Mean Streak - Declaration of war 4/5

Reviewed: 4-1-11





Tracklist:

1. Declaration of war
2. In for the kill
3. Crimson sky
4. The end of the rainbow
5. As you sow you shall reap
6. No mans land
7. Brothers ‘til the end
8. Sons of metal
9. Sign in the sky
10. History of lies
11. The oblation


Swedish traditional metallers Mean Streak flew under the radar with their solid 2009 debut CD, ‘Metal slave’, which featured numerous highlights but was hampered by a dash of inconsistency in the songwriting and a forgivable propensity to ape classic Iron Maiden. Now the band have returned with a sophomore CD, ‘Declaration of war’, that bears many outward similarities to its predecessor. For starters, the scantily-clad, heavily-armed, demon-horned, computer-generated female “mascot” of Mean Streak is again depicted on the front cover, albeit this time bathed in hues of blue rather than the red that adorned the debut. And again Mean Streak’s work is released through underrated Swedish label Black Lodge Records, which formerly housed the likes of Sabaton and The Storyteller. Most importantly, Mean Streak have once more displayed an unwavering allegiance to straight-up, no-frills traditional heavy metal, steeped in the traditions of the 80s but with a powerful production befitting a CD released fully a decade into the new millennium.

What’s different this time around are that Mean Streak have become better, more focused and confident songwriters. While ‘Declaration of war’ will not blow anyone away with its sheer force of originality, the Maiden clone elements have been tamped down and replaced with much more of an “own sound”, as European journalists are fond of putting it. Also, the occasional quality lapses that hindered ‘Metal slave’ have been ironed out in favor of a more cohesive, complete and developed batch of songs on ‘Declaration of war’. The best part is that Mean Streak excel at all phases of the old-school metal sound. Want a high-powered speedy opener? The title track fits the bill nicely, sounding something like a faster Accept song (“T.V. War” comes to mind). How about a midtempo Hammerfall/Primal Fear sort of stomper? “In for the kill” and “Sons of metal” are for you. If you fancy something with a more elegant, epic vibe, check out “The oblation” and “Crimson sky” for fine examples of this style done right. “No man’s land” even features an Egyptian snake-charmer melody in the chorus. And tracks like “As you sow you shall reap” just flat-out kick ass and take names. There are no ballads, no filler, no flab, just 11 great songs and 46 minutes of polished, guitar-driven melodic old-school heavy metal.

I know some of you are picky about vocals in your metal, so perhaps a word about singer Andy La Guerin is in order. He has a high-pitched yet still slightly gritty delivery that reminds me of someone else, but I just can’t place it. Perhaps the best comparisons would be a higher-pitched, nasally Biff Byford (Saxon) or maybe Jo Amore (Nightmare). Okay, maybe I can’t nail down the comparison exactly, but the key point is that La Guerin has a likeable (but not brilliant) voice with more than enough versatility and character to belt out these top-notch songs.

There are an awful lot of traditional heavy metal releases flooding the market these days. But to nick a line from Anthrax during the John Bush days, there’s always room for one more. Or at least, there is, if it’s worthy. And ‘Declaration of war’ is a highly worthy release that is deserving of your time and your dollars. So if the idea of a Swedish hybrid of Hammerfall, Accept, Nocturnal Rites and Saxon, with fine songs and a nice assortment of tempos and vibes, is appealing to you, by all means hunt down a copy of Mean Streak’s ‘Declaration of war’. You’ll be glad you did.



KIT




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