark gothic singing, soprano, clean male and female vocals and choirs. As far as the music is concerned, "Introspection" is gothic metal with elements of heavy, power, and black metal and hard rock. An impressive mix, isn't it? The first couple of songs produce an incredibly intense impression, and I would have rated this disc at 5+ if not for its length that exceeds 74 minutes! In my opinion, even smash hit collections with such playing time are a bit tiresome, let alone "Molotov cocktails" of this kind. The material placed in the end of the record is in no way inferior to the first couple of songs, but there is too much of it. So, if you are at least slightly interested in musical experiments, you are bound to enjoy this disc, but I don't think you will listen to it very often - it's too monstrous. (Lynx)

5/5
NIGHTWISH
Century Child
2002
Spinefarm
neoclassic power metal
To be honest, I wasn't really anxious to hear the new Nightwish CD or putting any hopes on it. You see, when a band already has four albums out, it's usually not so difficult to predict its further development. However after hearing the record I must say with pleasure that I was mistaken. "Century Child" is much closer to the band's debut album (and my favorite!) "Angels Fall First" than to its predecessors. At the same time, the new release is much more polished. This time around Nightwish decided to get rid of Tarja's domination and ventured into experiments with both music and vocals. The share of male vocals increased considerably, both clean and growling vocals were used and even a few traditional power metal choirs were thrown in. The music got much heavier, which was totally unexpected for me, and I was nearly blown away when a once-melodic metal band started to sound like Rage (!!!) at times (for instance, check out "Slaying The Dreamer"). An interesting cover version of "The Phantom Of The Opera" is another highlight. To sum it up, Nightwish are back with a fantastic offering that, I hope, will bring the band to new heights. There is only one problem - they failed to evade self-plagiarism, which plagues the majority of famous bands. It's no problem when some melodic hooks are repeated in several songs, this is a common thing. But when the second track "End Of All Hope" turns out to be an absolute copy of "Wishmaster", it is much more serious. Nevertheless, this is the only trouble with "Century Child", and in spite of it, the record is excellent. A must. (Lynx)

5/5
PRIMAL FEAR
Black Sun
2002
Nuclear Blast
power metal

Having got through about first 20 minutes of the album, I was about to get upset - it was not quite the Primal Fear that I love. Everything seems to be in its place, the music is powerful, heavy and technical, but the songs lack catchiness that is so characteristic of this band. And Ralf Scheepers, whose voice sounds quite similar to Rob Halford on all Primal Fear records, got so close to his idol on "Fear" that I nearly believed I'm listening to an unreleased Judas Priest track. I even checked the booklet to make sure Halford was not on the list of musicians, but found only his guitarist Mike Chlasciak among the guests. However in the middle of the album Primal Fear apparently got a second wind, and "Mind Control" nearly sent me headbanging. All the melodies and catchiness were back once again, and it was the same aggressive, but very melodic power metal band that I had liked since the beginning. However, the general tendency to get darker that dominates the power metal scene is manifested on "Black Sun" as well - just check out the album title and look at the cover that is black and blue all over. My favorites here are "Mind Control", "Mind Machine" and "Silence", which is a sort of ballad. The Russian version also contains two rare bonus tracks from the "Hoorrorscoop" mini-album. Overall, a cool album from a cool band, but not a masterpiece. (Lynx)

5/5
RED AIM
Flesh For Fitness
2002
Metal Blade/FONO
stoopid stoner
Red Aim is a typical example of how using just a tiny little slice of your imagination and innovativeness you might come up with something truly original even in a such down-and-out genre as swamp music or stoner rock. And I mean as it turns out there is not really that much that you have to do - just use your own sense of humor and do something naughty. Already after having looked through a pretty funny comics in the CD-inlay advertising sports and healthy way f life as a universal means for success with women I felt suspicious. Quite surprised at such a weird artwork approach I inserted the disk in the player. So what was waiting for me there? Yes, stoner rock, but with a) a Jew's-harp (that be a strange Eskimo harmonica); b) totally crazy lyrics; c) an absolutely crazy singer! This guy would shriek falsettos at one second, imitate Rob Zombie and Green Jelly at another, and then move to gorilla-like 'boos' and bird whistling. As a bonus we're all offered to take advantage of a stoner version of Scorpions classic 'Rock Ya Like a Hurricane'… well, this IS a TrollFart! (Troll)

5-/5
STAR INDUSTRY
Velvet
2001
Purple Moon Records
gothic rock
The new Star Industry album is a solid proof of the band's legitimacy on the gothic scene which makes it clear that the success of their first album was not accidental. "Velvet" does not quite stand up to its title, it is a powerful and harsh record that demonstrates Star Industry's progression towards pure gothic rock. Analogies with Sisters Of Mercy seemed to me largely groundless for the previous album, but with "Velvet" they are quite pointful. Luckily, this has nothing to do with plagiarism, it's just that Star Industry managed to create the same atmosphere and adapt the Sisters' unique melodies. However the Belgian combo would not have been true to themselves if they had not made the album as diverse as possible - in addition to pure gothic rock compositions, "Velvet" contains elements of gothic metal, industrial and even love metal. The album is packed with hits, but perceived as a whole. It has both powerful rockers ("Coming Down") and beautiful ballads ("Believe", "Like A Ghost") and even an original cover version of Roxette's "The Look". The record requires several spins to get into - Star Industry failed to come up with masterpieces like "Ceremonial" from their debut album "Iron Dust Crush" this time, but the general level of the new material is even higher on "Velvet". And if you do not feel appalled when seeing men in gothic make-up, the album will get a decent place in your collection. And you won't need to dust it - it will be spinning in your CD drive more often than it is needed to collect any dust. (Lynx)

4+/5
TANKARD
B-Day
2002
AFM Records / CD-Maximum
jubilee beer thrash
Ahem… HAPPY BIRRRRTHDAAY, DEAR TANKARD! HAPPY BIIIRRRRTHDAY TO YOUUUUU!!!!! He-he. Our best wishes to the jubilee-boys! With this CD the German alcoholic anonymous society also known as Tankard is celebrating its 20th anniversary. However no matter how much beer has pass through our urinal system throughout the period still I gotta say Tankard have been pretty well-preserved, or to be more exact - haven't changed a bit. Same old, same old funny and fairly unoriginal, but still brutally sincere and convincing Bundes-thrash with an alcohol gimmick. And I mean what else would you have expected from Tankard, except from songs like 'Notorious Scum,' 'Need Money for Beer,' 'Zero Dude,' 'New Liver, Please!,' and 'Alcoholic Nightmares'? This is exactly what we all love them for! Well, 'nazdravije' as we say here in Russia and may Tankard be with us for another couple of decades! Prost! (Troll)

5/5
THYRFING
Vansinnesvisor
2002
Hammerheart/FONO
viking metal

The war Viking metal presented by Thyrfing has been shaking the metal scene foundation for already good (or bad?) seven years. During this period the band has managed to land no more no less than five albums over our sorry heads, a feat which will not really impress the hell out of Motorhead, but surely beats Metallica. And I mean, gotta admit with all my love and affection to Motorhead, Thyrfing's music is just a little more complex. However let us not be distracted by history and comparisons of the incomparable, and let us turn over to the subject CD. Already after the first spin you will know exactly why Thyrfing are considered one of the best in this realm of metal. Their mid-paced riffs rumble over the listener as an armada of heavy drakkars, filled with grim bearded dudes, with mean-looking axes and horned helmets. The impression is doubled by the thunder-like drumming, as if it is not Joakim Kristensson but the great Thor himself is pounding his heavy hammer against the tight plastic. The amazingly well-measured keyboard arrangements are neatly knit into the overall musical pattern, giving you a full presence effect (for all the movie-freaks out there - that be pretty much the same as dolby surround ™). Overall a very strong work, definitely recommended. (Troll)

3/5
WITHOUT FACE
Astronomicon
Earache/Soyuz
gothic metal

With a monicker like that, Without Face are bound to be mocked in every single review. What's even worse, the name suits the band fine, for the Hungarian six-piece indeed lacks individuality altogether. Once again, this is a copy of The Gathering's "Mandylion" that is excellently performed, but absolutely worthless if you already have a few copies of that ultra-classic album. Without Face do add male vocals to the picture, but this has also been done before a million times (for instance, by Lacuna Coil). However, unlike Lacuna Coil, Without Face are so far unable to come up with a hit or two. Probably some will be attracted by sci-fi lyrics, but these are not original either - I guess you can recall at least one band who has based its lyrics on Edgar Allan Poe's strange tales, in particular, "The Music Of Erich Zann". If you haven't had enough of gothic metal with male and female vocals, dreamy atmosphere and excellent production, you may go for "Astronomicon" and it won't disappoint you, but if you're quite familiar with the trend, Without Face won't offer you anything you haven't heard before. Damn, and I thought all bands from Hungary are unique… Never say never. (Maniac)

(Lynx reviews translated by Maniac; Fireball reviews translated by Lynx)

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