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Music reviews: Dio, Atlantean Codex, Astrosoniq, At Vance, Revolution Renaissance, Symphorce,

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This is a power metal filled column, with none of the lighter stuff that occasionally creeps in.

CD reviews

Dio: Donnington Live 1983-1987

The name pretty much says it all. These are Dio’s set at the respective Donnington Festival years. The first disc is from the debut of his Ronnie James Dio’s solo band, featuring a very young Vivian Campbell (now in Def Leppard via Whitesnake) and the second one contains the “established” Dio’s triumphant return. While a few could grumble there is quite a bit of replication on these two CDs, most fans won’t care. 25 tracks from the much missed Dio is not something to be scoffed at. The live gigs were recorded originally by the BBC in the day. Despite their age there is none of the normal problems you can have with some BBC stuff, the sound quality is quite respectable.

As would expect from the vocal legend that is Dio, whose career charts some very big highs even back in the 80s, this is some good stuff. You get to hear his versions of Dio-era Black Sabbath and Rainbow. There is nothing quite like a full-on version of “Heaven & Hell” to get the juices flowing. You would be hard pressed as either a metal fan or a follower of Dio not to enjoy all that is on offer here. It might just get you to seek out CD versions of all your old Dio albums. The early Dio releases really do stand the test of time in quite an impressive way.

Everyone has their favourite Dio tracks and between the two CDs chances are one of these CDs will have that song. While maybe not the best live CDs ever they certainly are respectable CDs from a great band. Then again with legendary front-man Dio at the helm how exactly can you go wrong?

Atlantean Codex: The Golden Bough

Loosely based on the writings of one Sir James George Frazer and his theory that all religions came from the same basic root. Its heady stuff for a power metal CD that is for sure. The thing about the CD which is odd is that there are a lot of water sounds on it. Those who have been drinking heavily might wish to go to the loo first. This is quite a clever creation and many of the songs stand on their own. Considering the subject matter it would shock no one to hear there is a track, “A Prophet in the Forest”, that clocks in at 15 minutes.

This is not a CD for the weak of patience. Its an epic journey with all sorts of fascinating twists and turns. There is nothing wrong with this CD per se, but it just takes quite a bit of patience to get through too often. This is a deep thoughtful release. There is even a track from whence the band takes it name. If you like your metal deep and well thought-out then give this lot a try. No fist pumping in the air, but more a journey of the mind.

Astrosoniq: Quadrant

Despite the name this is not some trendy dance group that writes track for the e-popping Ibiza rave set. Although there is a former member of the band called Urban Dance Squad. They are in fact a rather good brand of psychedelic space heavy rock. Now this is not the jam stoned oddness of Hawkwind, there is far more structure than that. However they do try the kitchen sink type of music that never veers in the over the top bollocks area of the genre. Its quite nicely put together.

This sort of space rock at times feels a bit stoner rock combined with some clever keyboard wizardry. “Lured” is a great track that seeps out of your speakers and is timeless. It’s the type of track that would work well in some sci-fi epic in whatever decade it was made. On the track “Zero”, they detail the attack on Pearl Harbor with help from the band Zeus.

Its not hard to see why it took three years to make this. Its clearly a project with lots of dedication and professionalism. If you are into some spacey heavy rock that just screams to be a movie sound-track then check this bunch out.

At Vance: Decade

As you might imagine from the title of this CD, it’s a wrap-up of the last ten years of this band’s history. Not just a greatest hits mind you, with a full second CD of cover songs ranging from the classical to Abba. I bet you never thought “The Winner Takes it All” could be turned into a power metal track? Actually they cover two more Abba tracks too “Money Money” and “S.O.S.” as well. Is there nothing you can’t do with an Abba song? Also included is a rather good cover of the Eagles’ “Desperado”.

The classical tracks quite often remind of bands like Emerson Lake & Palmer and might be as pretentious by some. Then again they are a neo-classical metal band, so that sort of cover is expected.

Overall this is a value for money collection from a popular European power metal band. Thirty-seven tracks is quite impressive for any release and there is enough variety on here to keep the interest. While maybe not the best intro to the band its certainly a good collection for those who like the band. And who can resist a power metal version of “Shout”?

Including tracks from every one of their releases is a nice touch. If you like a bit of humour with your power metal this could be the release for you.

Revolution Renaissance: Trinity

The album title reflects the fact this is the third album in a three album cycle from Timo Tolkki and crew. Just like when he was part of Stradivarius, he is mastermind to RR. The dedication and minutiae obsessed muso produces some fine technical power metal. This is not for the faint of heart or those who find anything clever pretentious.

The ten minute title track is something to behold and is a great track. It’s a song that never manages to find itself bogged down and moves along in quite impressive order. That said there is no turkey on her whatsoever. It is some of the most impressive power metal you will hear anywhere. “Crossing the Rubicon” is an epic track that just sticks in the head.

“Frozen Winter Heart” is a great power ballad to finish the entire album off with its heart-felt vocals and acoustic intro. This is pretty much the template for how to produce a good technical power metal album that stays on the right side of too clever by half. Yet again Timo has set the mark for quality in the genre. Love it or loath it, its hard to quibble that its anything but a great album.

Symphorce: Unrestricted

Considering some of the reviews I read of this band’s previous albums this lot really need to do something decent to stop their downward slide. As with any new releases I listened to this with an open mind. One thing that struck me was the fact they have done a song about 9/11 complete with sound-clips of that terrible day. Was that really necessary? Surely that day has been done to death. The cheesy horror music intro of the track called “The Mindless” just does not work at all.

Other than the above tasteless track, the rest of this release is pretty bog standard power metal. Nothing that special or original, but nothing that horrible either. You can have some fun with the odd pronunciation of English from the lead singer if you are so moved.

Its just a bog-standard European power metal album from a band that have the talent but are a bit weak on the song-writing front. Just leaves me with a feeling of meh. It’s not awful, but it isn’t great either. There are far better releases out there deserving your ears.

Well that is your power metal lot for this week. Stay safe and rocking as the days grow shorter.

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About Marty Dodge