Hypocrisy - The Arrival
At this point, you are either vaguely pleased with the comfortable, no surprises feeling you get when you listen to Peter churn those gothic chords that once strafed In Flames albums, along, of course, with all the Hypocrisy albums from the second two-thirds of the catalogue. That is my favourite part of The Arrival (these songs sound like a big old wooden ship creaking), along with a sometimes ambivalent feeling about Tagtgren's caustic caw. But these are also dismal dismissal points. The Arrival contains (defiantly?) nothing new, Peter going for his tried and true yet shrieky and fatiguing screechy production, a re-use of alien themes, and like I said, those vocals and those almost doomy tower of power chords. I can't exult, nor can I wholly dismiss - after all, through tireless, arcing revisitations, Peter has cornered his own boxed off and boxy, hungover and headbanging metal turf.
Amaran - Pristine In Bondage
On album #2, Amaran do a bunch of things adequately, but few of them with truly memorable result. What you get is a combination of pounding, proggish but pedestrian power metal, fronted by a mid-operatic female vocalist, landed somewhere between the goth metal world, old Gathering, low Nightwish and Lullacry. Besides the glut-filling songs, the most annoying thing about the record is the trebly, screechy, almost distorted, plainly just too damn bright, recording. Nice idea: power that verges on thrash with calm female vocals, but none of the parts excel to any sort of manic extent, resulting in a lack of urgency to care about the whole. I'm surprised really, 'cos the parts and the whole felt fresher on A World Betrayed, the band's debut. Might be two things: a) a passage of time (two years) that has added dozens of power metal albums to the fray, many at the hard end like this, and b) a subconscious nagging feeling that the band has turned in the same record again.