King Diamond-"Abigail II-The Revenge"-2002

Here we have the latest King Diamond solo disc; the sequel to 1987`s "Abigail", the only one of King`s post-Mercyful Fate releases that I liked! "Abigail" was a classic, a Heavy Metal ghost story, if you will, and one of King`s most popular albums. The original told the tale of Jonathan and Miriam Le Fay, an 18th century couple who move into a creepy mansion; Miriam soon discovers that her unborn child is possessed by Abigail, a long dead child determined to rectify her condition! One of the best Metal albums of the late `80s, it was so well received that a continuation of the story was only logical. 15 years later, we have "Abigail II-The Revenge". And how does this stack up to the first? doesn`t. Oh, it`s good, alright; but it just doesn`t have the same impact of its` predecessor. For starters, this 13 track affair is about 3-4 songs too long! The rather dry production isn`t a big help, either, compared to the rich, full sound of the `87 release. I`m not even going to bother to outline the plot here for you [save that it appears Abigail is the protaganist and Jonathan is the bad guy!], as it`s hard to follow at times. Standout tracks include; "Slippery Stairs", "Little One", "Broken Glass", and "More Than Pain". King`s vocals STILL remain the most unique in Metal, and the high flying guitar antics of Andy La Rocque [who also played on the first "Abigail"] and Candlemass/Mercyful Fate axeman Mike Wead are top-notch! Overall, this album is a case of "when it works, it works great; when it DOESN`T work, well.....". Pick it up and decide for yourself!

King Diamond

Blaze-"Tenth Dimension"-2002

Though it didn`t get half the media coverage here in the States, Blaze`s 2000 release "Silcon Messiah" wiped the FLOOR with Maiden`s "Brave New World"! Now Blaze [the man AND the band] returns with "Tenth Dimension" and I am very happy to report that they sucessfully avoided the "sophmore jinx". Heavy as all HELL, the album is currently er, blazing its` way throughout Europe and South America with a fury that cannot be denied! "Kill And Destroy","End Dream", "Nothing Will Stop Me", "Stranger To The Light", hell, the whole damn thing is TRUE modern Metal! Not another Helloween clone, and certainly a far cry from all the anger management sessions being recorded and passed off as "Metal" these days. Wisely retaining the services of the ".....Messiah" musical crew, Blaze SOUNDS like a band, not a singer and his back-up group. Mr. Bayley`s vocals have matured, yet retain that distinct character. This, as well as the highly intelligent lyrics and powerhouse musicians, make Blaze one of the most original Metal bands out there today. One of the years BEST! Buy, buy, BUY!!!!

Planet Blaze

Sheol-"Comforts Brutal End"-2001

Sheol hails from Glens Falls in Upstate NY, and if their 6 song demo is any indication, the could very well be at the fore-front of the new [not "Nu"!!] Metal movement! The band [whose name comes from the Hebrew concept of the afterlife] was formed only 3 years ago by Rob Carpenter, vocals, Kathy Burke, guitar Liam Rielly, bass and Joel Infante, drums, but display a tightness and professionalism of a well seasoned act! Musically, Sheol lean more toward the melodic Death Metal end of the spectrum, at times reminding me of In Flames and Gates Of Ishtar, especially in the vocal department. But the band avoid the clone syndrome by giving the songs their own particular "stamp". The music is full throttle, with a pounding rhythm section, great riffs [courtesy of Kathy and her trusty Fender Squire!], but delivered with a subtly that most bands of this genre lack! Sheol has a reverence for the music they play, a fact which comes through LOUD and clear on such tracks as "And To You I Offer", "Aire To Shadows" [my favorite], and "Silhouettes Of The Tired And Damned". The band is gigging around their local area [and beyond] as much as possible; Upstate NY residents in particular [as well as the rest of the world!] should check this band out. Bands like Sheol NEED all the support they can get, `cause it`s underground artists like them that help keep Metal ALIVE!! Go to their website below for further info. [Thanks to Kathy Burke for sending me the demo! Glad you liked the riff tape I sent, as well as the Lordian Guard CD-Rs`! Warlord RULES!]


Magnum-"Breath Of Life"-2002

The mighty Magnum has returned! "Breath Of Life" is the first studio release by this veteran British AOR Rock outfit in nearly 7 years. [they parted company in 1995] Magnum has always reminded me, stylistically, of a cross between Foreigner`s first 2 albums with a more Euro-feel. Classy, hook filled tunes with high quality arrangements are the bands` stock in trade, and although this merely earned them a cult following in the US, Magnum rose to arena status in Europe over the course of their nearly 30 year history. And while "B.O.L." doesn`t quite match up to Magnum classics like "On A Storytellers Night" [their best known and probably best work overall], "Chase The Dragon", and "Wings Of Heaven",it is much better than the Bob Cately/Hard Rain solo material. The band [Tony Clarkin, guitar/producer/chief songwriter, Bob Cately, vocals, Mark Stanway on drums and Al Barrow on bass] have never sounded better; well oiled and tight as HELL! Clarkin is a master craftsman, whose creative guitar parts are woven perfectly into the songs. But Magnum`s trademark is the heartfelt vocals of Bob Cately. Time has been nothing but kind to his voice, and whether it`a down `n` dirty rockers ["Cry", "This Heart", "The Face Of An Enemy", "That Holy Touch"] or soulful ballads ["Let Somebody In", the title track] Cately`s emotion drenched voice compliments the songs to a "T". If there were ANY justice in the music business [yeah, right!], "Breath Of Life" would be dominating the charts on BOTH sides of the Atlantic. Still, the album shows that Magnum are not a bunch of over the hill has-beens, but a viable, creative musical force whose best work is HARDLY behind them!

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