Marauder - Life? 3.5/5

Reviewed: 1-21-05


1. Intro
2. Power from the sky
3. Nightmare
4. Magic art
5. Life
6. Bastards
7. Evil curse
8. Runner
9. Defenders
10. In the middle of time
11. Falling star
12. Death from glory and gold
13. Nuclear terror

Don't look now, but the Greek metal invasion is upon us. Eager to lead the charge is Marauder, a 5-piece from Athens whose 3rd CD, 'Life?', has been released on upstart Greek metal label Eat Metal Records (also home to the mighty Wotan). Compared to their label mates, the marauding ones specialize in a much more traditional European power metal sound, with sing-a-long anthems, high-pitched wailing vocals, bucketloads of double-bass torrents, and hooky guitar melodies. This sonic real estate is crowded and highly competitive, to be sure, but Marauder more than hold their own on this well crafted platter.

I have Marauder's 2nd CD, '1821', which was issued by the notoriously spotty Megahard Records from Brazil in 2000, but 'Life?' is surely a more mature, polished piece of work. The most striking difference lies in the vocal department, where Marauder have upgraded considerably to Michalis Smeros, a talented singer who is equally confident reaching into the stratosphere in Halfordesque fashion as he is with smoother, lower-register vocal lines. His accent can be a bit distracting at times, as can the awkwardly phrased lyrics, but Smeros is unquestionably one of the better Greek singers I've heard. The real stars of the show are the 6-stringers Andreas Tsaoussis and Giorgos Sofronis, who perpetually entertain and amaze with a seemingly endless inventory of sterling harmonies, clever licks and catchy melody lines to propel even average material to great heights. The songwriting on this 12-song (plus intro) effort is not without a few blemishes, but the good stuff is most impressive. Opener "Power from the sky" is every bit as awesome as a song bearing that name should be, a textbook example of all that I love about the European power genre. "Magic art" is another fast-paced number that is noteworthy because Smeros spends the verses spitting out bloodcurdling high notes a la "Painkiller" or "Heart of the unicorn", then shifts gears seamlessly into a chorus reminiscent of vintage Hammerfall or Accept. Very cool, indeed. And "Evil curse" rocks the house with dizzying, spiraling guitar duels and a chest-thumping, hymn-like chorus of the highest caliber.

Marauder may not be reinventing the steel, but 'Life?' is a quality release of which these sons of Athens can justifiably be proud. Devotees of European power metal would be well served by tracking down a copy of this CD without delay. I ardently hope we don't have to wait another 4 years for a follow-up.




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