Archive for Power Metal

Classic Album Dual Review – Helloween “Keeper of the Seven Keys Parts 1 & 2” 1987/1988

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , , on February 1, 2011 by Lightning Slim

  The tale of Keeper of the Seven Keys is one filled with contradictions. Firstly, the two records share a name but are not really concept albums – other than the big, epic penultimate tracks on each there is little conceptual continuity (a long journey with magical objects to be thrown into various abysses; might have read something like that somewhere before). The pair are also separated by songwriting and tone, with Part I (being the serious sibling) penned mostly by future Gamma Ray wizard Kai Hansen and Part II’s looser, bluesy feel due to the influence of second axeman Michael Weikath.

The Keepers are also at war with themselves, perhaps a natural consequence of heavy metal’s evolution at the time – there are parts of Seven Keys which are as hard and fast as period Anthrax, and parts which sound like Jem and the Holograms. Both records are as relentlessly upbeat as they are bombastic, laying the foundation of what we now know as Power Metal and embodying all the contradictions inherent in that genre. Complicated arrangements of unsubtle emotional triggers are the order of the day – a bag of tricks that will sound familiar to any post-reunion Iron Maiden fan. Michael Kiske’s soaring vocals and Hansen’s masterful guitar fireworks recount irony-free legends of rainbows and dragons, although Part II has a bit of Weikath’s levity thrown in to undercut the pompousness via boobs and beer* references in songs like “Rise and Fall” and “Dr. Stein”. These goofy experiments in no way detract from the onslaught of speedy mayhem; they simply act as a bonus to Part II’s ability to match its progenitor song for song, even upping the ante by incorporating the sing-along  feel of crowd-pleaser “A Little Time” into addictive head-banger “I Want Out”.

  It all seems a bit silly now on the surface, but track after track the discs defy any attempts at skipping, with the occasional bits of cheese turned into a full meal by the beef of superior musicianship and crisp production. No matter your opinions on the current state of Power Metal, the twin towers of Helloween’s youth contain too many hits to be ignored. Part I: 8 out of 10, Part II: 8.5 out of 10

*They are Germans, after all.

Album Review – Judas Priest “A Touch of Evil – Live” 2009

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2010 by Lightning Slim

  Throwing together a nice mixture of post-reunion tracks and old chestnuts in a bare-bones package, A Touch of Evil Live works exactly as advertised. Fun new songs like “Hellrider” and “Prophecy” contain the enthusiasm and juice of a band happy to be doing new material, but it’s also a nice surprise to hear old-school scorcher “Riding on the Wind” peeled off like it ain’t no thing. Brutal ballad “Beyond the Realms of Death” gets rare airtime here, and “Dissident Aggressor” shows old dogs with still-sharp teeth (this performance rightfully won them the 2010 Metal Grammy). 

There’s one mis-step in a tired-sounding attempt at “Painkiller”, a song that deserves better than a less-than-lethal run-through. Even Metal Gods can have an off-day, but they shouldn’t be captured for posterity. Not the end of the world – if you like live albums this one’s a good choice. 7 out of 10

Classic Album Review – Grave Digger “Heavy Metal Breakdown” 1984

Posted in Album Reviews, Sevens to Nines with tags , , , , on December 24, 2009 by Lightning Slim

Awesome  My Xmas present to all of you is to make you aware of GraveDigger’s first album, if you aren’t already. I know, some of you are saying that this band is still alive and kicking now, but I don’t know if they can match the irony-free charm of their debut. Nowadays they’re the German version of Saxon, shoehorning every riff into concept records. I like this earlier period a bit more: every now and then we all want a bit of something that’s not too deep, something that isn’t “art”, something which is Exactly What it Says on the Tin.

Enter Heavy Metal Breakdown, a record with more songs in and about heavy metal than even Manowar can shake a broadsword at. Grave Digger manage to groove like AC/DC but gallop like Maiden. My hat is off to the production team, as what could not have been many deutchmarks are used perfectly – the guitar work sounds you’re sitting right in the basement clubs of Berlin with them. The whole effect is raw and quite stirring. Full marks for choice of cover song: “2000 Lightyears from Home” by the Stones, which gives you a hint at the angle of approach for the rest of the songs.

There aren’t enough bands doing the rock-for-rock’s-sake thing right now (Jack Black, love the video game but you’re not a musician and Andrew WK, where are you?) so it’s comforting to know we can reach into the vault for goodies like this.

Did I mention the cover? A gravestone-being launched from a skull-which is the planet? Nobody does anything that fun any more. 8 out of 10

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