Lion's Share - Emotional coma 4/5

Reviewed: 6-13-08


1. Cult of denial
2. The arsonist
3. Emotional coma
4. Clones of fate
5. The edge of the razor
6. Toxication rave
7. Trafficking
8. Bloodstained soil
9. Soultaker
10. Hatred's my fuel
11. Sorcerers
12. Ring of stupidity (bonus track)

Between 1997 and 2001, Lion's Share released 4 very good, underappreciated CDs in the highly polished melodic power-prog style. Boasting powerhouse vocals (courtesy of Andy Engberg and later Tony Niva), these Swedes were compared a fair amount to Savatage and Queensryche because of their bombastic arrangements, keyboard reliance, and dramatic flair. After 2001's fine 'Entrance' opus, Lion's Share dropped off the radar, presumably discouraged by their inability to make a breakthrough despite their obvious talent and the presence of industry heavyweights like Borivoj Krgin in their corner. So it was a pleasant surprise indeed to learn last year that guitarist Lars Chriss, the sole remaining founding member, had exhumed Lion's Share with a brand-new sound, a brand-new CD, and a brand-new supporting cast, including vocalist extraordinaire Nils Patrick Johannson (whose other credits include Astral Doors, Wuthering Heights and Space Odyssey) and bassist Sampo Axelsson. To add spice to the project, Chriss enlisted the aid of a few special guests, including solo spots by Glen Drover (ex-Megadeth, Eidolon) and Bruce Kulick (Kiss, duh), as well as backing vocals by the amazing Mats Leven (ex-Therion, ex-At Vance, etc.).

The only bummer in all of this is that the new Lion's Share CD, 'Emotional coma', was released on European shores in June 2007, but did not secure a U.S. release via Locomotive until March 2008. (Why is that happening so much lately by the way? It seems like the lag between European release dates and U.S. release dates, via licensing deals with labels like Locomotive and Candlelight, grows more interminable than ever, with the battered, paltry and pitiful U.S. dollar rendering it prohibitively expensive to buy the imports in the interim. It must be a Communist plot. I blame the Bolsheviks. Or Hillary Clinton.) At long last, however, 'Emotional coma' is available in this country for legal purchase at a cost of something less than one's limbs or unborn offspring. Is it worth the wait? Resoundingly yes. Johansson, he of the leather lungs and golden throat, delivers a typically masterful performance, channeling Dio, Tony Martin and his own bad self in a manner that will not disappoint his legions of acolytes. Much like the most recent Astral Doors CD, Johansson doesn't just stay in his "angry Dio" mode either, but offers a diversified approach to the songs from soulful crooning up through full-on, full-power belting. The guy's a demigod behind the mike, and Leven's superb backing vocals offer a nice touch that complements Johansson perfectly.

But the real highlight here is the songwriting. Gone are the progressive bits, the bombastic choirs, and the keyboard trills. In its place, Chriss (with some help from Axelsson) has penned 10 tracks of stripped-down, guitar-driven dark traditional heavy metal, with cool riffs and hooks galore. In some places I'm reminded of the Dio/Iommi collaborations of last year. Other times I'm thinking heavy-duty Savatage, or even Metal Church. You want an amazing opener? Try "Cult of denial" with its relentless, grinding, marching-to-war riff and a stunning chorus. You want fast songs? "Clones of fate" and "The arsonist" are semi-thrashy in their approach. You want catchy, melodic metal with a touch of doom? Give a listen to "The edge of the razor" (reminding a bit of older Lion's Share with its shades of light and dark, but that Iommi-type riff in the bridge bulldozes all in its path) or "Bloodstained soil". To top it all off, Lion's Share brilliantly dust off Angel Witch's NWOBHM classic "Sorcerers" and deliver a bang-up cover to close out the CD. The production is powerful, modern, uncluttered, and savagely heavy, giving center stage to Chriss's towering riffs.

Fans of the older Lion's Share output may be thrown for a loop initially by the sonic makeover they have undergone, but it's not so dramatic as to render the band unrecognizable. After all, Lion's Share played melodic heavy metal with great vocals before, and they're doing the same thing now. The difference is that the arrangements have been simplified, the guitars have been injected with a testosterone booster shot from hell, and the aggression has been cranked up a few notches. Anyone who craves well-played traditional European heavy metal music with a few nods to doom and thrash, simply brilliant vocals, and consistently strong songs will be overjoyed by 'Emotional coma'. Welcome back, Mr. Chriss, and bravo.




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