As I remarked in my review of "Keeper Of The 7 Keys: The Legacy", Helloween seems to suffer from inconsistency. Releasing a string of brilliant albums, then a string of crappy albums. Happily, that peculiar jinx seems to be in remission, ans evinced by the aforementioned "The Legacy" and the new CD, "Gambling With The Devil". The new album must have been recorded at a nuclear power plant, because this is Helloween is absolutely exploding with an energy and passion not often seen. All the fire, flash, blood and thunder that make this band what they are is on display and pumped to the max! After the brief intro [featuring a spoken word bit by Saxon`s Biff Byford], the band dive right in, all guns blazing with "Kill It", one of the heaviest and most potent tunes they`ve ever created. After that opening salvo, the boys keep the momentum going with the equally powerhouse track "The Saints". The band slows down a bit with the memorable "As Long As I Fall" before turning it up to meltdown levels with "Paint A New World", probably one of the best songs this band has ever done. This song is positively LETHAL, an instant Power Metal classic and easily the highlight of the album. Here, Helloween shows their countless millions of imitators exactly how it`s done. Other noteworthy tunes include "The Bells of The Seven Hells", which is as catchy as anything they`ve written, while maintaining the heaviness quotient. "Dreambound" and "Heaven Tells No Lies" are among the other highlights on an album packed with highlights. The production is pristine but not sterile, giving equal treatment to all instruments and provides that extra punch which makes the songs even more powerful. The band has never sounded better, really. So to all those who feared Helloween would return to the "Pink Bubbles Go Ape"/"Rabbit Don`t Come Easy" foolishness can rest easy. One of the best Metal releases this year, "Gambling With The Devil" is a sure bet, and should be in every Metalhead`s Top Five. Highest recommendation possible!!!!!!
Grim Reaper/Lionsheart vocalist Steve Grimmett returns to the scene with a self-named band and new album, "Personal Crisis", a brilliant Heavy Rock/Metal mix that should propel Mr. Grimmett to the top of the heap in short order. Also featuring Ian Nash (guitar), Pete Newdeck (drums) and Richard Walker (bass), "Personal Crisis" is hardly an accurate description, as this is without a doubt some of the most focused material of Steve`s career, and certainly among his best vocals. "Karma" is up first, and it`s a winner, reminding me at times of [Magnum vocalist] Bob Catley`s "When Empires Burn". Among my favorite so far is "Wait Forever", with a great riff, memorable chorus and flawless performance by Steve; the guy`s voice is just as potent as ever, a fact clearly on display in "Afterglow" and "Lonely", which sounds like something off Dokken`s "Tooth And Nail". Steve even revisits his past with a nice cover of Grim Reaper`s "Wrath Of The Ripper". But it`s the originals that make the most impression on the listener, such as the emotional "Enemy" [featuring additional vocals by Joana Ruiz] and "Promises". Of course, even Steve Grimmett can`t do it alone, which is why he has such high-calibre musicians to aid him in his quest for Hard Rock perfection. All told, "Personal Crisis" is a stellar album and will definitely silence those who regarded Steve simply as that guy Beavis And Butthead made fun of. Who`s laughin` NOW? One of 2007`s BEST!!!
Rebellion`s fourth release, "Miklagard - The History of the Vikings Part II" is one of the heaviest, most epic Metal albums I`ve heard in a long time, and certainly one of the best! The title alone should tell you what it`s about, and it`s obvious a great deal of thought and care went into the creation of this 13-track masterpiece. Highly original and creatively executed, each song is both memorable and powerful, not a duff track to be found. From the flawless musicianship to the crystal-clear production, everything seems to go right on this album. Vocalist Michael Seifert brings the lyrics brilliantly to life, and conjures up images of mighty Northmen in longboats sailing across storm-tossed seas. I`m not even gonna TRY to do my usual choice cuts/standout tracks thing; the whole album is written like the Viking sagas of old, and should be listened to in like fashion. Take my word for it; if you like your Metal done in massive, epic proportions, THIS is the album for you! RAISE YOUR SWORDS!!
Ignitor certainly ignited the Metal world with the release of their "Take To The Sky" EP a few years back, flying the classic US Metal flag high. Old School all the way, baby, no denials, no apologies. Now, after a personnel change and personal injury [vocalist Erika broke a hip last year], the Texas 5-piece return with their long-awaited full-length, "Road Of Bones". Worth the wait? Is a hog`s ass ham? There`s some flashier guitar work here [courtesy of Batlord and Annah Moore] than the EP, but otherwise the style remains unchanged; and this time we get 11 cuts of quality classic [and classy] Metal! Among the many jewels to be found are "March To The Guillotine" [whose chorus of March! March! March! March! was MADE for open-air Metal festivals!], "Wings Of Blackheart" [which features a brilliant performance by Erika] the breath-taking "Phoenix" [you WILL be air guitaring to this one, believe me], the CRUSHING "God Of Vengeance", ah hell, I could go on [don`t I always?] but really the whole damn album is a winner from start to finish. And fortunately, Ignitor has a label now, so hopefully the wait between albums won`t be QUITE as long. So now there`s really NO EXCUSE for you NOT to own this album, is there? So whatcha` waitin` for? March! March! March! March!
Ok, here`s the deal with "The Final Sign Of Evil": it`s basically a re-recording of the 1984 5 song EP "In The Sign Of Evil" featuring the original Sodom lineup of Angelripper, Witchhunter and Grave Violator. In addition to those songs are seven songs which were intended for that album but never made it. Sounds great, huh? Well, actually no, it doesn`t. I guess I was a victim of my own expectations; I was operating under the assumption that the re-recording would be given the full, modern day Sodom treatment, delivered with the ferocity and lethality they are currently know for. Sort of like Saxon did with "Heavy Metal Thunder" a few years ago. Instead, the songs were done in the exact same way as in 1984, and even recorded the same way. So the re-recordings sound just as crappy as the originals [it wasn`t until "Persecution Mania" that Sodom really got their act together and got a "sound" as opposed to a "noise"]. Which begs the question; what was the point? If Tom Angelripper felt such a burning desire to re-do the bands` early works, it would have sounded much better [and much more powerful!] to do so with the current Sodom lineup. Witchhunter and Grave Violator sound like they`ve been out of the game for a while! Even more pointless is the inclusion of the 7 re-recorded unreleased tracks; from the sound of them, there was obviously a reason they weren`t released the first time. Hey, it`s not horrible, really, just not much, either! So, if you`re a diehard Sodomaniac [like me], you`ll see this as an addition to your collection, a curiosity and nothing more. [If this was supposed to tide us over `til the next album, it`s only made the wait that much more unbearable!] To the first-timer, stick to the newer material!