Hard Reviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Mister Kite - All In Time

Quite amazing that this is a debut, Sweden's Mr. Kite capping their three year existence thus far (which included touring with Bruce Dickinson and Helloween) with a fresh, exciting collection of songs variously prog metal and power metal, although there is little cookie-cutter about this album. Hints of industrial, hard hair metal and even hard alternative enter the fray as well, resulting in a universal kind of hi-tech sound with bright production, rock starry vocals, and an overall presentation that looks and feels like Vanden Plas for some reason, or Extreme's Three Sides To Every Story (that only came to me when I looked at the tracklisting, but still, it sticks). It's funny, the complication comes from the album as a whole, most of these songs taken in isolation, being quite traditional, with vocals that come in quickly, lots of spaces, discernible choruses. The end result is high creativity doled out methodically, by record's end, Mister Kite having delivered a substantial number of very strong ideas spread amongst a gorgeous collection of true songs.
Rating 8

Saxon - Crusader
(Axe Killer)

Crusader was the Saxon album that had fans up in arms at the band's new American sound, most of the metal reduced to light party fare (I think the title A Little Bit Of What You Fancy says it all), the boys trying a number of different things to match their new wardrobes. But the epics were kind of cool, songs like Sailing To America (single and actually quite pleasurable) and the opening title track full up with production indulgences that now sound quite distinctive and brave. A cover of Sweet's Set Me Free was also a bit of a hit, even if this version was a little light in the loafers with this particular set of tones. But the reason you want this is the bonus material, Axe Killer adding three heavy Saxon rarities (more or less) from the era, Chase The Fade (a ripper of a short instrumental with an uncharacteristically smart riff), Krakatoa (a double bass barrage of a redline rocker), and a nine minute medley of hits, highlight being a strange, relaxed and laid-back Heavy Metal Thunder. As well, the package includes full lyrics, if not the usual extra photos and liner notes usually associated with Axe Killer product, this made up for by the truly valuable bonus tracks.
Rating 7

Hard Reviews Page 4