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Music Reviews: Pushking, Jag Panzer, Evergrey, Stratovarius, Crystal Viper

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The went by rather fast; so fast that I didn’t realize seven days had elapsed. A nice selection of stuff awaits you in this column.

Pushking: The World as We Love It

For many, the line-up of guest singers on this release make it worth the price of entry. Billy Gibbons, Paul Stanley, Alice Cooper, the Voice of Rock Glenn Hughes, John Laughton, Jeff Scott Soto, Eric Martin, Jorn, Dan McCafferty, Udo Dirkschneider, Graham Bonnet, Steve Lukather, and Joe Lynn Turner show up to sing a tune or two. Other musicians include Nuno Bettencourt, Steve Stevens, and Kerri Kelli. And unlike many of the guest heavy releases that come across my desk, this one rocks. Never do you get the feeling that it’s just an excuse for a bunch of musos to get together for a laugh and some navel-gazing. Great care was taken to make sure the songs are suited to the vocalists on each track.

It’s a myriad of types of rock ranging from bluesy workouts through pomp-tastic workouts that would not be out of place on a Toto album. Pushkin are a Russian band with a fifteen year pedigree of producing great music. This is merely a eighteen song taster of what they can do. Try as I might, I can’t find one bit of filler in this collection. “Kukarracha” is the perfect ending to it all. “Troubled Love” with Alice Cooper, is something that would fit perfectly on his 80s output. “Heroin” comes across as the companion piece to Clapton’s “Cocaine” albeit with a bit more menace. Eighteen tracks may be a bit much for some, but they fly by and never hang around too long.

Jag Panzer: The Scourge of the Light

With this sort of name, you might assume it was named after a German tank, death, or black metal. In fact, what Jag Panzer produces is a rather fine brand of melodic power metal. Not only are they not German, despite being on Germany’s SPV label, but they are a bunch of yanks. It’s a great collection of tracks and their first since 2004. Their last release was far more heavier than this one. JP has managed to capture the European power metal quality while retaining a clear sense of being an American band.

Tracks like “Bringing on the End” have that drive that just begs to be played live. There are what you would expect from the genre: key changes and all sorts of changes of pace. Great driving metal, that gets into your head from the first listen. Considering this lot have been around in one form or other since the early 80s, this an impressive release. Not a nostalgia trip, not merely an excuse to tour, this is a solid modern power metal release. And in proper style they finish the album with an epic track, introed with a nice bit of keys. A solid return to form from American power metal pioneers.

Evergrey: Glorious Collision

This album is more power metal. Evergrey hails from the heart of all that is melodic and heavy: Scandinavia. All the elements show up here in droves: atmospheric keys partnered with a damn fine vocalist and a tight-as-ever rhythm section. As you probably all know, I can listen to this sort of stuff until the cows come home, or better yet, the snows melt in the spring. There is little to fault and the band continue to excel at their craft.

With this sort of band, it’s always nice to have someone who can actually sing in English out front. There are no pronunciation mistakes that some times distract from the music. It would be hard to argue that this is not a pretty good release for a talented band. Some might find fault in the consistent nature of the songs, however that would be a bit pedantic. Besides, the competition is getting so good in this genre that it’s hard for a release to emerge from the pack and be seen as a truly great album. If you enjoy Scandinavian power metal, then you could do far worse than seek out this release.

Stratovarius: Elysium

I was less than complimentary to the EP that preceded this release. I ticked it off for being mostly filler. Well, it was a very poor preview to this album. I should not have worried they would deliver the goods on this full length. It’s quite frankly a great 13th album, from a mostly consistent and outstanding, power metal band. Granted it what we have all come to expect from this bunch, but still it’s impressive to listen to with your own ears. “Lifetime in a Moment” with its stark choral intro is quite the song and a great taster of what is to come at the end of this release. It’s a catchy tune that really grabs you and gets under your skin.

The band have truly emerged from the shadow of the departure of Timo Tolkki and have shown that there is loads more left in the band’s creative tank. This album felt more polished and consistent than its predecessor “Polaris”. “Fairness Justified” is a great slower type power metal song. The songs retain that all encompassing epic feel that this band does so well. And then, of course, there is the epic title track to end the album. It is quite a treat and a fitting end to such a solid release.

Crystal Viper: Legends

Never heard of this lot, but that is not terribly shocking as they are a Polish metal band. Poland seems to be known for producing some seriously scary death and black metal. CV produce something that is closer to power metal mixed with a healthy fascination with Accept. The fact that a former member of that band appears on here is no surprise. The band cover Accept’s “TV War’ as an added nod to the German metal kings. If you ever wondered what an Accept song would sound like if sung by a woman then this is your chance.

The churlish might say that there is nothing that ground-breaking here. That would be true they are certainly not pioneers in the field of metal, nor is Marta Gabriel’s vocal anything other than a fitting Doro Pesch-alike. However Doro is not getting any younger and there is space for a new trad metal queen. Gabriel is not averse to give some of the goth metal singers a run for their money in the power ballad race either. Unfortunately she is not that great with the English to be attempting such balladry just yet. This release is good enough to get the band out of Poland onto the international scene. Certainly a band to watch.

Well that is your collection for this week. Stay safe and rocking next week.

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About Marty Dodge