Monday, September 26, 2005

Review: Fast Taker - Fast Taker (2005)

Fast Taker MySpace | Facebook ]
Fast Taker
(2005)
self-released

Puerto Rico's Fast Taker grew from the desire of founding members Gabriel Colón (vocals) and Hector Torres (bass) to enliven the traditional metal scene of their Caribbean island home. Although the band has suffered several lineup changes since first coming together in 2000, Gabriel and Hector weathered the storm and have come away with a strong group of musicians including guitarist Yamil González and drummer José Colón. With a settled roster, Fast Taker entered the studio in 2004 to create their self-titled debut release.

The band's music is, first and foremost, '80s influenced melodic heavy metal played with the flair and emotion of such memorable acts as Metal Church, Sanctuary, and Dio. The opening track, "I Can See", has reached the top of local rock charts and serves as a good choice to get the album started. A wistful lead from González soon gives way to scratchy riffing and José's crashing beats, keeping the song moving at a quick pace throughout. González noodles out a couple of solos during the latter moments of the track, showing off his superb style. Frontman Gabriel has acceptable range for Fast Taker's style of music, though his strength is clearly in his upper range (even belting out some wails that Halford and Dickinson would be proud of). This combination of both wild and precise guitar playing and "true" metal vocals makes the first track a highlight of Fast Taker, and bleeds through the remaining tracks to make most of them a quality listen.

The next track, "Hopeless Addict", is my favorite of the album and introduces a bit of a departure in sound from "I Can See". Gabriel instills a bit of a punkish attitude in his vocal style and remains largely in his lower registry, with only a few shouts spaced here and there. The riffs bite deep on this track, with a ton of weight provided by Hector's four-string. González gets wild again with his solo, and the formula comes together to create a very catchy song. On the subject of catchiness, the majority of the choruses border on having that sing-along quality and so serve very well to draw the listener into the tune. The chorus on "Cry For Peace" takes that trait one step further and is one of the more addictive elements of Fast Taker, remaining in memory well after the music fades.

After running at full steam for three tracks, Fast Taker slows things down with "Broken Dreams". A power ballad in the truest sense of the term, and having very much a Scorpions vibe to it (think "Still Loving You"), the song is the weakest of the 7 tracks. Yes, it does have that lighter-waving appeal to it, with Gabriel reaching deep to deliver a very nice performance, but the song simply fails to stick. The band follows the ballad up with "My Nature", another cut that dips below the standard set by the opening trio. Still, González is in great form here with some tumultuous solos and leads while Gabriel goes back to that slightly punkish style to give the tune a sleazy, hair metal aura.

The final two tracks, "Reaching For Nothing" and "Morir En El Asfalto" (the latter sung entirely in Spanish), introduce yet another aspect of Fast Taker's sound. Hearkening back to the early days of Testament, Metallica, and Exodus, these tracks turn up the thrashiness and cloud the atmosphere with a doomy mood. The epic "Reaching For Nothing" ranks as my second favorite track, combining some great atmospherics, very expressive solos, monstrous riffs and quality vocal hooks. Having slightly stalled midway through the album, the band pulls out the stops and delivers big to wrap up the disc.

With a core sound that is familiar and nostalgic, Fast Taker further injects a few thrashy elements to create an album that has cross-generational appeal. Fans of all the bands I've mentioned in this review will love Fast Taker for its recognizable sound, while those who favor more contemporary power metal will find much to enjoy in the fine guitar work and strong vocals. Aside from a slightly thin production, this album is a fun listen and a quality debut.

Track Listing
1I Can See4:58
2Hopeless Addict5:04
3Cry For Peace4:41
4Broken Dreams4:24
5My Nature4:05
6Reaching for Nothing8:21
7Morir en el Asfalto4:24



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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Review: Demonic Symphony - The Awakening (2004)

Demonic Symphony [ Website | MySpace ]
The Awakening
(2004)
self-released

The historic German city of Mainz is home to Demonic Symphony, an up-and-coming melodic metal band that incorporates a significant amount of lightless atmosphere into their style. Having chosen a name that evokes an impression of bleak, icy metal with symphonic elements, the band actually only briefly resembles their moniker. Instead, they treat their listeners to catchy, hook-heavy metal akin to bands such as Whitesnake, Dio, and mid-'80s Heart.

The Awakening, which is the second demo from Demonic Symphony, kicks off with the very catchy "I Owe You Pain". Keyboards play a crucial role in the band's sound, but they are interwoven in such a way as to avoid being distracting or overpowering. On the leadoff track they provide not only a lush atmosphere, but lend to it a bit of a Middle Eastern sound as well. Frontwoman Darlana, who's vocal style resembles in many ways both Lita Ford and Doro Pesch, has a powerful voice and delivers the lyrics with plenty of punch. Her slight accent enhances the Gothic ambiance of the music, adding yet another layer to an already deep composition. "Down On The Road", my favorite track on the demo, draws on the band's '80s influences to give the song a familiar feel while keeping it from sounding dated. The majority of guitarist Tommy Gad's solos on The Awakening are crisp and brief, though well-played. Here, however, Tommy lets loose with a top-notch extended solo that is backed up by some groovy bass lines from Darlana. Definitely one of the high points of the demo. The title track, closing out the demo, is the most Gothic of the disc and finds the bands drifting closest to the image created by their name. Cheerless church bells open the track and give way to blistering riffs from Tommy, to which he sings in a processed voice that sounds nothing short of demonic. Darlana adds only occasional backing vocals on this track, her voice lending a soft melody to contrast with Tommy's growls. An up-tempo burner, "The Awakening" is one of the top tracks on the demo and leaves the listener yearning for more from this young band.

Demonic Symphony relies on exuberant keyboards, chunky riffs, heavy bass, and Darlana's distinctive voice to create their brand of Gothic melodic metal. They've succeeded on all fronts with The Awakening. Fans of this genre of metal will enjoy this demo, and I'm sure the band's next effort as well.


Track Listing
1 I Owe You Pain 4:36
2 Life's a Bitch ... 5:44
3 Down on the Road 5:36
4 Roar with the Thunder 3:20
5 The Awakening 4:40



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