Sunday, March 23, 2003

Review: Anthenora - The General's Awakening (2002)

Anthenora [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
The General's Awakening

Anthenora is a gritty band from Italy who've been dishing out live metal since 1989. Once an Iron Maiden cover band, they come at us now with their latest demo of 4 original tracks. Produced by White Skull guitarist Tony Fonto, The General's Awakening is a great glimpse at these talented musicians.

Of course, it's hard to gauge a band's staying power with only four average-length songs, but I heard nothing to indicate that Anthenora would not be able to deliver a full album of ass-kicking power metal. Luigi Bonansea has an excellent voice, but mainly stays with a raw mid-range delivery that's a perfect fit for the heavy riffing of guitarists Stefano Pomero and Gabriele Bruni. Add some fine solo work, solid bass lines from Steve Balocco, and first-rate skin pounding by Fabio Smaro and The General's Awakening becomes a solid display of true metal. All I can think after spinning this demo several times is, why aren't these guys signed?

Track Listing
1 Planet Jail
2 Dark Horizon
3 The Saviour
4 Gemini
Total Runtime

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Friday, March 21, 2003

Review: Beseech - Souls Highway (2002)

Souls Highway
Napalm Records

First off, I have to say that Souls Highway is one of the most underexposed albums of 2002. Beseech  has hovered on the fringes of the Goth Metal radar screen for a few years without ever really drawing attention to themselves. Then along comes Souls Highway and I'm asking myself why they're not mentioned in the same breath as Lacuna Coil, The Gathering, and Amorphis? This disc was a fixture in my CD player for two weeks straight, and still gets a turn almost daily. Sure, it's the Spring Equinox, but this album is what I consider the perfect soundtrack to a crisp autumn night spent in a candlelit room gazing out the window upon the full moon.

Souls Highway, Beseech's third studio album released by their third label, is a superb collection of 10 melodious tales of dark romanticism. The sound presented here is somewhat different than their previous efforts. Former frontman Jorgen Sjolberg possessed a gritty baritone that could be compared to Ville Laihiala of Sentenced. Erik Molarin, who makes his debut on Souls Highway, has a deep and delightfully sinister voice much akin to Peter Steele of Type O Negative. While female vocals were a part of the mix in the past, they tended to be treated more as an accentuation than as an integral part of the melody. Lotta Hogin's part has evolved on this release to comprise about half of the vocal deliveries on the album. She's either providing a magnificent compliment to Erik or she's taking the lead - think Type O Negative with accompanying female harmonies. Beseech has really hit upon a formula that works.

It's very hard for me to pick out one, two, or even three songs to discuss for this review since every single track is worthy of mention. I've described the overall sound of the album, but every song introduces some little nuance or slight shift to keep the listener immersed in the ambiance created by these seven Swedes. I will say that above all, I find "Between The Lines" to be my favorite cut. The guitar and keyboard interplay is awesome, and the melody created will certainly stick with you. Speaking of keyboards, they are ever-present on Souls Highway but they never overwhelm. They float just under the surface, providing just enough accent to both the vocal harmonies and crunching guitars. The title track is the heaviest tune on the disc and is where Eric displays his great range of deep, clean, emotional vocals. "Gimme Gimme Gimme", Beseech's tribute to fellow Swedes ABBA, is also worthy of mention. The song is, in one word, excellent. They've done the best Goth adaption of a popular mainstream song that this reviewer has ever heard.

So, I'll stop salivating long enough to say that if you're a Goth Metal fan, or a fan of any genre of atmospheric metal, Souls Highway is a must have album. You will not be disappointed!

Track Listing
1 Illusionate
2 Between The Lines
3 Souls Highway
4 Blinded
5 Endless Waters
6 Fiction City
7 Sunset 28
8 A Season In Green
9 Beyond The Skies
11 Gimme Gimme Gimme

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Review: Voodoo Lordz - Lifes Games (2002)

Voodoo Lordz
Lifes Games
Chemical Kids Records

Hailing from the western 'burbs of Detroit, Voodoo Lordz  are a hard-working trio who know what metal once was and are kicking ass to bring back the glory days. Their stripped-down brand of metal hearkens back to the days when bands such as Megadeth, Metallica, and Exodus reigned supreme, but they infuse plenty of modern metal groove that keeps the sound fresh and exciting. Lifes Games bundles buzzsaw riffs, gang choruses, snarling vocals, and lightning licks in an excellent package of metal that's worthy of any true metalhead's collection.

Trying to pick out a couple of tracks to discuss, "Jekyl's Hyde" stands out immediately in my mind as one of the better songs on the album. Starting off quite reminiscent of early Van Halen, the tune launches into wonderful chugging riffs and a great bass groove. Singer Chris Van Wert, who on most of the album sounds quite like Dave Mustaine of Megadeth, displays a different vocal style on the choruses - sounding very much like Detroit legend Iggy Pop in his early days with The Stooges. "Open" showcases all of the best elements of Voodoo Lordz. Van Wert is also the guitarist and his cutting riffs are excellent, accentuating his growling vocals perfectly. Mike Zaia delivers first-rate bass lines, and Pete Jacobs complex drumming is brilliant. The rest of Lifes Games is really just as strong (maybe except for the goofy "Pete's Ode"), resulting in a worthy bundle of metal. Go get this one and support indie metal!

Track Listing
1 Life's Games 4:53
2 Open 3:45
3 Disconnected 4:35
4 Til Sunrise 3:32
5 Rest In Pieces 4:02
6 Jekyl's Hyde 4:30
7 Fire In The Hole 3:37
8 Pete's Ode 1:15
9 Needful Things 3:40
10 Wild Eyed Gypsy 5:15
11 Road Rage 3:03

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