MADE OF HATE – PATHOGEN (REVIEW)

Out Now – AFM Records

Proggy melodic metal with a really lame grunt. That about sums up Made Of Hate’s new opus.

 Instrumentally, there’s a lot to like. The songs are varied, the musicians competent. Everything is ruined however by the discount grunt of singer Radek. Imagine a more melodic version of Arch Enemy with a kind of hardcore grunt. A choice excerpt of the biography : Radek’s voice and his singing is unique and absolutely brilliant! Unique? Hardly. Brilliant? Not even remotely.

 For the instrumental part of the album : 75% (with better production they’d have reached 80)
For the vocals : 0%

Combined score : 35% rounded up.

HELSTAR – GLORY OF CHAOS (REVIEW)

Released 5th November 2010 on AFM Records

James Rivera has been regaling us with Helstar albums since the early eighties. After a break where James engaged in several other projects, Helstar has been an ongoing concern once more since the turn of the century.

You know what to expect with a Helstar release : fast old school metal. James is an adherent of the Rob Halford school of metal singing, but has an identity all his own that never fails to shine through.

And yes, this album does not stray. Solid heavy metal that checks all the necessary boxes. Menacing vocals, thundering riffs, shreddy guitar leads. All present and accounted for. The only difference between Helstar albums really is the level of creativity in the songwriting. While there’s not a lot of variation between the tunes (there’s only so much you can do in the heavy metal idiom), all of the songs more than make the cut. A good balance between fast and slow tracks keeps the album interesting ‘til the last. When the band puts the pedal to the metal they are sometimes reminiscent of a tighter, more evolved, version of Exciter.

A rock solid metal album that puts most European so-called power metal bands to shame.

Review – 88%
Review by Sancho

SEVEN THE HARDWAY – S/T (REVIEW)

Out Now on Mascot Records

Seven the Hardway is a 5-piece progressive rock/metal band formed in 2009 by guitar virtuoso Tony MacAlpine (Steve Vai, Planet X, CAB), legendary drummer Virgil Donati (Planet X) and renowned vocalist Mark Boals (Uli Jon Roth, Royal Hunt, Yngwie Malmsteen).  Joining MacAlpine, Donati and Boals are bass player Doug Shreeve and 21 year old Argentinian newcomer Stefanía Daniel on guitar though this pair according to the complete lack of their names in any capacity on the inlay booklet suggest they have joined after completion of the album for live work as Macalpine is also credited with bass on the album in addition to Guitar and keyboards.

This 10 track debut album has been mixed by Roy Z and is a completely different kettle of fish to when the core trio last collaborated in the neo-classical band Ring Of Fire.  Musically this is being marketed as progressive yet alternative metal might well be a better genre to go with.  Vocally this is far away from anything I have really heard from Boals.  Gone is the trademark operatic wail to be replaced by a much darker timbre and in the case of opener “Liar” a bit of an need to be Layne Staley and Jerry Cantrell rolled into one with Alice In Chains style vocal harmonies.  Not what was expected at all. 

The vocal weirdness is prevalent pretty much throughout the album yet hits its nadir with the mock rapping of “Guilt” – yes really.  The AIC ism’s return for “Solitary Man” over a nice odd time signature dirge of a riff from T-Mac which does fare a little better.    The dark acoustic tone of “Where I’m Going” is better, yet “All I Had” is trying to be modern metal and is a complete write-off to these ears and I have to ask, Is Boals singing off key on purpose?   “Blame” plays around a riff the likes of Soundgarden might get away with yet lacks any staying power.  “The Wall” offers up hope with a faster tempo and is as progressive as the album gets in its musicality and even Boals appears to be trying a little harder here, yet we are treated (cough) to some vocal fx just in-case we might get a hint of the Boals of old, or so it feels like.  And so the album progresses until closure, and nothing manages to raise the quality level.

When I first received this album I was rather excited.  3 of my favourite musicians over the years, who have made excellent music both collectively and individually in the past, this should have been good.  That excitement quickly disappeared.  Vocally its dated already, perhaps more so than Boals operatic wailings from the Yngwie days, musically there is the odd peak but not anywhere near enough to maintain any real interest.  Progressive fans will find this samey and dare I say it bland, modern alternative metal fans will most likely look at the personnel and dismiss it straight away and the grunge boat sailed 15 years ago so it’s hard to see what audience this will appeal to?  Perhaps I am missing the point completely? All I know is that is a huge disappointment from start to finish and is topped off by poor artwork, which coincidentally bears no resemblance to the look being portrayed on the bands new website!

 A major major letdown.

Rating – 30%

KATSU OHTA OF ARK STORM INTERVIEW (ARCHIVE)

Interview conducted June 2005

About The Interview.
Katsu Ohta is one of the star players of the blossoming Japanese neo-classical metal scene.  Katsu is the guitarist and leader of Ark Storm who are becoming quite a sensation on the Japanese metal scene, to date only one of their 3 albums have been released outside their native Japan, but we manageed to track down Katsu and find out his thoughts on the band, their excellent latest album ‘The Everlasting Wheel’ and find out what else if going to happen in 2005.

The interview was the first interview done by Katsu in English and to the best of my knowledge perhaps the only one.  It’s been a steady favourite over the years in terms of hits at the old site so its fitting its kept on here on the new home.

Many thanks to Nikki Matsumoto for translating Katsu’s answers and assistance with arranging the interview.

Katsu, many thanks for agreeing to this interview. First, I would like to congratulate you on “The Everlasting Wheel”; it’s a superb slice of neo-classical metal. When did you start writing for the album?
Thanks to you too. I started writing material for the album back in January of 2004. I came up with about 15 songs in the next 4 months.

What does your writing process normally involve?
It depends really. But I normally come up with a melody for a singer or start chunking a guitar riff and take it from there. One of these 2 patterns normally. And when I hand out a song to the rest of the band, it is usually near completion as far as arrangements and melody go.

How long did it take to record?
It took about 20 days for the recording, not counting the hours of pre-production rehearsals for the recording.

What did set out to achieve with this album?
I wanted to have a meaning and as the album title suggests, the meaning Of eternity was what I had in mind. I wasn’t really concerned about anything else.

I hear a slightly more streamlined and commercial album compared to “Beginning Of The New Legend“, was this an aim of the album?
No, it was not something we intended to do. But we built the whole production with mainly melodies in mind. The melody line was the key for the song writing. So I am not surprised that people feel the sense of commercialism to some degree. We just did what we wanted to do as Ark Storm on our own way. And the result just happened this way naturally. It may fit into the current trend or whatever but it wasn’t aimed anyway intentionally.

How has the reaction been to the album in Japan?
We have been getting quite pleasant reaction from the fans, it’s been really good. The fan basis is growing and getting bigger and bigger day by day  as it seems. But the Japanese HM magazines don’t give us good evaluation, even though the fans are supporting us and spreading bigger.

What are your thoughts now on “Beginning Of The New Legend” and “No Boundaries”?
I feel like there had been so much left undone. I am not satisfied completely with any of those pieces. But that is how I should feel probably. I never ever get totally content with my work. If I ever did, it would be pretty much the end of my aspiration. I always find something new when I’mwriting or playing.

“Beginning Of The New Legend” was released in Europe, are there any plans to release “The Everlasting Wheel” outside Japan?
It’s all up to the record company. But I have not heard anything on that matter.

How did you hook up with the other members of Ark Storm?
I selected them on my own, one by one. I wanted real professionals, you know. Before the release of the first album, it was hard to find right musicians. I wanted the best of the Japanese when the time for the second album was approaching. So I got them now.

What made you want to play guitar?
One of my uncles gave me a real old trashy classical guitar and that was the start.

I see you use Scalloped Stratocasters, what made you start using a scalloped neck and why?
I started it because I liked Ritchie Blackmore and Uli Jon Roth when he was with the Scorpions. Now I still use scalloped neck all the time because It gives me the vibrato I want.

There’s a couple of Marshall Amps on your website, what models do you use and are there any modifications done to them?
It’s a 1978 Marshall 100w. The guitar technician of my own modifies it mainly on the tones.

What effect / overdrive pedals do you use?
It depends, case by case. But most of the times, I use a DOD or a Tube Screamer by Ibanez. Those two are my main effects.

Does the band have any plans to record a live album / DVD?
There is no plan for it as far as I’m concerned. But I do want to release DVDs.

What else does the band have planned for 2005?
We are going to start another Japanese tour in October.

Anything else you would like to tell the readers of virtuosity one?
I want you to experience Ark Storm, please get your copy anyway you can. And if that will take us there to tour in Europe, the rest will follow. I really really hope to see you at Ark Storm concert.

Katsu, many thanks for your time.
My pleasure. Thanks you all.

Official Ark Storm website – http://home.att.ne.jp/kiwi/arkstorm/

JON OLIVA’S PAIN – FESTIVAL (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

Out Now on AFM Records
 
The legendary Savatage vocalist is back with his fourth solo album and after a slight disappointment in the song writing on the previous effort “Global Warming”, the new effort sees the song writing come back up to par. Unfortunately this is hampered by a somewhat slightly muddy production where you get the impression the power is held back just a little. Fortunately this doesn’t distract too much for this 10 tracks of metal goodness.

Jon is fine voice screaming out the best I have heard him in a few years with opener “Lies” seeing all kinds of spite and vitriol hitting the mic. “Death Rides A Black Horse” is suitably epic and a highlight, being home to a superb middle solo section where the dark vibe is lethally good. The title track continues the good work with a Blackmore-ish riff. “Afterglow” sees the band get slow and doomy and this wouldn’t be out of place on the last Heaven & Hell effort. “Living On The Edge” doesn’t offer up any relent from the sonic assault and its nice to see Jon keeping the level balls to the wall for the first half of the album. “Looking For Nothing” sees some respite for this acoustic ballad whilst the prettiness is blown out the water with the pounding “The Evil Within” which is a riff-fest pure and simple. “Winter Haven” is about as close as the album gets to later day Savatage and even has a little Led Zep about it in places and is a very nice addition. “I Fear You” is back to the more straightforward sound, yet has a nice dose of melody to it whilst the delicate “Now” offers a nice sense of closure to album being the kind of power ballad Jon excels at.

With his fourth solo effort Jon Oliva is right back on course where the first couple of Pain albums left off, for the most part straight ahead and powerful. Classic Metal done with a nod to the present but an appreciation of the past. Jon’s voice is one of the most unique and soulful in metal and it’s nice to hear him belting it out once again. Savatage and TSO fans will enjoy this as will the casual metal fan.

Highly Recommended.
Rating – 88%

JON OLIVA’S PAIN INTERVIEW (ARCHIVE)

About The Interview
Jon Oliva’s Pain should need no introduction to anyone with a passing interest in metal. Led by one of the most talented and charismatic vocalists the band are taking up the reigns left by the legacy of Savatage. Now four albums in the band have delivered the best album of their career in ‘Festival. We caught up with drummer/producer Chris Kinder to discuss the bands’ beginnings, the new album in great detail and much more. Jon Oliva’s Pain – Festival is out now on AFM Records.

Interview conducted 24th February 2010

Chris, many thanks for taking the time to talk to Virtuosity One.
“My pleasure Andy..…! Thanks for having me.”

Your background is in Circle II Circle. Some might see it as a no-brainer then that the personnel from the band would for the basis for Jon Oliva’s Pain, yet can you tell us how you personally got the nod as it were?
“Well, all the Jon Oliva’s Pain band were playing with Zak (Stevens) in C2C actually including me, and Jon asked us to be his back-up band at the ‘Criss Oliva Memorial Show’ first of all….. It really just went from there! Soon after that, we parted ways with Zak and that management and Jon called us the very next day and asked us if we wanted to make a record together? Obviously, that was a very easy decision to make!”

When was this?
“Literally, right after the ‘Criss Oliva Show”.

How did it feel knowing you would be working with Jon?
“Amazing…. And I still appreciate it everyday! You can’t imagine it being any better really! I was going to be working with one of my favourite singer, songwriters and getting the once in a lifetime chance to work with one of the very, very best! What a blessing!”

Here we are 6 years on from the debut JOP album, the new album “Festival” is out on Feb 22nd here in the UK, personally I feel this is fine return to form after the slightly disappointing ‘Global Warming’, how do you as a member of the band feel about the new album?
“I love this record and I feel it is a very big statement from all of us that proves we have come together relaxed and un-afraid to take chances this time. Plus, I feel Jon’s comfort zone with the band and us, with his song writing, allows us to explore and push ourselves musically as far as we can. Songs are like recipes; it takes the right chef and his cooks to put all of those elements together. It takes time, and is not always easy. Look at any great band in history and you will always find a growth period before the stars align and everyone is firing on all cylinders. This is “Festival”!

When did you initial begin working on the new album?
“Typically for us, it took quite a while, possibly as much as a year? First there were the ubiquitous demos in our studio – we’re always doing those. And, this time Jon O. spent a lot of time writing while on tour in 2009 also, which is quite unusual… Then it’s back to our studio, recording more demos and giving the rest of the band a chance to improve the songs…., before we finally sat down at Morrisound and put the whole thing together. It’s a real team effort for sure!”

Jon is famous for still working on an old 4 track machine for his initial ideas, what raw state did you first hear the material in?
“4 track….? No shit! He is still using one of those silly hand-held cassette recorders…. I am not kidding! It’s a real trip trying to put his ideas down into something listenable….. But it’s a very funny and enjoyable process at the same time.”

How does the process work from getting the rough demos to the final product? At what stage of the process do you come in?
“Well, I’m always involved in the process from day one Andy… Being given a rare opportunity to produce Oliva’s music is something that was a real blessing and I work hard to earn his respect every day. In the beginning, Oliva and I try to capture as many of his ideas as we can – we spend hours doing demos and playing with ideas, assembling them into useable demos, then those demo’s go on to the rest of the band for their input…. Matt (LaPorte) is a very important part of the process, he’s amazingly creative in the studio…”

What do you see as your role in the recording process?
“See above… As a producer, I am fully involved in every aspect of formulating Jon’s riffs into cohesive, well-written songs that offer the rest of the band (and his vocals) the chance to breath and take on a life of their own. I am fortunate to be there every step of the way helping Jon and the rest of the band to create the very best music we possibly can. It’s an awesome experience each and every record.”

How do you go about working on your rhythm parts with Kevin Rothney?  Are you guys working constantly on getting and keeping it tight or is all quite natural?
“Well, Kevin and I have been playing together for nearly 20 years, so it is as seamless and as natural a process as you could ever ask for. He is a fantastic bass player with perfect meter and pocket. Nothing can create that without years and years of playing together. It’s almost like having a twin; you’re always in synch no matter what. We’ve gotten to the point now where we don’t even rehearse the records together before we go in, and we cut our tracks at the same time. With all the producing duties I have leading up to the recording, I only have time to work on my own parts and I have to trust that Kevin and I will bring all that together without any problems whatsoever… And we do!”

How long did your drum tracks take to record and is this an average sort of time for you?
“I think it took 4 days or so, which is very common for us. We don’t rush the process and try all kinds of alternate rhythms and fills until we are completely satisfied. There’s no point, when you have your own studio, setting too many goals – leave that until you reach the main, final studio session and nail it then!”

How do you like to prepare for the days when you are recording?
“It’s pretty straightforward these days….. I usually warm up for 30-40 minutes to get the bones moving freely. It’s not always easy to start recording at 10:00 am after you’ve been at the studio the night before ‘til way after midnight, but it’s really quite a smooth operation nowadays, I guess?”

Is Jon present at all recording stages and does he offer you advice as to what he would like the drums to do or do you have relative free reign on this aspect?
“He sure is. He will leave me and the Morris brothers (at Morrisound) alone during tracking and once we are happy, we bring him in to hear the tracks and make adjustments….. It’s a great team. We’ve been to Morrisound quite a few times now, everyone knows us, and it’s about as smooth an operation as you could wish for. Jon is a good drummer actually and always has good ideas. So, I welcome his input.”

What size kit did you use for the sessions?
“Well, this CD gave me the chance to use my new Ddrum ‘Dominion Ash’ kit. That’s Double Bass, 6 toms, and a healthy variety of cymbals and percussion, ha! ha! I like having as many options as possible at my disposal. The new kit is fantastic and I thank Ddrum once again for bringing me into the family and providing me with the drums I really needed for this record.”

When you have finished up your parts is that you done in the studio or do you stay around to hear the album get completed?
“Well, like I said before, as producer, I’m there right the way through, but even if I wasn’t producing, I think I’d be like everyone else. It’s a full time job for 3 or 4 months for everyone, and what a Killer job it is!”

Jon sounds vitalised on the new material – quite angry in fact, which is great to hear as a fan of his voice in full belt.  What are your favourite tracks on the new album?
“You know, He is an angry man…He ! He! And one of the nicest people you could ever meet at the same time. He is really enjoying what JOP is doing these days and he is indeed energized by the music we are creating. His voice is in amazing shape and there is nothing he can’t sing. Favourites for me are “Lies”, “Afterglow” (a real moment of Oliva genius!), “Death Rides A Black Horse” and “The Evil Within”, but in the end, I love the entire record. In our minds, we don’t just write songs…we write records that are meant to be listened to from start to finish. In fact, you need to listen to our albums several times over before you even begin to see all the facets of them, and I love that!”

How do you view “Festival” compared to the previous 3 releases?
“Really, as a more cohesive body of work… The band is really in its prime right now. There were a lot of great songs on all the previous CD’s, it’s seldom Jon ever writes a bad song, and we don’t let those ideas go forward, but this one has an element to it which is just that bit stronger; more close to the grain, really enthused…!”

Any touring plans on the horizon?
“Yes… For sure! A Euro-Festival run and a full on tour in the fall is all booking right now, with the filming of our live JOP DVD at the 013 in Tilburg, Holland on October 15th….. It’s going to awesome! Can’t wait to get started!”

Anything else you’d like to add for our readers.
“Sure… We hope that our hard work and the final product reach your ears with a grand reception. This record is a true festival of music and emotions, something for everybody. See you on the road in 2010 and thanks again for all the support and encouragement!”

OFFICIAL WEBSITES
http://www.jonoliva.net
http://www.myspace.com/jonoliva

JOE SATRIANI – BLACK SWANS AND WORMHOLE WIZARDS (REVIEW)

It is incomprehensible how Joe Satriani can continue to mine the depths of his soul and pull out magnificent riffs and melodies. For that fact alone, Joe must be recognized as one of the geniuses of our time. After his eighteen month Chickenfoot hiatus wherein Joe was able to step back, enjoy typical band life and not have the 24/7 task of being “the man”, Joe returns with a complex masterful product on this latest effort. Many feel this is Joe’s strongest release since “Crystal Planet”, they are not wrong.

The album is replete with soaring melody, intricate counterpoint, lyrical chorus and damned fine guitar work. Highlights? The whole album is excellent, there is something for everyone. Newcomers Alan Whitman and particularly Mike Keneally, the crafty veteran help churn this along very nicely indeed. Kudos to Joe for landing Mike, the music takes a quantum leap high up into the stratosphere from the rootsy depths of Chickenfoot to soar majestically. How cool would it be in a live setting to have Joe and Mike swap instruments? Guys, it is doable. Jeff Campitelli, as always, is crisp, concise and powerful but one cannot help but wonder what a Simon Phillips may have done with these tunes.

The band is currently touring this release and the album and the live show are both well worth your time and dosh. Joe, if there are more like this to come, by all means unleash your magical musical palette upon us yet again. Well done, well done indeed….

Rating – 90%
Review by Mike “Flying In A Canuck Dream” Blackburn

GEORGE BELLAS – THE DAWN OF TIME (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

After the previous 78 minute one track effort of the hard to get into ‘Step Into The Future’, world acclaimed guitar virtuoso George Bellas has seen fit to make things more accessible this time giving us 19  tracks for our 79 minutes of listening time.  Obviously George is not short of material or inspiration, with the music proving that he is in the most inspired shape of his career as this is an absolute cracker from start to finish.  That said as Bellas has handled everything on this album himself with the exception of drums coming from Marco Minnemann he proves he is also a master of bass and keyboards also.

Seeing fit to deliver an album consisting of elements from across his career means forays into neo-classical tinted explorations as well as highly progressive skilled compositions gives us the best of both worlds for anyone with a passing interest in George’s career which began on Shrapnel Records in the mid 90’s.

Not only has Bellas looked over his career but also strived to improve things sonically too and this album is a beautiful work of art not only in composition but also production.  Shunning the current trend to overload an CD with volume ‘The Dawn Of Time’ is a god send for lovers of dynamics (even if it means you have to reach to turn your volume control/slider up) with Bellas virtually eschewing compressors for the albums creation.  The album has a wonderful sense of space and breathes beautifully, to top it off Bellas tone has been captured so purely tone fanatics will be drooling over this.

Highlights of the album come in almost every track from the simplistic (by Bellas standards) opener ‘Cyclone’ which will draw you in with its neo-classical feel, before the more progressive time signatures of ‘Seeding The Universe’ makes you wonder how George does it.  The neo-classical edge comes back with the glorious ‘Let There Be Light’ which is home to an absolute scorcher of a solo with tone to die for, rich in harmonics yet not overloaded with gain, the sound really shows that its all in the fingers and Bellas makes the string moan, cry and scream big time here.  The title track is home to advanced time signatures which Bellas manages to make sound easier than the average 4/4 before the stripped down almost easy approach of ‘Machine Man’ with its deep bass guitar sound (again tone to die for folks) and Hammond organ make a fine backdrop for Bellas to work his guitar magic over with some eastern tonalities and some Zeppelin style orchestrations. 

‘Voyage To Triangulum’ is a slow minor blues progression allowing George to get all emotional on us and the result is pure beauty. ‘Mysterious Light’ is one of the most experimental tracks on the album being mostly orchestral with space age fx, before the Bach n roll of ‘Mystical Dream’ will please fans of Malmsteen/Uli Roth etc, again the solo section is pure aural ecstasy for lovers of guitar.

‘Glimmering Stardust’ is another absolute highlight building throughout its journey where again the bass guitar and drums of Marco Minnemann (Paul Gilbert) are a joy to behold building with piano flurries.  The solo that begins at 2:09 is so emotionally charged it brought a lump to my throat such is the soul on offer here.  This coupled with the lone guitar over soft chordal backings really showcases how well Bellas has captured his new found tone and again the result is nothing short of stunning.

‘Electromagnetic’ has an almost 70’s rock vibe ala Focus to it with its pulsating rhythm and Hammond organ, it’s an easy track to digest too and a nice fusion of styles.  ‘Genesis Of Life’ harks back to the progressive territories explored on his ‘Planterary Alignment’ album with some nice synth work whilst ‘Carbon Creature’ is dark, with a fine sense of impending doom about it allowing Bellas to deliver some lush classical sounding melodies. The joyful light and air of ‘Suns Of Andromeda’ is a nice contrast to its predecessor and wouldn’t be out of place on an Uli Jon Roth album.  Trumpet fanfares introduce ‘We Are Not Alone’ which has an Uli vibe about it also thanks to its beautifully worked vibrato and stunning note choice.

‘Nightmare Awoken’ is the heaviest track on offer in terms of rhythm guitar with a riff that sounds like vintage Malmsteen yet Yngwie would never be this bold when it comes to the lead guitar patterns which sees Bellas maintaining a neo-classical edge yet eschewing all the stock motifs made famous by Yngwie.  ‘Primordial Atom’ is like Mozart on steroids and here Bellas is really smoking tempo wise in his lead work.  ‘Metropolis’ then takes a radical change of direction being built around a groovy bass line which leads into a nice new sound that adds another string to Bellas’ armoury. The delicate major tonality and laid back tempo of ‘Always At My Side’ yields more fine melodies and a sense of calm before the progressive and heavily orchestrated closer ‘The Angels Are Calling’ sees the album out.

I have written a lot about the music on offer on ‘The Dawn Of Time’ the music on offer is worthy of much more and its been a sheer delight listening to this album numerous times in run up to the review. 

With ‘The Dawn Of Time’ George Bellas has delivered his magnum opus and this is a stunning all round release.  Yes there is a lot to absorb, but there is also enough here to draw you in on first listen and from then you will be hooked.  George Bellas has proven himself to be the guitar virtuoso of 2010 and despite living in a different time and playing in a different genre deserves to be remembered as we do now with the likes of Mozart, Bach, Lennon and McCartney.  This is timeless music of undisputed quality making it definitive George Bellas.
 
Hot Spots : Pretty much the whole damn thing.
Rating : 98%

CRYSTAL VIPER – LEGEND (REVIEW)

After their frankly not so brilliant live album, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to reviewing this new offering by Polish band Crystal Viper.

Thankfully, the band fares better in a studio environment. They’re not nearly as ramshackle as the live album would have you believe. This album is an instant flashback to the earliest Noise Records releases. You’ll find yourself thinking of Helloween, Running Wild, Tyran Pace…

Singer Marta manages to hit the right notes most of the time but her voice remains bland and lacking in power. She surprises in the ballad “Sydonia Bork” though with a very good performance. Some of the tunes border on the banal, a case in point would be “Goddess Of Death” with its faux-folk (is that faulk?) guitar harmonies. I know this is a staple in a lot of metal, but it does absolutely nothing for me. Not Marta’s best performance either.

I can only assume most of the guitar solos were handled by Andy Wave, who does a very good job. On the live album one of the guitarists fell way short of the mark, but it isn’t quite as noticeable here.

Production is good overall, the artwork is professional… If you’re into old school metal you might want to check this album out. There’s a couple of serious duffers among the songs, but these are balanced by some decent head banging fare. Check out “A Man Of Stone” for instance.

A pleasant surprise after the dreary live album, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.

Rating – 70%
Review by Sancho

SYMPHONY X – PARADISE LOST (ARCHIVE REVIEW)

Symphony X return after 5 years with the highly anticipated “Paradise Lost” which many fans hoped would see the band return somewhat to their classic “Damnation Game”/”Divine Wings Of Tragedy” sound.  It more or less goes without saying that the bands rapid fans will buy this regardless of what critics say so this review is aimed more for the un-initiated.  Simply said Symphony X have proved over the last decade or so that they are one of the best bands in the progressive metal genre and “Paradise Lost” is an excellent starting point for anyone yet to sample the bands brand of metal.  Gloriously pompous with lush orchestral keyboards arrangements by Michael Pinella, sublime guitar riffs and solos from one of Metal’s best players in Michael Romeo, a superb rhythm section of drummer Jason Rullo and bassist  Michael Anthony LePond all topped off with arguably one of metals best vocalists since Ronnie James Dio in Russell Allen

Instrumental opener “Oculus ex Inferni” is complex and film score like before “Set The World On Fire (The Lie of Lies” comes hurtling out the gates of hell with an intensity and purpose that it totally satisfying.  “Domination” begins with a complex bass guitar part which is then backed up Romeo and crew and it’s another all round sonic delivery with massive riffs, soaring vocals and a tightness rarely heard – this is metal with spirit and a highlight.  “The Serpents Kiss” repeats the previous tracks overall hugeness with its scolding main riff yet the band allow melody to also shine in tandem.  The title track “Paradise Lost” is another in the line of magical Symphony X compositions that the band throw into nearly every album which is a very special own brand of melodic progressive with numerous sections and beautiful melody which grows as it progresses and Russell Allen’s vocals are truly mesmerising.  “Eve Of Seduction” sees the band work through some complex instrumental patterns before another manic riff which even Pantera fans would get a massive kick out of.  “The Walls Of Babylon” is complex in arrangement yet quite digestible thanks to one of Allen’s best vocals on the album and its a definite highlight with all the Symphony X ingredients here in abundance.  “Seven” sees some neo-classical inflections which is sure to please fans of the bands earlier releases.  Here Romeo’s guitar and Pinella’s keyboards are unleashed to dramatic effect before Michael Anthony LePond lays downs a complex bass line, Romeo surprisingly delivers a very short and relatively simple solo before launching back into the main riff.  “The Sacrifice” sees the band return to grand epic majestic tone which again is a sheer sonic treat in all respects and another vocal master display from Allen.  “Revelation (Divus Pennae Ex Tragoedia)” ends the album on a definite high with a riff count high enough to win gold medal at the riff Olympics, yet luckily this is also backed up by more delicious melodies all topped with a grandiose extended middle instrumental section where each band member shines.

With “Paradise Lost”, Symphony X has made the album many fans felt they needed to make.  After 2 relatively ordinary albums (by their own standards) with “The Odyssey” and “V: The New Mythology Suite” this new work seems them return to the quality heard on their classic earlier albums yet with the best elements from the aforementioned “Odyssey/New Mythology”.  Simply said the wait has been worth it and this is an essential purchase for long-term fans and newbie’s alike.  Welcome back.

RATING  – 94%

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