Tag Archives: Power Metal

Saxon – Unleash The Beast (Review)

Saxon – Unleash The Beast (1997)

Unleash The Beast, Saxon’s thirteenth studio album and the first to feature the band’s current line-up, finds the band dialling up the kind of heaviness previously hinted at on older tracks like Altar Of The Gods, Battle Cry and Dogs Of War.

As usual for Saxon, this 1997 album’s big classic is the title-track: a brilliant thrasher with a chorus hewn from pure gold. But the harder edge comes at the expense of the band’s usual chemistry and charisma. The serious mood fits songs like the dark, grooving Cut Out The Disease and the moody, slow-burner The Preacher. But songs like Ministry Of Fools and The Thin Red Line fall strangely flat when they should be uplifting. The driving Terminal Velocity, uncannily catchy Circle Of Light and vigorously rowdy All Hell’s Breaking Loose inject much-needed sparks of excitement but can’t quite lift the album into the classic zone.

Its po-faced proficiency makes it one to appreciate rather than love but Saxon’s consistency and focus impresses and this was a crucial album for them. As well as unleashing the beast, they ushered in a new era, finding a style and purpose that would restore their credibility and serve them well for years to come. The story of modern Saxon starts here.

HMO Rating: 3 Out Of 5

[Saxon – Unleash The Beast]

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Gamma Ray – Land Of The Free (Review)

Gamma Ray – Land Of The Free (1995)

With vocalist Ralf Scheepers out the band, hell bent on joining Judas Priest, Gamma Ray guitarist (and former Helloween guitarist/lead vocalist) Kai Hansen decided to make a surprise, and welcome, return to the mic. The re-jigged German band found a renewed sense of vitality and their fourth album, 1995’s Land Of The Free, proved to be their best yet. It’s a definitive power metal classic: humungous, anthemic heavy metal goods properly delivered by a band on a mission.

2017 Anniversary Edition with 7 bonus tracks

The opening track Rebellion In Dreamland is metal at its gloriously epic best and tracks like Man On A Mission and All Of The Damned feature precision hooks. The band’s earlier albums often stumbled into silliness but this is a more serious and consistent effort. The only overly jolly moment comes when, yet another former Helloween vocalist, Michael Kiske joins the band for Time To Break Free. But it’s a very minor grumble and, for the most part, this has all the stately riffage, wild soloing, singalong choruses, fairy feller interludes and last-ale balladry you could possibly want. Gamma Ray achieve hero status for persevering with bombastic trad metal at a time when it was totally out of fashion and their musical bravado found the perfect home in Land Of The Free.

HMO Rating: 4.5 Out Of 5

[Gamma Ray – Man On A Mission]

New Releases – 2nd March 2018

Not a lot going on this week but the release schedule is not totally devoid of intrigue. There is a new album The Banished Heart from gothic doom types Oceans Of Slumber and the new album Resurrection from Michael Schenker Fest. Neither are must-buy slam dunks for me but definitely worth checking out.

And, not a new release as such, but HMO-faves Voices have unveiled a new track entitled Dead Feelings. During the week the band FINALLY announced the details of the follow-up to their colossal 2014 album London. It’ll be out on April 27th and will be called Frightened. You will be.

That’s all the excitements for this week, let me know in the comments if there’s anything you’re all hyped about today. Some big releases next week. See you then.

(Voices – Frightened: Pre-order CD/LP/MC here)

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer (Review)

Manowar – Sign Of The Hammer (1984)

Finding their label Music For Nations wanting, presumably puny, Manowar used the budget they were given to record their third album, 1984’s Hail to England, but used it sparingly: covertly working up an additional batch of tracks which they then used to win a record deal with Virgin/Ten Records. Sneakiness aside, Manowar achieved a heroic feat. They had recorded two of the very greatest albums in the history of heavy metal… at the same time.

So here’s the second of those peerless works, Sign Of The Hammer. It’s pure heavy metal, but Manowar’s explosive and idiosyncratic idea of what that might be. Joey DeMaio leads from the front with his humungous bass riffs and leads but the whole band is on stellar form. Eric Adams sings with absolute authority and commitment, Ross The Boss’ wild, off-the-cuff guitar solos are impossibly exciting and Scott Columbus pounds out the drum equivalent of shouting “FRESH HORSES” at the top of your voice. The songwriting is also godly, with opening lines like “black clouds on the horizon” and “burning embers of the second death will come in the night” 100% guaranteed to give all but the false true metal stirrings.

The album is near flawless. All Men Play On Ten and Animals kick the album off like KISS-on-steroids. Thor (The Power Head) is as thunderous and warring as its title suggests. Mountains is elemental in its epic scope and the black wind conjured up in The Oath and the Sign Of The Hammer tips the album into sheer aural chaos. There’s only one chink in the armour here and that’s the bass noodling of Thunderpick. It’s extremely skippable but, as always with Manowar, there’s mad genius at work as the workout proves to be an effective overture to the sublime album closer Guyana (Cult Of The Damned). Eric Adams excels here, delivering an account of mass suicide with chilling and heartbreaking sincerity.

This album has hopped around the top spot of my favourite albums of all time for decades now, vying with that other work of genius Hail To England. There are times when I seriously wonder if I’ve wasted my time listening to other music when I could have been listening to this and, listening to it again now, I reckon I probably was.

HMO Rating: (All Men Play On) 10 out of 5

[Manowar – Thor (The Power Head)]

New Releases – 16th February 2018

I relaunched these New Releases posts with the intention of being ruthlessly selfish in my coverage, only highlighting the new stuff that I’m genuinely interested in. I told myself that I would know I was doing this right if there were weeks where there was absolutely nothing worth covering. So, just a few weeks into the relaunch, it seems I’m doing it right. Cause there’s hee haw bugger aw* out today!

The quandary then is, what do I do when this happens? I reckon I’ll just post a tune or two. So here’s a fantastic song from In Solitude’s Sister album. I mentioned this album in my recent review of Tribulation’s Down Below and it occurred to me that some folk might not know about it. Sister was my top album of 2013 (before I started posting about such things). I reckon it’s an overlooked masterpiece that not enough people know about. Although, in fairness, the band didn’t exactly help matters by splitting up not long after it was released.

[In Solitude – Pallid Hands]

Any new stuff you’re interested in today? Let me know in the comments. Hope you all have a great weekend.

[Gamma Ray – Free Time]

*nothing

New Releases – 2nd February 2018

There’s a metric shit-ton of stuff out today. Probably. I wouldn’t really know, because all I care about is Saxon! Are there any Saxon albums out today? YOU BET THERE ARE.

Saxon – Thunderbolt

Saxon continue to pump out consistently good to great metal albums these days, with just enough curveballs thrown to keep things from getting stale. Here’s the latest. I listened to the title track precisely once and I’ve avoided any other previews so this will all be exciting and new to me. Various versions as always… the big super cashectomy box has the same songs repeated over and over on different formats along with a bunch of knick-knacks. The main bonus seems to be a live bootleg disc that you can get in the aforementioned box, or via a few of the options on their PledgeMusic page.

And that’s it! The only release that matters today. I’ve got to say, 2018 has got off to a pretty amazing start. Three albums out already (Watain, Tribulation and hopefully Saxon) that are all likely AOTY contenders. Not too shabby.

Let me know what you’re buying today in the comments. Up for some Saxon or is there something else you’ve got yer eye on?

Scorpions – In Trance (Review)

Original cover image – with boob!

In Trance was the Scorpions’ third album, their first of many with producer Dieter Dierks and their first proper hard rocker. But we’re still back in the Uli Roth years here so there’s a strange mix of styles and moods. There are real driving, hard-hitters like Dark Lady and Top Of The Bill but there are also many songs like Life’s Like A River and Living And Dying that are mystical, almost-psychedelic and loaded with melancholy. Two different kinds of heavy, basically. Scorpions’ circa 1975 show off a complex mix of styles and influences: Uli Roth’s post-Hendrix, pre-Malmsteen guitar mastery; the mellow wistfulness of UFO’s Phenomenon; the epic scope, bludgeon and layered vocal harmonies of Uriah Heep and Queen and a distinctly European/power metal vibe. The combination of Rudolf Schenker’s granite riffs and Uli Roth’s scorching leads create real sparks and edge that never appeared in other incarnations of the band. There’s so just so much to love here and tracks like the bombastic pomp-rocker In Trance and the bonkers cyber-metaller Robot Man just never get old. The Scorpions would score big later with a simpler, streamlined metal style so this strange and formative early effort isn’t in the hallmark Scorps style but it is one of their best and the album, and era, I return to the most. By a long way. And that’s why it’s my top pick from this band’s impressive discography.

HMO Rating: 4.5 out of 5

[Scorpions – Robot Man]

My copy – paired with the also-incredible Virgin Killer