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Prog Metal Special

Reviews in this issue:


Threshold - Wireless (Acoustic Sessions)
Threshold - Wireless (Acoustic Sessions)
Country of Origin:UK
Format:CD
Record Label:Self Produced
Catalogue #:NSCD 003
Year of Release:2003
Time:42.00
Info:Threshold
Samples:Click here
Tracklist: Fragmentation (4:05), Consume To Live (5:03), Seventh Angel (2:37), The Sheltering Sky (4:37), Part of The Chaos (4:40), Innocent (4:04), Falling Away (5:22), Conceal The Face (4:18), Lovelorn (3.17), Narcissus (3.57)

Without doubt, one of the top five Progressive Metal bands in the known universe - with their last three albums, Britain's Threshold have steadily built a huge reputation for the consistent quality and uniqueness of their music.

'Clone' and 'Hypothetical' were both among my top albums of their respective years, although I must admit the most recent 'Critical Mass' didn't really hit it with me in the same way. I still think it suffered from being over-produced - losing the rawness that was part of the band's appeal. This was something that really rung true, when songs like 'Fragmentation' and 'Falling Away' more than did the business for me in a live setting.

At the end of last year, the band, through their website, asked their fans what projects they would most like them to undertake, while the next album is completed. An acoustic album and a live DVD came top of the wish list. Now, any good business must always listen to its customers and being good businessmen, Threshold have obliged by recording this collection of acoustic songs at Thin Ice Studios in January 2003. The material spans the band's entire back-catalogue, including two previously unreleased songs (the ballad Seventh Angel and Conceal the Face) written before the band signed their first recording contract.

To start off, I must say that the title chosen for this album is a little unfortunate. To me the words 'acoustic sessions' conjure up the impression of a band going for an afternoon in a studio and just playing a few of their favourite songs without any amps. When you actually take Wireless out of the cover and press 'play' - from the opening bars of Fragmentation - it is clear that this is much more than a 'make-a-quick-buck-on-a-quick-rehash' exercise. A whole lot of thought and artistic effort has gone into re-crafting these 10 songs to fit the acoustic platform. In many ways it is a brand new album with 10 brand new tracks. And don't let the fact that it is only available from the band's website put you off either. There is no dip in the quality of the packaging and the sound is superb.

One thing that immediately struck me, is how the lyrics really stand out much more strongly in this format. I may have just been over-consumed by the music, but until now I'd never really appreciated the quality of the band's lyrics on songs such as Consume To Live. Previously, lines such as "We gotta learn to climb down the ladder of success" and the whole anti-consumerist vibe of the track had, I'm sad to say, totally passed me by.

Another big plus point is the chance to hear Mac's voice shown off in a whole new dimension. Take for example Consume.. where the vocals have a slightly echoey feel - as if it's been recorded in a big, warm American hay barn. Or take the 'new' ballad Seventh Angel where his voice is exposed to the full like I've never heard before.

Instrumentally there's also a lot of re-working gone into each song. For instance listen to the guitar/piano interplay on Part of the Chaos; the deep bass riffing on Lovelorn or the bluesy feel to the guitar on Sheltering Sky. Utterly superb! As you'd expect, the production by Carl Groom and Richard West is crisp and crystal clear. And while this is of course an acoustic set, there's still plenty of power and energy on show especially on the opening pair of Fragmentation and Consume to Live. Above all, with the heaviness of the full albums stripped away, this project shows one thing above all - that Threshold write damn fine songs.

Without a doubt this is an essential purchase for the growing number of Threshold fans. But more importantly, it should open up the band to a whole new audience. If you love top quality acoustic rock, with top quality songs, by top quality musicians - then this is for you. (Oh, and the live DVD is being filmed in June!).

Conclusion: 10 out of 10

Andy Read


Star One - Live On Earth
Star One - Live on Earth
Country of Origin:The Netherlands
Format:2CD + DVD
Record Label:Inside Out
Catalogue #:IOMSECD 121
Year of Release:2003
Time:CD : 114.06
DVD : 150 approx
Info:Star One
Samples:Audio/video
DVD specs:Region Free NTSC,
2.0 stereo
Tracklist:

Disc 1 (53:50): Lift Off (1:34), Set Your Controls (6:19), High Moon (5:28), Dreamtime (2:55), Eyes Of Time (3:50), Songs Of The Ocean (5:59), Dawn Of A Million Souls (5:17), The Dream Sequencer (6:03), Into The Black Hole (11:28), Actual Fantasy (1:26), Valley Of The Queens (3:23)

Disc 2 (60:16): Isis And Osiris (8:48), Amazing Flight In Space (8:00), Intergalactic Space Crusaders (5:15), Castle Hall (4:58), The Eye Of Ra (9:16), Starchild (9:22), The Two Gates (14:35)
DVD: Lift Off, Set Your Controls, High Moon, Dreamtime, Eyes Of Time, Songs Of The Ocean, Dawn Of A Million Souls, The Dream Sequencer, Keyboard solo, Into The Black Hole, Actual Fantasy, Valley Of The Queens, Isis And Osiris, Amazing Flight In Space, Bass Solo, Intergalactic Space Crusaders, Castle Hall, The Eye Of Ra, Starchild, The Two Gates
DVD Extras: Photo Gallery, Behind The Scenes, Space Truckin', Intergalactic Laxative, Dreamtime (vocals by Edward Reekers)

Bart's Review

An Ayreon live show has been talked about ever since Arjen Lucassen released the first Ayreon album The Final Experiment back in 1995. However, getting all the artists involved with an average Ayreon album together on stage proved a rather impossible task. With Lucassen's latest project Star One however, things seemed a bit easier, as for this album he had deviated from his usual formula somewhat: the album 'only' featured four vocalists, sharing their vocals on most tracks.

So Lucassen embarked on a short tour in autumn 2002, together with his band of "Intergalactic Space Crusaders", consisting of vocalists Russell Allen (Symphony X), Damian Wilson (ex-Landmarq, ex-Threshold, Ayreon), Robert Soeterbeek, Floor Jansen (After Forever), and her sister Irene Jansen; the backing band consists of Lucassen himself on guitar and synths, frequent Ayreon collaborator Ed Warby on drums, Peter Vink on bass, Joost van den Broek on keyboard and special guest Ewa Albering on flute.

So on Sunday night, September 29th 2002, I was driving to the south of Holland, to go and see this live performance, which was billed as Star One featuring Ayreon. I pulled over at a gas station for a quick snack, only to find that my car wouldn't start anymore: the battery had died. And so I got stranded midway and I missed the gig that two of my friends called "the best gig of 2002" (and judging from the number two position in the poll, they were probably right).
So you can imagine my joy when I read the announcement of the release of a DVD/double CD package with the entire gig and my desire to review it, only to find out that the DVD isn't included in the press pack (the same happened a few weeks back with RPWL).

However, not having the DVD did give me a good chance to listen to the album itself, and make up the imagery myself. The DVD is not meant to be more than a bonus anyway, but I have to say that I have seen the set in the stores and at least the package looks astounding.
As for sound, it can be expected from an audiophile like Lucassen that the sound quality is excellent. The featured set is also an excellent choice, with songs chosen from Space Metal, as well as all five Ayreon albums (although Actual Fantasy is criminally under-represented with only one two-minute ditty).

Many of the songs really benefit from the live setting. To be honest, I'm not overly fond of the Star One album, but here in their live versions the songs do a lot more for me. Also Damian Wilson's take on Eyes Of Time, off the original Ayreon: The Final Experiment album is far superior to the original by Lenny Wolf.
Speaking of Wilson, he gets another chance to shine on Into The Black Hole, a song initially sung by him for the Flight Of The Migrator album in case Bruce Dickinson wouldn't be available (well, as we all know, he was, so Wilson's version got ditched).

In fact, all vocalists and musicians get a chance to shine on the album. Russell Allen is all over actually, doing some fantastic performances on Dreamtime and Dawn Of A Million Souls - on the latter he surpasses his own original version.
Robert Soeterbeek plays a leading role as the Barbarian in Isis and Osiris and Amazing Flight in Space, off the 1998 Ayreon album Into The Electric Castle.
Off the same album comes another highlight of this album: the beautiful Valley Of The Queens, sung by the Jansen sisters, but which also boasts a starring role for ex-Quidam flutist Ewa Albering (also known as Mrs DPRP).

The other musicians all have their spot as well. The drum and bass solos have been left off the album (they are on the DVD), but Arjen Lucassen's Gilmour-esque solo of The Dream Sequencer is still there, as is the guitar-keyboard duel that replaces the Thijs van Leer/Clive Nolan part of Amazing Flight In Space

Live On Earth is about as good as live albums go. Good set, killer performances and excellent quality. A pity about the missing DVD really, because I'm sure my rating would even have been higher if I'd had a chance to look at it. Hopefully the record company will read this and realise the potential of a DVD review on DPRP and send one after all.

Andy's Review

Looking from the sidelines, you have to be impressed by Arjen Anthony Lucassen. Firstly the reputation he has built up with his Ayreon projects and secondly the quality of the people he gets to work with him (or gets invited to work with).

Last year he surprised everyone when his Star One project, supposedly a 'side project', actually managed to get as much, if not more attention than his main bands. Equally interesting was that his Star One project would enable him to play his music live - a dream I'm sure every Ayreon fan has had since the release of The Final Experiment in 1995.

So last Autumn, Arjen collected under his wing a band containing some of the biggest names in the field and set out to play seven concerts in Holland, Germany and Belgium. Great for fans able to travel to these shows, but for those of us who live further afield, Inside Out have kindly recorded the last show of the tour (played at Rijssen, Netherlands) and released it as a double CD to let us hear/see what we missed. How nice of them!

Now, from the results of the DPRP poll - where Star One was voted one of the best albums of last year - I guess I'm in a minority if I admit that Star One means next to nothing to me. I've caught a few tracks from Arjan's various projects but never been prompted to investigate further. So this live album was the perfect chance so see what I had been missing, and having given this many listens over several weeks, I just have to put my hands up and admit I just can't see what all the fuss is about.

The setlist contains nearly all the songs from Star One plus a selection from every Ayreon album - which Arjen had to re-write to be able to play them live. Considering the band had barely two weeks of rehearsals before the tour - you have to say that the performances are superb. It's also got one of the best live sounds that I've ever heard.

But the music is the key factor and for me 90% of what's on offer here just leaves me cold. It took me a while to work out why, but the main problem is that I just don't like Arjen's keyboard sound. As a teenager of the 80's (Duran Duran/Depeche Mode) I spent my teenage years trying to escape that high-pitched, paaarpy, synthesiser sound. There's nothing wrong with his playing, it's just that horrible sound. It takes away all the heaviness and overwhelms whatever vocalist is trying to do their thing.

Take The Dream Sequencer - Damian Wilson puts in a great blues-tinged vocal which is destroyed by "Jean Michelle Jarre" practicing in the background. Even when the guitar kicks in, he's still paaarping away in the background.

I do like the between-song interludes; the Jethro Tull meets Medieval Baebes folk rock of Valley of the Queens with the heavenly Jansen sisters (no keyboards) and opener Set your Controls rocks out to good effect.

Sadly, I didn't get a copy of the limited edition version to review either. This has a DVD - so you can see it all as well. Apparently, the bonus material includes a photo gallery; a 20-minute behind the scenes piece, which includes Arjen and Russell Allen singing a Simon and Garfunkel song, and three additional songs that were recorded with home cams.

Anyway if you've been a fan of Ayreon or Star One, this will no doubt be among your albums of the year. For those of you who've never given them a try, then this would be an excellent introduction. For anyone who hates paarpy keyboards, then feel free to join me in a neighbouring galaxy!

Conclusions:

Bart Jan van der Vorst - 8.5 out of 10
Andy Read - 6 out of 10


Missa Mercuria - Missa Mercuria
Missa Mercuria - Missa Mercuria
Country of Origin:Germany/USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Generation
Records
Catalogue #:GR 007-2
Year of Release:2002
Time:63:06
Info:Missa Mercuria
Samples:Click here
Tracklist: Earth's Destruction (2:25), Requiem Mortale (1:08), Divine Spark (Firegod) (5:00), Whisper Of The Soul (Watergoddess) (6:15), Mother Earth (Earthgoddess) (4:45), Spirit of Wisdom (Airgod) (5:59), Illusions Of Time (2:59), Missa Mercuria (6:27), Fairytale of Truth (4:49), Farewell for Love's Sake (5:04), Departure To Fear (1:10), Strange Desert Walk (2:43), Bursting Ego (5:00), Down To Hell (0:32), Rectificando (6:57), New Eon Arises (1:56)

A rare musical beast indeed. An all-star project that actually goes beyond being a platform for several big egos to have a go at outdoing each other. Featuring compositions and performances by members of Pink Cream 69, Vanden Plas, Silent Force, and Edenbridge, Missa Mercuria is a rock opera that spans everything from sweet balladry to catchy melodic hard rock; from some fierce Prog-Metal to the classics.

We open slowly with two instrumental tracks before you're struck full in the face with the metallic Prog of Divine Spark. With vocals from DC Cooper it could be classified as the best song Royal Hunt never wrote. I can't pay the same compliment to Sabine Edelsbacher for Whisper of the Soul because I've never managed to catch her or Edenbridge before, but her vocals ride across this folk-tinged, semi-rock tune in great style.

Going off at another tangent, next up, we have black session soul singer Lori Williams belting out some Progtastic AOR before we come to the standout moment on the whole album. Vanden Plas is probably my favourite band at the moment and few singers can raise a song like Andy Kuntz. Everything about this guy - his phrasing, his tone, his emphasis, his range - you name something that a great vocalist should have and for me he's got it. With music by Gunter Werno and guitars by Stephan Lil, Spirit of Wisdom could be lifted off any Vanden Plas album and therefore, in my book, it is worth the price of this CD alone!

The title track is a complete change of style with classically trained soprano Isolde Groß putting in a very Operatic Metal performance in the mould of After Forever - albeit in a very Led Zep sort of way, as opposed to the more usual thrash/speed metal guitar backing and thankfully without any grunts.

Anyway, to complete the package there are another eight tracks, three of which are instrumentals. Three of these tracks feature Pink Cream 69's David Readman and the other is a duet between and DC Cooper and Isolde Groß. Other contributions come from Alfred Koffler (Pink Cream), Alex Beyrodt (Silent Force, ex-Sinner), and Andreas Lil (Vanden Plas).

With all the various styles and with a different vocalist on almost every track, this certainly has the feel of a musical and that lack of a constant musical style, may be off-putting for some. But remarkably, for me, the album does manage to have a very coherent feel. Each of the songs, and the vocal performances in particular, are of such a high quality, that sheer class shines through. Sure, Missa Mercuria may take a few repeated listens to work its full spell, but from the start it commanded repeated listens until those hooks really sank in.

The concept itself, written by DC Cooper and one Karin Forstner, is also rather unusual. As far as I can make out, each of the main vocalists plays a God, as representatives of the four elements (Fire, Water, Earth and Air). They suddenly realise that mankind is dead and a discussion ensues about what happened, with each element defining its standpoint and situation, sparking rivalries between the Gods. Then they plead a 'time-ghost' to let them re-start and call on the divine messenger Missa Mercuria to transport the information into the human brain to prevent the human self-destruction. That however is only possible by a journey through Hades, by meeting with your own fears, making mankind understand its destructive system and the need to change it to survive.

For some, this fantasy storyline will be a major part of the attraction. Others, like me, may find it all a bit too "Dungeons and Dragons". Thankfully however, unlike many such concept pieces, the storyline rarely intrudes into the music - so really you can take it or leave it.

Considering the names involved I must say that I'm surprised how little in the way of promotion this album seems to have had. I've had to buy this copy, I've barely seen a review or advert and a link to the website has only recently been added to the Vanden Plas website. Strange really, because for anyone into any of the above bands this is a pretty essential purchase. The fact that the album is produced and engineered by Dennis Ward - one of the best in the business - means the sound is top class too.

The next Vanden Plas album (according to Andy Kuntz - a concept rock musical based on the story of the Count of Monte Cristo) is not due until the end of the year at the earliest. In the meantime, I think this will happily fill the gap.

Conclusion: 8.5 out of 10

Andy Read


Anguish - Symmetry
Anguish - Symmetry
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Massacre
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2002
Time:50.18
Info:Anguish
Samples:Click here
Tracklist: N.E.W (New Aggressive World) (6:43), Symmetry (6:22), The Mirror (7:02), Dreaming (5:46), Moonlight (4:49), Maze Of Emotion (5:16), Obsedian Lies (5:52), The Decision (1:22), Fear Of The Rain (7:03)

Appearances can be deceptive and as a result things didn't get off too well with this album. With a name like Anguish; coming from Germany and being on the Massacre label, you'd perhaps be forgiven for assuming theirs was a rather gritty, angst-ridden kind of metal. And for someone who likes a good cover and packaging, this really is demo quality.

Then, sticking the important part of the package (i.e. the disc) into the machine (i.e. the CD player) and my views did change - but not dramatically. While a few of the tracks grabbed me straight away, most barely raised an eyelash - let alone an eyebrow! However, as with many ProgMetal releases, the trick is to put it to one side for a few days and give it a second chance. It was at this point that my views changed completely - I almost had to stop and check that someone (i.e. my six-year-old-son) hadn't swapped the discs around! All of a sudden Anguish were raising both eyebrows at the same time!!

The opener N.E.W. (New Embryonic World) is a perfect example - great melodies and very good vocals, but at times some real heaviness and thundering double-bass. A damn good start! Also Symmetry and Obsidian Lies both crack on at a good pace!

If you like comparisons - take the more melodic elements of Shadow Gallery, mid-period Fates Warning, early Queensryche, the ubiquitous Dream Theatre and Wolverine and you won't be far off in terms of the musical style or its quality. This is a classy and sophisticated set of songs, that you can listen to time and time again.

Symmetry is actually the second album from this Heidelberg-based sextet - although released on a small label, the debut Lost Days of Infancy will have passed most people by. It was released six years before this one. While the reason for the delay is unclear - this was certainly worth the wait.

Although Anguish has to be described as Progressive Metal, the band is very much a song-orientated outfit that doesn't lose itself in technical fiddlings. A major plus point is the rather soothing voice of Nuno Miguel Ferndandes. An occasional Eastern influence also crops up now and again, adding a nice bit of variety. It's not without its Dream Theatre moments though. Moonlight is a perfect example, while the quieter Maze Of Emotions and closing number Fear Of The Rain sound closer to Queensryche's territory.

It will take more than a few hearings to really get inside the whole album but if you give it the time, I don't believe many will deny that this is a slick slice of modern day ProgMetal. Let's hope we don't have to wait another six years for the follow-up

Conclusion: 8 out of 10

Andy Read


Lanfear - The Art Effect
Lanfear - The Art Effect
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Massacre
Records
Catalogue #:PC 0349
Year of Release:2002
Time:48.42
Info:Lanfear
Samples:Click here
Tracklist: Heresy (0:54), Stigmatized (4.45), Traces of Infinity (3:52), The Artefact (6:23), Conscience Inc (5:39), Deeper (4:55), Beneath It All (4:02), Fortune Lies Within (4:02), V.o.a.t. (0:35), The Spell (5:08), Regression (4:15)

On first appearances, everything about this album (silly band name and flaming album cover) screamed run-of-the-mill German Metal. As such, it was destined to go towards the bottom of the pile, for a listen when the mood for such music took me (it could have been a long wait!). Anyway, my mother always told me to never judge a book by its cover. Thanks to her I wasn't put off and have discovered The Art Effect as a damn fine release in the growing Prog/Power Metal mould.

A totally new name to me, this is apparently album number three from Lanfear, albeit their first on the Massacre label. No Euro-metal clone. This five-piece, from Heilbronn, plays American-style power metal with a healthy dose of progressive twists and turns. Steel Prophet would be the nearest cousin, especially in the excellent mixture of juicy hooks and testosterone-fuelled aggression. Opener Heresy sets the Lanfear stall out, with big fat guitars and fearsome drums kicking you where it hurts, while their talent for penning some fine, memorable and compelling melodies is best shown on the mid section tracks of Conscience Inc and Deeper. Indeed, any band who can make a catchy chorus out of the words "Conscience Incorporated" deserves some credit!

Vocalist Tobias Althammer hasn't the best set of lungs ever to grace a studio (a bit one dimensional compared to the best) but some very well-worked harmonies and subtle keyboard arrangements more than fill in the gaps. An intelligent and very catchy modern metal album. And if you're interested - Lanfear is apparently a character in the "Wheel of Time" series by Robert Jordan.

Conclusion: 7.5 out of 10

Andy Read


Redemption - Redemption
Redemption - Redemption
Country of Origin:USA
Format:CD
Record Label:Sensory Records
Catalogue #:SR3018
Year of Release:2003
Time:68.13
Info:Redemption
Samples:Click here
Tracklist:Desperation (Parts 1-4) (21:28), Nocturnal Window (3:51), To Space (13:26), As I Lay Dying (5:08), Something Wicked Comes This Way (24:29)

After co-writing a song on Ray Alder's Engine album, guitarist Nick van Dyk was able to coax the Fates Warning vocalist into participating in this project, as both a producer and as a performer on one of the songs. Corralling fellow Fates bassist Joey Vera to engineer, van Dyk has somehow managed to assemble a line-up that reads like a "Who's Who" of progressive metal. On vocals we've got Rick Mythiasin (ex-Steel Prophet), there's Jason Rullo (Symphony X) on drums, Nick takes care of guitars, basses and keyboards while Bernie Versailles (Agent Steel, Fates Warning) also handles guitar duties. There are also guest appearances by Michael Romeo (Symphony X) and Mark Zonder (Fates Warning).

I really wanted to love this album and our relationship did start off on a good footing. Considering those involved, there's little surprise that musically it's a broad mixture of the above bands plus a heavy leaning towards Savatage and Iron Maiden. This is dark, progressive power metal that aims to blend complexity with an in-yer-face aural assault.

We kick off with plenty of both in a four-part title track. This is excellent stuff, in the form of an enjoyable story based on the Stephen King book of the same name. Opening with some superb staccato riffing and with great hooks and power throughout - this is how this sort of music should be dished up. The next track is good too - a calmer ballad Nocturnal Window, which gives the listener a bit of breathing space.

From here on though, Window to Space and As I Lay Dying seem a bit recycled and lacking direction. By the time you get to the closing track Something Wicked This Way Comes (clocking in at 24 minutes) it's all got a bit heavy going. The other problem for me is with the vocals. I've never been the greatest fan of Mythiasin anyway, but here he suffers from an appalling production that frequently leaves him very low in the mix and towards the end his delivery really is a bit weak.

I'm sure this will be of interest to those who like long, technical song structures and off-centre melodies and the first two tracks are certainly more than up to the required standard. However is half an album good enough?

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Andy Read


Sectarian - Fallen One
Sectarian - Fallen One
Country of Origin:Netherlands
Format:CD
Record Label:Independent
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2003
Time:23:47
Info:Click here
Samples:Click here
Tracklist: In Sight of the Seraphim (4:50), Prelude (1:56), Hopefully No Longer (6:30), Thy Thousand Names (4:29), Fallen One (6:02)

Sectarian is a Dutch metal band, clearly settled in the darker and heavier fringes of the Progressive Metal jungle. Formed in the summer of '95 under the name of Kickshaw they were initially a cover band with a heavy repertoire of Maiden and Metallica. By the time they got the chance to record their debut-album in 1999 they'd changed their name but When Darkness Draws Near still had its roots firmly in the thrash/death metal scene.

Since then Sectarian have taken a slight change in direction with a few new musical influences added in the shape of keyboardist Rob Besselink and a new frontman Raoul Pinxt. And with The Fallen One it's immediately clear that the band's sound has matured greatly. There's still a heavy thrash and doom influence but the keyboards have added another dimension - broadening the sound greatly. The band states its main reference points as Testament, The Haunted, Crimson Glory and Nevermore. I can't see the Crimson Glory connection, but latter-day Angel Dust sprang to my mind throughout - especially the way Besselink's keys coast over the dark, thrashy metal riffs.

The disc opens with the doom-laden In Sight of the Seraphim. This has the basis of a good idea but the band doesn't really allow it to develop very far and the keys are way too low in the mix.

Prelude does exactly what it says on the tin - a keyboard-led instrumental leading into the riff explosion that opens up Hopefully No Longer. The best track on offer, here Sectarian combines thrash, power and Prog-Metal influences into a fairly intense musical package. The vocals are strong but again musically the band sticks to a fairly basic recipe. I feel that a few dynamic twists and turns, a few surprises are always just around the corner - but they never come.

Despite a quiet intro, Thy Thousand Names is probably the heaviest and certainly the track that comes closest to Angel Dust with a healthy dose of Savatage thrown in. And we finish with the title track which is the most ambitious and progressive on offer and I must admit, is slowly growing on me.

If the band wishes to continue to develop in a more progressive direction then I think a greater use of Besselink's keys is needed and there needs to be a lot more dynamics to the overall sound. Despite having two guitarists, the sound can be awfully flat at times. However Sectarian have an eye for a decent melody and if you like your Metal with plenty of dark aggression, then they are worth checking out.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Andy Read


Over Us Eden - Over Us Eden
Over Us Eden - Over Us Eden
Country of Origin:Germany
Format:CD
Record Label:Pre-Release
Demo
Catalogue #:-
Year of Release:2003
Time:52.41
Info:Over Us Eden
Samples:Click here
Tracklist: Premonition (4:35), Metamorphosis (5:29), Fahrenheit Zero (5:44), Night Time (6:04), Evil Roots (4:28), Deep Cortex (5:52), Sun Child (5:36), Silent Tree (4:16), In The Eyes of Cygnus (5:17), Silent Tree (5:17), Deliverance (5:20)

For anyone who has an opinion on the pros and cons of having a woman front a Metal band, then this is an act that should certainly raise a bit of interest. Over Us Eden is a new, 'contemporary metal band' from Germany that was formed in early 2000 by several experienced musicians from the German metal scene. Guitarist Uli Wollgarten, once the driving force behind Axe La Chapelle, formed the band with drummer Rainer Schmitz. Rainer made his name in such recognized outfits as Joker [which also featured Warlock's Rudi Graf] and well-known thrashers Living Death.

Next came guitarist David Dell, formerly of Belgian Thrash metallers Asphyxia and bassist Samuel Frere (ex-Insight, Nemesis and Spirittales). The extraordinary talents of lead singer Magali Luyten completed the line-up - but more of her later.

Now I don't normally go into each band member's past in a review, as most of you won't have heard of most of these bands and it generally makes dull reading. I break the rule here, only to show the plethora of different backgrounds and influences that have been brought together in Over Us Eden. Little surprise then, that on this 10-track debut (produced by ex-Helloween, current Masterplan drummer Uli Kusch) the band has brewed up a very challenging metal concoction indeed.

The main attraction has to be the absolutely stunning voice of Magali. I kid you not, but I listened to a few samples without seeing a picture of the band and didn't even notice it was a woman (no offence intended!). I really can not recall a female metal vocalist that has this much power and harmony in a voice that is just made for this sort of music. She is a real find with phenomenal potential and puts in a faultless performance throughout.

In places the result of her melodic voice over Over Us Eden's complex, riff heavy musical backdrop is highly impressive. The album opens in top gear with probably its best and most complete track. Combining some wicked shredding with ever-changing rhythms, Premonition is the perfect showcase for Magali's voice. With the benefit of some beautifully done harmonies, she delivers a killer chorus that's hard to put down. Metalmorphosis starts off in a similar vein with another great hook but - not for the only time - loses its way a bit with a messy ending.

Other tracks also have their moments where you sit up and take notice. Fahrenheit Zero is probably the most progressive track, mixing a blistering Power Metal chorus with a wealth of different time changes, some spoken parts, sound effects and acoustic mid-section. About halfway through the final track there's a great, folk-tinged passage followed by some deliciously meaty riffs and Deep Cortex has a viciously addictive chorus.

However on around half the tracks I found things just too disjointed or lacking that killer melody to hit it with me. I get the feeling that O.U.E, in trying to bring together so many musical ideas and inspirations, may have just taken their eyes off the songs. Instead of starting with one solid idea and letting it develop, I get the feeling on some songs that it's more a case of: 'Well we've got this idea and those ideas how do we fit them all together?'

Take Night Time as an example. It's a bit like stroppy teenager - around 20 different mood changes and faces in six minutes but without any great logic to where they are coming from or going to.

In fairness, the CD I have, is yet to be mastered and with an album such as this, a lot depends on the final mix. However I thank the band for allowing DPRP an early taste and will be fascinated to see what the end result will be like. You can make up your own minds, as several tracks plus some videos are available from the band's website.

To conclude: This is a potentially ground-breaking band with huge promise, albeit still at an early stage of development. There's a clear desire to push the musical boundaries, the vocal talent of Magali is immense and there's some great musicianship and plenty of ideas to back her up. I just hope the band give themselves enough time to create the right mixture, for what on paper could be a very tasty recipe. Ones to keep an eye on.

Conclusion: 7 out of 10

Andy Read