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ANTITHESIS

“Dying For Life” (9 tracks. 61:53).

I thought their debut was excellent but Dying For Life is flat out killer. How do I begin to describe an album like this? Take some high speed riffs with complex arrangements, add some neoclassical soloing, razor sharp production, thick bass, drums which can play both rock and metal styles (blast beats included), and a passionate vocalist. Well, to my friends I’ve just told them it is a cross between Judas Priest and Tourniquet. I think that’s a pretty good way to start because Antithesis possess a technical ability known by few bands, thus the comparison to older Tourniquet. My friends said they heard that Antithesis was a progressive band. My response was that if so, they’d be progressive mostly in the same sense as Tourniquet or Believer; that is, their use of complex arrangements and occasional odd tempos. This leads to the other half of the analogy, the Judas Priest factor. Frankly, Antithesis kicks ass. Their music has such a sharp, crisp production and edgy guitars that you want to pump your fist in the air and band your head. At times they even come near to death metal when the drummer smacks down on the blast beats. Believe me, when I listen to this in my car I have to keep one eye on the speedometer! But let me analyze this disc from another angle. In terms of technicality Antithesis reminds of Tourniquet, Atheist, Believer, etc. In terms of speed they bring to mind many great German bands. In terms of singular and dual lead solos they wail on in a Swedish classic metal way. And in terms of attitude, there’s a slice of Judas Priest in there. Man, how can you not like it? Oh, one other thing I told my friends (we were at the God Forbid, Angel Dust, Opeth, Nevermore show in Atlanta), I’ve gotten over 200 CD’s this year already and this one is definitely one of my favorites (along with Children of Bodom, Iron Savior, etc.). What more can I say? If you don’t get it you are a poseur!

HERE'S AN INTERVIEW OF ANTITHESIS DONE BY MY FRIEND MARK FISHER OF 1340 MAG.COM:"DYING FOR BREAKFAST"

BALANCE OF POWER

“Perfect Balance” (9 tracks + enhanced track. ).

I sometimes miss the glam metal of the 1980s, only the sheer adolescence of it makes some of it hard to listen to now. Remember White Lion, Black n’ Blue, etc.? Well, imagine those groups all grown up. Imagine what they would sound like if they didn’t target the pimple population, but the serious metal population instead. Would a commercial but aggressive version of rock/metal appeal to you? It does to me. And I believe Balance of Power have here accomplished that, that is, they have taken that commercial style of metal and given it a serious, grown-up sound. They have the heavy guitars and impressive solos, but they also have quiet moments and soothing keyboards. At times they can play ballads, and at other times they rock out. Lance King’s vocals match the musicality as well as the intensity of the music, and the production, handled by Lionel Hicks, is superb. So it seems that this band has found the right title to fit the music, “Perfect Balance”. Listen after listen confirms this. And frankly, it is good to enjoy commercial metal when it is done this well.

BALANCE OF POWER

“Perfect Balance” (9 tracks + enhanced track. ).

I sometimes miss the glam metal of the 1980s, only the sheer adolescence of it makes some of it hard to listen to now. Remember White Lion, Black n’ Blue, etc.? Well, imagine those groups all grown up. Imagine what they would sound like if they didn’t target the pimple population, but the serious metal population instead. Would a commercial but aggressive version of rock/metal appeal to you? It does to me. And I believe Balance of Power have here accomplished that, that is, they have taken that commercial style of metal and given it a serious, grown-up sound. They have the heavy guitars and impressive solos, but they also have quiet moments and soothing keyboards. At times they can play ballads, and at other times they rock out. Lance King’s vocals match the musicality as well as the intensity of the music, and the production, handled by Lionel Hicks, is superb. So it seems that this band has found the right title to fit the music, “Perfect Balance”. Listen after listen confirms this. And frankly, it is good to enjoy commercial metal when it is done this well.

EMPYRIA

“The Legacy” (7 tracks. 37:44 ).

Wow! I’m glad to have discovered Empyria. Their first album, Behind Closed Doors, was released in 1996 on Noise/T & T Records and it contained a track called “The Lighter Side of Darkness (part I)”. Later on in 1996 their second album, Changing Currents, was released on Nightmare Records and contained parts II and III. Now on this E.P. we have parts I, II, and III along with an intro and two more tracks: a cover of “Synchronicity II” by the Police and an acoustic track called “Years Behind”. The five songs which make up the “Lighter Side of Darkness” are played as an epic without any breaks.

There is a lot to like about this band. First off is that they have a classic sound. Comparisons to bands like Elegy come quickly to mind, but mind you, Empyria have the ability to break out of the Classic Metal mode and into Progressive mode. They do this in “Part I” when they get syncopated and jazzy. Secondly, vocalist Phil Leite has a very classic voice. It has a sound all its own, but comparisons to a diverse group of distinctive vocalists is in order: Bon Scott, Udo Dirkschneider, Guy Ritter (ex-Tourniquet, Echo Hollow), Scott Waters (Ultimatum). He even once does the King Diamond falsetto quite well. While the band is an excellent, talented band, it is Leite’s vocals which gives them a bridge both to the past as well as to the present. We are in a period right now where few bands have a distinctive vocalist. It’s nice hearing a band whose vocalist you can readily identify. And when you think you’ve got him categorized you can be pleasantly surprised at how congenial he sounds on the ballad, “Years Behind”. And finally, the band’s interpretation of “Synchronicity II” is awesome. I thought I liked the song as done by The Police, this one is even better. Of course, I’m prejudiced in favor of metal! Regardless, I’ve found this CD to be a great listen and find myself returning to it quite regularly.

USM (United States of Mind)

“Silver Step Child” (10 tracks. )

If you take the progressive sounds of bands like King’s X and blend it with Journey and/or Whitesnake you might get something like USM. They are neither pop nor heavy metal, but something in between. It is obvious that this group has a real flair for commercialism, but they balance it with a real aggressive edge. This is due in part, I’m sure, to this album being mastered by Uwe Schober, former guitarist for Sinner. So listening to Silver Step Child took me back to the mid-1980’s when you could turn of MTV and hear great commercial metal bands. Sadly, MTV has outlived its charter and is now a totally different animal. But excellent music is still being made, and here is an example. The songs on this disc stick in your mind like glue and are not easily forgotten. Especially good is “Believe it or Not”. This song SHOULD be on the radio. Certainly, Tony Ritchie’s voice could sell a lot of records, he sounds like a near relative of David Coverdale. If this sounds like your kind of music, don’t hesitate. You won’t regret it.

MANY MORE REVIEWS TO COME

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