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Curse of Crystal Viper
Curse of Crystal Viper
Price: $23.64
20 used & new from $10.78

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Old School Metal, with honors, November 11, 2008
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This review is from: Curse of Crystal Viper (Audio CD)
"The Curse of Crystal Viper" (2007) is the near self-titled debut by this heavy metal band from Poland. With an album cover that looks like an updated Hail to England, and a classic sound that invokes Warlock and Iron Maiden, Crystal Viper prove that they studied at the old school of metal and graduated with honors.

Female vocalist Leather Wych (sic) sings in the higher/cleaner Doro Pesch of Warlock style, rather than the lower/gruffer style used by near namesake Leather of Chastain. After hearing her voice, I wasn't surprised to learn that Crystal Viper recorded a cover of "Mr. Gold" (from True as Steel) for a Warlock tribute album.

Iron Maiden is also an influence. "Shadows on the Horizon" almost directly lifts the sing-along part from Maiden's "Heaven Can Wait" (from Somewhere in Time). "City of the Damned" includes the kind of galloping bass line Steve Harris made famous. Finally, "I Am Leather Witch" is so Maiden-esque, it could have been titled "I Am Iron Maiden".

This CD has a good variety of material that keeps it interesting. Speed metal tracks like "The Last Axeman" and "The Fury (Undead)" are balanced by slower tracks such as the rollicking pirate metal "Island of the Silver Skull" and the epic "Sleeping Swords".

Sometimes the diversity is found in the same song. "Demon's Dagger" starts out like a slow ballad, morphs into a fast rocker two-thirds in, and then ends as it began.

This is an impressive debut. I can't wait to hear what their postgraduate work is like. Their second studio album "Metal Nation" is scheduled for a 2009 release.

4 stars / magna cum laude


Ruler of the Wasteland
Ruler of the Wasteland
Price: $14.99
21 used & new from $9.92

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Chastain rules!, November 4, 2008
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This review is from: Ruler of the Wasteland (Audio CD)
I bought the LP record of this album upon its release in 1986 (and still have it!). Although I hadn't played the record in a decade or more, I eagerly awaited a CD release. After more than twenty years it's finally here, and I can honestly say it was worth the wait.

"Ruler of the Wasteland" was the second album by Chastain. The line-up for this recording was the same as their debut, Mystery of Illusion, except Ken Mary was the drummer.

Before buying the CD, my recollection was this album was good, but not as good as its predecessor. Listening to it now with fresh ears does little to change my original opinion. I still have the impression that the debut has better compositions, while the sophomore release has better production.

I had hoped they would combine "Ruler of the Wasteland" and Mystery of Illusion into a 2 - 4 - 1 release, as they did with David T. Chastain's other band CJSS. Alas, these albums were released separately.

This CD does have its share of great songs including the double kick driven "One Day to Live", the catchy "Fighting to Stay Alive", the moody "Angel of Mercy" (covered by Hammerfall) and the hard-driving "There Will Be Justice".

Although not at the same level as other second tier 1986 metal releases such as the classic Awaken the Guardian by Fates Warning or the excellent self-titled debut by Fifth Angel (which also featured Ken Mary on drums), "Ruler of the Wasteland" is still worth picking up. And compared to the 1986 release from a certain first tier band I *could* name (hint: their initials are J.P.), this album rules!


Mystery of Illusion
Mystery of Illusion
Price: $14.99
21 used & new from $9.88

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars No illusion, it's finally here!, November 4, 2008
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This review is from: Mystery of Illusion (Audio CD)
I bought the LP record of this album upon its release in 1985 (and still own it!). Although I hadn't played the record in at least a decade, I anxiously awaited a CD release. After nearly twenty-five years it's finally here, and I can honestly say it was worth the wait.

"Mystery of Illusion" was the debut album by Chastain. At the time they were based in my home state of Ohio. The line-up for this recording was: David T. Chastain (guitars), Leather (vocals), Mike Skimmerhorn (bass) and Fred Coury (drums).

To his credit, David T. Chastain never lets his skill as a guitarist overwhelm the songs. Some shred guitarists just mark time until they can cut loose in their next solo, but not Chastain. The songs come first and the solos support the songs.

Female vocalist Leather does a phenomenal job. She mostly sings in a gruff aggressive style, but occasionally with a melodic voice as on the title track and the ballad "Endlessly". Those are two great songs, and Leather proves she can apply both singing styles equally well.

The rhythm section is rock solid. If there's anything that stands out on this remaster, it's the drum sound. The drums seem more prominent than I remember on the LP, especially on the explosive opener "Black Knight" and the doom metalish "Night of the Gods".

Other highlights include the outright speed metal of "I've Seen Tomorrow" and the hard-driving "I Fear No Evil".

Admittedly, this album was a low budget affair. My LP pressing misspelled their Cincinnati, Ohio address as "Cinncinnati"; that little bit of metal history was excised from the CD. Furthermore, according to the CD liner notes, "the entire recording and mix was completed in about 100 hours."

The production is a bit crude by today's standards. But all things considered this was, and still is, an impressive debut. If you love '80s style metal and missed this one the first time around, I advise you to correct that oversight now.


Uncreation
Uncreation
9 used & new from $21.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recreation of classic heavy metal, October 19, 2008
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This review is from: Uncreation (Audio CD)
Benedictum hails from San Diego, California and is fronted by the lovely, talented, and surprisingly deep-voiced Veronica Freeman.

Their debut album "Uncreation" (2006) is obviously influenced by Dio-era Black Sabbath. Benedictum does a great job covering the title tracks from Sabbath's Heaven & Hell and Mob Rules albums. Veronica is able to sound remarkably like Ronnie James Dio when performing these songs.

When it comes to Benedictum originals, highlights include "Misogyny", "Ashes to Ashes" and "Wicca". These three songs impressed me from the first listen. Three other originals, "Uncreation", "Benedictum" and "Them", grew on me in short order.

The only song I didn't like is "#4" (which, oddly enough, is track #3). The remaining songs, "Two Steps to the Sun" and "Valkyrie Rising", are OK.

All things considered, this CD deserves 4 stars.

Shortly after releasing "Uncreation", Benedictum embarked on a tour of... Europe. It's a shame that American bands playing this style of music are more popular overseas than they are in this country. Hopefully that situation will change in the future.

In the meantime however, fans of classic heavy metal should check out this album.


Evil Is Forever
Evil Is Forever
3 used & new from $47.10

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dio Is Forever, October 18, 2008
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This review is from: Evil Is Forever (Audio CD)
Sweden's Astral Doors turned Ronnie James Dio worship into a full-time job. "Evil is Forever" (2005) takes inspiration from Dio's work in Rainbow, Black Sabbath and his eponymous band, and throws in some Deep Purple influences for good measure.

This album begins with the speed and power of "Bride of Christ" and then proceeds to hit you with one great song after another. "Time to Rock", "Evil Is Forever", "Lionheart" and "Praise the Bones" are all engaging from the first listen. Next comes another great speed metal track, "Pull the Break" (which has more than a passing resemblance to "I Speed at Night" from The Last in Line). The first half of this CD flows so well, I was amazed at how quickly the time passed.

But an inverse bell curve appears with tracks 7 through 9. In other words, things start to drag during "Fear in Their Eyes", bottom out in "Stalingrad", and then begin to rebound with "From the Cradle to the Grave". These aren't bad songs, but they seem to lack the urgency of the ones that preceded them.

Astral Doors right themselves with the third speed metal track "The Flame" and the concluding epic "Path to Delirium".

This CD really deserves 4.5 stars. Since Amazon doesn't allow half-stars, and the previous reviewer couldn't increase his rating from 3 to 4 stars as he wished, I'll round my rating up to 5 stars.

Fans of late '70s / early '80s hard rock and metal should check out this album.


Masterplan
Masterplan
4 used & new from $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A classy package of power metal tunes, October 15, 2008
This review is from: Masterplan (Audio CD)
"Masterplan" (2003) is the self-titled debut by this German power metal supergroup. The band features former members of Helloween and Iron Savior, and is fronted by vocalist Jorn Lande.

All the band members perform well, but Lande stands out as a vocal powerhouse. He is also the unifying factor on what is a pretty diverse CD.

There is some generic power metal on here, e.g., "Heroes". But there is also "Crystal Night" - not only the heaviest song, but surprisingly serious in a genre dominated by fantasy lyrics - and worth the purchase price alone. "Crystal Night" sounds like Judas Priest fronted by Ronnie James Dio!

Other highlights include the speedy "Spirit Never Die" and the retro power ballad "When Love Comes Close".

I wish this album had more aggression and less keyboards. But all in all, this is a classy package of power metal tunes that, the consensus is, this band was never able to top. If you like melodic metal, or good old-fashioned hard rock, you should check out this album.

NOTE: This CD is available on Amazon under several different item numbers. Shop around for the best price.


Masterplan
Masterplan
2 used & new from $19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A classy package of power metal tunes, October 15, 2008
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Masterplan (Audio CD)
"Masterplan" (2003) is the self-titled debut by this German power metal supergroup. The band features former members of Helloween and Iron Savior, and is fronted by vocalist Jorn Lande.

All the band members perform well, but Lande stands out as a vocal powerhouse. He is also the unifying factor on what is a pretty diverse CD.

There is some generic power metal on here, e.g., "Heroes". But there is also "Crystal Night" - not only the heaviest song, but surprisingly serious in a genre dominated by fantasy lyrics - and worth the purchase price alone. "Crystal Night" sounds like Judas Priest fronted by Ronnie James Dio!

Other highlights include the speedy "Spirit Never Die" and the retro power ballad "When Love Comes Close".

I wish this album had more aggression and less keyboards. But all in all, this is a classy package of power metal tunes that, the consensus is, this band was never able to top. If you like melodic metal, or good old-fashioned hard rock, you should check out this album.

NOTE: This CD is available on Amazon under several different item numbers. Shop around for the best price.


Machines of Mental Design
Machines of Mental Design
Offered by Discount Music, Books, and other items
Price: $18.95
11 used & new from $9.00

4.0 out of 5 stars Music of Metal Design, September 19, 2008
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The Guardians of Time hail from Norway. The melodies, time changes, long instrumental passages, even the cover art (see Somewhere in Time) of this 2004 release remind me of Iron Maiden. Their guitarist Paul Olsen also cites Judas Priest and Helloween as influences and I would agree. These comparisons are simply for reference; I certainly would not call the Guardians a Maiden clone.

This is a concept album with a sci-fi story set in the Paris of the late twenty-first century, although you'd never know it without reading the liner notes. As with Iron Savior's works, e.g., Condition Red, I didn't find it necessary to follow the story in order to enjoy the CD.

I would describe the music as heavy but melodic speed metal, heavier than many so-called power metal bands. The vocals are clean, powerful, and tend to be in the mid-range, with occasional forays into the upper registers.

Highlights include the tracks "Faceless Society" (#2), "The Rise of Triopticon" (#3), "Triopticon" (#5), and the heavy ballad "Puppets of the Mainframe" (#7). At this writing, you can hear the songs "Faceless Society" and "Intervention from Beyond" on Paul Olsen's MySpace page.

Fans of metal (heavy, power, thrash, and/or speed) should check out this album.


Vainglory
Vainglory
Price: $22.32
12 used & new from $9.07

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Two Words: Decapitation Attack, August 6, 2008
This review is from: Vainglory (Audio CD)
I discovered this band and album through a Google search for "fast, aggressive, yet still melodic heavy metal". Google's search results turned out to be very accurate!

Vainglory's self-titled album is excellent heavy (and I mean HEAVY) metal. There is incredible guitar work and incredible vocals by Kate French.

Yes, Vainglory is fronted by a female singer, but Kate was definitely not hired just for her looks. This woman can sing! Her voice is actually deeper than that of some male metal vocalists.

As you might expect with a female vocalist, the album does include one ballad. It's called "Undying Love". But don't let the title fool you, this is the heaviest ballad I have ever heard (beating the previous record holder "Into the Fire" by Mystic Prophecy).

And in case you thought "Undying Love" was too mellow (it wasn't) the next song is the instrumental "Decapitation Attack". The 30 second clip here on Amazon.com simply can not do this song justice. The preview merely cuts your hair, the complete song takes your whole head off!

If this album has a fatal flaw that keeps it from a perfect five-star rating, it is that the other songs simply aren't as memorable, and tend to blend together in one's mind. Also, with a running time of over 66 minutes, this disc may grow tiresome on subsequent spins.

But all in all, an excellent effort that should appeal to fans of power metal bands like Mystic Prophecy, as well as fans of bands like Pantera.

This album is also available in a Limited Edition. That's important to know because that page links to sound clips from this CD (click on the "MP3 Download" edition).


Ascendence
Ascendence
10 used & new from $10.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ascending from the Dungeon, August 5, 2008
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This review is from: Ascendence (Audio CD)
"Ascendence" (2007) is the second album by Australian heavy metal band Lord. The band is led by former Dungeon frontman Lord Tim.

I recently reviewed Dragonheart by Messiah's Kiss, another 2007 release that pays homage to '80s heavy metal. On that album, Dio and Judas Priest were the main influences. Lord takes a similar approach on "Ascendence", but with different and far more diverse influences including Queensryche ("Rain"), Dokken ("Through The Fire"), and even Slayer ("Limb from Limb").

The album begins with a brief spoken word intro called "Echoes of the Past" and then kicks into high gear with "Reborn". I didn't follow Dungeon's career, but it seems clear these first two tracks, as well as "Legacy", are all addressing the fall of Dungeon and the rise of Lord.

Tracks 3 through 7 are all good but not great, leading up to "The Calm" a brief melodic guitar instrumental, similar to "Oceans" on Firewind's Between Heaven and Hell.

"The Calm" is aptly titled because the next two tracks could collectively be called "The Storm".

First up is the aforementioned Slayer homage "Limb from Limb". Here Lord Tim drops, for the most part, his clean vocal delivery and adopts a rough thrash metal approach (not quite Tom Araya, but along those lines).

Second is the frantic thrash instrumental "220". This gives Vainglory's "Decapitation Attack" a run for its money! (Wouldn't it be something to see a battle of the bands featuring those two tracks?!?)

The final Lord original on the album is the epic "Legacy" which deliberately echoes "Reborn" at times.

Bonus tracks vary by region. Track 12 will either be the Pantera cover "Shattered" or the X Japan cover "Silent Jealousy". The version I bought included the former.

This album has it all: speed, power, aggression and melody. Fans of traditional, power, and/or thrash metal would probably enjoy this.


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