As I look out on this sunny day in Maine while Washington D.C. digs out of a couple of feet of snow, I ponder the latest collection of metal for your listening pleasure.
SPV: 25 & Alive
Reports of the label SPV’s demise seem to have been premature, despite a few bumps in the last few years. Now normally I don’t tend to review compilations as they can be mixed bags with little of interest to offer baring a few choice tracks. This, however, is a rather good cross-section of what SPV has offered over the last quarter of a century. The German label was there at the dawn of German heavy metal in the mid-80s and helped many of them to worldwide fame.
Not just a collection of tracks from their vaults, there are new recordings of older songs including Saxon’s seminal track “Princess of the Night” and Molly Hatchet’s chest-thumping rally cry “Beatin' the Odds”. As you would expect, there are live tracks best represented by a cracking version of Helloween’s “I want Out” by Gamma Ray (one of their several spin-off bands). It’s a toss-up which one is better Dio’s “Stand up and Shout” or MSG’s “Armed and Ready”.
Of course, this is a money spinner to get people interested in the label’s acts. However, you will rarely find such a good collection of heavy rock that contains not one stinker. Perfect for your next long drive.
Gamma Ray: To the Metal
Kai Hansen’s post-Helloween band is still going strong as one of the flag bearers of German power metal. Many bands try to emulate their sound and quality, but very few ever come close. This release does its best to keep the rivals guessing.
This marks their 10th album in a twenty-one year career. “To the Metal,” the title track, makes it very clear what this release and the band is all about. It has an almost Accept quality about it and it’s the most direct track on here with its simple and catchy chorus. Some might consider it a bit cheesy, but the song certainly pays tribute to the anthemic metal bands that preceded them. There is a ballad as well in the form of “No Need to Cry” which feels a bit out of place on a power metal album, and is more like something you would hear on a Scorpions album. Thankfully it's no “Winds of Change”, lacking that track’s insipid nature.