HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Supared - Supared
(Noise/Sanctuary)

With a stupid, misleading hardcore bit of cover art and an even dumber name which, despite valiant attempts at explanation by leader of the band, ex-Helloween singer Michael Kiske, means vaguely nothing more than "red fish," Supared is much preferred by my wandering ears than any number of Helloween clones from within or without. It's a little trendily modern (dancy guitar and drum effects), but under the claptrap are rich, passionate vocal melodies, topped by an understated Kiske (see Geddy's '70s versus his '80s and '90s). The man can definitely write - and sing - and the best stuff on here (see Heroes, which borrows a bit from the Bowie classic of the same name) fits into the "driving ballad" classification, almost like King's X or Enuff Znuff or Gilby Clarke (?), whereas the heavier songs make too much noise and the real ballads sound too much like real ballads. But man, even in the latter camp, tracks like A Bit Of Her and Overrated kill with brains any hurl-by-numbers sounds Def Leppard think don't stink. Kiske has been a controversially poppy guy since his pushed/pull departure from Helloween, but if you liked his voice, and want a look at a guy with a restless, exploring work ethic, Supared is sweet candy justice indeed, heavier than the Kiske solo albums, but refreshingly unaware of thus incapable of many hard rock conventions.
Rating 7.5

Dragonforce - Valley Of The Damned
(Noise/Sanctuary)

Surprise, there are amazing power metal songs out there, this UK upstart owning at least two of them in the speedy but inspirational Black Winter Night and the following histrionic ballad Starfire. But there's also much middling churning going on here, despite a bit of an identity with the band's need for speed, the quick-triplet-firing right hands of Herman Li and Sam Totman, and the screechy, sweet, pervasive synthesizers of Vadim. Alas, more than half the album embodies only this underscoring feature, with songs and sword-swinging melodies that could be by any Hobbit rocker. Closer Heart Of The Dragon is a bit of a faith restorer, given, again, a bit of an arcane melody. There's a direction here to be exploited (sez my two cents)... Dragonforce have the melodies - and that's all they have. They conceivably could distinguish by sweating 40 songs, picking the best 10 based on mining for these sweet/sour/daring melodies, and then go real symphonic all over them, go for baroque, emote well over the top.
Rating 6.5

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