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Gravedigger-"Ballads Of A Hangman"-2009

Grave Digger are one of those bands that you can always rely on; with each release, you can always expect traditional Metal, no more, no less. And that`s exactly what you get with "Ballads of a Hangman", Grave Digger's 13th studio album. Longtime fans will definitely not be disappointed, as the album picks up where "Liberty Or Death" left off. At just over 40 minutes, "Ballads of a Hangman" manages to hold your attention without overstaying it`s welcome, something a lot of bands have yet to figure out! But after so many years in the business, Grave Digger knows what works, as can be heard on stellar cuts like "Hell of Disillusion", "Into The War", "Grave of the Addicted", "Shadow of your Soul", "Funeral For a Fallen Angel", "Stormrider" and the title track.There`s even a ballad, the impressive "Lonely The Innocence Dies", featuring a guest vocal appearence from Veronica Freeman from Benedictum. [great job, V!] The bottom line: yet another solid entry in the Grave Digger catalog, and one that is sure to please their fans and anyone who love the traditional Metal sound, performed by a band who helped invent it! Recommended


Kreator-"Hordes Of Chaos"-2009

Thrash Metal legends Kreator have unleashed the "Hordes Of Chaos", or at least a CD under that title anyway! Hard to believe but Kreator has been at it for nearly 25 years, continuously re-tooling a style they helped invent. Best of all, they haven`t given to the trendy "`core" sounds that more than a few of their peers seem to have adopted, The new disc finds the band adding a bit more melody to the Thrash-heavy mix, and the arrangements are less complex and "busy" than on past releases. The less-is-more approach works particularly well in conjunction with the way the album was recorded, which was for the most part as live as possible. This approach tends to enhance this type of music, which relies on an "in your face" attitude to get the point across, which "Hordes Of Chaos" certainly does in brutal fashion! "WarCurse", "Escalation", "Amok Run" are among the best songs in the Kreator katalog, er I mean catalog, and while many bands are content to simply re-hash riffs that were done better 20 years ago, Kreator manage to re-invent themselves JUST enough to keep their style fresh AND at the head of the Thrash Metl pack! A definite "must-have"!


Secret Sphere-"Sweet Blood Theory"-2009

This is actually my first first encounter with Italian Power Metaler`s Secret Sphere; I had listened to various MP3 clips from "Sweet Blood Theory", liked what I heard and promptly ordered the CD. Having now experienced the "full effect", I can honestly say that this is one of THE best Metal discs to come out in a while! In comparing Secret Sphere to some of their countrymen, the style falls somewhere between Thy Majestie and "Winter`s Wake"-era Elvenking, though SS is MUCH heavier than either of those bands. There is symphonic keyboard work a`plenty, which is nicely balanced with the high velocity riffing and powerhouse drums. Definitely all the right elements for a fine slab of Euro Power Metal. Yet the songs are what matter, and obviously Secret Sphere took great care in that department, as each track is memorable, melodic AND heavy, always a good combination! One of the more striking features of the band is their ability to blend in some AOR elements, which definitely helps the band appeal to a wider audience while retaining the qualities that make them so special. A winner from start to finish, "Sweet Blood Theory" will doubtless ensure that Secret Sphere WON`T remain a secret for long!

Secret Sphere

Witchking-"Hand Of Justice"-2008

"Hand Of Justice" is the second CD by Poland's Witchking, a band that is unashamedly True Metal in every sense of the word! Think Sacred Steel, Storm Warrior, spiked gloves, leather, chains; just straight up Metal, pure and simple. No pretension, no orchestration, no soprano vocals, just guitar-driven crunch. Yes, I have heard all this before, but I`ve never heard it done by Witchking, and they are very good at it, indeed. I`ve read various reviews decrying the album`s lack of originality but really, does EVERY band have to be totally original? What`s wrong with being really good at at you do? As long as they deliver the Metal goods [as can be heard on songs like "Doomsday", "Magic Number", "Greed And Fear", and the title track], Witchking will continue to please the diehards and hopefully make some converts along the way. Plus, I am half-Polish, so I definitely gotta give these guys Two Horns way up!!! A must have!


Sleepy Hollow-"The Lazarus Project"-2009

After a looooonnng 5 year wait, Sleepy Hollow returns with "The Lazarus Project", 9 distinct songs in that classic `Hollow style! "The Lazarus Project" is in fact something of a prologue to their upcoming 2-CD set "Legend", featuring alternate versions of the heavier cuts from "Legend". Well, if the tracks found here are "alternate versions", I can`t WAIT to hear the upcoming release! Since the release of their self-titled EP in 2000, it has been my good fortune to watch the bands` musical growth. From the EP to the highly ambitious "Goin` Over" to the present, Sleepy Hollow`s music has developed by leaps and bonds, as clearly heard on the latest CD. I would say the new material is reminiscent of the EP in both sound and mood. "Goin` Over" was a band in transition personnel-wise; "The Lazarus Project" features a more stable line-up, which probably gives the tracks a more cohesive feel. At first blush, one could describe the Sleep Hollow sound as a cross between Iron Maiden, Colosseum II and Jethro Tull, but that would be oversimplifying things. The band has the uncanny ability to take from various current styles [Power Metal, Death Metal, Scandinavian Black Metal] and assimilate them into their own blend of `70s` keyboards and `80s` guitars. It`s hard to spot the bands` influences, though they ARE there. Hardly a "singles" band, Sleepy Hollow has crafted an album that is best listened to from start to finish, though each song can certainly stand on it`s own. As always, the haunting keyboard work of Joe Dell and Matt Schwartz` flashy guitar playing give the band it`s distinctive sound. All in all, "The Lazarus Project" is yet ANOTHER career highlight from one of the most original bands out there. There`s even a nice little bonus; 6 tracks from a 1996 practice tape recorded by Spectrum Green, which was keyboardist Joe Dell's first band. Spectrum Green`s embryonic style was not too far off from Sleepy Hollow`s, and listening to these tapes gives you a good idea of where Sleepy Hollow came from, and where they are going. And we know where YOU`RE going, don`t we? You`re gonna go to the bands` website and buy this CD, right? Right! One of the years BEST! [And yet again, a thousands thanks to Joe Dell for sending me the review copy!!!

Sleepy Hollow

Domain-"The Chronicles Of Love, Hate, And Sorrow"-2009

Three years after their last effort, Domain returns with "The Chronicles Of Love, Hate And Sorrow", an ambitious 10 [11, counting the bonus track on the limited edition] track concept album based on the Johann Wolfgang von Goethe novel "The Sorrows of Young Werther". Certainly such a mammoth undertaking would prove a daunting task, particularly in the Power Metal realm. Yet in the experienced hands of Axel "Ironfinger" Ritt, a project of this type is given a depth and meaning not often seen in this genre. As to be expected, the production is nearly flawless, clean and clear. Yet all the classy production in the world is useless if the songs aren`t there; fortunately this is NOT the case. While some of the tunes are in the 6-7 minute range, they are never boring, with memorable choruses and hooks. The arrangements are complex at times but even though the the musicians are of the highest calibre, they never sacrifice melody , something many Symphonic Power Metal bands fail to do. Domain knows how to do the job right, and with "The Chronicles Of Love, Hate And Sorrow" they have raised the bar considerably. But I have the feeling that, by the time Domains` musical peers have met the standards of this CD, Axel and company with have raised them again with the NEXT album! Highly recommended!

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