“Really Crazy Germans” (13 tracks. 50:41).
I thought all the bands on Valiant Music were either Russian or from a country formerly part of the Soviet Union. But I think it safe to say that these fellows are from Germany. One thing you ought to be able to figure out from the album title and the artwork is that they really are “crazy Germans” (i.e., they have a sense of humor)! Adolf Castle really sound like a German band from the 1980’s. They sound particularly like Accept. Remember the intro to “Fast as a Shark”? Imagine a whole album with that same tongue-in-cheek approach. Songs like “Crazy Germans”, “Oh Grand Old Alaric”, “Russian Polezei” (Russian Police? Politics?), “Fat Mad Marta”, and “Fritz Und Hans” are just the medicine one needs when one has gotten a little too serious. Despite this Spinal Tap approach to Metal, there are some great riffs here. Also, Dylan Troy’s (sounds like an American name) vocals are the gritty German type that really communicates attitude and humor simultaneously. The bass player rules. He not only plays well but also has some great effects. There is a bass solo on this disc which is not labeled on the back of the CD. It is awesome. But just in case you were worrying about 50 minutes of pure insanity, there are a few lucid moments as well. Songs like “Heart of the Spring” and “Vilissa” (a girls name?) are soothing and sweet. Let me end by saying that the production is crisp and very satisfying.
“The World Where Shadows Come to Life” (8 tracks. 41:27).
Awesome! I have to say that my first taste of Russian Classic/Power Metal is truly great. Since Russia has been largely left out of the Heavy Metal world, I didn’t really know what to expect. Needless to say, I am thrilled. Archontes is a band who at once reminds me of both Rhapsody and Nocturnal Rites before the Afterlife album. With their dual use of tight, crunchy rhythm and beautiful melody, soaring background vocals and passionate lead vocals, Archontes sound fresh and very exciting. In short, these songs are contagious. The guitar work is incredible too. The rhythm hints at a German Power Metal influence while the melody has a more Italian or Swedish influence. With that said, Archontes bring some different elements to this well-established genre. For instance, on “Whisper of Time” they introduce are more oriental sound. Later, on track 6, we are treated to “Mother Russia”, a beautiful power ballad celebrating the history of a proud people. This song works for Archontes like “Home of the Brave” works for Hammerfall. It also sounds a lot like a Russian folk song set to Metal. Ironically, it is in English. To summarize, this is a phenomenal album. I feel confident saying that I will be listening to it again and again even though I’m finished reviewing it.
“If Tomorrow Comes” (8 tracks. 37:38).
Mortifer provides a very welcome trip down memory lane. “If Tomorrow Comes” is a throw back to the days of Thrash and early Death Metal. There seems to be an equal mixture of early Metallica, Megadeth, and Kreator. The production of these songs is also crisp, providing a pleasurable listening experience. Metal fans that go back to the mid-1980’s really need to check this release out. What more can I say? Oh, yeah, if you listen to this in your car, set your cruise control so that you don’t get a speeding ticket!
“Images of the Innocent” (11 tracks. 49:52).
Here in the West we are being astounded by some really innovative and exciting Progressive Metal coming out of Eastern Europe. In late 2000 Love History from the Czech Republic astounded us with “Anasazi”. Now I’m listening to Russia’s Specter and I need to pick my chin up off the floor. This CD is breathtaking. To call this Progressive would be so severely limit it as Images of the Innocent is more like a masterpiece of technicality that gives a whole new definition to the word “progressive”. The music is symphonic with guitars, keyboards, flutes, etc. which play a full range of dynamics from pianissimo (pp) to fortissimo (ff) and a range of styles from neo-classical to progressive to atmospheric to avant garde. It is truly something to listen to. The vocalist has a voice unique to Metal; he reminds me of alternative vocalists like the guy from The Smiths, or Roger Rose from Mad at the World. The musicianship of the instrumentalists is astounding. You get the impression any one of these guys may be professionally trained musicians. Once again I must give high praise the great Russian Metal scene which only now being recognized in the West.