HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Stampin' Ground - A New Darkness Upon Us
(Century Media)

The novelty of a UK band sounding like this is enough to warrant a looksee, and once inside, one finds a very capable, very American-sounding metal machine, despite the band's to-a-man short-shorn locks. Nine years runnin' and with a bunch of albums to their name, Stampin' Ground have finally recorded with Andy Sneap, after asking for three records now, after recording the last two with his underling David Chang, at Andy's studio. The result is a slicing, stabbing record that starts off with a title track that's almost a joke, a Slayer parody if there ever was one, and then settles into a cogent mix of Slayer, Pantera, Hatebreed and Biohazard - hardcore gone riff-mad and heart-palpitating, the drum fills of Neil Hutton cracking a smile like Lombardo, the plush but pounding sound perfect for the band's veteran chops and quick turn of metallic phrase. So yeah, if the swing from nu towards a specific and pinpointed meeting of thrash metal and hardcore marks a subgenre with commercial promise, Stampin' Ground are poised to participate loudly and proudly. Still, three quarters of the marks for brilliant execution, one quarter taken away for too readily identifiable sleeve-worn influence.
Rating 7.5

Silver Mountain - Breakin' Chains
(Reality Entertainment)

With their first two frosty Swedish classics from the mid-'80s - Shakin' Brains and Universe - Silver Mountain established, for the first but not the last time (forget the '70s, trust me), Sweden as a more than respected country for metal mining madness. Heavy Load, Axewitch and Torch perhaps broke the dry spell, but Silver Mountain were a thrilling Yngwie-esque maelstrom of old-definition gothic sounds, so much so, they soon fragmented, the parts becoming Yngwie's band. Anyhow, in a sleight of time warp, the band has gotten together to re-record some classics, rarities and new tracks, and the results sound inspiringly like the band's romping NWOSwedishHM of old, an alloy that marries Deep Purple to Rainbow with a slice of Maiden. Jonas Hansson has an endearing cough syrup voice (which strangely reminds one of the band's signature vocalist Christer Mentzer), and his axework merges purposefully with Jens Johansson's (Yngwie, Dio, Stratovarius) old school keyboard wizardries. To boot, the sound quality is a little rough and highly strung, adding to the comfortable vintage feel of these songs and performances. One wonders if the band had decided that one can't, or shouldn't, go back, that is, write a whole record in an old style, which could be classed as parody. In any event, what they had decided to do works, adding weirdly to the old catalogue, like a lost, unreleased record of sorts.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 5