Hard Reviews 5
by Martin Popoff

Reb Beach - Masquerade

After success with as a session man and with Winger, and after a short-lived dalliance with Dokken, Reb returns with an album he considers the realization of a dream but also simply a calling card to prove his well-rounded musical education. Mission accomplished, with Reb rounding the rock bases, all of them linked with a certain rootsy, bluesy quality. Not saying this because of a personal metal disposition, but I prefer his heavy side, Reb conjuring Slash-style/Kotzen-style fireworks, matching lit match-to-match these tracks with his best vocals, Reb (despite claiming he ain't very good), in possession of a quite thrilling Glenn Hughes tone and delivery on the loud songs, with his fragile technical skills only coming out when he has to tone it down. The mellow tracks seem a bit post-alternative though, maybe a little Union, maybe a little hair band unaware (by that I mean stylistically toward all those hair band albums that went odd places in the mid-'90s; see Bon Jovi, Warrant, Dokken, Def Leppard). So yes, this proves the man can write (arrange, record, organize, direct), but it also proves that he is best as a funked-up shredder as well as a rock 'n' roll vocalist, which he seems to vehemently deny.
Rating 7.5

Angel Dust - Of Human Bondage
(Century Media)

Always distinctive among power metallers (I would suspect due, in part, to their long history, break and return), Angel Dust return with an album that is a bit of an enigma. Of Human Bondage is recorded somewhat raw, and it is indeed quite thrashed, yet the arrangements remain ambitious, with all sorts of keyboard layering, beneath a number of vocal styles from Dirk Thurisch, including three or four nods to two or three Warrel Dane trademarks! But man, there are a lot of keyboards, as well as industrial-leaning synths, and a goodly dose of what has to be called balladry. Yet, it's all dark, and admirably more about gritty underground '80s metal than shiny power metal. And it's all presented in neutral, midrangey tones, boxy drums, harsh guitars... a mix that chafes yet stands out. When it's all said and done, this would have been a better album with warmer production and less keyboards - not a particularly heavy one - but one sitting quite alone along the spectrum.
Rating 7