"Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross", the album by Sir Christopher Lee [I really hope I don`t have to explain who HE is!] can best described as Symphonic Rock; not Metal per se, it is a concept piece based on the life of The First Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne. Sir Christopher is in fact a direct descendent of Charlemagne, so who better to bring his story to life? He gives voice, both spoken and sung, to Charlemagne, and the 88 year old gives the portrayal a since of power, grace and authority to where you actually believe you are hearing Charlemagne himself. The album is broken into several acts, with several intros; maybe TOO many intros. And that is part of the problem with this album; the whole thing comes frustratingly close to working, yet the sheer magnitude of such an undertaking appears to be more than those involved [Sir Christopher excluded] were able to handle. Produced by musician, composer and producer Marco Sabiu, "Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross" is a classic example of an artists reach exceeding his grasp. The fault lies not in the creators abilities, but in their execution. Production-wise, the albums seems kind of on its` side, a wet negative rather than a fully realized affair. The delivery sound rather stale and sterile, relying more on drum machines and computers than it should. What should have been bombastic in reality just sort of sits there; certainly not worthy of the talents of Sir Christopher or the legendary historical figure he so brilliantly portrays! As it is, "Charlemagne: By the Sword and the Cross" is worth a listen, but one should lower their expectations before hand.
After a loooong silence, Frankenshred returns! The first 11 tracks [with World War Spencer on Bass, Greg Hall on Drums and Rich McManus on vocals] of "Cauldron Of Evil" was actually recorded in late 2004, while tracks 12-16 [featuring Robbie Erwin on Bass and Kyran Bronnan on vocals] were done during the Winter of 08/09. And of course all tracks feature the deadly Doctor Frankenshred, wreaking havoc on the fretboard as only he can! If you`re expecting Steve Via-ish esoterism or Marty Friedman exoticism, move along please. Stylisticly, Frankenshred are clearly steeped in Traditional US Speed Metal; Metal Church, Hirax, Sentinel Beast, you get the picture. Neck-snapping rhythms, high speed drums and Hellfire guitar solos are the order of the day, no quarter given. "Dogs Of War", "Trial By Fire", the killer "Axe To Grind", "Trial By Fire", need I say more? With this CD, it`s obvious that Dr. Frankenshred has found the perfect platform from which to launch salvo after salvo of mind-blowing 6-string insanity. What separates him from many of his fellow shredders is his choice of music and the fact that he has more of a "street" feel; he`s not one of those who know nothing except how to play perfect, though he can certainly do that, too. Check out the title track for proof, hell ANY cut from this album would suffice. "Cauldron Of Evil" is a welcome return of one of US Metals` best kept secrets, and hopefully its` release will ensure that Frankenshred is a secret no longer! Highly recommended!!
The Hirax War Machine continues rolling with "El Rostro De La Muerte" ["The Face Of Death"]! Katon De Pena & crew once again stick to their own formula, latest trends be damned, resulting in some of their best material yet. The sound really hasn`t changed since 1986, and why should it? Hirax knows what they want, AND what their fans want, and they give it to `em with both barrels. On the latest, they`ve mixed the slower tempos found on "Assassins Of War" with the high speed delivery of "Barrage Of Noise"; how do you want your skull crushed, fast or slow? Hirax can accommodate you, either way! Thrash Metal glory abounds in such tunes as "Baptized by Fire", "Flesh And Blood", "Eradicate Mankind", "Chaos And Brutality", the title cut and all points in between. "El Rostro De La Muerte" is yet another fine addition to the Hirax hierarchy, and is sure to please the seasoned fans as well as the newcomers, of which the band will no doubt have plenty of with this release. So stare into The Face Of Death, you`ll be so glad you did!!!! Horns waaaaaaayyyy up!!
Mention the words "Christian" and "Metal" together and invariably someone`s gonna utter the name "Stryper". But long after that particular outfit inhaled too much Heavenly hairspray and sold out their Rock roots, many bands of the same spiritual inclination have released some worthy material. Salem, Oregon based Saint is one of them. Their first EP was released in 1984, their first full-length came out in 1989, followed by their second full length in 2004 [!], with 2 more full lengths in `06 and `08. Ok, consistency hasn`t exactly been a strongpoint for the band! Which brings us to "Hellblade".Saint stick to classic Metal [Accept and especially Judas Priest] for their musical inspiration, giving their tunes a darker, heavier edge than many of their peers. No wimps HERE, as cuts like “The Blade”, “Endless Night”, “Hell Train” and “Sinner Peace” make VERY loud and clear. "To The Cross" is another winner, as is "Sinner Peace", one of THE highlights of "Hellblade". These guys know their Metal, that`s for sure, and they definitely know how to write REAL Metal; the songwriting AND musical talent of this band is obvious. The production here is also worth mentioning, as professional sounding as any major studio. It seems that many Christian Metal acts ending up preaching to the choir due to their faith-oriented message; this is unfortunate, as bands like Saint would definitely appeal to a wide range of Metal fans, given the chance. Perhaps with "Hellblade", they`ll finally get that chance! Highly Recommended!
How best to describe "South Side Of The Moon", the most recent album from Gideon Smith And The Dixie Damned? Maybe if Peter Steele had started out in juke joints or Glenn Danzig had been born on the bayou [apologies to John Fogerty], they might have come up with the sort of music found here. Calling it "New Southern Rock" doesn`t cut it, as those new Southern Rock acts sound like Modern Country, which itself is basically `Eighties Pop-Rock in shit kickers and cowboy hats. But why lable it al all? All that matters is whether the music is good, which it is indeed. Tracks like “Indian Larry”, “Black Cat Road”, the psychedelic heaviness of "Magic Queen" evoke images of humid Southern nights, cheap whiskey, stale cigarettes, dimly lit rooms. Sadly, when people hear the term "Indie Rock", hordes of whiney, baby-faced college students are what invariably comes to mind, not a TRUE independent artist like Gideon, who live through his music and has the scars to prove it. So do yourself [AND Gideon!] a favor; go to his page and buy his stuff. You`ll thank me later!