MASTERCASTLE – DANGEROUS DIAMONDS

Out now on Lion Music

Third strike from the Italian metallers in as many years, and for the most part it’s a case of more of the same.  So all present and correct are Georgia Gueglio’s impassioned METAL vocals (none of your goth croonings here thankfully), sharp guitar riffs and solos from Pier Gonella and a driving rhythm section of bassist Steve Vawamas and drummer Alessandro Bissa.

The production is uncluttered and to the point, very powerful but rather dry with it. This does help propel to 4 piece feel though and it’s a powerful uninhibited metal production the like you would have got before reverb got out of control in the 80s.

11 tracks which for the most part of driven pieces of metal from the fast paced opener “Another Flower” to closer “Bitter & Sweet”.  There are more melodic moments like the mid-tempo commerciality of “Time 4 Lovers” and the ballad “Lovin Me” whilst Gonella gets to showcase his six string skills on “Blue Diamond” which is well done.

Criticisms? A couple in so much as some of the tempos are a little too similar in places although this is evened out by the variation in riffs, also Gonella’s use of the wah can be a little too frequent, using it more sparingly would enhance its effect somewhat. But overall this is another solid effort on a par with last years “Last Desire”.

Simply put Mastercastle write accessible metal with little pretence and 3 albums in have an identifiable sound.

Recommended.

Rating – 88%

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VARIOUS ARTISTS – EMBRACE THE SUN : THE LION MUSIC JAPAN BENEFIT PROJECT

Out now on Lion Music

In what has seems to be somewhat of a trend amongst record labels since the terrible earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 here we have the first benefit album to be announced in the metal community from Lion Music.

Whilst it may not have been the first to be released when you delve into its 2CD contents you realise that perhaps more care and true feeling has gone into this release than many of its ilk.  For starters the vast majority of the material here was written specifically for this release which sees all label, publishing and artist royalties being donated to the Japan Red Cross.  This key difference to many other benefit albums (which you felt just culled together any old unreleased tracks from artists to get it out as quickly as possible), “Embrace The Sun” lends a higher quality of material, not to mention a more personalised and sincere sound to the music on offer.

With 28 of some of Lion best known names contributing there is a plenty to enjoy here across a wide spectrum of artists on the labels roster with tracks coming from Mattsson, Iron Mask, Anthriel, Dreyelands, Mastercastle, Overdrive and Section A amongst others.

Guitar fans are well catered for with tracks from Milan Polak, Jennifer Batten and Marco Sfogli not to mention the closing guitar jam track which sees contributions from notables such as  Francesco Fareri (Virtual Mind), Daniel Palmqvist (ex The Murder Of My Sweet), Simone Fiorletta (No Gravity), Dave Martone and Borislav Mitic.

Highlights are often and plentiful making this 28 track collection a real joy to listen to.  Personal favourites include  Milan Polak’s excellent “End Of Time” sees guest appearances from Kip Winger, Ron Thal, Pete Lesperance, and Harry Hess, whilst Dreyelands continue the excellent work heard on last years debut with new track “Life Is Worth The Pain”.  Mastercastle throw a trademark metal slant on the album with “Sakura” which has a great vocal performance from Giorgia Gueglio.   MindSplit serve up a tender ballad in “Guardian Angel” and this really strikes a chord of how the devastation seen in Japan has hit people worldwide.  Emir Hot contributes the epic “Fear Of The Storm” with orchestra and backing choirs adding depth to the track whilst Iron Mask see a successful outing with vocalist Carsten Schulz at the mic for “Sons of the Sun”.

The album also showcases some home-grown Japanese talent in new label signing, progressive rockers Early Cross whose melodic prog rock is a classy number, whilst the direct influence of the aftermath in Japan can be heard on Jennifer Batten’s track “Sakura Season” was written after her visit to the country in April 2011.  Despite highlighting these tracks there are moments of enjoyment in all tracks and congratulations go out to all involved.

Overall “Embrace The Sun” not only manages to hopefully make some good money to aid with the recovery in Japan but also serves as a strong compilation album full of great tracks, musicianship and comes highly recommended.

Do your bit and pick up the album now at http://www.lionmusic.com/cd/embracethesun.htm

Rating – 90%