Frank, Herman - Loyal to none 4.5/5

Reviewed: 3-13-09


1. Moon II
2. 7 stars
3. Father buries son
4. Heal me
5. Hero
6. Kill the king
7. Down to the valley
8. Bastard legion
9. Metal gods
10. Welcome to hell

Few singers in recent memory have had as much of an impact on me as Jioti Parcharidis. Initially attracting notice in 2001 with Human Fortress's debut CD, Jioti went on to record 2 of the best power metal vocal performances in the last decade on Human Fortress's 'Defenders of the crown' CD in 2003 and on Euroforce's debut CD in 2005. Jioti's sublime vocal work singlehandedly raised a fairly pedestrian Victory CD ('Fuel to the fire') to recommended status in 2006. But then his voice went ominously silent for a prolonged period of time. Human Fortress released another (weaker) CD last year with a different singer, and explained in interviews that Jioti was having serious health problems (throat issues, if I remember correctly) that prevented him from singing and necessitated his ouster from that band. I feared the worst. So imagine the jolt of happiness I received upon learning a couple of months ago that Jioti was making a return as lead vocalist on the solo CD of Herman Frank, who is perhaps best known as the "other guitar player" in Accept, but who also made a bit of a name for himself in the 80s with Victory and in the 90s with Moon'Doc. And a most triumphant return it is.

Leaving the vocals aside for a moment, 'Loyal to none' is a very fine traditional (dare I say "old-school"?) heavy metal CD. Frank has come up with a solid and varied batch of tunes, from the uptempo power metal stylings of "Moon II", "Father buries son" and "Down to the valley" to the Whitesnake-heavy-blues-flavored "Heal me" (no, not a Gamma Ray cover song) to the locked-in rockin' stomp of "Hero". Catchy refrains and cool (but not overly flashy) guitar riffs and melodies are all over the place. "Down to the valley", in particular, is a sheer monster of a song, deceptively stashed at #7 of the track listing where it crushes all with its utter awesomeness. Amazingly, track #8, "Bastard legion", matches it pound-for-pound, stride-for-stride. When was the last time you heard a CD so brimming with quality that its best songs were at #7 and #8 of the running order? The songs are straightforward and to-the-point, and there's not a single track that misses the mark in the compact, lean'n'mean 46-minute running time. I do wish, however, that Frank had worked a bit harder in concocting song titles. Of the last 5 tracks, 3 share the names of famous, landmark heavy metal songs ("Kill the king", "Metal gods", and "Welcome to hell"), but none are covers. The rhythm section of drummer Stefan Schwarzmann (Running Wild, Accept, Helloween, etc.) and bassist Peter Pichl (Running Wild) perform ably, although Schwarzmann's white-noisy cymbal washes can be a bit distracting sometimes. And Frank delivers a modern, powerful production to bring out the full vigor of this CD.

How does Jioti sound? Fan-frickin-tastic. The golden voice that catapulted Human Fortress and Euroforce to the upper echelons of heavy metal glory sounds better than ever. He sings with full power, grit, expressiveness, range and emotion on these tracks. Okay, so perhaps there's no single performance on 'Loyal to none' that slays me the way Jioti's singing on "Siege tower" did back in the Human Fortress days, but fans of Mr. Parcharidis will be grinning from ear to ear to hear him back in action and in top form on this Herman Frank CD. He's well and truly back, so rejoice!

There's really not much more to say. Some may balk at the cliched lyrical content, the "heard-it-all-before" musical style, and the misleadingly Running Wild-styled cover artwork. I balk a little that a couple of the songs veer a bit too close to hair metal for comfort (no doubt Frank's Victory roots are sneaking in here and there). That said, if you like your heavy metal classic, old-school and anthemic, and if you like unique, powerful and amazing vocals, then 'Loyal to none' is an absolute no-brainer and one of the best CDs you will hear in 2009. I tip my cap, give thanks to the metal gods for allowing this CD to see the light of day, grab another beer, and push "play" again.




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