The following reviews are from bands on the LIMB MUSIC PRODUCTS label:
I’ve been giving my ten-year-old son quite an education in the various kinds of Metal. I put this CD in and asked him to tell me what kind of Metal it was and where it came from. He got it, German Power Metal. It wasn’t a lucky guess, it was an educated guess. And actually, it was quite easy. While this is the fourth album from Germany’s Wizard, it happens to be their first on Limb Music Products and my first chance to hear them.
There are so many great German Power Metal bands it seems difficult to write a review and say anything that will distinguish it from so many others. But then again, the designation “German Power Metal” should be enough to convince a lot of metalheads that they want it. But as it is, each album demands its own description and evaluation. Well, for starters, Wizard plays some very fast, but melodic Metal similar in vein to Iron Savior, though the subject matter detracts a little from that image. The artwork and subject matter quickly draws to mind last year’s “For My King” by Custard, another German Power Metal band. And of course, Wizard possesses that characteristic which makes so many German bands great, a blend of aggression and commercial sensibilities. You will find plenty of Heavy Metal attitude here along with some of the clichés (e.g., “Defenders of Metal). But they don’t really sound cliché. They sound convincing. In fact, they make Hammerfall sound like a bunch of school girls!
I’m curious why Stephan Forte has chosen the moniker “Adagio” for his band. The musical term, Italian for you non-musicians, means a very slow pace. It hardly seems applicable to this band. I guess it isn’t important, but if one were to choose a musical term, why not the guy’s last name, Forte? After all, it means “loud”. It makes a great pun and is appropriate for Metal isn’t it? But what do I know?
Aside from my tirade about the band’s name, I LOVE this CD. It is a Progressive Melodic Metal masterpiece with Stephan Forte, a young man who aspires to become a guitar god, who plays some killer licks. And yet, he respects the songs enough to create real compositions and not background tracks for his soloing. The artwork, the music, the lyrics—everything—points to a sort of musical syncretism. There is religion (“Sanctus Ignis” means sacred fire in Latin, “In Nomine”); there esoteric themes (“The Inner Road”, “Order of Enlil” based on Sumerian mythology); history (“Panem et Circences”, a reference to the “bread and circuses” of Roman history), and so on. Musical influences include some baroque influence, some eastern influence, some neo-classical influence, some Uli Jon Roth here and there, but the overall feel is of Progressive Metal. To top it all off, Forte is joined by Pink Cream 69 vocalist David Readman, Elegy’s drummer Dirk Bruinenberg, and Richard Andersson of Majestic on keys. So as you can tell, it is a very diverse album in many ways. Along with Andromeda’s “Extension of the Wish”, Adagio’s “Sanctus Ignis” promises to be a contender for one of the top Progressive Metal releases of 2001. Thanks to LMP for licensing it from Nothing to Say in France so that now the rest of the world can hear this incredible disc.
I admit to being a little tainted before hearing this CD. I actually read a review of it before I received it as most releases come out in Europe before America. The reviewer basically cast Gun Barrel as a Motorhead influenced band. While I don’t disagree, I could equally compare them to Southern Rock bands like Molly Hatchet or Lynerd Skynerd’s heavier moments. Song three, “For All Like You” bears faint echoes of Bonn Scott era AC/DC. But then again, all these comparison are also slightly inaccurate as they ignore the simple fact that GB bears many of the stylistic features bands from their native Germany exhibit: gritty vocals, fast tempos, etc. Suffice it to say that Gun Barrel’s music hearkens back a decade or two to a time when this kind of music was simply called “Heavy Metal”. So I would describe their sound as good old-fashioned Heavy Metal. It will appeal to all who like good music without pretenses.
I’m sorry I’ve not heard their first two albums because this one made smoke come out of my speakers. There’s little doubt that the readers and the label will both want me to mention that Reign of Terror was put together by Joe Stump and Michael Vescera. The potent music they’ve put together is an incredible blend of the Swedish style neoclassial leadwork (Narnia, Nocturnal Rites) with the characteristically fast pace of German power metal (Iron Savior). And while their music has a European sound, this band, like Antithesis, Onward, and others, are totally American. Of greatest interest here is the hyperspeed playing of Stump. Whether riffing or soloing he plays extremely fast and with great precision. It is worth noting that he plays two very impressive instrumentals. One is the moody “Paganini’s Purgatory” and the classical acoustic piece, “Dante’s Danza”. Both sparkle. He may just be the most likely successor to Randy Rhodes this side of the grave. The album ends with a rousing cover of Rainbow’s “Kill the King”. In short, while adjectives like “good” and “great” often get linked to power metal and classic metal bands, Reign of Terror’s musicianship is something special.
Luca Turilli "King of the Nordic Twilight" (11 Tracks. 50:14) Limb Music.
I have not been able to stop listening to this CD and the melodies have been echoing around in my mind for days. What makes this Luca Turilli album different from the Rhapsody CD’s is the line-up and the subject matter, otherwise, we have a very similar piece of work. But I believe this is the best of his work.
The story in this project has yet to be completely revealed--meaning that parts two and three are not yet released. The story tells of a dark tyrant named Saroth whose son, Atriel, seeks to escape. Atriel does escape and falls in love with Lorienne. Some time later, in a fit of rage, Saroth comes and slays his defect son and so puts and end to Atriel. Lorienne is so saddened that the tears of here weeping awakens Loth, who is sleeping in the Ancient Forest of Elves. And so the story will be continued . . .
Musically, as I have already stated, this is my favorite of the three CD’s. The opening, "To Magic Horizons", like the openings of the two Rhapsody CD’s, features a full choir and leads into the blistering song, "Black Dragon." Other great highlights of this album are the ballad, "Princess Aurora", and the great metal anthem I have ever heard, "Warrior’s Pride". On this song, vocalist Olaf Hayer (ex-Chryztyne, Treasure Seeker, Lord Byron) pushes the envelope on how high a metal vocalist can sing with excellent vocal tone. Unbelievable. Track 10, "Kings of the Nordic Twilight", is over eleven minutes long, has a full choir and orchestra rivals much of Therion’s recent work. I’ve been singing the melody so much my family has asked me to please stop. To close, track 11, which isn’t listed on my CD, like "Princess Aurora", features a very talented soprano, Rannveig Sif Sigurdardottir. Amazing! What a way to end! I can’t imagine anyone, even the worst critic of metal, not loving this. The talent and musicality is undeniable.
I should mention the other guest musicians: Sascha Paeth and Miro, whom I think are in Heaven’s Gate, on guitar/bass and keyboards respectively. More undeniable talent! But don’t take my word for it. If you ever want to risk $15 or so dollars on a new group, this would be the one to try.
Rhapsody "Dawn of Victory" (10 Tracks. 49:27) Limb.With each new release Luca Turilli and Alex Staropoli astound me. They go from great to greater, pushing the envelope ever farther. It could easily be argued that each new album sounds like the previous ones. Not true. While each CD contains the choirs, the orchestra, and lots of trade offs between guitar and keyboards, the sound and mood of each is definitely different. The mood of Legendary Tales had a clearly Baroque sound. Symphony of an Enchanted Land was more Classic in its sound. This new album, while maintaining some of those elements, has more of a Metal sound. Two things emerge in my mind as I listen: One, Luca Turilli has incorporated some more Speed Metal oriented riffing in songs like “Dawn of Victory” and “Holy Thunderforce” which sound more like tracks on his solo album “King of the Nordic Twilight”. The second element is a more noticeable swing toward the Blind Guardian/Queen approach to Metal/Hard Rock. The song which most exemplifies this, once again, is the tune “Holy Thunderforce”. One can clearly imagine Hansi Kursch or Freddy Mercury where Fabio sings. The only thing is that Blind Guardian are going to really have to step it up a notch to match Rhapsody’s level of skill. After all, Turilli has a lot of Uli Jon Roth in his playing. I know that’s saying a lot, but I mean it. Alex Staropoli, the keyboardist, is his equal. I guess I could rave on and on but I guess it is obvious by now how much I am into this band. If you haven’t heard Rhapsody you owe it to yourself to get this cd. One listen to “Trolls in the Dark” and you’ll realize why this band is one of the best ever.
Rhapsody "Legendary Tales" (11 Tracks. 45:29) Limb.
Rhapsody is Luca Turilli’s mainstay. Like the aforementioned CD, the two Rhapsody CD’s are part of an epic: the Algalord Chronicles.
Musically, this album is somewhat like "King of the Nordic Twilight", though more "medieval" sounding, in my opinion. I must say that as I listen to this album I am constantly reminded of Uli Jon Roth’s "Beyond the Astral Skies". However, with respect to Roth, Rhapsody have surpassed his work. There is also some fine ballad material in a few key spots. I should also add that one can listen to the three discs reviewed here and not feel that they've heard three identical albums. Each album is equally technical without being repetitive.
The story line in the Algalord Chronicles fits in the quest category. An evil has come upon the land and it is up to the valient heroes of the land to go on a quest to find a magic talisman to overcome the evil. That talisman, in this story line, is the Emerald Sword, a weapon of such might and purity that it is not accessable without much difficulty. Let's leave it at that so that I don't ruin the story for you. Needless to say, the quest begins on this CD and is continued on the next CD, "Symphony of an Enchanted Land."
Rhapsody "Symphony of Enchanted Lands" (10 Tracks. 55:42) Limb.
While I said that "King of the Nordic Twilight" is Luca Turilli's finest album, this one is a close second. And, though I like "Legendary Tales" a lot, this one surpasses it in every way. One thing that separates this disc from the other two is more of an emphasis on the Baroque style. This is most noticeable on track 8, "The Dark Tower of Abyss" which could well be a heavy metal addendum to Bach's "Brandenburg Concertos." Too bad Bach is not around to hear it. Actually, as the liner notes reveal, Vivaldi was the inspiration for the style here. In any event, Luca and company evince a real working knowledge of the classics here which really synthesizes many styles. It just so happens that the style most noticeable here is Baroque.
The story continues on with the hero passing the various tests and receiving the Emerald Sword. The story now remains to be told in the final installment (title unknown). According to the Limb Music website, the album is now in pre-production and scheduled for a release toward the end of this year. I can hardly wait.(now it is released in November. see above}
“Temple of Two Suns” is a continuation of the apocalyptic story begun with Mob Rules’ first album, “Savage Land.” Unfortunately, I do not have that album, but now I plan to get it as this one has really impressed me. Even though it is a concept album, the music sounds fresh and the songs have an individual quality that many concept albums don’t have. You can listen to this CD and never think of it as a concept album and still enjoy it a lot. But if you choose to follow the story you can. Either way, it is a very satisfying listen. The use of chord structures and melody on this CD put it far above the usual run-of-the-mill Power Metal, making it pretty special.
I want to return to the comparison to Don Dokken. It’s kind of ironic, but the song “Inside the Fire” kind of brings back memories of “Into the Fire” from Dokken’s “Tooth and Nail” album. I don’t mean to imply a rip-off, just an uncanny similarity. There is also a hint of Nocturnal Rite’s earlier melodic sound in many of these songs. Doubtless comparisons will also be made to Hammerfall, but this CD easily tops their latest work. Perhaps the Dokken comparison is most appropriate for two reasons. One reason is that vocalist Klaus Dirks sounds a lot like Don Dokken. Secondly, Mob Rules plays both kinds of Power Metal: speed and commercial. Songs like “Pilot of Earth” are the trademark German Speed Metal sound, while the song “Hold On”, which is a duet with Susanne Mohle, is definitely radio friendly. This latter song reappears at the end of the CD as a longer, fully orchestrated piece. It is very beautiful.
The promo sheet speaks highly of this band. You expect that, of course. It mentions a great reception at the 2000 Wacken Festival too. Now I know why. Vanishing Point simply put are an awesome new band from Australia. Their excellent music is a hearty blend of Power and Progressive Metal. It sounds as if they have blended healthy doses of Helloween and Queensryche here; or maybe Gamma Ray and Dream Theatre. What is really cool is how they seem to display both the musical maturity of Progressive Metal with the youthful vigor of Power Metal. The result is a very stunning CD. VP are also very clever lyrically with songs like “Closer Apart” and so on. I am particularly taken with the songs “Bring on the Rain” and “I Will Awake”. These two songs have made me a fan who will be eagerly awaiting the next release from this band. Believe me, you will not be disappointed.
The lyrics on this album are very interesting. For the most part they deal with life. For example, “The Game of Life”, “Beyond the Stars”, a song about what’s following death, “Flight Into Self” and so on. One really interesting song is “Peeping Tom”. Generally speaking people see “peeping Tom’s” as sick neurotic people who cannot be trusted. Here, “Peeping Tom” seems to be addressing the voyeuristic direction so much of society seems to be pursuing. “Peeping Tom” speaks of how we find happiness in watching other peoples’ day to day lives, as if seen through a window. Finally, the CD closes out with a very touching number, the remake of “Treehouse”. This song tells of a man who goes back to his childhood home. The tree house was a special place where he learned many of his “life lessons”. He goes to that tree house and remembers what his parents taught him. It is a bittersweet tune and is very moving.
Ivory Tower are pretty unique and at first listen you may say, “that is different.” True, it is not your run of the mill Metal, but it grows on you and you find yourself liking it more and more. It’s another high quality release from Limb Music.
It’s amazing that such interesting American acts are so unknown here. But of course, the trendies have the lion’s share of the market and the hoi polloi are the mass consumers who keep this kind of music in the background. It sucks. Anyway, this is my first exposure to Lana Lane and I’d say she is the “spiritual” and musical heiress to Rainbow and Ronnie James Dio. Musically Lana’s band sounds like the aforementioned crossed with Progressive Metal such as you might find on Magna Carta records. On top of this highly finessed music are Lana’s powerful vocals. Imagine Xena as a Metal singer and I think you’ll get the idea . . . “it’s raining on the dark side of the moon”.
The subject matter, as might be ascertained from the album title, deal with magic themes and fantasy themes. They weave a web between ancient history and imaginary worlds. Songs include the title track plus “Alexandria”, “Asherah” (the Canaanite fertility goddess), “Long Winter Dreams”, the bonus track, “Rhapsody”, and others. Whether this is just subject matter for Fantasy Metal or whether Lana Lane is truly an occultist in not clear. But in any event, she weaves a spell with each well-crafted song. The band backing her up seem to be extremely competent musicians. They play with a lot of confidence and the variety of sounds is truly impressive. Most impressive is keyboardist and producer, Erik Norlander. But don’t be concerned, the guitars are heavy and very well played. Other instruments include cello and flute
Certainly Lana Lane is an artist of the same caliber as other artists on Limb Music Productions.
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