Hard Reviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Sodom - Code Red

I must say, I definitely find more metal magic in heavy-ass thrash that comes from old thrash, rather than those getting there through death, grind or black metal. And Tom Angelripper undoubtedly holds that pedigree, Code Red being a full-on but logical Sodom spread, basically a heavier, faster and crunchier version of Slayer. Fans are going either way on this, again mirroring the situation with Slayer, many calling it pure-Sodom-fine-thanks, some moving on to more modern and relevant sounds that address the aforementioned splicings. That said, Code Red certainly locks down its schtick, Angelripper coming up with a potent batch at many speeds. So call it competent, a descriptive which is considered derogatory, unless you are of the distinct fandom that craves more records to feed your late '80s thrash appetite, 'cos that's exactly what you'll get here, although the lyrics move up to the competitive levels we expect now.
Rating 6.5

Vanden Plas - Far Off Grace

Record #3 for what surprisingly amounts to Germany's most important prog metal band finds Vanden Plas toughening their approach, writing logical, cogent songs that centre around riff and vocal, moreso than on past fussier fare. The sound is surprisingly live and lively, tracks like happily harsh opener I Can See, Fields Of Hope and seven minute fave Inside Of Your Head getting right to the point and rocking with arena melodies that stick. A big chunk of the success goes to vocalist and lyricist Andy Kuntz. Now I know it's lame to compare things to Dream Theater, but inside that journo toss-off, few really aim at LaBrie's voice or his purifying, increasingly new agey messages. Despite there being a couple hundred prog metal acts, he's still an original. But Andy Kuntz really goes to those same places both sonically and philosophically, this set of lyrics actually eclipsing those of LaBrie for both elegance and enigma. So as a package, call this one mature prog metal, no fantasy, guitars cognizant of the carnal, well-conceived, hummable songs, a couple of non-obvious ballad ideas, and finally a groovy, layered Dokken cover, perhaps a statement that under all the frills, Vanden Plas want to play long-haired rock star rock.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 4