TOMMY VITALY – HANGING ROCK

Released 3rd May 2012 on Ice Warrior Records

Second strike from Italian guitarist Tommy Vitaly following up 2010’s rather average Just MeHanging Rock continues the neo-classical power metal tinted theme and sees Tommy team up with a stellar cast including Mats Leven (ex Malmsteen / At Vance), Carsten ‘Lizard’ Schulz (Evidence One) and Zak Stevens (Savatage) not to mention guest guitar solos from Norifumi Shima (Concerto Moon) and David Shankle (DSG) along with a two keyboard solos from Ferdy Doernberg (Axel Rudi Pell), quite a guest list for sure.  That said you all the guests in the world don’t make an album if the material isn’t up to scratch.

Hanging Rock is for all intents and purposes a better album than its predecessor with a more cohesive direction, yet is still let down massively by a weak production which will really hamper your enjoyment.  You get the impression a rough demo was created and then sent to the pressing plant, it kind of sounds like a budget version of Iron Maiden’s most recent awful Kevin Shirley productions i.e. lacking in power and any bite and polish.  Which is a shame as there is some good tracks here, notably in Run With The Devil, Hands Of Time, Idol and the sweet instrumental Misanthropy.

Overall it is an improvement over its predecessor, yet  sadly still lacking the edge to get it anywhere out of average.  Next time hopefully the production issues will be sorted and we will see a proper representation of Mr Vitaly’s work.

Rating – 68%

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CONCERTO MOON – ANGEL OF CHAOS (REVIEW)

Out now on Triumph Records

Ninth studio album from  Japanese metallers Concerto Moon.  Gone for the most part is the overly neo-classical sound that ran throughout the earlier days of the bands career.  “Angel Of Chaos” sees the transition that first started wth 2003’s  “Life On The Wire” towards a more direct metal sound, this bore dividends on 2004’s excellent “After The Double Cross” and to a slightly lesser extent on 2008’s “Rise From Ashes”.   The new album sees the band stripped down to a four piece with the departure of long time keyboardist Toshiyuki Koike, who one suspects left after seeing his once key role in the band diminish with Norifumi Shima’s excellent guitar work taking more and more of the spotlight. So whilst the new album might not be as quite full of textures as in days gone past there is still an awful lot to enjoy.

A short instrumental paves the way for the title track with its big riffs, fast frantic delivery, a strong opening track yet arguably the weakest on offer to these ears.  The album really hits top gear with “Lost In The Dark”; an all round stunning delivery with superb vocal melodies with the normal mix of Japanese verses and English choruses.  The track is propelled by impassioned guitar work from Shima who has captured a truly magnificent performance here from start to finish.  “Right Here, Right Now” continues the superb work with a drop D tuned riff, darker yet just as exciting.   Vocalist Takashi Inoue’s also delivers a very strong vocal performance.   Melodic mid-tempo waters are catered for with “Gone” which possesses a chorus hook line the likes of Joe Lynn Turner would kill for.  Shima further brings the magic out in the track with a sublime guitar solo, with rich melodic themes, harmonised lines and bends brimming with emotion.  The tempo ups for “Dance With Ghosts”, a 16 note bass drum charger which borders on the verge of vintage Malmsteen. Next up is the complex instrumental “Plectrum” which further, should evidence be needed, of Shima’s guitar prowess.  “Let Me Stay Here” is back to melodic metal waters with more rich hooks and is another highlight. “Live To Win” comes at you like a baseball bat the face, drop D tuning again leads to fantastic chugging riff, I defy any metal head to not get a kick out of this. Another instrumental “Just Before Midniught”, this time in a minor blues fashion allows Shima to once again wow the listener before closing number “Stand Up And Fight” closes the album with the fastest tempo on the album and its another strong hitter.

If that wasn’t enough to satisfy the ltd edition bonus DVD showcases the making of the album, Shima  talking and playing examples from each track (sadly in Japanese – no subtitles) but its compulsive viewing for any Concerto Moon fan.

Quite how the band have managed to keep their quality of output so consistently high throughout their career is worthy of praise indeed, and I view it as a crime that the band have never caught on in a bigger way outside their native country (granted the language barrier is I suspect the main issue here).  If you like extremely well crafted metal with first rate instrumentation and a penchant for strong vocal melodies then you owe it yourself to  grab hold of “Angel Of Chaos”. Even with the import price tag this is still value for money.

Rating – 95%