Ten More Tales
Massacre Records

The album kicks off with a 100-times-used-before speed metal riff, similar to those gracing faster songs of Stratovarius and Edguy, and it almost made me shout, "Oh no! Not again!" However it was quickly followed by an acoustic piece and then a mid-tempo chorus followed. The CD continues like this all the way through, the songs undergo numerous tempo changes, with guitar and keyboard solos in abundancy here and there. Strangely enough, more than half of the 10 tracks are absolute hits, with very catchy choruses and wonderful slow pieces. If you have ever heard the Dutch band Elegy, and especially their debut "Labyrinth Of Dreams" (1992), you will know what "Ten More Tales" is about. A lot of progressive elements, technical playing, but also tons of energy, melodies and hits. A great record, and a total surprise for me, as I wasn't expecting much from it.
P.S. In addition to the advantages mentioned above, the disc features bass playing of Chris Dale (ex-Bruce Dickinson) and backing vocals done by Doogie White (the last ever vocalist of Rainbow). (Maniac)

Mercury Records
it's only rock'n'roll but I like it!

Bon Jovi are back with a bang! After the poorly-received solo effort "Destination Anywhere" and a couple of years of total oblivion, Jon Bon Jovi has put his band back together, and here they are, riding high in the charts again. The first single "It's My Life" has become a huge hit in many countries, and now we have a full-length CD hot on the heels. As it has always been with Bon Jovi since the mid-1980s, each new album brings a different sound and a different taste in their music. (oh, yeah? --Ed.) 1995's "These Days" contained only three rocking tracks, the rest being depressing and melancholic ballads, very touching at times. "Crush" has a fairer share of rock songs, with the above-mentioned "It's My Life" and "One Wild Night" being the best. Both songs are great and in no way inferior to the famous "Living On A Prayer" or "Bad Medicine." These are also the heaviest tracks on the CD, and the only ones to appeal to those who like hard rock. The rest of the songs demonstrate solid rock music, very American, with obvious similarities with Bruce Springsteen, as it has been on "Keep The Faith" and "These Days." Some can also notice a few tracks with the elements of Brit-pop, and though the description may sound repulsive for many (I personally hate bands like Blur or Oasis), the songs are rather good. After all, the secret of Bon Jovi's success is that they've always been in the right time and the right place. Starting from the then-fashionable and fresh glam rock of the 80s, they moved to straight all-American rock on "Keep The Faith," then to the adult-oriented and pessimistic tunes on "These Days." Now that the band's oldest and ever-dedicated fans have reached 40, Bon Jovi come up with an album full of nostalgia, but recorded with the help of the present day's most advanced technologies. An album for those whose head is in the 2000's, but whose best and not forgotten days of youth coincided with the success of "Living On A Prayer."
P.S. Why only four points? I feel that something is lacking here, and this is a really good ballad. Where are the likes of "These Days" and "Bed Of Roses"? A really big and stinking fly in the ointment for me. (Maniac)

Deathrace King
Metal Blade

I got to know the band Crown of Thorns from the "Slaytanic Slaughter," part 1 where these Swedes played Slayer's Mandatory Suicide Then I encountered the band on another tribute this time it was "Sepultural Feast." The Guys appeared with their version of Sepultura hymn Arise. Time passes, the band had to change the name to simply The Crown 'cause of the other band with a similar name. On "Deathrace King," the fourth official release, we find an undoubted musical influence of the all-ever masters of heavy music Sodom and Iron Maiden. That needs an explanation - after listening to the record I caught myself on the idea it was a tribute but an unusual one. The Crown seem to play a 48 minutes tribute to Sodom and Iron Maiden. The first four songs are definitely Sodom (even something from "Code Red" can be found here - e.g. Executioner) and then the band step-by-step shifts to Iron Maiden (e.g. Rebel Angel). Now another aspect of the record is songs titles; take this for example "Deathexplosion," "Back from the Grave," "Blitzkrieg" - (oh no, not again! -- ed.) and Witchcraft. Now can you take anyone seriously after this? As for the playing technique it is excellent. The solos, the main riffs, the bass (it CAN be heard!) - everything is astonishing, but you always get this feeling, like IT WAS SOMEWHERE!? Four fists to the BFKACOT (band formerly known as Crown of Thorns).
P.S. I almost forgot to mention the guest musicians Tomas Lindberg (ex-AT THE GATES) and Mika Luttinen (IMPALED NAZARENE)
-- (Felix the Katt)

The Middle Kingdom
Hammerheart Records
folk/pagan metal

Usually you would not expect a band to make a four years' break after releasing their debut album, would you? Well, Cruachan are of a different opinion. Then again, we'll have to admit this band has its own opinion on everything, whether we like it or not. Having started in 1992 (if I'm not mistaken) as a pagan black metal act and releasing their debut LP (Tuatha Na Gael) on Nazgul's Eyrie Productions in 1995, Cruachan then somehow disappeared from the scene. Naturally a lot of rumours claiming the act disbanding spread along the campus. In the meantime, Cruachan have moved to a larger label, found a new lead singer - a female lead singer - and recorded a new album. So what do we have here? First and foremost, the black component is gone, making this a pagan-based metal release. It sets off with a long and magnificent bagpipe intro that sort of puts the listener into the right mood. The rest of the album features heavyish riffs with a well pronounced bass guitar all mixed with traditional Celtic instruments and keyboards. Some of the songs do sound like they are traditional Irish arrangements (at least I think I heard them on some folk compilations but I am not 100 percent sure about it.) The second drastic change worth mentioning is the much cleaner sound and much better mixing. I mean, Tuatha Na Gael had a really raw sound. I am not saying it was bad, because this sort of added to the underground vibe, but these things only work once. And well last but surely not least - the singing. This is the best thing I heard in this music since The 3rd and the Mortal's "Tears Laid in Earth." I guess the only drawback in The Middle Kingdom if compared to the previous release is the lack of them traditional Celtic drums that did suit the music perfectly. And well, yeah, this is a fans only record - but it is meant to be that way. (Troll)

Roadrunner Records
Whoa, baby, something does change in this world. No really seriously, I have been following the band since their blasting debut in 1990 that was followed by a less impactive Legion release and then by a totally mediocre Once Upon the Cross. The problem with me was that the band did not bother to introduce even a slight change or let alone innovative element to what they were doing always following one and the same pattern the invented back in the times when they were still known as Amon. Needless saying I missed the Serpents of the Light, not really expecting anything new and seriously considering the purchase would be nothing more than a money waste. This year, however, I thought I might try it out since I was doing the reviews anyway. Well do I have to say the result by far outmatched the initial expectations? The traditionally short 30-minutes-something album contains 10 catchy and brutal tracks, with highly professional but not excessive solos, pounding drums and the all-too-known and recognisable growling of Sir Glen Benton himself. The music has undergone substantial if not dramatic changes becoming much more complicated with an infinitude (or should we say infernitude in this case ;) of rhythm shifts, blast beats, and lots of other things that are new for the band. Moreover, despite the tongue-lashing Benton usually gives black metal in the press, the record contains a lot of elements and guitar paces that I would refer as black. There also seems to be a great deal of influence from Slayer, especially when it comes to song structures and harmonies. On the other hand it is still Deicide all right, so I do not really think that any of the die-hard fans of the band would start screaming sell-out upon the first listening. Lyrics-wise we are still where we have been for the past 10 years, spawning the word of Satan all over this putrid and disgusting universe. The mark is still one fist below the hit point since it takes too much time to get into the record, then again Benton has always said he wanted Deicide albums to be hard to comprehend and appreciate. (Troll)

gothic rock
It's hard to believe that Diabolique's mainman Kristian Wahlin, a prominent Swedish painter whose works grace many metal albums, once fronted a death metal band called Liers In Wait. "Butterflies" has nothing to do with death metal, or with metal at all. What he get here is gothic rock, pure and simple. I really mean simple, as all six songs on this record are very basic, and I was bored already by the end of the second track. If you've heard Tiamat's latest album ("Skeleton Skeletron"), you know everything about Diabolique even if you haven't heard a note from "Butterflies." But what was fresh and exciting on Tiamat's tracks like "As Long As You Are Mine," here sounds somewhat derivative. Beside this mini disc lacks variety, and all the songs are done in the same vein, which has never been the case with Tiamat. Another problem is the lyrics. Six songs about lost love and being broken hearted just did not convince me that Kristian actually felt what he was singing about. By the end of this 22-minute CD I was almost ready to forget about this release forever when I suddenly realised that I actually like it. There is something in it that began to grow on me and prevented me from dubbing it as crap. Though far from being outstanding, "Butterflies" still has something that makes you want to hear this apotheosis of rainy autumn sadness again. For the fans of gothic rock and gothic metal only. (Maniac)

Superheat - A Live Album
Century Media
gothic metal

When you buy a record by the Gathering, you don't expect something dramatically new and challenging. It is one of the bands that have found their own niche on the music scene and stick to it ever since. Such acts are usually supported by a limited, but dedicated circle of fans, but outside this circle, their chances are small. So a live album by the Gathering must definitely be a record for the fans. And this is exactly what we've got here. 10 songs running for a total of 65 minutes are taken from the band's last three releases, with the priority given to the material off the "How To Measure A Planet?" album. The best thing about this record is that it preserves the band's live vibe really great. This is indeed a live album, and it is recorded in a manner that you can very clearly imagine Anneke and her boys playing on stage. However the only song I could remember after the first spin of this disc was "Strange Machines" from 1995's "Mandylion." The rest of the tracks are also of very decent quality, but they do not really differ from each other and somehow blend in my mind into one long composition. Another problem is that it lacks tracks from the first two Gathering albums, recorded before Anneke joined the band. It would have been very interesting for me (and many more people, I guess) to hear them with female vocals and modern sound. Anyway, the album is fine in the form it has been released. A friend of mine said about the record, "It is a great music to make love to." I would also say that it makes a very good background for any kind of activities that demand thinking (does coitus really involve thinking?! -- ed.), but if you are feeling bad and want something to pull you together, stay away from it. (Maniac)

Solardisk Records
Hooray and hats off, everyone! The everlasting rivalry between the Swedes and the Finns is over! Alcohol and punk thrash metal unite the masses! The split sampler features four tracks (two each) from the well too known Finnish goat-raping lunatics and the younger but no less nasty Swedish misanthropic brutes. And boy are they grand! I mean this is just too much fun, for anyone to take it seriously, so never mind the bullocks. The only thing which troubles me, how come, two Osmose bands end up doing a sampler for another label? Nothing is really explained on either the Osmose or the Solardisk site, apart from one fact, all of the tracks were recorded exclusively for Solardisk and are not to be found anywhere else. But well, these are details, on with the tracks. Well those who have an idea about what Impaled Nazarene are about do not really need any specifications. (those who don't should not be reading this far). The Driller Killer, who are so far less known to the public, would require some extra explanations. Imagine thick distorted and extremely dirtily mixed punk riffs, played at the normal average speed (NAS) of thrash metal, cover it with pissed-off growling vocals and a lot of attitude and you'll get pretty close. Somehow, since it is a "VS" record, I'd say DK sound a bit fresher and livelier, then again, knowing Herra Luttinen and Co, they were probably just too drunk to pay attention. Four fists - one for each song ;) (Troll)

Napalm Records
folk metal
Lets face it - folk metal has already become a trend and every trend inevitably leads to parasiting. Well, sadly enough, this is definitely the case. Everything on this album starting from the sleeve artwork, that looks like it has been done by a student of an Adobe Photoshop for dummies course, and to the very last song is stupid. The lack of ideas on Feuertaufe is closing to a vacuum. Moreover, despite being plain boring, this is just a crappy record from every point of view possible. I mean, when you play trendy music you gotta be either the founder of it or, if yer not, you have to be real good at it. Morgenstern is neither of the two. Against the background of the masters such as the Irish Cruachan, the English Skyclad and the German In Extremo, the Dutch sextet is nothing but pathetic and absolutely unconvincing. Probably some people would think me too demanding, but I simply cannot be satisfied with mediocre quality, and when mediocre quality meets one hell of ambitions - this is the moment when it gets me. I just keep wondering how in drokks name Morgenstern have become the release of the week on the Napalm Records - seems like it has been the only release on that particular week... (Troll)

The Callous Concept
Damnation Records

First things first - I am really not sure about the release date of this album, so, please, if somebody out there knows when the Callous Concept was actually printed, be so kind as to drop me a note. I mean, I just do smell a rat here, but well it is always fun to let oneself get screwed up again, you know, like this relax, bend over and enjoy feeling, so what the hell Anyhows - on with the record. I guess there's something in this "-tion" thing that death metal artists seem to enjoy - Immolation, Incantation, Suffocation, Mortification do I really have to continue? Well Obtruncation here follows the old school Florida sound - brutal, thick, fast, aggressive and as straightforward as a goblin panzer attack, no more - no less. The lack of originality on the record is compensated by highly professional play and ideological loyalty. At the same time, I seriously doubt anyone would be able to remember any tune (beat?) from this album after the first listening. Lots of blastbeats, lots of nice riffs, well-timed solos and bad ass growling imminently lead to a comparison with Deicide or Malevolent Creation. This is the type of an album, where you go like, wait a minute! where did I hear this piece? Not really ripping off anyone, Obtruncation still cannot make it to the top-20 with their absence of musical innovation. Three fists this one (Troll)

Spinefarm Records
speed metal as it is meant to be
Another outstanding debut, this one. Finland's Sonata Arctica are the flagship of the new power/speed metal generation. If earlier bands like Stratovarius, Edguy, etc. were influenced by Helloween, Yngwie Malmsteen and other founders of the genre, this is the band that names Stratovarius among its main influences. Far from being simple copycats, Sonata Arctica prefer to concentrate on the faster and heavier side of Stratovarius, abandoning prog metal elements in favour of speed and raw energy. Songs in the vain of "Against The Wind" and "Father Time" constitute 75 percent of this disc. Add to it the neoclassical elements in the vein of Yngwie and a couple of slow tracks, which will probably be the favourites for many listeners, as they are truly beautiful and original. My favourites here are "Full Moon" and "Replica," but the rest of this 10-track CD comes very close to them, and I strongly recommend "Ecliptica" to all speed and power metal lovers. Nevertheless, after a prolonged period of thinking I decided to drop off 0.5 points from the final grade. The reason is that the band obviously doesn't even attempt at trading new grounds and prefers to perfect what has already been discovered by the others. When done right, such approach brings great results, and "Ecliptica" is a nice example of it. However this is not the approach I welcome, and I would be really happy to hear a record with more identity from Sonata Arctica next time. (Maniac)

Terror 2000
Slaughterhouse Supremacy
Scarlet records

The first listening to the record made me wonder "Hey Guys! Are you late for some place or something! Don't hurry - you won't be late." I'll explain what I mean by that. If the idea of circling a sprint track appeals to any of you guys and, moreover if you want to make it to the hi-scores you would definitely need this CD. The disk consists of 9 kill-everything-and-run tracks. Its duration is 32.07 and believe me that is enough. Now let's turn to the music itself. The band members seem be professionals who once being shown an exercise how to play a riff have mastered it so completely that they can't stop playing it in each and every song. I have never heard such speed from a metal band. The only song that appeared to be "half tempo" is the Crypt of Decay. If I didn't know that there was no such thing as a guitar-machine (derivative from a drum machine) I would definitely say that the music is based on the pre-made samples played by machines. No human can play like this. Nevertheless the Terror-2K-guys seem to have foreseen the fact that the velocity is good but the listener needs music. That's why we can find some very interesting solos, sometimes reminding of Slayer, some nice guitar/drums figures which sound a bit like those of Absurdus and Children of Bodom and stuff like that. Three plus. (Felix the Katt)

Napalm Records
commercial black
Nothing really special here, the standard popular black metal played in the standard Dimmu-Borgirish way but without keyboards, or, to be more precise, very little of those. With pretty good and catchy riffs here and there, well and clean mixed, Third Moon, would not really strike anyone as major exciting or unexpected. Given the current popularity of the trend, this album goes like all of them Hollywood movies when you exactly know what is going to happen/be said the next instance. Not really a waste of time, but nothing major either. The band seems to have quite a potential professional wise, but if they continue following the trend without trying to put anything of their own into, they are going to sink in the oblivion together with dozens of other bands in the field. 'Nuff said. (Troll)


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