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Gallow`s End-"Nemisis Divine"-2010

Over 2 years after the release of their 3-song promo [of which yours truly was among the very first to review!:)], Gallows End have finally rewarded our patience with their debut full length, "Nemesis Divine". Worth the wait? You bet! Sonically, the band are a throwback to the mid-late `Nineties European Power Metal resurgence that brought the genre thundering back to the fore. The band wears their influences proudly on their sleeves, but unlike their forbears, Gallows End manage to hang to those traits that made the aforementioned Euro Metal explosion so much fun in the first place, while many of those very same bands seem to have forgotten them. Production-wise, the promo CD was as good, if not better, than many full-length Metal CDs` being released around the same time, thus it is no surprise that the same high quality is present on "Nemesis Devine". Ok, so the sound is top-notch, what about the songs? Have no fear, the songwriting and arranging skills that served them so well on the promo are even more prominently on display here, as is the superior musicianship. All three tracks from the earlier release have been re-recorded here alongside 9 new tunes. The structuring of the album is worth noting, as each song follows the other in a uniform fashion that enable the disc to be listened to as a whole, though each track can certainly stand on its` own. And each instrument is give equal billing in the mix; the guitars crunch, bass lines thunder, drums pound like Hell, something required of ALL great metal albums. And the vocals [courtesy of guitarist, producer, Gallows End mainman Thord Klarström] are striking in that they`re not the typical air raid siren/opera house variety, more of an aggressive mid range delivery that fits the music like a fist in an iron glove! The highpoint for me [for the moment, anyway; this will probably change with each listen] is the epic "Riders Of The North", a 10-minute monster that goes through peaks and valleys of Metallic glory and holds your attention all the way through! Now granted, "Nemesis Divine" won`t win points for most original ideas, but so what? Gallows End has fused their love of, and dedication to, the Metal genre with their first rate musical abilities and compositional skills, and the result is undoubtedly one of the finest Power Metal CDs` of 2010. And if someone ever gets around to writing a history of late 20th-early 21st Century Power Metal [might even take a crack at it myself!;)], it wouldn`t surprise me a bit if Gallows End were given a mention. Let`s work to make that happen, shall we? Check out their website and buy their CD! [Another huge, HUGE thank you to Thord Klarström and Datis Alaee of Farvahar Records for supplying me with the review copy!!!!!]

Gallows End

Blind Guardian-"At The Edge Of Time"-2010

Each Blind Guardian release seems be surrounded by controversy of sorts. You have those fans who tend to enjoy every album, more or less. Then there are those who feel that there IS no BG album other than "Nightfall In Middle Earth"; all else is inferior. Finally , we have those who feel the band should have kept re-releasing "Follow The Blind" over and over again. I`m not here to say these three schools of thought [and their variants, for that matter] are "wrong"; it`s all a matter of perception. And now that the guys have released "At The Edge Of Time", the drama amongst the various BG fan factions is sure to sure to be at an all-time high. To my ears, "At The Edge Of Time" attends to ALL areas of the bands` storied career. And even THAT has been seized upon by certain parties as crass and calculated, even though its` what they wanted in the first place![A minor furor erupted amongst certain fans shocked that Hansi Kursch got his hair cut! Is he supposed to ask permission now, or what?] Go figure. Anyway, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and there`s PLENTY to devour here. Personally, I can`t find a single track on this CD that I don`t like; it`s clearly Blind Guardian from the first note. At times the gradoise feel of "A Night At The Opera" is present, while the more compact song structures and slight quirkiness of "A Twist In The Myth" prevail. And after nearly four years in the works, the production here is as flawless as can be yet hardly sterile and clinical. As for the individual musicianship, hey, it`s Blind Guardian; `nuff said! Thematically the scope of the album derives from a couple of science fiction novels [I`m unsure of the titles], and the band have gone all out [though I don`t recall seeing akitchen sink listed in the credits!;)]. This is probably the bands` most realized CD to date, and as it sounds best when taken as a complete "piece" rather than a collection of singles, I won`t bore you with a track by track account. You`re on your own there!"At The Edge Of Time" won`t please ALL Blind Guardian fans, but it`ll please MOST of `em, myself included!

Blind Guardian

Silent Victory-"...No Sacred Ground"-2010

YIKES! Why the HELL aren`t these guys famous!? UK-based Silent Victory`s debut disc, "...No Sacred Ground" is packed to the brim with `Eighties-style Melodic Heavy Rock of the highest calibre. Granted, the production here is a bit muffled, but a great song is always a great song no matter HOW it`s recorded, and we got 11 of them here! This is no nostalgia trip; the band plays what they know best, and it shows. Reminds me of the early-mid Eighties Melodic rockers like Triumph, particularly in the vocals of Tony Rimmer and the somewhat Prog elements in songs like "Can`t Live Without Your Love", or early Night Ranger, among others. The individual players are all seasoned pros; the rhythm section interact with one another like a well oiled machine, the keyboards smooth not smother the rough edges [you know you like it a little rough!;)], and the guitars of Rimmer and Des Walsh are simply to die for! Their individual but complimentary styles are the icing on the cake, each & every solo, riff, fill, just totally rips! Every damn track here is great.So again, WHY aren`t they famous? They damn well SHOULD be, and you can do your part to make this happen; buy their CD! You don`t want to have to listen to Lady Ga Ga on the radio forever, do you? An instant classic! [Many thanks to Silent Victory for sending me the CD; cheers, guys!!]

Silent Victory

Sleepy Hollow-"Legend"-2010

Several years in the making, "Legend" is without a doubt Sleepy Hollow`s most ambitious, fully realized album, the culmination of an 11 year career filled with equal highs and lows. Fortunately, the 2-CD set is also their very best! As I`ve been fortunate enough to have followed the band from nearly the beginning, I am totally confident in making that statement, so there!;) "Legend" distills all that makes this band one of THE most unique acts in their field. Multi-musicians Joe Dell, Matt Schwarz and Gary Rinaldi have crafted 20 tracks of that mix early Prog ["Lamb Lies Down On Broadway"-Genesis, classic Uriah Heep, King Crimson, Pink Floyd], Bluesy Heavy Rock and at times Speed/Power Metal, all of which forms the musical entity known as Sleepy Hollow. Some bands of this type like to think that their music has the power to blow peoples` minds; if that`s the case, then Sleepy Hollow`s music is for AFTER your mind is blown. Hardly druggie mood music, [though I suppose it COULD be utilized for such purposes] the music contained here is too well crafted, well thought out and well played to be merely background noise. It has an "after Midnight" feel to it. One gets the impression that there isn`t anything on the album that SHOULDN`T be there, each and every note has a point for existing where it is, every single musical idea presented here has a purpose. Yet despite its` vast size and scope, the music on "Legend" is definitely a pleasure to listen to; there aren`t any points where you`re made to feel uncomfotable, no pointless forays into any harsh, "Industrial" stylings. Jimi Hendrix once remarked that his ultimate goal was to create music that would get inside the soul of the listener, a music he referred to as "Sky Church". I`ll go so far as to say that Sleepy Hollow has come closer than most to accomplishing this. But there`s definitely a light heartedness to Sleepy Hollow`s approach; one never gets the impression that these guys are SO serious that they forget why they do what they do, a common pitfall of many an artist. Top it all off with a cool cover by Ken Kelly and you`ve got one stunning aural/visual package! A band like Sleepy Hollow, who put in so much time, effort AND money into such a mammoth undertaking, DEFINITELY deserves a larger audience, and we can make that happen; in other words, BUY THE ALBUM!!!! [To Joe, Matt & Gary; thanks so much yet again for the album, and for allowing me to come along on your continuing musical journey!!]

Sleepy Hollow

Uncle Sid-"Eye Rock"-2010

It`s been 6 whole years since "Rock The Universe", yet after some personnell shuffling, 2010 finds the Canadian Rockers back in the saddle with "Eye Rock". The CD is 10 tracks of down & dirty Heavy Rock, no turntables, no samples, NO apologies! Back are guitarist Henry Seto, bassist Kirk October, and drummer Dale Salive. The CD also introduces new vocalist Lor Dane, and with her addition, Uncle Sid has struck gold [and hopefully platinum!]. Dane is hardly one of those droning Goth Chick Rockers [ever notice that Gothic Rock, whatever THAT is, seems to do everything BUT Rock! "Butt Rock" WOULD be an apt description! Anyway...]; her gutsy, powerhouse delivery is just what the doctor, AND Uncle Sid ordered! The band has never sounded better, and combined with Dane`s vocals, they`ve taken the patented Uncle Sid style to another level. All that made the previous CD so good is here, just better! One listen to tracks like "Free Your Soul", "Turn You On" and my favorite, a 9-minute masterpiece entitled [?] "The Pain"; all the fine qualities the band possess are on display here, and despite its` length, the track never drags. The same can be said of the whole CD, really. "Eye Rock" ROCKS, and no doubt will have many a music industry player saying "Uncle!"; Uncle SID, that is! You heard it here first. [A special thank you to the band for the CD, and for sharing their music with me over the years!]

Uncle Sid
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