Hard Reviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Labyrinth - Sons Of Thunder
(Metal Blade)

Lots of controversy over this Italian buzz band's four-month-delayed Sons Of Thunder album (that was actually the name of the band years ago), battles with bigshot producer Neil Kernon (Dokken, Queensryche) resulting in slaggings of the man in the press and ultimately a remixing of the album, which at least taught the band that they could likely self-produce next time around. It seems Kernon was pushing the band toward excessively heavy and unmelodic, and judging from the high-strung drum sound and noisy backwash on this album, a little power and bass might have been welcome. And fact is, this is a very heavy, very fast power metal band, not some flighty orchestral experiment, Labyrinth yammering on about some subplot in the life of Louis XIV in their stunted English (guitarist Thorsen reversed things and wrote the lyrics this time before the music), not really too distracting sonically, given that returning vocalist Rob Tyrant has a perfect voice for the genre. The keyboard work is a bit dated, but other than that, the riffing is exhilarating, as is the (occasionally too busy) drumming. Traditional high-octane speed metal is what emanates despite the fussiness, Labyrinth well-suited to keep in perspective this maligned genre as its competitors continue to crossover into prog.
Rating 7

The Forsaken - Manifest Of Hate
(Century Media)

The Haunted, The Crown, Darkane, Arch Enemy, Soilwork (a couple other recent ones, I forget) these are all bands thrashing the deathlights out of the Gothenburg sound, building on what Dismember and At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity unleashed way back, and before that Dark Angel and Destruction and Voivod. These guys used to be called Septic Breed and in total, haven't been around that long, but as is the Swedish way, they sound like friggin' pros, causing Peter Tagtgren's protge producer brother Tommy to call them the best band he's ever recorded. But this is quite blinding, at times sounding like Dimmu Borgir, raspy, dense like Morbid Angel, a wall of metal just waiting for those at their wit's end with power metal to venture into more tumultuous, more challenging waters. Come on in and boil like a frog.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 4