HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Lionsheart - Abyss

Vocalist Steve Grimmett is known more for his three awesome Grim Reaper albums than for the wobbly, commercial Lionsheart stuff that followed; the term we used then was wimphem - believe it or not - when describing NWOBHM bands attempting (and always failing) to "Americanize" their sound. But today's Lionsheart screams loudly that "old is the new new," with Grimmett and a rockscrabble collection of unknown and thankfully old-fashioned rawk luvvers turning in a rousing record of traditional metal tracks. Of note, Don't Waste My Time is quite the ace, sounding like something off of Holy Diver, the track striking a poignant balance between melody and metal that can only come from a Dio/Campbell-type chemistry, the highly musical and perfectly shredly (but not too much so) Ian Nash in the Viv role, in many, refreshing ways - check out the solo in Save Me and the opening riff of Witchcraft. Production is a tad parched and midrangey, but that just adds to the NWOBHM feel to the damn thing. Anyway, glad to hear this consummate, convincing vocalist back and attacking, Grimmett's thespian, magnetic metal croon gripping the listener start to finish.
Rating 8

Nightfall - LYSSA: Rural Gods And Astonishing Punishments
(The End/Black Lotus)

This Greek band shows no shortage of ideas on their latest album, which incidentally is named like some Ukrainian black metal indie. Abundantly creative like local heroes Rotting Christ, Nightfall also mirror that band's penchant for loads of texture and death vocals interspersed with spokens and/or Angela-like monotones. But there's a gothic vibe here, as well as an industrial mechanistic one, evident in the triggered drumming and in the electronic-amassed production. Still, the arrangements rise above any boxiness of tone, surprises evident in tracks like Master Of My Dreams, which sounds like impermeable and black-influenced melodic death at a variety of speeds. The muddy thickness of the thing is a bit of a chore, but LYSSA is a record that rewards repeated plays, the listener learning to locate and admire the band's many hooky passages as well as the sophistication with which the songs are constructed.
Rating 7.5

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