TOMMY VITALY – JUST ME

Out now on Ice Warrior Records

Italialian guitarist Tommy Vitaly is perhaps best known for his work with power metal band Seven Gates, yet has stepped out on his own for “Just Me”, a neo-classically inspired slice of metal. Backed up by some impressive names in vocalist Thomas Vikström (Stormwind), drummer Rhino (ex Manowar), bassist Andrea Torricini (ex Vision Divine) and some guest keyboard solos from Vitalij Kuprij (Artension, TSO) and Mistheria (solo, Rob Rock) the omens look good.

Unfortunately the hype suggested by the personnel is never really lived up to. The first thing to hit you is a poor mix which sees clipping on the bass guitar and bass drums and a very narrow sound spectrum. When the guitar is a dominant force like it is in neo-classical metal this has better be good, yet Tommy’s tone lacks harmonic content and depth and is as bland as dry toast.

On the song front vocalist Thomas Vikström screeches his way through the formulaic “Fly High Touch The Sky” which is home to every stock power metal motif in the book and sounds like a bad Helloween cover band truth be told. The other vocal track, “Ready To Die” fares a little better but once again the song writing is generic with a repetitive chorus that never really sells itself and on the whole its nothing special.  The instrumental side of things does fare better with “Storm Of Fire” being Malmsteen-esque in approach and the anthemic “Finally Free” showing off a nice melody. “The Fury” does what it says and is high in energy and showcases that Tommy can play having some nice unison runs with Kuprij.

Overall a fairly average debut, Tommy can play though and hopefully the quality control in production will be higher and the song writing will showcase more originality next time round.

Rating – 60%

ANGELS OF BABYLON – KINGDOM OF EVIL (ARCHIVE)

Out now on Metal Heaven

Angels Of Babylon are a new band consisting of drummer Rhino (ex Manowar), bassist Dave Ellefson (ex Megadeth), vocalist David Fefolt (who sang on the Masi album Downtown Dreamers back in the late 80’s) and guitarist Ethan Brosh (who released an instrumental offering last year). A promising line-up in terms of personnel who have come up with 10 tracks on their debut “Kingdom Of Evil”.

Unfortunately the album never really gets out of mediocre in the song department with a collection of classic metal inspired tracks that don’t really say anything to me. The performances are generally good throughout, although Fefolt’s vocals are gruffer than I remember and do grate a little after a while. Brosh delivers some good lead work but never does it show anything other than competence with little personality. Rhino and Ellefson do little more than keep things solid and there is an overall lack of flair in the material here making this heavy going for the most part with only the middle trio of heavy metal ballad of “Tear Out My Heart”, the driving “Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen” and the grooving “Tarot” pulling themselves out of the department marked mediocre.

Whether there is enough quality here to sustain a career is in serious question, on paper everything looks good but this debut is filled with too many plodders, one dimensional performances and an overall lack of excitement – not helped by a dark production which does little to add excitement to the proceedings. Be sure to check out some clips on the bands myspace before shelling out your pennies.

Rating -50%

ROSS THE BOSS – HAILSTORM (REVIEW)

The debut Ross The Boss album could have been the best Manowar album in years, if only Eric Adams had been there to fulfill vocal duties. Concise heavy metal songs with Ross’ meat and potatoes guitar playing, a competent band and a solid if unremarkable production. The only let down were indeed the vocals. These songs cried out for Adams’ masterful pipes, and precious few singers are up to the task… The follow up offers up the same recipe, but with some adjustments.

In keeping with the trend of the last several years, everything is a bit more bombastic.  The songs aren’t quite as catchy, but Ross sprinkles them with loads of Manowar references (there’s a riff in Burn Alive that owes more than a little to Death Tone, for example). The choruses are mostly Teutonic and should see the horns raised on festivals like Keep It True.

Singer Patrick Fuchs, who put in a respectable performance on the debut, seems to be straining more this time around. I don’t know what happened to Ross’ guitar sound, but this distortion-pedal-into-the-mixing-board type  of tone is inexcusable in 2010. His playing is naturally up to par but that tone really distracts from my enjoyment.

While this is really not a bad heavy metal album it’s flawed in the details. Not up to the level set by its predecessor.

Rating – 70%
Review by Sancho