by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

When You Were Shouting At The Devil... We Were In League With Satan (Century Media)

I've always dug these B.C. Viking slackers as people, as layabouts with beards, and have even more time for their mix of great metal and great metal parody - '02's Legion Of Flames was played into the ground around these parts, at the gym, out jogging... love that Nazareth cover. For those not in the Hole, basically this band is Strapping Young Lad without Devin, pertinent and impudent dif being vocalist "The Heathen," who punches through with a metal fist like the guys up front of Three Inches Of Blood and Into Eternity, to keep it Canuck. But this is the band's least funny album. Once past the titles and the inter-song banter, it takes an attentive ear to the woofer to pick out the guffaws. What really storms out instead is the gleaming hard production, super-fast riffs and tight metal madness, with just enough old school trad structuring to keep it acceptably far from all the neo-thrash gucking up metal these days (OK, it's really quite a bit like Strapping in the '00s). Witness the swinging' Devil's Mouth, for example, as a track that wouldn't be on a short-haired emo-thrash album, and witness 'Fista Corps' for weirdness and rule-breaking while still gripped around a firm Pantera-esque headbang.
Rating 8.5

The New Dark Age (Spinefarm)

Place Kiuas reverently in that same velvet-lined jewel box reserved for Nocturnal Rites and Evergrey, this third record from the ethereal Finns evoking those band's catalogues for timelessness as well as a certain delectable confounding of influence or subsequent genre slotting. I suppose the base is melodic death, but there's also power metal and prog metal, not to mention, at least on an emotive level, a rarified sense of doom and even misty Zeppelin-esque folk roots. 'Of Sacrifice, Loss And Renewal' demonstrates the welcome weirdness and versatility of vocalist Ilja Jalkanen - really, one of the most dynamic and dimensioned voices I've heard in years, one of those utilized here being a totally interesting half-aggressive death vocal that I've never heard anybody try before. Elsewhere, there's even a gorgeous acoustic ballad on which Jalkanen duets with his sister. Keys are of a clean Bodom style, and there's easily a dozen other cool sounds massaged in that demonstrate that this band tries harder. All comes to a head for 'The Summoning', on which Kiuas (er, it means the stove used in a sauna) show flashes of all their weaponry on a track that manages epic grandeur along with proud metal melody that sticks to the circuits, again, Evergrey's particular and rarely duplicated sense of drama tapped with ease.
Rating 9

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