Believe it or not, "Wake The Sleeper" is the first studio release from Uriah Heep since 1998s` "Sonic Origami"; a helluva long time considering that, in their early days, they used to put out two a year! Though the British Heavy Rock vets have toured almost relentlessly, various contractual, personnel and label issues put the breaks on any studio work. With all that out of the way, the band gives us their first album of the 21st Century. Worth the wait? Believe it! "Wake The Sleeper" is not all that different from its` predecessor, or from most of the bands` catalog, for that matter. In fact, other than the replacement of long-time drummer Lee Kerslake [for health reasons] with Russell Gilbrook, the current Heep lineup has been together for 20 years. Quite a feat considering that in the past this band had more members than the Plaster Casters! Listening to the 11 tracks, one is struck by how the band has managed to maintain their established sound yet keep it fresh and contemporary. But then, it`s easy when you love what you do, as is obviously the case here! The rest of the band consists of guitarist/founder Mick Box, keyboard player Phil Lanzon, bassist Trevor Boulder and vocalist Bernie Shaw. These guys have all had long, storied careers yet have more fire and energy than all the 19-20 year old anger management rejects currently polluting the airwaves. Want proof? Check out tracks like "Overload", "Heaven`s Rain", "What Kind Of God", "Ghost Of The Ocean" [my favorite!], among others. All the elements that have made this band a legend are present on this album, times 10! Especially noteworthy are Shaw`s vocal performance throughout, and of course Mr. Box` spitfire guitar work. "Wake The Sleeper"? "Wake The Dead" more like! Still very `eavy, still very `umble, this album is DEFINITELY Top O` The Heep!
"Black Lies" is the much-anticipated debut release from Swedish 3-piece Triton Enigma. This studio project features the world class talents of Thomas Nilsson [Guitars, Bass, Keyboards], Ronnie Bergerstål [Drums, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards] and Decadence vocalist Metallic Kitty. The CD is an amalgam of various elements; Melodic Death, Thrash, traditional Metal, Prog and Electronica. You would be hard pressed to point out specific influences though, as the musicians manage to blend it all seamlessly into style of their own, a testament to the songwriting and compositional skills of all involved. And of course it`s heavy as HELL! The overall atmosphere is dark but not grim or oppressive, there`s a lot of power and energy in each track, and each song is distinguishable from the other; great care was taken to sure this. To top it all off, there`s the absolutely TERRIFYING vocals of Metallic Kitty, an inspired choice for the vocal slot. Her performance on each tune just might have Angela Gossow looking nervously over her shoulder! "Behind Bleeding Eyes" and "Madness" are among my faves, but that will change with each listen, no doubt. Let us hope "Black Lies" is but the first in a series of albums from this unholy trinity! Highly Recommended!
With a name like Hatchet, you can be fairly certain they aren`t on the Windham Hill label! "Awaiting Evil" is the debut from these Bay Area Thrashers. Haven`t heard THAT term in a while, have you? Yes, these guys harken back to the mid-to-late `Eighties Thrash/Crossover scene that spawned so many great acts like Dark Angel, Slayer, Hirax, Forbidden, Megadeth and, even though they won`t admit it nowadays, Metallica. The album itself doesn`t concern itself with slick production and Juliard School Of Music guitar techniques, preferring instead to rely on speed and raw power. The latter qualities can be found in abundance here. Much of the album reminds me of "Show No Mercy"/"Hell Awaits"-era Slayer, and the Hatchmen obviously revel in this. They aren`t trying to invent the wheel, they just wanna run over you with it! "Attack Imminent", "Frailty of The Flesh", and "The Dead Will March" are but a few of the choice cuts to be found on the CD. And I would stack "Awaiting Evil" up against ANY of the sampled, drum triggered, Pro Tool`ed dreck currently being passed off as "Modern Thrash" these days! A guarenteed neck-snapper!!!
"Immortal" is the eagerly awaited solo release from Magnum vocalist Bob Catley, and continues the Heavy Metal direction he has pursued since "When Empires Burn" and "Spirit Of Man". For the latest CD, Bob is working with Swedish guitar wiz Magnus Karlsson [he actually doesn`t play much guitar on the album, mainly keyboards], who wrote all 12 tracks, and Pink Cream 69`s Dennis Ward who not only plays most of the guitar and bass but also produced, recorded, mixed and mastered the album. Also present is drummer Dirk Bruinenberg and guitarist Uwe Reltenauer.The sound on "Immortal" is cleaner, clearer and heavier than on Bob`s previous solo outings. Starting with a massive symphonic intro, "Dreamers Unite" opens the disc, and a more perfect song could not have been chosen. This tune, along with the next two, "We Are Immortal" and "End of the World", are among the best Bob has ever done! Powerful, passionate, heavy, emotive, this is the type of material that Bob excels at. Even though Bob doesn`t write songs, it is plain to see that Magnus tailored these specifically for his voice. That voice which can STILL weave magic after all these years. "The Seacher" is yet another high point on an album FILLED with` em. "Open Your Eyes", "Light Up My Way", "War In Heaven" and "Heat Of Passion" are more shining examples, but since I listen to this nearly every since it was released [mid-September], it`s damn hard to pick one over the other. And we even get Rodney Mathews artwork on the cover, booklet and inlay, which is sure to warm the hearts of Magnum fans everywhere. Hands down, my favorite album of 2008! ANY fan of high-quality Heavy Rock would do well to get their hands on this one; you WON`T regret it!!!
Here`s a band that slipped under my radar! Finland`s Tarot have been releasing albums and performing since the mid-Eighties, the most recent studio album being "Crows Fly Black" in 2007, which entered the Finnish charts at Number One. Tarot was formed by brothers Marco and Zachary Hietala [bass/vocals and guitars, respectively]; Marco, of course is now quite famous these days for being in Nightwish, but still manages to fill his days off with Tarot. "Live Undead Indeed" is a live CD/DVD package culled from their most recent tour, recorded at a club in front of a VERY enthusiastic crowd. Since this is my first exposure to them, I am not yet familiar with their material. However, the lions share of tunes here appear to be from "Crows Fly Black", though they also play a good selection from their back catalog. Their style is a darker Power Metal with symphonic overtones. Marco handles most of the vocal chores, though second [!] keyboarder Tommi Salmela shares lead vocal duties, as well. The sound on the CD and DVD are excellent, and the camera work on the DVD is very straight forward, not gimmicky. Tarot are obviously a live band, and have a strong stage presence. Zachary is one HELL of a guitarist, tossing off high powered riffs and blazing solos left and right. Marco`s vocals in a live setting are just as great as in the studio. The tunes here are both melodic AND heavy, delivered with a lot of passion and energy. Among the highlights are "Wings Of Darkness", "Back In The Fire", a cool version of Blue Oyster Cult`s "Veteran Of Psychic Wars", and "Tides", among others. Well, if I had to be a late-comer to these guys, I`m glad I caught up with them at what is clearly their peak. So definitely get hold of this one, stick it in your CD player, DVD player, PC, whatever. Just press "Play" and turn it up!