A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

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
ADAGIO
Sanctus Ignis
2001
Limb Music/SPV
delirium neoclassicus symphonicus
Classical music is a dangerous thing, much more dangerous than heavy metal, believe me. It is especially dangerous for persons with a natural gift of composition - once they get affected to it, there's no remedy for them and their listeners. You see, it is my firm belief that an arrangement is good only when there's something to arrange, and when there is an arrangement and nothing below it, the song sounds extremely boring. Adagio, a superproject led by French guitarist Stephan Forte, is a perfect example of this. "Sanctus Ignis" contains tons of symphonic arrangements, neoclassic elements, rhythm and tempo changes and stuff like that, but no good melodies and catchy choruses whatsoever. The result sounds a bit similar to Rhapsody's "Symphony Of Enchanted Lands", but ten times more complicated and ten times more pointless and unfocused. I don't even speak about remembering a song off the record after it ends, there's not a single chance of doing it. To top it all off, the album is extremely tiresome and fails to serve even as a background music. Believe me, I get less tired from listening a Transatlantic double CD than after 30-35 minutes of this. Instrumental tracks amassed at the end of the record are the limit where I beg for mercy. The only reason I keep this album is the vocals of David Reedman, the singer of Pink Cream 69. If not for him and excellent production of his bandmate Dennis Ward, "Sanctus Ignis" would have been a total waste of time and money. (Maniac)

3/5
ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY
Staring at the Divine
2002
Relapse
drunken stoner

Stoner-rockers are an odd bunch and no mistake. Not hippie already, but one can hardly call them metallers either. Draped in bell-bottom trousers and sporting ZZ-Topesque beards, they crank up their guitars in a fashion that would make Teach-In and Who fans tremble in horror. It is even twice as odd when such bands would turn up at a label like Relapse which is mostly known for working with bands as Nile, Human Remains, Suffocation, Cephalic Carnage etc. Then again Alabama Thunderpussies is odd even for stoner. I cannot really explain this, but there is something to them that is typically characteristic of grind-core, some sort of a fuck-off-and-die attitude, some musical anarchism. Could be this extra aggression in the vocals, or the overall brutal rejoicing in the moods that is too much for the usual stoned-cold drunkards, or else, it all could be a big joke, can't tell really. And it's not even that important, cuz the last track on the record is still the good-ole country-and-western, and that is the ultimate moment of truth - In vino veritas." (Troll)

4/5
BESEECH
Souls Highway
2002
Napalm Records
gothic metal
Two years ago when Beseech released their previous album "Black Emotions" it made an impression of a cross between Type O' Negative, Paradise Lost circa 1993-1995 and Lake Of Tears. With the current record, Beseech will doubtlessly be labelled followers of HIM. It's not because their music has changed so much, but rather because everything that has that "I'm brokenhearted and it's so romantic" mood is automatically perceived as love metal, and you know who inventors of the genre are. At the same time, "Souls Highway" is indeed different from "Black Emotions", first because male and female vocal parts are now divided nearly 50/50, while earlier the male vocalist sang all lead vocals. Second, there are more computers in the soundscape, and third, many current melodies are indeed borrowed from love metal. The record is far from being as catchy as HIM's "Razorblade Romance" or Charon's "Downhearted", and it gets really tiresome after about seven tracks, but songs like "Between The Lines", "Souls Highway" and the darkest ever cover version of ABBA's "Gimme Gimme Gimme" makes the release a must for all fans of gothic metal. (Maniac)

5/5
BONEY NEM

V Vologde-gde
2001
self-produced.
death-pop

There's nothing I hate more than going to work early in the morning. 8 p.m., the crowded subway, people with angry faces, and a whole hectic day ahead. Putting the CD into my player one such morning I wasn't expecting much, but after just three songs I was all smiles and almost jumping with joy of discovering the best cover album of the past few years. Russia's Boney Nem has always been a cover band, but this live album is their most outstanding work so far. A totally crazy set of pop songs performed in a heavy metal style with growling vocals is so full of energy that I can hardly imagine a metalhead staying quiet while these tunes are playing. Honestly, I've never been a Boney Nem fan and considered their studio works to be one-time jokes only, but this live offering finally managed to convince me. It's packed with tunes that are perfect for headbanging - just imagine metal renditions of "Living La Vida Loca" and "Sunny" or wall-crushing "Hafanana", an old hit of an obscure singer from Mosambique (!). As an extra bonus, there are four tracks that are not available on Boney Nem's studio releases, including such a treat as "Mama Maria". The recording is indeed live, all the songs were taped at a single show and the band claims ignorance of the fact that their performance was being taped. As a result, the sound is not quite perfect and the female singer plainly sucks, but the true live energy IS there. It's a pity the release is self produced and quite hard to get even in Russia, let alone abroad. Don't miss your chance if you come across it! (Maniac)

4+/5
CHARON
Downhearted
2002
Spinefarm/FONO
love metal

Under current circumstances H.I.M. is the first association when people say "love metal". Almost all bands playing this kind of music are more or less similar to the Finnish superstars. Charon are one of that bunch, too, they are like blood brothers of Ville Valo & Co. Brothers they may be, but not twins, for even though the two bands share the same dark romantic mood, use similar riffs and even have singers with similar voices, Charon come up with enough unique elements. In particular, they do not rely so heavily on vocal hysteria like Ville Valo, instead bringing in more sadness and melancholy. The record's finest moment is "Little Angel" that convinced even die-hard program directors at MTV to air it a few times. If you have seen and enjoyed it, you're gonna enjoy the whole album, for "Downhearted" is done with style in everything beginning with the cover and ending with music that has all the needed components and nothing redundant or alien. Love metal is a strictly limited genre, and within its boundaries you have to work really hard to get noticed among dozens of similar bands. Charon stick to the rules and win, they're among the finest love metal bands, but their purism sometimes goes too far, and when the singer once again sings something like "I love to die for you", you don't feel sad anymore, you want to smile. In general, "Downhearted" is the perfect music for a romantic candlelight dinner with a metal fan (if he/she is not a true black addict, of course). The only bad thing is that I've heard it all before. (Lynx)

4/5
CLIVE NOLAN & OLIVER WAKEMAN
The Hound Of The Baskervilles
2002
Verglas Music
art rock / progressive
Sit down and fasten your seat belts. Here comes another rock opera featuring a bunch of renown vocalists and instrumentalists that is 70 minutes long and progressive to the core. As the name suggests, keyboardists Clive Nolan (Arena, Pendragon) and Oliver Wakeman (son of Rick Wakeman, ex-Yes) offer you a musical rendition of a classic Conan Doyle novel. They are assisted in this undertaking by as many as 15 musicians, including Bob Catley (Magnum), Peter Banks (Genesis), Tracy Hitchings (Strangers On A Train) and even the mighty Arjen Lucassen (Ayreon), the man who is primarily responsible for making rock operas a trend. With such a cast you cannot go wrong, and "The Hound Of The Baskervilles" is by all means an excellent record. Needless to say, the performance is fantastic, and all the singers did a great job. Speaking about the concept, the storyline is rather close to the book (a bonus, in my opinion), even though there is no part for Sherlock Holmes (he's only mentioned in narration pieces). The problem appears when you start to compare the album with such releases as "The Final Experiment" or "Avantasia" and you find out that it is ten times less emotional and much more academic, so to say, than the renown masterpieces. Probably it happens because Wakeman and Nolan come from Great Britain, where it is not considered decent to express one's emotions 100 percent freely in public. Another explanation is that "The Hound" is basically an art rock record that has nearly nothing to do with heavy metal, and art rock is originally a more reserved genre. Judge for yourself whether it is worth trying. My humble opinion is that it's a very cool release but not a classic. (Maniac)

4-/5
CONTRADICTION
Contraminated
2001
self-produced.
hardcore

Oliver from Cyberya (I assume that by now all of our readers know who's that) was very kind to send me the latest release of the other band that he's involved in. By the time it was out, Contradiction had been playing for 12 years, but still the band financed the album by itself. Compare that with Cyberia releasing their debut on Breaker (a sublabel of SPV), and take into account that the gap in quality between the two bands is almost identical to the gap between their contract situations. It's not that Contradiction are bad musicians or they write weak songs - in 12 years on stage they have become a very tight act with powerful sound with more than decent songs, but their problem is lack of their own face. "Contraminated" has too much in common with Corrosion Of Conformity's "Blind" and Biohazard's early stuff, and even though Contradiction don't have rap elements at all, similarities are still too striking. If slowed down American type hardcore is your thing, and the more bands like that you know the better, check out Contradiction immediately. If not, there's no reason why you should prefer "Contraminated" to other releases of the genre. (Maniac)

2/5
DAYLIGHT TORN
New Skin
2001
CCP Records / CD-Maximum
something grey and depressive
"New Skin" has been described by various reviewers as gothic rock, gothic metal and even melancholic hard rock. Well, if we speak in terms like that, Hole and Elastica are gothic as well. In my opinion, Daylight Torn has more in common with Guano Apes than with the Gathering. The dirty guitar sound is 100 percent alternative and the female vocals remind me of Sandra Nasic in a state of deppression. Neither such sound nor such vocals seem to me enjoyable, but they aren't the worst things about the record. What makes it unlistenable is lack of melodies or hits ("Lost In Time" and "Goodbye To Yesterday" are the only tracks that stands out) that turn the material into one long track where melancholy of a rainy autumn day reigns and nothing more exists. I don't know about you, but to me such days are dull and I'd rather live without them. Melancholy and sadness can be beautiful at times and can be depicted beautifully by some artists, but Daylight Torn are not among them. A total waste of time. (Maniac)

4/5
DECEMBER WOLVES
Blasterpiece Theatre
2002
Earache/
American black
Strictly speaking the notion of American black metal is fairly relative and is used here to rather specify the country of origin, than the actual peculiarities of the style characteristic of this topographic spot. I cannot really remember any American black metal formation that could be described as anything major original or different from their European cousins. December Wolves too have come up with the sequel to the Grand Declaration of War, not so much musically (although that aspect counts as well) but also from the viewpoint of the sound concept and atmosphere. In any event Maniac's voices are surely missing here. Don't be mistaken though, parallels with Mayhem are only to the asset of DW and are NOT be considered as a rip-off accusation. So what is 'Blasterpiece Theater' about? Try to imagine a mixture of Mayhem's GDW and Wolf's Lair Abyss with a fair addition of death metal elements, an absolutely insane ripped-and-torn rhythm and a good deal of electronic FX. Inhumane rage is spitting from each and every track like slime from a burst zit, covering your brains with a deteriorating acid and eating away the internals of the skull. Images of medieval executioners and gleams of carnivorous knives driven by the hands of blood-happy maniacs shall be haunting you all throughout the play on the stage of Blasterpiece Theater. Be prepared for a slow and tormenting death. No entr'acte, folks.. (Troll)

no rate
DIVERSIA
Demo
2002
self-produced
prog/ angry metal
To tell you the truth, I don't know anything about this band except its name and location (Diversia is based in the central Russian city of Nizhny Novgorod). The CDR was brought to us by a friend of the band and does not contain a track-list, line-up, contact address or anything. What it contains is two songs with a total duration of about 10 minutes. The first tracks is a mix of progressive metal harmonies and angry/thrash metal riffs that sounds like a cross between Dream Theater and Pantera. The second track is almost pure angry thrash (remember "Walk"?). The vocals is harsh but strong (Tom Araya is the analogue that first comes to my mind), the lyrics are in English and performed without any bothering accent, and the recording quality is very high for a demo. In general, I enjoyed the material, but it is too short for a listener to form an impression about the band. You don't say whether a soup is good or not after taking just two spoonfuls, right? Here's the same case, I need more material to evaluate it properly. Judging from these two tracks, I can only say that if anything more comes out from Diversia, it will deserve to be heard. (Maniac)

4/5
EVENSONG
Mysterium
2001
Displeased Records
gothic black

This third release of an obscure Hungarian band proves once again that the Hungarian music scene deserves much more attention than it gets from metal fans worldwide. Hungary abounds with talented musicians playing in all known styles. However in case of Evensong it is quite difficult to determine the style they are playing. Having listened to the first couple of minutes of the first song I thought I was up for just another sympho black release and already started to get ready for a new doze of traditional screaming vocals, but it soon turned out that Evensong do not use this type of singing at all! As a result, the description that fits best to their music is an original mix of sympho black, gothic and extremely melodic death metal in the vein of Nightfall (southern European origin of the two bands may be to blame). If you haven't heard the record such a mix may seem inviable, but in fact, the music sounds smooth and fine. Even though it's gothic, the record will not make you sad, because melancholic singing of Agnes Toth is nicely balanced by growling parts performed by Mihaly Szabo, who, by the way, wrote lyrics for all the songs except one, for which the band used a poem of Percy Shelly. Apparently, by this the Hungarians meant that they are not the only ones to write depressive songs, classics of the past had the same feelings once in a while. Not all the songs on "Mysterium" shine, but in general, the album is quite original and not tiresome at all (a duration of 37 minutes helps). If you decide to buy it, you are unlikely to be disappointed. (Lynx)

4/5
GLUECIFER
Basement Apes
2002
SPV/ Soyuz
rocka-rolla Scandinavian style

This up-and-coming combo from Norway once again tries to prove that the rock scene of their motherland is not limited to extreme metal genres and has a place for good ol' rock'n'roll too. It would be incorrect, however, to say that Gluecifer's music is old. The Rolling Stones' influence on the band is obvious, but the sound of the record meets present-day standards, matching the best British punk bands in aggression and their trans-Atlantic buddies like Bad Religion of the early 1990s or Pennywise in dynamics. In addition to rock and punk, "Basement Apes" has other influences ranging from Motorhead ("Brutus") to Sisters Of Mercy ("Little Man"). To make a long story short, it's a totally crazy record, but done on a high professional level (it's the fourth album of this band, after all) and with taste. If you enjoy the above-mentioned bands, as well as Blackshine and Almighty of the "Just Add Life" era, you should definitely try "Basement Apes". I recommend it to everybody who loves to have a party, ride a bike or simply wants to shake off tiresome thoughts about the meaning of life and its pointlessness once in a while. Let's get more beer, bring some girls (or boys) around and crank up Gluecifer! ! (Maniac)

5/5
HAGEN
Corridors Of Time
2001
Angular Records / CD-Maximum
folk metal
This is a debut album of an obscure band from Sweden. Track one is a hard rock ballad with electric violin pieces. Track two is a whirlwind instrumental with pieces close to black metal. Track three is 70s hard rock in the vein of Deep Purple circa "Stormbringer" and "Burn". Track four is a folk metal piece somewhat close to Skyclad. And so on and so fourth. In general, "Corridors Of Time" can be described as an extremely eclectic mix of Coverdale-era Deep Purple and current Cruachan, if you dare to imagine such a combination. Most melody lines are handled by electric violin which sometimes sounds like a bagpipe. No female vocals or growling. To sum it all up, a record that is very interesting to listen but very difficult to review, for each song deserves a special description. My overall rate would have been four, if not for the brilliant track "Afraid" with breathtaking lyrics and melody, which is alone worth the price of a CD. My recommendation to everyone will be: take your time and try to find the album, read the lyrics and just listen, this is the material that needs no evaluation, but rather an invitation, an invitation to the strange but beautiful world of Hagen. From my experience I've learned that it's obscure bands that bring the most pleasant surprises, and this one's the surprise of the month. (Maniac)

4+/5
KELLY KEAGY
Time Passes
2001
Frontiers Records / CD-Maximum
melodic hard rock
Who could have thought that the drummer of second-league US band Night Ranger would one day turn to be a composer, instrumentalist, sound engineer and producer of his solo record? Albums basically recorded by a single person are always outlets for free implementation of any creative ambitions on the one hand, but they imply a huge responsibility and special attention of critics and fans to their author on the other hand. Speaking about musicial self-expression, Mr. Keagy succeeded in it for the record sounds organic and very personal. There are no over-the-top sound experiments or attempts to acquire a bright and catchy facade to conceal some poor content; everything is done modestly and with taste. At the same time, Kelly seems to have too much modesty. His music is very grown-up, serious and discreet that has more thoughts than feelings. And the impression is not created by complicated melodies and song structures, but rather by the general mood of dreaminess and almost intimate wiseness that fills quite simple tunes. Even rocking and rolling tracks such as "Before Anybody Knows I'm Gone" or "Bottled Up" are not reckless or light-minded; on the contrary, they are 100 percent sane. To sum it all up, if you're not particularly young, you have a liking to flegmatic observation of the world, but at the same time you don't want to be a hopeless musical conserver and still love true guitar-driven rock, I recommend you to spare some money on this record, for it has all chances to become one of your favorites. (Fireball)

1/5
LOCK-UP
Hate Breeds Suffering
2002
Nuclear Blast
dumb core
What would you think inserting the disk in your CD-ROM tray and seeing that the value in the WinAmp track-time panel does not exceed 2 before the colon in any of the 16 songs? Exactly. That's what I thought too. They might think this funny, but, you know, this is like these Mr. Bean jokes, that are only funny for the first 10 minutes, after which it gets considerably boring. Making the songs at least a little bit different from each other might have helped, you know. I do understand that Shane Embury and his mate Nick Barker do in fact enjoy each other's company over a pint or dozen, but, excuse me, is that a reason enough to make an album? And please, do not give me this bullshit about trying to revive the spirit of the old grind days, for Shane should know like no one else, that this is not a possibility. Past is gone - finito - and any attempts to record a modern-days 'Scum' can only cause a sympathetic smile and sincerest 'get well' wishes. Totally dumb! (Troll)

4/5
AGNUM
Breath Of Life
2002
SPV/ Soyuz
art rock

The veterans of Britain melodic rock just couldn't stay away from the raging flow of reunions, they decided to resurrect the past once again and released a new album under the unspired title "Breath Of Life", which is both a hail to the devoted fans who where waiting for this album since 1996 and a warning to those who speak about Magnum's merits as pieces of the past only. Regardless of anything or anybody, the band is still alive and has more energy and competence than many others. A six-year-long period of silence is lethal only for youngsters who strive to to keep up with modern trends. But for mammoths such as Magnum, whose works have gone down in history, this period of time is just like a short halt on a way towards themselves and their true admirers. This time the band came up with 12 tracks boasting diversity of moods and rhythms, smooth transitions from intensity to melancholy and alternations from powerful riffs to atmospheric melodics. All these components are put together in a single piece that sounds fresh and that is graced with professional arrangements. I would describe the album as post art rock that deserves a decent place somewhere between the current works of Uriah Heep and Asia. Magnum have never been distinguished for dozens of smash hits, but they've always had their own face. They still retain it with this record. A note for fans: the album's first edition contains a bonus disc with six live tracks that were recorded at various concerts or radio shows. According to Tony Clarkin, they're too good to be left in a closet. Now you're warned, don't be late! (Fireball)

4/5
MAY RESULT
Tmina
2001
CCP Records / CD-Maximum
mainstream black metal
An underground band, an underground label, mainstream music. Black metal is mainstream already, let's face it, and it has a vast listening base where "Tmina" will be given a warm welcome. However Serbia's May Result do have something of their own to offer, and there is no way you can say they're jumping on a bandwagon or stuff like that. The seven-track album is somewhere in the middle between true and sympho black, it has some melodic keyboards and excellent recording quality, simultaneously retaining a solid doze of aggression in the truest sense of the word, so comparisons with early Emperor made by some revieweres seem to be quite justified. The last two tracks, however, are quite different and outstanding. They have acoustic guitars, a violin and a mood of their own. This is where the band's Slav origin can be seen at its best. Unfortunately, I can't tell you their titles, for the booklet is totally unreadable (after a prolonged abuse of microscope I came to the conclusion that two songs were in the Serb language and the rest in English, but couldn't understand what the English tracks were about anyway). Maybe it's just a crappy promo, but the booklet seems the major (if not the only) drawback of the record. If May Result get a decent support from their label and continue putting out staff of such quality, it may result in them gaining a very prominent place on the global black metal scene. (Maniac)

3+/5
M.ILL.ION
Detonator
2001
A2 Records / CD-Maximum
metal

A band that released its first album back in 1993 can hardly be called new. A band that seeks its own style and tries different spheres of heavy metal is always intriguing. A band that comes back to true heavy metal luckily escaping from the abyss of alternative always deserves respect. As you might have realized, I'm speaking about M.ILL.ION. But even though it's their return to standard metal, the album has nothing to do with modern heavy and power metal releases based on hymn-like melodies and pompous lyrics. On "Detonator", riffs are tough and heavy, the vocals is a cross between Sebastian Bach and Rob Rock, the guitar sound is quite traditional, not too arty-crafty, but powerful, sometimes reminding of Zakk Wylde. A hoarse keyboard booming completes a tense and alarming atmosphere that subtly takes the listener back to the glory days of alternative metal with its trademakr rhythms and drive. However it's nothing more than a relic of the band's alternative past. As far as the sound, song structure and content are concerned, M.ILL.ION can surely be defined as "heavy metal". Nevertheless, the musicians succeeded in finding a little tenantless space on the crowded metal field, so now they can cultivate it and obtain their own melodies without claiming somebody else's laurels. It is not frequent nowadays that you listen to a record and don't catch youself thinking that you have heard this or that passage somewhere before. Even though "Detonator" contains rather average songs, they are free from any borrowings. And it's already a fortune. (Fireball)

4/5
MONTANY
New Born Day
2002
Limb Music/SPV
power metal
What do you think a young band can play if it is tutored by ex-Grave Digger guitarist Uwe Lulus? Of course, it is German metal, intense, fast and aggressive. The young Dutch act was lucky to get such a cool tutor, but I have to admit that Mr. Lulus got very able scholars who can play on a decent level and have a clear mind, a sense of proportion and style. These abilities are especially rare among young heavy/power metal bands who usually turn into a joke immortal inventions of classic metal heroes not even bothering to invent one single new riff or rhyme. The Montany guys are different, they managed to stay within the limits of one style, accumulating carefully the riffs and structures tested by time and coming up with their own high-quality and non-cliched melodies. The result is not as bombastic as Grave Digger and not so sweety as Hammerfall. A true product of German school with occasional and fitting keyboard passages adding an Italian taste to the album. Solid four fists. (Fireball)

4/5
MORTUS
Exploring New Horizons
2002
CCP Records / CD-Maximum
doom dark metal
Yes, another dark metal release and yes Austria again. This is already becoming some sort of an ill-tendency. Looks like nowadays everyone in Aurstria is in the genre, save for, probably, Pungent Stench, although it should not really take too long for these dinosaurs to jump the band-wagon. Somehow they will forfeit this old and stupid death metal, and start writing slow and sad songs about heartbreak, search for inner self, and dying brides, jut like Mortus Oh, sorry where was I? Ah, yes, Mortus. Well for those who still do not know what dark metal is about, do yourself and educative favor and get a hold of this CD, for it is indeed a very good and graphic example of everything that such bands as Crematory, Cemetary and Sentenced stood for. It's just about playing some really good music, with some major interesting guitar moves, that would even go "punk" and "nu" (well, at least a little bit) as in 'Solace', or sweep in the direction of Metallica's Load/Reload as in 'Deus'. Overall a qualifying release, not a masterpiece for sure, but is certainly worth a listen. (Troll)

4/5
MORTUS
Exploring New Horizons
2001
CCP Records / SPV
doom / gothic metal

With such a provocative album title Mortus are bound to be mocked in most of the reviews. No matter how hard I tried, I failed to find much exploration of new horizons on this album. It sounds like a cross between Paradise Lost's "Icon" and Pyogenesis's "Twinaleblood", where all elements are more or less familiar and have been heard before. Classic doom metal heaviness, two vocalists one operating with clean vocals and the other growling, melodic guitar parts and upbeat tempoes - a perfect combination, but, unfortunately, well tried and tested before. "Exploring New Horizons" does have some experimentation - "Solace" can be described as "Smells Like Teen Spirit" slowed down two times, and "Valhalla", as the name suggests, borders on viking metal. The other seven tracks are pretty traditional, but it does not mean thay they are not good. They are basically gothic metal hits, with fine melodies and catchy choruses, and "Fallen Love" and "Traveler" are my favorites. If you dislike the direction both Paradise Lost and Pyogenesis have been following since 1997, or you are a Crematory fan missing the glory days of this outstanding act, check out Mortus and you may find some consolation. A fine record, but no new horizons at all. (Maniac)

4+/5
NEBULAR MOON
Metamorphosis
2001
CCP Records / CD-Maximum
melodic black metal

Another obscure band and another fantastic album! Where does CCP Records find all these hidden treasures, I wonder? Nebular Moon are a perfect example of what enviers call "poser black metal" - an extremely melodic mixture of black and death metal with tons of keyboards and incorporations of female, clean and growling vocals. Playing music like that, you cannot evade comparisons with Cradle Of Filth, but Nebular Moon distance themselves from "the elder relatives" by singing in German, which helps them create a quite different and specific mood. The sound quality is perfect (an obligatory requirement for the genre), and musicianship is fine as well. Special praise should be given to the super-stylish booklet and cover artwork which is very unusual for a black metal release (it's more in the technogenic direction more typical for industrial acts), but still very cool. Ten tracks click at mere 43.5 minutes, which is also a bonus - you don't get tired of the album and can listen to it again and again. Probably it's not the world's most original and innovative record, but a damn fine one, anyway. (Maniac)

4/5
NECROSPHERE
Revived
2001
Diehard Music
brutal death/grind
The name of this aspiring Italian act might turn out new for many. Still you might be surprised to learn that these boys started out in 1988 under the name of Cenotaph. Frankly, I never took the trouble to investigate the reasons for the name change, for one simple reason - after hearing the first release of Necrosphere under the new title all references become irrelevant. Terrific techniques coupled with a heavy deal of composer potential and mind-blasting sound should blow any skeptic underground-advocates into oblivion. The explosion-proof alloy of Unleashed, Cannibal Corpse, Vader, Morbid Angel, Slayer and Carcass is sure to hook many a fresh meat fan, while the cover of Slayer's 'Necrophiliac' will without doubt stir the emotions of the older metal generations. Brilliant.. (Troll)

5/5
ONTARIO BLUE
Waiting For Rain
2001
Displeased Records
dark ambient

It's much more difficult than you can imagine to create music that's based solely on emotions. If you're in a darkwave/ambient band, there is no way you can hide behind supersonic soloing, exceptional singing or the latest recording techniques. Dark ambient is the genre that needs none of the above, it's pure emotion expressed in terms of music and sometimes lyrics. Of course, objective criteria are in vain to evaluate such a disc, and the rate will depend solely on whether the music touches some strings in the soul of the reviewer. Ontario Blue, a one-man project run by Stephen Pennnick of Endvra, does have something for me, though it will be very hard to describe what it is. At times "Waiting For Rain" sounds like a poetry evening with some noises in the background, while other tracks feature melodic singing, acoustic guitars and, which is the most important, great melodies. These melodies are the thing that singles Ontario Blue out of the row of darkwave/ambient bands that seem to make noises for the sake of noises and become winners in the "Most Hostile Record" category. Ontario Blue are, however, more likely to win a top place in a different category, which is "The Most Soulful and Emotional Record", at least in my personal chart. "Waiting For Rain" is very enjoyable, but it is not an easy listening product, some efforts are needed to get into it, but the more I listen to the record, the more I appreciate it. (Maniac)

3/5
PLANET X
Live From Oz
2002
Inside Out / SPV
instrumental prog metal

As you all know, progressive metal is a very secluded genre that has its own fans valuing it over everything else. Adepts of other types of music often find prog metal releases boring and soulless and often don't even want to try out anything that is described as progressive. There are, however, some masterpieces in prog metal that can make nearly everybody a prog metal fan if the person happens to come across them. All the three Planet X members (keyboardist Derek Sherinian, guitarist Tony MacAlpine and drummer Virgin Donati) played on such releases once upon a time, but their corporate work is, unfortunately, for fans only. 71 minutes of prog metal instrumentals are not for the weak at heart, the tracks are extremely complicated, and even though they all have melodies, it is extremely hard for a non-adept to listen to the entire album in one take. If you enjoyed Derek's solo release "Planet X" and the previous Planet X album "Universe" and want to listen to this material once again in live versions, "Live From Oz" is for you. The people outside this limited circle can live easily without the CD and wait for the next studio release of the trio, that is entitled "Moonbabies" and coming out already in July. (Maniac)

4-/5
PENTAGRAM
First Daze Here (The Vintage Collection)
2001
Relapse
proto-stoner
Originally I was somewhat surprised to see a record like this issued via Relapse. A compilation of material dated back to the early 1970s is not something that extreme metal labels release every day. However if you know who Pentagram are the choice becomes obvious. This is the link between Black Sabbath and stoner rock, the band which laid the foundation for the entire classic doom scene, I mean St. Vitus, Candlemass and bands like that. The material featured on the 45-minute CD was recorded over the period from 1972 to 1976, but all the tracks were remastered last year and sound excellent. Musically, it's powerful mid-tempo hard rock very close to Black Sabbath, and the lyrics follow the same dark pattern with Satan mentioned here and there. I don't find it surprising that Pentagram had such an influence on their contemporaries, but bear in mind, however, that from the present-day perspective, "First Daze Here" is a piece of music history, not a revelation. Don't expect no underground treasures from it, it's just some unreleased tapes of a cult band finally unearthed and brought to daylight in a proper form. Even the song "Starlady" which Paul Stanley allegedly wanted to buy for "Destroyer" is not a big hit, from my point of view. A must for underground maniacs and collectors, an entertainer for 70s hard rock fans and a strange and useless piece of plastic for the rest. (Maniac)

4/5
ROOT
Black Seal
2001
Redblack Productions
root-metal
This Czech brigade is so unique and many-sided that even Mayhem or probably even Quorton Seth himself could be in envy of their cult status. Back some time ago those who are better knowledged described Root as black metal, however the band's latest release is quite vividly something completely different. Musically 'Black Seal' would vary from death metal to alternative, and from doom to tribal, with a clear nod to occultism and other such-like things. It is not the music however that Root became cult for, (although doubtless you would have to agree that such mixtures do not exactly pop up on a daily basis) it was the totally unique voice of the band's lead singer with a strange nick Big Boss. His unbelievable vocals possess the hypnotic powers of a huge boa-constrictor and the dark magnetism of evil. No words could describe this strange voice however if you could imagine a stoned Elvis and drunken Carreras put in one and singing metal you'd get a possibly relevant picture. Crazy? Sure it is, but it works, and it works great. Another thing one wouldn't be able to avoid when talking about Root's latest is Moonspell's singer Fernando Ribeiro (a big fan of Root, by the way) who lent his voice on the track called Salamandra. Great work, but could be shorter, imho. (Troll)

4/5
ROSSOMAHAAR
Quaerite Lux in Tenebris (Exploring the External Worlds)
2002
Sound Age
black metal
Reviewing Russian bands in its very essence is a very masochistic pastime. Because, for some reason, you always have to remember about the total financial crisis in the country as well as the steeply prices of the local studios, and lack of qualifying mastering-engineers, and absence of stage experience, and many-many other things However in this putrid crowd of self-pitying situation-hostages (quite often lame-ass unprofessionals who are just a bunch of lazy fucks) one can still find some very pleasant exceptions. One of those are the Moscow-based black-metallers from Rossomahaar. The journey to the external worlds - the band's second full-length for that matter - starts with an angry manifesto 'Me, the Misanthrope' that echoes the guitars of Abigor and the impending menacing atmosphere of the early Immortal releases. This is followed by an avalanche of murderously wicked and complex riffs, accompanied by the most disgusting screams of Mr. Lazar himself. Another bonus of the record is undoubtedly the lyrics, that are written by a side professional, who definitely has a knack for both poetry and English, a very rare case with most of the local acts. Among the drawbacks, I would mention the thin guitar sound, oversized melody-parts and the totally useless and unnecessary (in my opinion) keyboards. Meat, folks! (Troll)

4/5
SINERGY
Suicide By My Side
2002
Nuclear Blast
power metal
One of the most hated "kindergarten metal" bands is back with another 40-minute release, already their third. The music is quite different this time, it has become a lot darker and more diverse, fantasy themes are gone and replaced with much more realistic content dealing with despair, disappointment and suicide (see the album title). What remains unchanged is the charismatic singing of Kimberly Goss and superb guitar parts of Alexi Laiho and Roope Latvala. I'm not sure whether the people who enjoyed the first two Sinergy albums will appreciate the changes, in fact, I've already heard their complaints, but to me, "Suicide By My Side" is the band's finest work up to date. It's heavier, darker and more aggressive, but the most important components of power metal - hits and melodies - are still there. In fact, already the first three tracks are absolute hits. And the 4.5-minute epic "Shadow Island" with three vocal lines is enough to convince unbiased listeners that Sinergy is here to stay. (Maniac)

3/5
THE STORYTELLER
The Storyteller
2001
No Fashion Records
power metal
The hammer that fell in late 1997 made so much noise, especially at home in Sweden, that echoes of the fall are still loud here and there and have no intention of fading. Apparently it is the infamous "Glory To The Brave" album that made the four Storyteller guys master musical instruments and produce a CD of uncompromising victorious metal. The result is not even a copy of the original, it is a copy of the copy. At the same time, the situation can be looked at from a different point of view - Hammerfall summed up and adapted the multi-volume heritage of German metal for the present-day youth that simply has no time to listen to the entire back catalogue of Helloween, Gamma Ray and Blind Guardian. The Storyteller made one step further and created a sort of power metal ABC for introduction of children below 10 years of age to heavy music. No matter what point of view you choose, the release is 100 percent Swedish true power, a little bit less militant than Hammerfall and a little bit more epic than Nocturnal Rites. The impression is created by the abundance of slow tunes making a 50/50 ratio with high-speed anthems. Crystal clear sound is a joy to my ears, the record is luckily free from bass screeches, drum whoops and guitar noises that some bands use as a cover for lack of melodies. The band does have something to offer as far as melodies are concerned, but their hymn-like choruses, heroic verses and standard solos are unlikely to captivate a serious listener searching for musical relevations or at least new impressions. A solid album, but without a trace of fresh ideas. (Fireball)

4/5
U.D.O.
Man And Machine
2002
SPV/ Soyuz
heavy metal

"I shall not wholly die, in sacred "We Will Rock You" / My soul shall outlive my dust" This paraphrase from Pushkin's "Exegi Monumentum" was the first thing that came into my mind when I turned on the latest U.D.O. album. I'm not kidding, the title track has obvious similarities with the immortal work of Queen. But that was not the only surprise of the record. In fact, it is one of the quietest releases in Herr Dirkschneider's stormy career. Mid-tempo songs amount to 75 percent of "Man And Machine", and high-speed killers for which early Accept is famous for are nowhere to be found. Nevertheless, it is not a reason to say that it's time for Udo to retire. He's one of the old timers who die with his boots on. And his current release only means that the man takes a break and slows down for quiet thinking. The material may be less aggressive and dynamic, but at the same time it is much more melodic - "Dancing With An Angel", a marvelous duet with Doro Pesch, is the best example of that. Udo's songs are still inimitable, and the record is packed with hits, but it's a different side of Udo, a more meditative and rational one. If you're an old Udo fan, the record will fit your collection fine, and if it's the first time you hear about the artist, "Man And Machine" is optimal to get acquainted with his music. (Lynx)

4/5
VALLEY'S EVE
Deception Of Pain
2002
Limb Music / SPV
power metal

When a record is released via Limb Music, you can be 90 percent sure that it's power metal. In most of the cases, you can also be sure that you have never heard of this band before. Valley's Eve are bringing out their third album already, but the most publicized fact about this band is that it features bass player Martin Albrecht (ex-Stormwitch). Nothing has been known about musical achievements of the German four-piece. "Deception Of Pain" is bound to change the situation, it contains rough and really heavy power metal the way it is meant to be. It has nothing to do with sympho power (Rhapsody), true metal (Hammerfall) or brutal power (Brainstorm) trends that are so dominant on the present-day scene, it is serious and well-thought music bordering on progressive but never crossing the border. I would describe "Deception Of Pain" as a derivative of Scanner's 1995 and 1997 albums incorporating the cuting-edge sound of the early 2000s obviously borrowed from the latest Primal Fear releases. A special praise goes to vocalist R.D. Liapakis - I thought for several days about the analogy to his voice and finally gave up the idea. Another special praise goes to the whole band for writing and performing such fantastic songs as "In Your Head" and "Open The Gates" that are a must for every power metal fan. Not all the tracks stand up to this level, but I believe that Valley's Eve are going the right way and we will soon hear more great works from this German act. (Maniac)

5/5
VOID OF SILENCE
Criteria ov 666
2002
Code666/CD-Maximum
doom black with noise elements
Italians have always been notorious for their musical extremism. I mean, take Mortuary Drape for instance who are probably one of the sickest bands in the 'hood. It may be because of the blistering rays of the Sicilian sun frying their brains or the thick toxic layer of olive mayonnaise around their thinking centers, but the Void of Silence Boys must consult a psychiatrist ASAP. Just imagine mixing doom, black metal, and noise I one record! A person in his sanity would never think of this. But yes, you can mix those, as it turns out, and the mixing goes well too. Starting from the very first sounds of this strange record you find yourself in an obscure futuristic world, that cannot be characterized as good or evil, it's just different. There is no time or space, no marks, this world is amoebically small and cosmically enormous. There is only music - sad and beautiful, ugly and aggressive, soothing and disturbing, however should you understand where it comes from you will surely loose your mind, for it is thou who art the creator. (Troll)

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