Viron - NWOGHM 4.5/5

Reviewed: 5-26-06


1. Sander
2. Blow the fuse
3. Viron
4. Bound to die
5. Winds of Valhalla
6. For her majesty
7. Ride on
8. Instrumental
9. Lucifer arise
10. Born out of light
11. Doomsday

It's a gutsy, presumptuous call for a fledgling German band on a hole-in-the-wall Greek label to title its debut CD 'NWOGHM'. After all, the New Wave of British Heavy Metal is one of the most revered, legendary movements in heavy metal history, spawning the likes of Iron Maiden, Saxon, Angel Witch, Blitzkrieg and numerous other titans. And if the "G" in the title acronym stands for German (as it clearly does), then the mere suggestion that a New Wave of German Heavy Metal is upon us, much less that Viron is leading the charge, seems almost too audacious for words. The Germans have been perfecting the art form of pure, unadulterated, gleaming metal at the highest level for a quarter century now, so the sheer chutzpah of these newcomers to the scene boasting that they are going to usher in a new era of Teutonic steel, given the long legacy of metallic magnificence hailing from Deutschland, is nothing short of staggering.

"If you're going to talk the talk, you'd best be able to walk the walk." "It's not bragging if you can back it up." These and other slogans of vindication from my misspent youth came to mind as I absorbed this CD over the last couple of weeks. Viron deliver the goods in a big way, and have silenced my skepticism as to the legitimacy of their claims to be the self-appointed vanguard of German metal for a new generation. This is an outstanding effort of potent traditional German metal that should inspire fervent loyalty amongst the denim'n'leather clad old-school hordes of headbangers as well as any fans of well done European traditional metal. Musically, the recipe of 'NWOGHM' is to take one part staunch, heavy duty German metal (think Paragon, Metal Inquisitor, Mystic Prophecy), add one part Manowar bravado and bombast, and mix in some NWOBHM riffage. The songwriting is both versatile and excellent. "Blow the fuse" (an ode to alcoholism) is one of the best CD openers I've heard in many moons, as it carries a breathless urgency that jolts the listener into an adrenaline overload. "Ride on" is a less frenzied, but still uptempo smasher guaranteed to get those heads shaking and the metal legions singing along with the lyrics about burning wheels and gasoline flowing intravenously. And "Born out of the light" lays waste to everything. Yet the band also excel at slower tempos, as ballad "Winds of Valhalla" expertly captures the feel of old Blind Guardian acoustic ballads of yore, infused with a Manowar sense of epic grandeur. Most of the tracks hover between these extremes, being packed with cool riffs, strong hooks, great solos, seamless tempo changes, and memorable arrangements, giving appropriate nods to (without overuse of) the hyperspeed double-bass sound that greatly enhances a metal CD if used properly, but that has been so often misused that it has condemned numerous lesser bands to the 2nd tier. There's even an instrumental that features some of the finest guitar melodies and coolest arrangements on the entire CD.

As if these elements were insufficient to elevate 'NWOGHM' to highly recommended status, vocalist Alexx Stahl vaults Viron over the top. He is surely one of the best new singers to burst onto the German scene in recent memory. Stahl's voice typically conjures both Sven D'Anna (Wizard) and Henning Basse (Metalium), but also is reminiscent in places of the vocalist from Hibria and even Hansi Kursch (on the ballads). This guy is really something special. The combination of Stahl's exquisite vocals and the jaw-dropping riffs penned by 6-stringer Thilo Feucht is a metal machine that is destined for greatness. And the production is a flawless modern job that makes everything sound big and powerful, as it should, doing justice to the stellar tunes.

Detractors may whine that they've heard it all before and that the quality level drops slightly on the last song. Both critiques are valid. You have heard this type of music before, but you've rarely heard it performed at such an exceptional level by a brand-new band. And unfocused closer "Doomsday" is perhaps not quite as strong as most of the other material, but that's a minor quibble. The bottom line is this: Until I heard 'NWOGHM', Mago de Oz's latest 'Gaia' CD and Sencirow's superb 'Perception of fear' were perched solidly atop my list of favorite CDs for the year. I think Viron has bumped both of these releases down a spot, setting the bar extremely high for everything else that will come out in 2006. It's scary to think how amazing the follow-up to 'NWOGHM' might be, if these guys keep it together and hone their craft a bit more in the interim.




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