Metal is alive and well in Russia! During my recent visit to Moscow [from April 15th `til May 5th 2002], I noticed a lot of people wearing T-shirts featuring this band, as well as posters advertising their gigs. So naturally I checked into this and found a record store that carried Aria`s CDs`. The woman at the shop let me preview a couple of tunes from their latest album, "Chimera"; well, after hearing part of track #1 I was hooked and picked up the disc immediately! [I went back the next day and bought their double live CD "Made In Russia", as well as a T-shirt!]. Immensely popular in their homeland, Aria has been in existence since 1985 and has released 15 [or more] albums. How the HELL did I miss these guys?! The 5 piece is composed of original members Valery Kipelov, vocals and Vladimir Holstinin, guitar, Vitaly Dubinin, bass [since 1987], Alexander Manyakin, drums [since 1988] and "newest" member [since 1994] Sergei Terentyev on guitar. Aria`s tunes are sung in Russian, but their website is in both Russian AND English, so the song titles are printed in English, as well. As we all know, Heavy Metal is a universal language unto itself, and Aria gets their message across VERY loud and clear!! They remind me at times of early `80s` Scorpions mixed with a little Iron Maiden, Featuring clean, flawless production, their latest album shows a band at the top of their game; seasoned professionals who have not lost their passion for what they do! Kipelov`s vocals are both powerful and memorable, bringing the lyrics to life no matter WHAT language they`re in! The twin guitar leads and harmonies of Holstinin and Terentyev are among the best in the Metal genre; these two are about interplay, NOT overplay, always complimenting the song. Manyakin and Dubinin provide tight rhythmic support like a well oiled machine. There are no slackers in THIS band! Here is the track listing, along with some brief comments by yours truly! "Chimera"; the title track, featuring great guitar harmonies and memorable riffs. "Heaven Will Find You", an Accept-style cruncher with a pounding main riff! "I'm not mad", begins with a soft keyboard intro before kicking things into overdrive. Turn this one up to 11! The moody "Vampire", which features an impassioned vocal performance by Kipelov. The Maiden-like "Burning Arrow". "Calm" which is a misleading title; this song is anything BUT calm! "Way to Nowhere". MY personal favorite! The Scorpions influence is obvious, and has a catchy, memorable chorus. You`ll want to learn Russian just so you can sing along with this one! The bluesy, melodic "The Raven" is next, followed by "Splinter of Ice", a beautiful [and powerful!] ballad. The final track, "They'll Give You a Sign" is over eight minutes long, and displays all the qualities that make this band great! Non-Russians may have some difficulty finding Aria`s releases, but BELIEVE me, they are well worth searching for! Russia ROCKS!!!!!


Dario Mollo/Tony Martin-"The Cage II"-2002

At LAST! "Cage- II" is the follow-up to the highly successful 1999 album released by the creative tag-team of guitarist/producer Dario Mollo and ex-Black Sabbath vocalist. And start to finish, it`s a KILLER! In addition to Mollo and Martin, the album features Tony Franklin (ex Blue Murder, The Firm and a zillion others!) on bass, Roberto Gualdi on drums, and Dario Patti on keyboards. No slouches in THAT line-up, let me tell you! One thing puzzled me when I was reading the early reactions on the `Net. For instance, some were complaining that the opening track, "Terra Toria" was too Nu Metal! Naturally, everyone has their own taste & opinions, but what kind of crack were they smoking when they listened to that song?! While it may have some "Modern" overtones, there ain`t NO WAY it sounds like Korn, Limp Bizkit, etc! [it is more akin to the material Tony Martin did with Aldo Guintini`s "Project-II"] And it most DEFINITELY wipes up the floor with the 2 pathetic new tracks from the Back Sabbath [who are now known as The Ozzy Osbourne Back-Up Band] "Reunion" CD! Martin`s voice is in top form, adding passion and urgency to his heartfelt lyrics [ the beautiful "Wind Of Change" is just one example of this!]. Mollo? Take a listen to his superhuman technique on "Life, Love And Everything", and everything else he plays here; the sheer guitar firepower at his command is mind staggering! "Balance Of Power" has Dio-era Rainbow written all over it, a kick ass tribute to Metal`s glorious past! The HUGE sounding "Amore Silenzioso" has a "Kashmir"- feel to it, and the vocal harmonies of "Guardian Angel" invoke the spirit of Freddy Mercury. And like the last album, there`s a cover tune, to boot; last time, it was Deep Purple`s "Storm Bringer". The latest classic to get the Cage treatment is none other than a dead-nuts version of Zep`s "Dazed And Confused"! Not only do the boys copy this one note for not, they manage to evoke the dark, ominous feel of the original, something a whole Kingdom of Klones were NEVER able to do! Overall, Tony Martin has recovered quite nicely from his expulsion from the Sabbath ranks. And now that Sabbath have been put in mothballs [by the meglamaniacal Mrs. Osbourne so that her puppet/husband has more time to make a complete idiot of himself!], a certain Mr. Iommi is probably kicking himself for dissolving the Martin-fronted Sabbath. While that lineup wasn`t as big in the states as they were in Europe and Japan, at least they were working, not sitting around doing nothing! Oh well, maybe if Tony Iommi is a REAL good boy, Tony and Dario will let him guest on the next Cage album. Maybe....

Dario Mollo Homepage

The Owl Watches-"Tales From The Inflatable Forest"-2002

First off, this is Progressive Rock [more or less], NOT Progressive Metal, so Dream [snore] Theater fans may want to skip this review! "Tales From The Inflatable Forest" is the creation of bassist/guitarist/keyboardist, Telly Savalas stand-in and owl afficionado Phil "I`ve got a Mellotron and I`m not afraid to use it!" McKenna. The overall sound of this album recalls the glory days of Prog Rock, [Yes, King Krimson], but is hardly clinical or boring. In fact, the sound here is warm, organic [hate to use that word!], a million miles removed from the sparkly clean production values and harsh digital tone prevalent in much of today`s "Progressive" music. And best of all, it`s 100% hit single free! Der Philmeister handles all instrumentation himself, in true DI spirit, so the overall vision of "Tales..." is truly his own. Though I`m including a track listing here for your convenience, it seems rather pointless to me, as I view these 5 tracks as ONE continuous piece of music! The tunes: "Tales From the Inflatable Forest" [All 16 + minutes!]: a) "In the Clearing b) The Journey Begins" c) "--even the owls hoot backwards" d) "Invitation To The Dance" e) "No Thanks, I Think I'll Run this One Out" f) "Escape/Back To The Clearing". Echos of Robert Fripp/King Krimson, and perhaps Henry Kaiser, can be spotted easily through out this piece. Phil has a reverence for the Progressive genre, and any obvious similarities to the previously mentioned artists are included on this album purely out of homage, not plagiarism! "There Ain't No Such Things As Spooks" features some sweet guitar work and this, as well as much of the other tracks, reminds me of Colosseum II circa "Strange New Flesh". Another highlight is "Healing of a Heart", with it`s catchy melodic lead work and clever arrangement. While some may point out that the music tends to wander off at times, that IS what "experimentation" is all about, right? Hey, at least Phil`s taking us with him! And what a journey it is! Fans of ANY style of music will enjoy this immensely. To be honest, the phrase "Do It Yourself" is something of a misnomer; NO artist can do it all. They need your help, so click the link below, go to Phil`s site and order this CD! Supporting artists like him insures that we get to hear MORE great stuff like this! So go on, give a hoot! [HUGE thanks to Phil for the disc, and thanks also for tipping me off to the "Sabbatum" CD!]


Ravens`Head-"From The Darkness"-2002

Hard to believe this band had only been around for 2 years! This Australian act has attained a level of skill and professionalism unmatched by groups who`ve been in existence 3 times as long! But Ravens`Head is filled to the brim with talent, so their rapid progression isn`t hard to comprehend! The band is: Gary Minderman on guitar, Rachel Pedri, "The Voice", Chalky on guitar, bassist Paul Grando, Robbie J. on drums, and Stu [who is not credited on this album] on guitar. "From The Darkness" is their first full length album [a 4 song multimedia single, "Sands Of Time" was released in early 2001], and upon first listen [I have listened to this CD a lot more times than that, I assure you!], most will agree that a more diverse and multi-faceted Metal band would be hard to find! Ravens`Head display an uncanny knack for crafting songs that are heavy, powerful, moody and melodic, which AIN`T easy! Great care went into the songwriting, and much effort was made to insure that each of the 11 tracks had its` own atmosphere and personality. "Martyr" opens the show with a BANG! With its` pounding, driving rhythms and Rachel`s commanding vocals, it`s the perfect opener. Next is the Speed Metal scorcher "Play Me for the Fool", followed by the catchy as hell "Arcana". "Did You Ever" is a real surprise! Not Metal, definitely, but neither is it "Pop" [or Pop Metal, for that matter!]. "Did You Ever" is just one of those tunes that defy categorization. It`s a slow, at times somber piece with a memorable chorus, and in better musical times would have been a chart topper! The REAL prize here, for my money, is the monumental "The Gates of Hell". All the things that make a great Metal tunes are found here; mellow at first, then slowly building `til the power chords kick in along with a main verse that you`ll be singing LONG after the neighbors have called the cops! But really, all 11 tracks are gems, and the band brings each of them vividly to life. The delicate interplay between musicians here is what help give the songs their unique quality; and of course, the band Rocks like HELL! Topping it off is "The Voice", Rachel Pedri! A standout among the recent batch of faceless Metal singers, Rachel is a vocal force to be reckoned with! [word is that she`s rather attractive, too; not that I ever noticed, mind you! Not ME! I`m ALL business...] Want proof? Check out the thunderous "Do You Believe" or the Middle Eastern sounding "Sands of Time", or ANY track on "From The Darkness", for that matter! One of the BEST Metal albums [and bands] of 2002! You can get the CD directly from the band; click the link below for more details. [Special thanks to Rachel for getting in touch, and Chalky for helping me with my order!]


PowerGod-"Evilution Part III-Nemisis"-2002

What the HELL!!? Where`d THESE guys come from? I`m still trying to find out more about `em, but here`s what I now so far; Their name is PowerGod and they`re from Germany They have names like President Evil [vocals], Riff Randall [guitars and bass] and Hama Hart on drums. They set all instruments on "Kill" and play songs that have lyrics like "We`re coming to get you `cause you don`t like us, We`re here to hate you `cause we`re dead serious!" ["Dead Serious"] Now is THAT isn`t TRUE Metal, I don`t know what is! "Evilution Part III-Nemesis" is the 3rd release from PowerGod, and listening to it is not unlike sticking your head down a missile silo just before launch! Death defying speed, blinding rhythms, guitar riffs from hell, psychotic solos, growls, screams, baby this one has it ALL! These guys make Primal Fear sound like the Goo Goo Dolls. Want proof? Check out the rousing "Call Of Freedom", the pure Speed Metal HELL of "Courtroom Of Traitors," the churning, impossibly heavy "Got Milk?", "Monsterman" or my favorite "Parting Gift". These crazy bastards don`t let up for a second! No Hammerfall-happy flying metal dragons in the sky crap HERE! The only let down here is the title track; it`s kinda strange and doesn`t fit well with the rest of the album, but that`s the ONLY sore point I can find. I don`t think I`ve heard anything as intense and in-your-face since the last Sodom disc! Crushing guitars, mass death, it`s all here! All for YOU!! Probably the most LETHAL Metal album so far this year! Buy NOW!

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