HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

STRAPPING YOUNG LAD
Alien (Century Media)

Vancouver's Dr. Frankenstun is back with another saltpeter of a record, and full-on auditory inundation is back in the Lad pad. Yea and verily, Alien reverses the slightly traditional thrash jets of SYL, redirecting the band - and yes, this bloody well is, more so on this record than any other, as Dev and Gene Hoglan wrote much of it butting heads together - back to their City masterpiece. But still, riffs are everywhere, and they attack and are replaced quickly, so pay attention, showered like acid rain on a resplendent, smoothly industrial and transcendent mix which still manages, somehow, somewhere, to leave room for a caustic cathedral of Devin-as-munchkin vocal harmonies, Townsend sending an elf army of himselves into the fray with blindness and extreme sunburn the end result. Zen and Thalamus are nearly gadgets, while Skeksis contains a frighteningly obsessive math lesson in vocal configuration. And if he manages to fit vocals into this machine, Devin also fits drum vortex Gene, who turns in a post-death showcase, while Dev's co-axeman Jed Simon and faithful bassist Byron Stroud (also of Fear Factory), flail on in co-amazement at each other and this strip-mining monster they've created.
Rating 8.5

VARIOUS ARTISTS
Blackmore's Castle Volume 2 (Lion)

Yeah, who cares, one would think, but this thing is a blast. Lion Music, known for its huge stable of virtuoso metal geeks on all instruments, has gathered some insiders and some from the orbit (it really is a furtive, underground clique) to explode all over the Rainbow and Deep Purple catalogue, and this they do in spades. It rises up from the drums, which are damn near inspiringly energetic on here (check out 'All Night Long' - pure fun - or 'Burn', or 'Stormbringer') and then the guitarists, bassists and vocalists try match acrobatic wits. That goes for the producers too, who turn up the mid and treble and tech-gloss to near distorted levels. And a great time (if fleeting) was had, especially for a chunky Lady Of The Lake (Michael Harris) and an amusingly funky Maybe I'm A Leo (Man On Fire). Sparky, sparkly versions with verve to spare, and outside of 'Mistreated', all of these are highly eventful, interesting Rainbow or Deep Purple songs, very few of them the predictable choices. A big improvement over the first one from two years back.
Rating 7.5

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