Reviews Archive:

ABATTOIR - Vicious Attack (re-release)
ABSOLUTE STEEL - We Sentence You To Death
AC/DC - Stiff Upper Lip
AFTERWORLD - Dark Side Of Mind
AGENT STEEL - Skeptics Apocalypse (re-release)
AGENT STEEL - Omega Conspiracy
AGHORA - Aghora
AMETHYST - Flames To Eternity
ANGELWITCH - Resurrection
ANGRY ANGELS - Princess Of Steel (demo)
ANTITHESIS - Antithesis
ANTITHESIS - Dying For Life
ANVIL - Plenty Of Power
APOLLO RA - Ra Pariah
ARK - self-titled
ARMAGEDDON - Embrace The Mystery
ARMORED SAINT - Revelation
ASKA - Avenger
AT VANCE - No Escape
AT WAR - Retaliatory Strike (re-release)
ATHEIST - Piece of Time
ATHEIST - Unquestionable Presence
AVALON - Eurasia
AVANTASIA - The Metal Opera
AXXIS - Back To The Kingdom
AZRAEL - Dimension IV

Vicious Attack
(Century Media)

So finally somebody have got the rights to re-release the entire Combat catalog which features many old time Metal classics and ABATTOIR is one of these. It's been quite a long time that I've waited to see it on CD and here it is. Those Californian butchers were Speed Metal masters in the early Eighties and even if at the time that album sounded disappointing due to the poor production job courtesy of Mr Jones (R.I.P.),but it was still an excellent Metal album that I constantly enjoyed over the years. Those guys delivered speed but not speed for the sake of speed. There's no real bad songs on this album, my fave would be "Game Of Death" with one of the most incredible riffing section ever during the first part and also "Screams From The Grave" and "The Enemy". But stuff like "The Living And the Dead", "Stronger Than Evil" or "Vicious Attack" are also very good. MOTORHEAD were a blatant influence i n their music so it was quite natural that they would cover "Ace Of Spades" on their debut album and that new version really kicks some ass! I like it better than the BATTALION OF SAINTS version! Even if it's not mentioned on the credits for reasons that Juan Garcia has explained in Snakepit issue 4, he played on that recording along with Robert Wayne on drums, also not credited on that album. If you're a newcomer in the scene and you like Speed Metal, then check out this one for sure because it's just another all time classic.
Laurent Ramadier

We Sentence You To Death

Now we're talking about pure Hard Rock/ Heavy Metal, the way it was played and written in the early '80s with this Scandinavian outfit. Catchy basic riffing, great emphasis on the vocals and the kind of chorus that sticks in your mind right away coupled with a typical fast executed lead part, this is what ABSOLUTE STEEL offers here with that one track promo single. This band shows a lot of promise based on this track and it's obvious that their upcoming first album "The Fair Bitch Project" should be something to check out if you like traditional executed Heavy Metal! Thank you guys for not being another Black/ Death Metal outfit by the way judging from where you come from! Website:
Laurent Ramadier

Stiff Upper Lip
(Elektra Records)

I've never been the biggest AC/DC fan (not even during the classic Bon Scott era), but gotta admit that I at least consider "Highway To Hell", "Back In Black" and "For Those About To Rock" as pretty cool albums. My first personal letdown was their "Flick Of The Switch" album way back in nineteen-eighty-something which was the first AC/DC release that I found really weak. After that I lost my interest completely, so I can't really tell you whether "Stiff Upper Lip" is better or worse than the stuff that these Aussies did over the past couple of years. To me it's just another weak AC/DC album with the typical and wellknown trademarks (Brian Johnson's vocals and Angus Young's unmistakable guitar playing), unfortunately with very little highlights (well, to remain fair - the album gets a little bit better in the last third) and a big lack of energy. To me the whole album just sounds incredible lame. The old power that made the band so popular in the late 70's, early 80's seems to be gone and the songwriting doesn 't really offer any exciting moments either. Die hard fans of the band will probably worship this again, but everyone else should better focus on AC/DC's real classics.
Frank Stöver

Dark Side Of Mind
(Noise Records)
Hard times for newcomers. Plenty copies of the popular Metal bands and the disgusting KORN armada flood the market with useless releases, hence it's difficult to know which bands are really worth checking out. Hailing from Finland, AFTERWORLD are such a band that should be given a serious chance. Fat produced, "Dark Side Of Mind" reminds of PRETTY MAIDS in their heavier times, the difference is the darker mood of the music and with enough trademarks of their own, hence not being a copy of the Danish dynamite. The traditional riffing and the pleasant voice of Mika Kuokkanen that is not high pitched, more in the mid ranges and rather powerful, are supported by good songwriting as the speedy "Lost In The Dark" or the mid-paced "The End Becomes" prove. All thirteen tracks deliver an enjoyable record that I am fond of hearing though real outstanding tracks that could become their trademarks are missed. A good record.
Heinz Konzett

Skeptics Apocalypse
(Century Media)

Definitively the kind of album that could be made only in 1985! I doubt somebody nowadays can reproduce or write that kind of crazy Speed Metal shit! Just like DARK ANGEL or POSSESSED, I guess like everybody who has been into Metal for more than a couple of years, you already own that album because it's really a classic album, more a Speed Metal one than a Thrash one but for sure an amazing one! The opening intro makes way for a deluge of Speed, Thrash and melody, all executed with lighting precision. Each of the eight tracks (the two awful bonus tracks are not counted, first a 1998 remake of "The Calling" which is totally unecessary and "The Unexpected" live, with an awful sound. I just wonder who got them that poor live tape. I personally own tons of tapes of them from all the periods and none sounds as shitty! Incredible!)are totally brilliant. Check out the original SCEPTRE songs reworked by A.S. namely "144.000 gone" and "Taken By Force", this is classic Metal stuff! The MAIDEN/ PRIEST influences are blatant throughout the album but who really cares? It's so well written that you can easily forget that. Definitively another classic U.S. Metal album.
Laurent Ramadier

Omega Conspiracy

At the moment we have this reunion-plague going on, everybody and their brother want a piece of the growing metal-pie again. Nobody needed disappointing come-backs like the ones from OMEN or METAL CHURCH. But nevertheless: those who lived the metal-80's will love AGENT STEEL, and there's NO comeback I longed for as much as for the one from my personal Speed Metal heroes. Even when John Cyriis isn't around anymore and living in Ufoland somewhere, the brilliant show in Wacken showed that the band is still strong. "Omega Conspiracy" can't really be compared to their classic material, for this is more thrash metal par excellence. Maybe some expected a more traditional speed metal album, but time didn't stand still for these guys either and the songs still offer high-qualit y, non-commercial metal, that shows 90% of the new metal bands how it should be done. The 10 songs bring back the spirit of the good old thrash metal and new singer Bruce Hall convinces with a very powerful voice. Those who forget about the old glory-days for a sec and listen to the album without such expectations, will see that Bernie Versailles, Juan Guarcia and co. still have a lot to give - heavy metal! So: for all metalheads that value quality, check it out!
Heinz Konzett


Lovers of technical Thrash material are maybe wondering what the ex CYNIC members are doing after the release of "Focus" in '94. Well after they changed their name for PORTAL and some members appeared on different projects such as the RUSH tribute and the GORDIAN KNOT album, here's a new Florida based act that showcases the immense talent courtesy of bassist Sean Malone and drummer Sean Reinert. It seems the band was originally conceived by guitarist Santiago Dobles who use to learn guitar with Paul Masvidal. Anyway, what we have throughout the nine tracks of their first self titled album is some beautiful highly technical Jazzy/ Heavy/ Atmospheric music. Danishta Rivero's singing (who happens to be Santiago's sister) is just unreal and not sounding far from what the goddess of THE GATHERING delivers. It would be foolish to say which track is better than the other because it's virtually impossible. It's just the kind of album that you listen to in its entirety and you get transcended by such superiority. Reinert's drumming is still as killer as before and with Malone, they're just one of the best rhythm sections around next to Lee/ Peart's one. I have to add that Jason Gobel appears on "Jitvatma". If only they could offer us another CYNIC album but as for now I offer you to discover the magical, almost mystical rhythms from AGHORA. Website:
Laurent Ramadier

Flames To Eternity

AMETHYST hails from Victoria, Australia and they play Heavy Metal like it should be done. The band consists of Georgie Larin on guitars, Nestor Melone on drums and Liz Galea on vocals. Evan Harris helped out on bass on this CD and Endel Rivers played the keyboards. Opener "Black Widow" will certainly blow you away, while "Eyes Of The Innocent" is based on a PANTERA-like riff, brutal, doomy and very heavy. In the middle of the song they change it into a fast monster, ending with a great guitar solo. "Amulets Curse" opens with a riff that reminds me of THIN LIZZY's "Bad Reputation". Another Metal anthem arises! "Stay" is the ballad. When you look at the variety of styles, you might want to compare them to ICRI'S WITCH (who are now called ELLIS) with their great album "In For The Kill". Because after the ballad they play a swampy kind of Blues that has got a bit of ROSE TATTOO sound ("Butcher And Fast Eddy" at a higher speed!) and then they easily change to a more BLACK SABBATH-like approach in "Flesh" with a guitar solo reminding me of riff master Tony Iommi himself! "Enough Is Enough" they scream in the next song. It's a short track that, although the title suggests something else, simply asks for more. The Thrashy "The Kill" will get all those heads banging again. It also has a doomy part that will easily take you by force. The Bay Area sound is captured in four and a half minutes here. The riffs could very well have been on the earlier METALLICA albums and the guitar solo fits in perfectly, screaming very high at times. Let's raise a mosh pit ladies and gentlemen! "The Archer" is a classical interlude- the intro to "Point Of No Return". A song which has a nice construction. Opening as a ballad and then changing to a mid tempo song with a lot of power. "The Ballad" (which won't surprise anyone) is the second ballad on this absolutely good debut CD. The CD ends with "Wasted Youth". Another great Metal track, just like the opener. If you don't buy this album it's all up to you but don't say we didn't warn you!! To order your own copy of this CD, get in touch with the band by writing to: Amethystmetal- P.O. Box 486- Thomastown- 3074 Victoria- Australia or send an e-mail to: amethyst Twelve brilliant Metal tracks with a playing time of fifty-six minutes will soon come your way, so don't miss it! I'd like to thank my good friend Peter Fundeis for making this review possible.
Toine van Poorten

(Century Media)

After ten years of silence a nearly forgotten German band raised the Metal fist and came up with a strong comeback album called "Border Of Reality" in 1998. Only one year later, "Bleed" proves that the "new" ANGEL DUST are more than just another 80's band that want to be part of the True Metal comeback. Their two 80's albums ("Into The Dark Past" and "To Dust We Will Decay") delivered German Speed Metal along with their country mates as KREATOR and DESTRUCTION, being far better musicians than those bands at that time. Now they play a mixture of Power Metal and Melodic Metal which is supported by keyboard lines, a slight roughy voice with a wide range, and sometimes progressive parts. The aggressive factor went on most songs (though speedy tracks as "Black Rain" or "Never" sound quite aggressive), and the tempo is half as fast as ten years before. BUT the music is out of any critic, top notch musicianship is delivered and every quality Metal maniac will not regret to give these Germans a ch ance to win his Metal heart. The eight tunes stand for Heavy Metal as we want to hear (not counting the average ballad "Follow Me Part I"). The keyboard elements increased a little, but again in a decent way and the riffing still stands in the foreground. Due to two European tours with OVERKILL and JAG PANZER, the tightness of the songs is astounding, all in all an output full of wonderful Metal music - need I to say more?
Heinz Konzett

(self financed)

Can you believe this? ANGELWITCH who just released a CD without having a record deal? Ten songs show us the slow resurrection of this brilliant band from the NWOBHM scene in the 80's. Throughout the years, after their last studio effort "Frontal Assault", the band released a couple of demo tapes. These demos have now been put together on one CD. We get to hear the "Psychopatic" three track demo from 1987, the four track EP "Twist Of The Knife" from 1990 and the "Resurrection" demo from 1998. The first two items (seven songs) sound like ANGELWITCH old style. Great Metal songs with flashing thrash riffs here and there with of course the recognizable voice of Kevin Heybourne. The last three songs were not written by Kevin and I must say, you can surely hear the difference. The sound is a bit more new-fashioned, if you'd like to call it that way. Nonetheless, it's a great new release and everybody must know that the band is back to kick some serious ass. They now consist of Jon Torres (ex-THUNDERHEAD, WARNING & LAAZ ROCKIT - Laurent) on bass, Tom Hunting on drums, Mick Taylor on guitars and keyboards and of course founder member, guitarist and singer Kevin Heybourne. Keep your eyes wide open, because the new millennium is gonna strart with "The Year Of The Witch". You can lay your hands on this essential CD by dropping a line to:
Angel Witch Productions, 699 Vienna St., San Francisco, CA 94112, USA. Email: So you can witness the resurrection of this great cult band yourself. Who's the next in line? WITCHFINDER GENERAL, BITCHES SIN, HANDSOME BEASTS?!? Only time will tell!!
Toine van Poorten

Live At The LA2
(Zoom Club Records)

What we have here is a fifty minute live show of NWOBHM heroes ANGELWITCH. You can read from the title that it was recorded at the LA2 in London on May 26th 2000. ANGELWITCH consists of Richie Wicks on bass and vocals, Keith Herzberg on guitar and backing vocals, Scott Higham on drums and the only remaining original member and founder of ANGELWITCH, Kevin Heybourne on guitar and vocals. What you'll hear is really magic! It sounds like time stood still with this band. They still sound as fresh as they were in the very early eighties. The CD opens with "Atlantis" and we can also enjoy great versions of newer songs like "Psychopatic" and "Twist Of The Knife" or classics like "White Witch", "Baphomet", "Angelwitch" and my personal fave "Gorgon". But watch out, this release contains more than just heavenly music. On the second CD you can see three songs on video as well- "White Witch", "Baphomet" and "Angelwitch", live on the screen of your PC. If there's more you need to have a good time, just let me know. A live CD by SAMSON from this tour comes out very soon on the same label, which will also contain a video CD. If the excellent show at the Wacken Open Air didn't bring them back on top, this release will. ANGELWITCH rules and this essential CD is the f*cking proof of it. Life can be beautiful!
Toine van Poorten

Princess Of Steel
(self-financed demo)

Wow, that's a fine surprise. These Austrian true Metal fighters appear with their second offering shortly after the promising first mini cd and this seven track cassette is a real improvement. After the long, formidable spoken intro "Princess Of Steel" - lovely greets from MANOWAR - straight mid-tempo Metal riffing is combined with the rough Dirkschneider meets Boltendahl voice of The Hood. This time the production sounds more compact, especially the drum sound rocks and roll far better than on the debut. The whole band stands for true Heavy Metal and hence the titles speak for itself - "Metal Crusaders" or "At The Iron Gates Of Hades". You can hear some ACCEPT (hear "Realm Of Dragons") and SAXON roots though the Metal cocktail is no simple rip off, simply entertaining Metal music from Metal maniacs. This band needs a record deal to show all people - Austria AND Heavy Metal rule....Order this headbanger compatible demo for the cheap price of DM 10 (Europe) or $ 7 (overseas) from: Tower Of The Necromancer, c/o Bruder Cle, Burghard-Breitner Str. 2, 6020 Innsbruck, Austria. Email:
Heinz Konzett


Man, the Midwestern United States has Metal acts crawling from the underground as this Ohio quintet prove their worth on this debut nine song/49 min. plus disc. Expect longer songs in the 4˝-8 min. range that allow for neo-classical guitar stylings, an adventurous rhythm section and a fusion of eighties Metal a la HELSTAR/FORBIDDEN with a 90's touch in production and aggressive vocal terms. I know the twin guitar bending that ends the solo section of "Breeding The Beast" will have you think of classic early FORBIDDEN while darker cuts such as "The Curse" and "The Web" recall more middle 1980's American Power Metal territory. Ty Cook's vocals have an adequate pitch/range but his reliance on industrial/distortion effects in a cut like "Sword Of Mouth" leads me to think that he needs more coaching for the melodies to match the technical/heavy musical approach. Their name befits their music- as you have more Progressive oriented material like "Netherworld" and "Limbo" next to a streamlined melodic song like "Secret Fires" and both areas work well for the band. This album will be re-recorded soon with some arrangements and new leads from a new guitarist, so seek out if you miss semi-technical 80's Power Metal with a Progressive edge. Contact: Intromental Management, PO Box 1268, DK - 2300 Copenhagen S., Denmark. Web:
Matt Coe

Dying For Life
(Nightmare/ Massacre)

One of the albums I most anticipated this year is this sophomore effort from Ohio's ANTITHESIS. They've impressed me thoroughly with their FORBIDDEN meets HELSTAR power/progressive metal approach, and "Dying For Life" greatly improves the band's profile. "Consequence" opens the proceedings with a bevy of ripping riffs and quick time changes that never forsake the movements of the song while "Times Of Trial" features in its 8min plus timeframe some cool acoustic to heavy arpeggio runs, a "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" verse feel and a bass solo from James Lewis that puts him in the class of great progressive bottom end men a la John Myung or Jerry Abarca. Another unique quality the band use to their advantage is the emotional vocal delivery from Ty Cook- he has the pipes to hit the high notes in songs like "Mad Poet" and "Soul Of Ice" while also having a tougher grit like Mike Howe or Chris Cornell within the same song sometimes. The production captures the heavy parts and acoustic passages with equal conviction, which would have been the only sore spot for some listeners on the previous album. All of the songs deserve numerous plays in the stereo, and I'm glad that a band like ANTITHESIS can still play power/progressive metal that borders on thrash in 2001 while creating their own take on the style. "Dying For Life" has a myriad of styles on display without showcasing musical abilities for merely ego's sake- as songs like "Distanced" and the title track will stand the test of time. Ready to take the throne as best Christian metal act from the days of BELIEVER...
Matt Coe

Plenty Of Power

What a positive surprise. After the rather average "Speed Of Sound" album, I didn't await such a crunching, mid-tempo based Heavy Metal album with balls from the Canadians. Lips and his mates were part the whole Speed Metal beginning, if not the forerunners and more than 20 years later they are still active and come up with a real smasher. The production sounds fat and powerful - at last on an ANVIL album - and both the unique vocal style of Lips and the insane drumming of Reiner are combined with lots of real power songs- hear the title track, "Ball Of Fire", "Computer Drone" or "Real Metal" (title of the year for me!) and you know- it's time for ANVIL Metal. The main difference to the last three albums is the focus to groovy mid-tempo stuff which fits excellent to their style of Metal and if you have liked "Forged In Fire" or "Plugged In Permanent", you have good taste as well as you will like this one a lot. Don't believe others who tell shit about ANVIL in general and this album in particular- it's a real Metal one.
Heinz Konzett

Ra Pariah
(OPM Records)

If you've read the interesting interview that Frank Stöver did with this band in issue 8 then you might already know the musical background of APOLLO RA. OPM records has decided to release the demo that was mentioned in this interview on LP. It became a very limited release of five hundred, hand numbered copies. The difference with the original demo is that "Coming Of Age/ Rukkus" is left out. Instead they put "Creating Zero" on the album, a song that was mentioned on the tape, but actually was not on it at all. APOLLO RA's music can be described as a mix of CRIMSON GLORY and QUEENSRYCHE ("Queen Of The Reich" period). High quality Heavy Metal with a melodic touch. Vocalist Daniel John Miller has the same high screams as Geoff Tate in his early days. And the twin axe work of Kevin Bulkley and Billy McKeowon is mind blowing. The rhythm section that consists of Stephen Al binak on drums and Todd Channing Weaver is very tight. And although the original recordings of these songs were done in 1987, you can definitely say that they stood the test of time. The album comes with beautiful artwork and liner notes on the inlay by the original band members. This album is a real treat for all the quick deciders out there because five hundred copies is not that much. Highlight for me was the fast headbanger "March Of Fire", with great high screaming guitarwork on it. But the other nine tracks are highly enjoyable too. Great album!!!!
Toine van Poorten


Since the breakup of Norway's melodic power force CONCEPTION we all know singer Roy Khan moved swiftly into KAMELOT's vocal slot- but where did other members move? Guitarist Tore Ostby developed a new project called ARK- which has ascended to full fledged band status as this debut 7 song album attests. ARK's core consists of Tore plus drummer John Macaluso and vocalist Jorn Lande- and musically the band mix up progressive rhythmic tempos and a catchy AOR/ melodic metal guitar fusion- imagine DEEP PURPLE and RUSH collaborating on tight songs which sometimes emphasize the straight forward ("Where The Wind Blows") and jazzy/ Spanish flamenco jams ("The Hunchback Of Norte Dame"). Lyrically the band stick to personal journey and lovelorn topics- with Jorn's powerful soul like delivery making him a dead ringer for David Coverdale or RIOT's Mike Dimeo. ARK carefully have crafted an album that has enough dynamics woven into each song to please the musician crowd while not forgetting to hook the normal listener with solid melodies and stirring riffing/ arrangements. Favorites include the epic "Singers At The World's Dawn" that fuses darker moodiness with spacious singing and the RUSHesque "Mother Love" where John Macaluso's cymbal/ tempo juxtaposition astounds. Low production is the only blemish on this masterpiece- ARK assures progressive metal a long vitality. Contact: Sensory, PO Box 388, Voorhees, NJ, 08043-0388, USA. Web:
Matt Coe

Embrace The Mystery
(Dream On Music)

I read very good threads about that album from some internet friends and so I ordered it from Metal Merchant mailorder. And they were right. Top notch guitarist Chris Amott is the brother of ARCH ENEMY mastermind Michael Amott but the music is different - classical melodic Metal with a massive guitar front and first class soloing. Singer Rickard Bengtsson can transport the melodies with his clean, high pitched voice though the music (and the great production) is more guitar-orientated. 10 somewhat light progressive Power Metal pearls, mixing a metallic vein of RAINBOW, MADISON, MALMSTEEN, old DIO and the underrated FIFTH ANGEL. Excellent.
Heinz Konzett

(Metal Blade)

Already the straight riffing and the typical melody line of the opener "Pay Dirt" proves that John Bush, Gonzo, Joey Vera, Phil Sandoval and Jeff Duncan are back in business with their real sound. For me their second full length "Delirious Nomad" has always been my favourite of their musical inheritance, though for many "Symbol Of Salvation" was the stronger one, simply a question of taste. Undoubtedly this comeback cd is a true statement that ARMORED SAINT are not capable to disappoint their following. It's even a better statement that John Bush sings melodic groovy tunes as "The Pillar" with his heart and soul, whereas his ANTHRAX performance has lacked in conviction the last few years. It's impossible to categorize their music, some Power Metal touches, some Hard Rock parts, still sounding like ARMORED SAINT. Original music. Of course, there are some amazing tracks, for instance the quite fast "Tension" the traditional "After Me, The Flood" or the heavy "Deep Rooted Anger" on the other hand the alternative "Damaged" is a real weak track (maybe their weakest in their whole career). Even if this comeback cd can not compete with their best 80's works (and that's no surprise at all), this is again, after long years of waiting, a thickly produced album from a band that knows how to spell Heavy Metal.
Heinz Konzett

(EMA Records)

Never heard of this band from overseas? Oh, then it's time to discover the best kept secret in traditional US Metal. "Avenger" is already the fourth full-length album and nothing but brilliant. The most heard album in my cd player the last two months along with the latest ANTHEM and the SPIRIT WEB debut. Beginning with "Crown Of Thorns" - a DIOesque rocker, means a driving-forward mid-tempo riff combined with a mid-ranged, powerful voice and a killer melody, classic stuff. It's a shame that such music does not get the recognition it deserves, hey European labels - wake up and sign a band that is a hundred times better than the whole NWOEHM (new wave of European happy Metal) movement. The MAIDENesque guitar leads of "Leather" are followed by an insane melody arrangement in "Escape - Victorious", the heavy smasher "Angels Of War", the FIFTH ANGELish "Eternal Night" and the Metal monster "Imperial Rome", .... A Heavy Rock album that stands in the line of WARRIOR, SWORD and FIFTH ANGEL, need I say more? A favourite of mine.
Heinz Konzett

No Escape
(Shark Records)

This is the debut of this German band and they show the world that the Germans can play power/speed metal with classic influences as well. The sound is very much influenced by the powerful, but virtuoso guitar lines of mainman Olaf Lenk (ex-VELVET VIPER; anyone still remembers this band?) and the classically influenced keyboards, which are played by Ulli Müller. But unlike other bands they also show that including classic parts does not mean to slow down the music, AT VANCE only seldom use slower, epic sections, they try more to incorporate these influences into their fast, pounding double-bass-intensive rhythms, played by bass guitarist Rainald Koenig and drummer Spoony. So as a lot of nowaday's bands use symphonic and bombastic arrangements, AT VANCE are heavily influenced by the founder of the classic movement in Heavy Metal in the 80s, namely Yngwie J. Malmsteen. In addition to the musical part, vocalist Oliver Hardmann reminds me a lot of Joe Lynn Turner. Let's talk about the songs a little bit in detail . The first 4 songs are very RISING FORCE-like, speedy and with classical parts, creating a dark feeling reminding me of their hammer-release "Odyssey". Following is the hymn "All For One, One For All", which causes a complete change in feeling because of its brightness and bombastic elements. Then comes the ABBA(!)-cover "Money Money" with has been transferred into a very powerful song. Next to come is the instrumental "Vivaldi - Four Seasons (Summer)" which is excellently performed (Heinz, now I know why I should review this great disk - you wanted to show me that not only Italian bands can interpret Italian classical composers! (all Italian Power to you - Heinz) Next track is the power ballad "Lost In Your Love" which is full of feelings, emotions and power. The following "Power And Glory" is a bright metal hymn in the vein of STRATOVARIUS or RHAPSODY with a bombastic chorus. In my eyes this is the highlight of the album. The closing track "Seven Seas" is a stomping, mid-tempo heavy rocker with dark riffin g and virtuoso guitar parts and could be described as BLACK SABBATH (Tony Martin era) meets LABYRINTH. So all in all AT VANCE recorded a great variety of songs which should please every true Metalhead. The production is very powerful and underlines the dark and intense feeling of this album. Everyone liking the early works of Mr. MALMSTEEN or the current ones of STRATOVARIUS and LABYRINTH and is interested in fast, but melodic and demanding music should give AT VANCE a chance and take a listen to this solid debut. A new star on the German power metal sky has risen!
Helmut Posch

Retaliatory Strike (re-release)
(New Renaissance Records)

I really loved this band back in the 80's and I still do nowadays! AT WAR came to my attention for the very first time in 1985 when they released their extremely cool sounding "War Metal" demo, which featured two of their all-time classics 'Eat Lead' and 'Rapechase' (you'll find both of them in re-recorded versions on their 1986 debut album "Ordered To Kill"). AT WAR had created a very cool MOTÖRHEAD - influenced form of Thrash Metal that was totally different to all the other bands around at the time. Unfortunately the band provoked a lot of controversial reactions with their military image and the song 'Ilsa (She-Wolf Of The SS)' in particular! Well, I never really cared as the song was just based on a movie and the raw music still had enough class to stand the test of time. "Retaliatory Strike", their second full length from 1988, was a little bit weaker than "Ordered To Kill", but still far superior than the majority of the releases that came out in the 90's! The original coverart got changed for this han dnumbered, limited CD re-issue, but as that already didn't know to impress in its original format, I couldn't care less. So, my advice to any fan of MOTÖRHEAD, VENOM, TANK and the likes is to check out AT WAR as well (in case you didn't know them already...) and to make sure not to miss out this really cool three piece.
Frank Stöver

Piece of Time (re-release)

Formed in 1984, as part of the legendary Florida Death Metal movement that gave the world MORBID ANGEL, DEATH, MASSACRE, CYNIC. as OBLIVION then a name change occurred for the more sinister sounding R.A.V.A.G.E (Raging Atheist Vowing A Gory End). But of course some Glam fag/ AOR/ poser band in the Midwest in the USA had the same name. So of course who would want to be associated with that poser trend so the moniker ATHEIST was chosen. Being a band that is peerless and timeless, they had all the usual delays, with their debut album. A similar experience I suffered with EXODUS 1984's "A Lesson In Violence ". Causing the then trendy Death Metallers wrongly thinking, oh its 1990, this band is too late for the Death Metal wave. When actually they were one of the originators and innovators of the technical Progressive Death Metal concept; so far ahead of the Metal movement. This level of originality, talent and virtuosity will be never seen ever again in my lifetime. Original released on the Active Records label in 1990 with Kelly Shaefer on vocals / guitars, Rand Burkey on lead guitar, Roger Patterson on bass, and Steve Flynn on drums. Luckily for the true fans involved they were on Active Records and not Roadrunner, Godly Records or Mean Machine Records, liked everyone hoped for back then. Because these ATHEIST reissues would of never happened like this. They would be part of Island Def Jam/ Roadrunner's crappy two from the vault series, those are worse than any " best of " CD ever manufactured. Relapse records cult classic division, did a hundred times of a better job on these reissues, than the CRYPTIC SLAUGHTER ones a couple of years ago. ATHEIST is the RUSH, MERCYFUL FATE, METALLICA and DIAMOND HEAD of Death Metal, due to the fact, that what separates ATHEIST from the contenders (2nd and 3rd rate bands) and pretenders ( 9th rate and posers acts), is that they knew the importance and purpose of riffs, and songwriting arrangements with dynamic and tempos changes. NMG Entertainment reissued the last version of "Piece Of Time" in 2000, it was not in the original nine song format as the first vinyl and CD press runs (Active/ Metal Blade/ Music for Nations-Japan). Included were six bonus tracks. This Relapse reissues is the original nine songs plus nine bonus tracks. Two Atheist demos " Hell Hath No Mercy" and " Beyond", and the R.A.V.A.G.E. " On They Slay Demo". The best area of improvement for the Relapse version is the front insert inlay booklet. It is almost perfect, obviously true fans helped put this together, because of the flyers and the photos. It rivals the Sentinel Steel and High Vaultage reissues but not as stellar as the Repulsion "Horrified" 3rd pressing 2CD in 2004, because Laurent Ramadier did the liner notes. Laurent Ramadier should have written the liner notes, with Snakepit # 8, pages 4-11 should have been printed also -honestly the best interview of ATHEIST career, corporate Rock rags like Decibel and Revolver, could never top that, ever. Ula Gehert did the liner notes. A journalist I never trusted, because of her work at Sentinel Steel. Look for the Sentinel Steel issue 2 or 3 where he rates, CYNIC" Focus " a 1 out of 10 rating. Now years later he writes the ATHEIST " Piece of Time " liner notes?! I had to laugh my ass off, that fact and over this oversight by Relapse Records. Wherever Atheist and Relapse got the rare ass photos and flyers from, I would have to thank the true fan that provided those personally (Well don't look any further, it all comes at 99,8% from my personal archives except Mr Sheafer was too nice to not give me any credits- Laurent). Sound wise as far as the bonus tracks are concerned, they are the same quality as the NMG Entertainment pressing; meaning the bonus tracks have the charm from the demo-era still intact. Since MESHUGGAH became a hyped band, any band that has a sloppy sense of timing is called technical. ATHEIST is the world's greatest authentic extreme technical Death Metal band. Think of the kick ass aspects of vintage METALLICA, WATCHTOWER, SLAYER, DEATH, RUSH and MERCYFUL FATE fused with the virtuosity that would but the so-called guitar gods (Malmsteem, Vai, Satriani) to shame. If some poser/ asshole told me to my face, that ATHEIST "Piece Of Time" is not in the top 50 of all Metal albums ever released in Metals 35 year history, I would break their nose, and split wide open their slanderous mouth. And then I would try not to slip in the posers AIDS infested blood. (10)
Ron Mabe

Unquestionable Presence (re-release)

ATHEIST "Unquestionable Presence" did not suffer from the 'slow down syndrome' that effected the Power Metal and Thrash Metal movements. Alongside MORBID ANGEL, ATHEIST is perhaps the most important bands that came from Florida Death Metal movement, which included such killer and lethal bands such as DEATH, CYNIC, NOCTURNUS, MASSACRE, MORBID ANGEL and ATHEIST. METALLICA in 1986 lost their legendary bassist Cliff Burton in a bus accident, ATHEIST also had their legendary bassist killed this way, but unlike Cliff Burton who appeared on three official albums and two EPs, Roger Patterson, only appeared on one official album. But Roger Patterson does appear on this reissue because of the bonus tracks that are from demo sessions that predate the official release of "U.P.". "U.P." to the untrained ear and uncritical mind. Wrong wrongly think this band suffers a "slow down syndrome" when in all reality all your ears notices is that Roger Patterson was one of a kind bassist; in a one of a kind world class Death Metal band. Only the new bassist did not have the same approach/ attack as Roger Patterson original had. I also noticed the same thing with Jason Newsted of METALLICA when he replaced Cliff Burton in Metallica, four years earlier to the release " U.P.". The line up for "U.P." is Kelly Shaefer, Rand Burkey, Tony Choy (CYNIC) on bass, and Steve Flynn. ATHEIST is one of the bands in the world to have the debut and the sophomore album in the top 50 albums of all time in the 35-year history of Heavy Metal. Ula Gehret does the insert booklet again like "Piece Of Time". Even through there are tons of rare and exclusive and rare photos, ATHEIST and Relapse had the strange and bizarre oversight of not having Laurent Ramadier do the liner notes. Nine bonus tracks are included and making this reissue essential. All the original eight tracks appear in the bonus material, giving this reissues the double play classic vibe that Megaforce Records, in association with Caroline Records gave to EXCITER "Heavy Metal Maniac" and "Violence And Force" on CD in 1989. Which I have to mention that "Piece of Time /Unquestionable Presence" was pressed on CD in the double play classic format around the same time the Relapse Reissues, appered on the market. So for 2005 the ATHEIST titles to pick up are " Piece Of Time" Relapse Records, "Unquestionable Presence" Relapse Records and "Elements" Relapse Records.
Ron Mabe

(Omega Records)

This album doesn't really do anything to me personally. Ok, musically all twelve songs are executed on a very high level, performed by a band that certainly spent a whole lot of time in the writing of this complex release. Sascha Paeth's production is strong as usual and the partly incorporated elements of Asian traditional music also do work out fine. But I suppose to really appreciate AVALON's overall in-depth songwriting and all its little bits and pieces you gotta be a worshipper of Progressive music in the first place. And I am not! I would prefer a little bit more catchiness in the weird (yet extremely melodical) material, plus I don't get into the sound of a hammond organ too much (unlike with bands who used it back in the 70's). The cool cover of the old MR.MISTER hit 'Kyrie' exactly represents what I mean. It's a quite complex tune, yet features a still really catchy chorus line. Well, I'm not here to say bad things about the band, cause that wouldn't be fair at all as they really did a fine job. And I guess that genre lovers will worship "Eurasia" (which, by the way, is a concept album dealing with all kinds of religion and culture) to the death, so you better make up your own minds and check it out. Label contact:
Frank Stöver

The Metal Opera

No, AVANTASIA ain't a new Disney movie (even though the name sounds quite like that), this is an extremely dedicated project brought to you by EDGUY vocalist Tobias Sammet. As you can already suspect by the album's title, musically this is supposed to be a Metal opera, connected with a concept story, which we better not go into here for the lengths sake of this review. Tobias managed to gather a whole lot of established and highly respected musicians for this album, such as David DeFeis (VIRGIN STEELE), Kai Hansen & Henjo Richter (GAMMA RAY), Timo Tolkki (STRATOVARIUS), Rob Rock (ex-IMPELLITTERI, now WARRIOR), André Matos (ex-ANGRA), Markus Grosskopf (HELLOWEEN), Alex Holzwarth (most recently in PARADOX) and so on and so on. Even though Mr. Sammet completely wrote everything on his own for this release, the material here and there still tends to sound like some of the participating musicians' main bands. Which means that you'll get very well executed, pretty melodic Heavy Metal with lots of uptempo parts and really catchy melody lines. The main difference to EDGUY probably is the more epic / classical overtone in the songwriting, which turned out really convincing and for obvious reasons immediately brings VIRGIN STEELE's Metal opera "The House Of Atreus" to mind. All vocalists impersonate certain characters of the story line, which gives the album quite a big variety in that department alone already. So, this professionally and powerfully produced offering is an ultimate purchase for fans with a musical taste somewhere between RHAPSODY, HELLOWEEN and (of course) EDGUY. Impressive one!
Frank Stöver

What do you say? Reading the reviews to "The Metal Opera" a kind of semi-hype crossed my mind- after listening to the concept album of Tobias Sammet, the EDGUY singer, I know why it got hyped, at least in the bigger magazines. Standing for the "new" generation of Metal bands in the type of HAMMERFALL and RHAPSODY, Tobias hired some well-known guests as Henjo Richter (GAMMA RAY), Markus Grosskopf (HELLOWEEN) and Alex Holzwarth (PARADOX, ex-SIEGES EVEN) for the music along with the main vocals from Tobias himself, David De Feis, Rob Rock, Andre Matos, Oliver Hartmann (AT VANCE) or Kai Hansen for different roles in the concept. Excellent guest-musicians and the contribution of all these characteristic singers and skilled people make it worth listening to this concept album. As you might know EDGUY's music lacks a bit in enough roughness and power in my opinion and musical-wise "The Metal Opera" is not different to the recent works of EDGUY, only adding some more keys and bombastic parts which fit in the lyrical story. Melodic Metal with some fine vocal performances, speaking in particular of Rob Rock and Oliver Hartmann. And it sells like crazy...
Heinz Konzett

Back To The Kingdom

German melodic metal group who've been away from 3 years and reappeared on the scene with this new effort. Having never heard this band before I can only judge them based on "Back To The Kingdom"- which fits in a similar mode as ZEBRA, UFO or PRETTY MAIDS. Not overly heavy, yet very catchy and gets the head bobbing and fist flailing. You'll hear lots of guitar fills that accent the arrangements over flashy technical showmanship- which is very refreshing as people who appreciate the DEEP PURPLE/ UFO school of songwriting can find plenty to love about AXXIS. The vocalist has an eerie way of sustaining high notes or doubling up the melodies that may make some listeners frustrated- that's where the ZEBRA/ Randy Jackson relation comes into play on songs like "Flashback Radio" and "Shadowman". Also the cover of "Kiss Him Goodbye" was unnecessary, as they totally butcher it with these vocals. Overall it's not bad but I'm not overly fond of this style as bands like PINK CREAM 69 or TEN do this better than AXXIS.
Matt Coe

Dimension IV
(Locomotive Music)

The Spanish metal armada continues to make a path for recognition on the worldwide scene- and this sextet have unleashed their fourth album on to the market. Having never heard the band before, I'm highly impressed with the 10 cuts on offer. The opening minute long intro "En El Umbral" features some backwards masking but quickly launches into "Sacrificio", a speedy traditional metal song with some killer soloing from Mario Gutierrez and Enrique Rosales, while the song structure reminds me of RUNNING WILD meets VICIOUS RUMORS. The keyboards add a little Italian metal flavor to the proceedings, sounding a little too flowery for my tastes in a cut like "Nada Que Temer" where the raging guitar and the choir backing vocals carry the harmonies adequately. A lot of metal bands today when trying to go for the happier melodies back off from producing a killer guitar tone throughout the record- not so with AZRAEL because the guitars blaze as does the furious double bass drumming illustrated nicely in "Sentencia". Each of the songs have their unique structure and tempo, so you will not be bored throughout this 49 minute effort. I can see why the band have had the chance to play with acts like MERCYFUL FATE, SAXON and MEGADETH in their career- I think with "Dimension IV" the band are ready to make the transition to more tours in Europe and join the ranks of future notables like TIERRA SANTA and MAGO DE OZ. Contact: Locomotive Music- PO Box 116094- 28080 Madrid- SPAIN. Web:
Matt Coe