Strike, Alexey - Time of the full moon 3/5

Reviewed: 11-3-06


1. Silence
2. White sky
3. Fire
4. Raven
5. Werewolf
6. Sign
7. At the gates
8. Kaligula
9. Last night
10. Snow
11. Call
12. Forbidden fruit
13. Time of the full moon
14. Morning
15. Crying of a pipe (bonus track)

I readily admit to having a fascination with Eastern European metal. Most of the bands sing in their native tongues, which is hardly surprising given the limited inroads of English in their national educational systems. But those Eastern European melodies are so addictive and the foreign-language lyrics simply add to the exotic flavor of it all. My interest in the sub-genre has been heightened in recent years thanks to Sentinel Steel's increased coverage, the fingertip access to information furnished by the Internet, and the improvement of production techniques so that recordings emanating from those lands can sound full and professional. In my book, Aria (often dubbed "the Russian Iron Maiden" in Western circles), Epidemia and Kipelov (featuring Aria's ex-vocalist) are the reigning kings of Russian metal. But I'm always on the lookout for other contenders.

Alexey Strike first struck my fancy with the, ummm, striking cover art accompanying their new CD, as well as the super song clip available on the CD Maximum website. My subsequent efforts to find the CD eventually struck gold. (Okay, no more bad puns on the band name.) To clarify, Alexey Strike is a person, not a band per se. Alexey's day job is to play guitar in the well-respected Russian thrash act, Master, from whom I've never heard a note, although I understand them to be quite popular in their homeland. So this 'Time of the full moon' is a solo CD, apparently featuring a fistful of session members and guest vocalists, as evidenced by the 7 persons adorning the band photograph on the back of the booklet. (Incidentally, Alexey himself looks a bit like an older, rounder-faced Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom.) The Epidemia singer even appears on 3 tracks. Apparently this is not Alexey's debut solo release, as there was evidently a compilation CD of his previous solo work released in Russia last year.

'Time of the full moon' is absolutely not a thrash CD, but it would be equally inaccurate to classify it as a melodic power metal project. To be sure, "White sky", the opener (following a short intro) is high-speed amazing Russian power metal all the way, and track 8 ("Kaligula") is in a similar mold. Aside from that duo, however, 'Time of the full moon' does not fall into the traditional European power metal hopper. Instead, what Alexey Strike offers is an inconsistent outing that spends too much time on brooding, melancholy, even lethargic songs with fairly subdued tempos and vocals. From time to time, the outstanding guitars kick in and the vocals spin their magic, but there just aren't enough of those times. Track 5, "Werewolf", has a great guitar melody and an uptempo flair. Track 11, "Call", is the best of low-energy stuff, with its slow build, cool arrangement, and fantastic chorus. Track 13, "Time of the full moon", is also interesting, as a Criss Oliva guitar motif has been filtered through the Russian melodic sensibilities, before giving way to a tolling bell and a top-notch lead break with a bit of that patented Maiden gallop. Ultimately, this CD is good for what it is, but not at all what I was expecting after the jawdropping "White sky". Oh, and "Forbidden fruit" is an 8-1/2 minute spoken word track, exclusively in Russian (with a few sound effects), that will leave the average Western listener bored to tears and in excruciating pain by its conclusion.

I'll be the first to admit that I have not spent weeks and weeks absorbing this CD. I would not be at all surprised for it to be a grower, as everything seems well played and well conceived, and the production values are more than adequate. It's just that when I compare the aforementioned 5 songs to the remainder of the material, I grow sad because 'Time of the full moon' could have been so much more than it is. After you've completed your Aria and Epidemia discographies, and after you've purchased the Kipelov CD, then and only then check out Alexey Strike if you are interested in hearing some Russian metal that's well done, albeit well off the beaten path and a bit on the low-energy side.




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