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Music Reviews: Holy Grail, Iron Fire, Ion, Obsidian, and Unruly Child

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How time flies. Yet again, it’s time for this column to appear. Fortunately, I am perfectly supplied with plenty of review material.

An aside, if you have a funny bone you need to scratch check out Yiddish Wonderland on iTunes.

Holy Grail: Crisis in Utopia

This album is very Germanic, thrash-tinged metal, and has quite a bit in common with 80s vintage metal. The lead vocalist has a habit of screeching on the high notes rather than singing, but that does not distract from the music as much as it could. We are very spoiled in metal circles these days with a whole bunch of damn good singers. Three of the members of this band were in White Wizzard.

They are LA metallers who seem to combine a touch of the 80s LA scene with European metal. It’s a bit more WASP than power metal, but good fun nonetheless. I hear quite a bit of Accept in these guys.

There is no hint of modern metal on this release. It might be new wave of metal, but its feet are firmly in old school. Considering they were former members of WW, that isn’t a shock. WW peddle a similar sort of unabashed throwback metal.

This a decent release, that shows a great deal of promise on tracks like “Fight to Kill”. It’s a track with all the fist-raising drive that you would expect. Tracks like that make it pretty obvious why the band ended up on the stage at this year’s Wacken festival in Germany.

This is most Germanic, LA metal you will ever hear. A band to keep an eye, and it’s clear why quite a few in the metal community are anticipating this release.

Iron Fire: Metalmorphosized

What first strikes you with this release is the rather cheesy name of the album. It reminds me of the metal veteran of some of those awful also-ran metal bands of the late 80s. Baring that, Manowar in their “leaner” years is a good comparison. In fact, this is just German metal done rather well. The vocalist is what gives the band a slightly different take on the genre, he sounds like a metal Bon Jovi.

There are also some death grunts popping up every so often.

All the stalwart elements are on here, including blast-beat drumming and that wonderful clop-clop sound so often found in these bands. That is not to say this a bad album at all, it’s just not exactly ground-breaking in any way. It’s pleasant enough, but none of the tracks reach out to grab the listener in any significant way. It has no lasting power. It’s all a bit of “meh,” which really is a shame.

To be honest this release seems a bit muddled and confused. There is little direction and it seems the band’s music is going in several directions at once. Let’s hope the figure out what they are on about on the next album.

Ion: Immaculada

This is kitchen sink, goth rock. Well, it’s not always that heavy, but it’s always intense. There are all sorts of elements in here from folk, to art rock, to everything in between. Some of these albums come across as  unhinged and listless, but this one comes together nicely. You like Plant and Page’s foray in Middle Eastern music when they recorded their songs in Morocco live with a local band? Then songs like “Temptation” will enthral you. You can almost feel the camp fires and spices burning.

The singer on here is Latvian born Vic Anselmo and she has a wonderful quality to her voice. Wonder if she is in anyway related to Phil “Pantera” Anselmo? It’s not surprising that the main man behind this band, formerly of Anti-Matter Duncan Patterson, has seen quite a bit of his music show up in film soundtracks. This music has that epic quality about it that is necessary for such outings.

This is truly haunting stuff that has all the beauty of folk, but the passion of heavy rock. It’s quite something to behold and well worth a listen. More importantly, the album is diverse enough to keep it interesting all the way through, unlike so many others like this. Yes, it’s a mellower than most usual fare for this column, but certainly does not lack for any emotion or intensity.

Obsidian: Point of Infinity

This is referred to as progressive death metal. Basically, that means it’s progressive metal with some dope growling over the top of it all the time. There are times when it’s ok, but a whole album of it gets rather irritating after a while. You generally want the guy “singing” to shut the hell up as he is getting in the way of the music. This is one such album. The “clean” vocals are too buried in the mix so they are hard to hear while the grunting is too far in front.

It’s just dull as dishwater most of the time. Well either dull or irritating as hell depending on your point of view. This genre is very hard to get right and this lot are missing the mark as far as I can tell. I just don’t see the point of it all. There is little variation in the tracks. It sounds very samey and there is a clear lack of song-writing as it all blends together in the end.

Memorable tracks are missing and there is little to keep you coming back to this release. It would be great to actually hear what this band can do with a decent mix, better songs, and a decent singer. Maybe just ditch the singer and do ambient dark metal? No idea, whatever they are doing now ain’t it.

Unruly Child: World’s Collide

We hear often about how a new album from the “original line-up” is a return to their glory days. In many cases its just a rehash of their old stuff and nothing special. This release from UC is nothing of the sort and is the best thing they have done since their first two releases. Then again this is a band that saw their lead singer go from being Mark Free to becoming Marcie Free. Despite the sex change his voice is as good as it ever, if not better.

This is classic hard-rock. From the opening track, “Show me the Money,” you know this is going to be a great ride. “When We Were Young” is the obligatory nostalgic track for times gone by, but it never reverts to anything you could consider twee. There is an underlying quality that seeps from every one of these songs that is hard to deny. All those qualities that you would expect from this sort of music is there catchy choruses aplenty, soaring vocals and flowing music. And there is some ballsy stuff on here like the track “Love is Blind”. And, of course, there is the power ballad to end things off nicely in the form of “You Don’t Understand”.

If you like quality AOR, you would be silly to miss out on this release. If you ever liked Unruly Child this is the release to get you back into the band.

On that pomp filled note, it’s time to say adieu for another week. Stay safe and rocking no matter what kind peaks your fancy.

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