Undoubtedly one of THE most eagerly awaited albums of 2007, "Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow" was being hailed as Magnum`s return to their more mystical stylings, reminiscent of the Magnum days of yore; "On A Storytellers Night, "Wings Of Heaven", and so forth. So, does "Princess Alice....." live up to these lofty expectations? Yes! However, I hesitate to compare the new disc to those aforementioned classics simply because, in my opinion, this album stands on its` own merit, and will surely be held in the same high esteem as it`s illustrious predecessors. While not a "concept album" per se, the overall theme here seems to be of a reflective nature, though not in a sad-eyed, pining-for-the-old-days nostalgic way. The album opens with the haunting "When We Were Younger" not just one of the best Magnum songs but one of the best songs I`ve heard in years PERIOD! This is matched by the equally great second track "Eyes Wide Open", featuring an impassioned vocal performance by Bob Catley. Guitarist/songwriter Tony Clarkin has crafted another Native American themed song with "Like Brothers We Stand", followed by the memorable "Out Of The Shadows". Next is the brilliant "Dragons Are Real", an instant classic and a definite stand-out track. The heartfelt "Inside Your Head" is followed by "Be Strong", and I`ve gotta say this one doesn`t QUITE match the level of the previously mentioned tracks. The same can be said for "Your Lies" and "Desperate Times", though I have a feeling that repeated listenings may be required for these tunes to grow on me. "Thank You For The Day" features a magnificent chorus and is a highpoint among highpoints, and the closing track, "You'll Never Sleep", matches "When We Were Younger" in emotional intensity and makes a perfect bookend for the album. Soundwise, the band has rarely sounded better; the album has a lush-but-loose feel to it, not coming off overproduced. And the individual musicians positively shine on all cuts; Tony`s lyrics and razor sharp guitar work are nearly flawless, Bob`s singing here is his best work yet, Mark Stanways` keyboards on the album are, as always, one of the main components that help bring Tony`s songs vividly to life, while the Al Borrow/Jimmy Copley rhythm section has really come into its` own. In fact, the addition of Copley`s powerhouse drumming has enhanced the Magnum sound no end. And of course, there`s the Rodney Matthews cover, which is every bit the work of art that "Storytellers" is! Be sure to get the limited edition with the bonus DVD, featuring the making of the album, band interviews and other goodies! Though it`s early in the year, "Princess Alice And The Broken Arrow" has MY vote as best album of the year. If you`re a Magnum fan, you probably know this already; if you have no idea who they are, this might be a good place to start. Either way, buy this album at ALL costs, prepare to be enchanted and remember: dragons ARE real!!
Saxon`s 18th studio album, "The Inner Sanctum", finds the the Yorkshire Metal vets continuing the creative winning streak begun with 1997s` "Unleash The Beast" [and keeping the momentum going with "Metalhead", "Killing Ground" and "Lionheart"], and the lads have done it again! Sure, there are those who puel and whine that the band should`ve just kept re-releasing "Denim And Leather" ad infinitum, but who the hell wants THAT? If you want nostalgia, keep listening to the old stuff [great as it is]; this is Saxon in the `07, baby! As has been the recent tradition, a powerful intro opens the album, and then things take right off with "State Of Grace", a track that amply displays all the fire and flash, blood and thunder that makes this legendary band what it is! It`s worth pointing out that on this album, Biff and company at time dip back into their past, merging their more recent Euro Metal stylings with the more vintage Saxon sound, as heard on "Need For Speed" and the breath-taking asssault of "Let Me Feel Your Power". Another plus; longtime fans will no doubt be happy to see/hear that the Lord-Of-The-Drums Nigel Glockner returns to the kit! What more could one ask? The monumental "Red Star Falling" [about the fall of the Soviet Empire] is certainly one of my favorite cuts, and has that "lighter in the air" feel to it, and features a gut-wrenching vocal performance by Mr. Byford. Past glories are recalled in songs like "I've Got To Rock (To Stay Alive)" and "Going Nowhere Fast". And of course, what would a Saxon album be without an historical epic? "Atila The Hun", a high-powered masterpiece that encompasses all that is great about this band, and is a perfect closing track. The limited edition version included a bonus DVD with interviews and live clips of Saxon doing what they do best. All told, another great release by an equally great band, and probably the best straight up Heavy Metal album of 2007 so far! FEEL THE POWER!!!
While I`m not a HUGE fan of the whole "Metalcore" genre, there are bands that manage to rise above the many faceless acts of questionable talent that seem to have glutted the market of late. California`s In this Moment are such a band. Having been in existence just barely a year, the band were signed to Century Media and have just released their debut album, "Beautiful Tragedy". Prior to releasing the album, the band toured ferociously up and down both US costs, obviously possessing a strong work ethic, something rare these days! Fronted by vocalist Maria Brink, the sound of this 5-piece can best be described as a cross between Arch Enemy, Lacuna Coil and All That Remains, with Brinks` hellfire vocal delivery giving the bands music a definite edge. Granted, there isn`t a lot of originality here, but the band delivers each track with so much passion, flair and panache, that this can be overlooked. Diversity is what makes the band stand apart, as well as knowing when to hold back and when to cut loose. Quiet, almost eerie passages flow into punishing rhythms and near-blast beats; Brinks` vocals go from a soft, ghostly whisper to banshee wails and shrieks seamlessly. Quality songwriting and top-notch musicianship are on equal display here, and while at times the band repeats themselves in a few songs, "Beautiful Tragedy" still comes out a winner, and a definite "must-have" for ALL types of Metal fans. In This Moment is a band whom you`ll be hearing a LOT of, trust me! Highly recommended!
Here we have the latest from Lazarus Complex, the one-man Doom Metal band/project masterminded by Jerry Wilde. Jerry`s second release is called "Soundtrack To My Demise", a concept album whose central theme concerns a man who loses control of his life [don`t worry; Jerry assures me that this isn`t autobiographical!], and who subsequently begins to spiral downward. Thus, we are taken on a 10-track odyssey into one man`s personal Hell, and his ensuing struggle to climb out. Not the happiest of topics to be sure, but engaging none the less. One of the most impressive aspects here is that despite the one-man-band status, Jerry manages to make a coherent statement. The arrangements here suggesting more of a "band" mentality, instead of the "Look, Ma! Aren`t I just soooo clever with my new Pro-Tools?" vibe that one usually gets from similar projects. And the songs are actually memorable; catchy Doom! Though intended as part of a collective whole, each track can stand on it`s own. Stylistically, the album evokes such past Doom masters as early Candlemass, Godflesh, Solitude Aeturnus, a rather impressive pedigree! All told, a fine release from and artist who really knows his craft and who, given the proper exposure, could be a force to reckon within the dark, cavernous genre know as Doom! [A major "thank you" to Jerry Wilde for sending the CD!]