Germany`s Paragon has been slugging it out in various incarnations since 1990, and has several albums under their collective bullet-belts. But their latest, "Law Of The Blade", is my introduction to the band, and WHAT an intro! Sounding at times a bit like older Saxon, and perhaps a little Accept, Paragon are Old School Metal, loud `n` proud! Paragon is: Andreas Babuschkin - Lead Vocals, Martin Christian - Guitars/Backing Vocals, Claudius Cremer - Guitars, Jan Bünning [Begrüßungen, mein Freund!:-)] - Bass/Backing Vocals, and Markus Corby - Drums. Not a retro act by any means, this 5-man strike force has a style and personality all their own, as well as a genuine love and respect for Metal. Any doubts about this are CRUSHED by opening cut, "Abducted". The aural assault continues with crunching "Palace Of Sin". The title track is MY personal favorite, but really, how the HELL can I choose one tune above the other?! The whole damn thing is KILLER! Crunchy, heavy as HELL riffage, songs that stick in your head long after your neighbors have called the police, excellent musicianship, and world-class [with just the right amount of grit!] production by Piet Sielck help "Law Of The Blade" stand out as one of the BEST Metal releases of 2002. Forget that Nu-Metal slop, kids; THIS is Metal, and nuthin` but!! Go to Paragon`s website below and support REAL Metal!!!! [neck braces are optional...]
Another killer album that I completely missed! Released in 2001, "Infatuator" is the sophmore album from this melodic Metal 5-piece. Silent Force is legendary former Royal Hunt vocalist DC Cooper [the lone Yank in the group], ex-Sinner and current Primal Fear guitarist Alex Bryrodt, keyboardist Torsten Rohre, Jurgen Steinmetz on bass and Andre Hilgers on drums. Keyboards and guitars share equal space on all 13 cuts, and though the band touches on Neo classical, and even a bit of Prog Metal, but fortunately never venture into pompous, Dream Theater territory. [In fact, if Dream Theater got off their high-tech high horse and got a little dirt on their faces and under their nails, they MIGHT be almost as good as Silent Force!] Soaring, melody driven Power Metal is the band`s stock-in-trade, as the opening salvo of the title track makes clear! Next is the neck-snapping "Fall Into Oblivion", and the hypnotic "Promised Land", where Cooper`s vocals bring to mind Graham Bonnett [at least to me!], while the anthemic Power Metal cruncher "We Must Use The Power" will DEFINITELY have you pumping your fist in the air! Other goodies include "Gladiator", which is based on one of my favorite movies, and the gorgeous ballad "In Your Arms" [addtional vocals on this tune were provided by Inka Auershagen], as well as a surprise [and VERY appropriate] cover of Priest`s "All Guns Blazing." This album does not let up for a minute! Cooper`s performance on every track is nothing short of brilliant; this guy has lungs from HELL, and is without a doubt one of the finest American Metal vocalists out there! Guitarist Alex Bryrodt unleashes a veritable firestorm of flashy, melodic leads and catchy, powerhouse riffs. And he knows when to pull back and let the music "breathe", something a lot of musicians of his calibre have trouble doing! Rohre`s keyboards are a perfect compliment to Bryrodt, and the tag team rhythm section of Steinmetz and Hilgers tear through the tunes like a well-oiled Metal machine. Without a doubt one of the brightest stars on the Power Metal scene, and definitely one of the bands that will help ignite the spark that sets the Metal flame burning brighter than ever, all across the globe!! [Huge, HUGE thanks to Heidi Krueger for sending me the album!]
Endless Time is an Italian Power Metal band who have made incredible strides in just 3 short years! The brainchld of guitarist Mauro Ferrari, the band also features guitarist Mattia Bagatin, drummer Mattia Cavalieri, keyboardist Katya Serventi, and bassist/vocalist Laura Terragni. Their debut EP, "Ancient Tales", can best be described as a cross between classic NWOBHM [early Maiden comes to mind], as well as various modern Euro Power Metal stylings, although HARDLY the flavor of the month currently glutting the market! Recorded in just 27 hours, the album is a bit rough around the edges, and some of the performances are a little spotty at times [apparently the rhythm section`s parts were first takes!], but the energy and personality of the band shine through loud `n` clear! The lyrics are rich with Tolkien-esque imagery, and each of the 4 tunes here weave a tapestry of goblins, trolls, dragons and swords that owe much to Blind Guardian, but Endless Time take great pains to imbue each track with their own personal "stamp". This can be heard quite clearly on all 4 cuts; "The Beginning", "Screaming Of My Soul","King Of The Waves", and my favorite track "Unwanted Treason". In spite of the rough spots, the 5-piece are highly skilled musicians whose love and enthusiasm for their music overcomes any shortcomings in the production department. Most definitely a band who will soon be at the forefront of the Italian Metal scene, and perhaps the global Metal scene as well. This is one to watch!! [Many, many thanks to Brenno for sending me the disc!]
Someone please tell me WHY Hellion vocalist Ann Boleyn is not a star by now? This lady, along with the band, had all the necessary ingredients; talent, looks [most DEFINITELY!], great stage presence, and most important, killer songs! This SHOULD have been sufficient to put the band over the top where they belonged. But luck and circumstance conspired against them, and in early 1991, Hellion faded away, awash in a sea of Seattle Grunge, like so many other acts of the `eighties. But late 2000 saw Ann return to the music scene in a big way, with the banb now called simply Ann Boleyn. A few dates at local Los Angeles clubs, as well as a short tour of Japan, let the world know that The Queen Of Hell`s STILL got it! Later, she changed the name back to Hellion and began recording Hellion`s long awaited comeback album, "Will Not Go Quietly". And here it is. I might as well tell you, if you`re expecting the Hellion of yore, with the soaring twin leads, pounding double-bass drums, and mystical lyrics, then go and listen to "Screams In The Night", "Postcards From The Asylum" or "The Black Book", `cause you ain`t gonna find that here! "Will Not Go Quietly" is a "Modern" Metal album, through `n` through. Not that Ann`s gone Linkin Park, but there`s not a trace of "classic" Hellion to be found, either! Instead, you have a rather bleak, doomy album featuring slow to mid-paced songs full of dreary, angst ridden imagery & lyrics. To be honest, with the exception of a great raw distorted guitar sound and a VERY cool album cover [NOT for the faint of heart!], there`s not much here for me! And there`s no point in discussing individual tracks because they all sound nearly alike, and several [like the aptly-titled "Shit"] sound IDENTICAL! No varition whatsoever. To my ears, the whole thing smacks of a half-hearted attempt to sound "hip" and "current". When will these bands learn that sometimes their future lies in their past? Look what happened to some other "classic" metal bands such as Dio with "Angry Machines" or Def Leppard; their attempts to sound "contemporary" were total failures! Young kids who listen to the Nu Metal stuff aren`t going to listen to a bunch of "old farts" trying immitate that style, and the older fans who have been with these bands` from the start are going to be put off by their cheap attempts to sound cool! My overall assessment of the new "improved" Hellion? Not terrible, but not much, either! File this one under "Try, Try Again". C`mon, Ann & crew; we KNOW you can do better than this!!
Hailing from the Netherlands, Scourge of Heaven" is the second release from melodic Death 7-piece [!] Shadowlord. Having weathered several line-up changes since their formation in 1995, the band`s latest offering is a triumph, both in terms of composition AND production, all the more remarkable considering this is very much a "do-it-yourself" project and NOT bankrolled by a major label! Featuring both male and female vocals, as well as keyboards as a prominent instrument, Shadowlord`s style could be categorized as high velocity, melodic/symphonic black metal that combines modern Black/Death metal with some gothic [not "Goth"] overtones. But unlike many other bands mining the same dark territory, Shadowlord knows the value of creating a mood, not just being fast and brutal for it`s own sake. "Scourge of Heaven" features plenty of speed, power and death to satisfy the blackest Metal heart, yet at the same time has an uncanny knack for writing songs that are at once dark, powerful, and heavy, with beautiful, haunting passages that blend in perfectly with the brutal stuff flawlessly; not an easy thing to do! Each song flows seamlessly into the next, a sure sign that great care was take in the song-writing process. The band is tight as hell, and the individual musicianship is highly skilled in their art, and know when to cut loose and when to hold back. Expect to hear great things from this group! For more information, check out the links below!