Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Roadsaw - Nationwide

Five years as a band, Boston's Roadsaw have bounced one full-length ($1,000,000) and a 7 inch before landing on upstart MIA. The 7" was for Man's Ruin which makes all too much sense, Roadsaw being yet another stoner rock act, competent, entertainingly mixing it up between fast, slow, mildly complicated and struck-dumb simple, but offering litle to say "me, me, me" amongst the stream of alt.sludge.doom.psychedlia cascading my PO Box. Unfortunately the genre has much to do with being too cool to work, and doubly unfortunately, much to do with timing, Nationwide potentially sounding retro-fresh in '95 and top of the heap in Seattle in '88, but grappling for elbow room in '99.
Rating 6.5

Artension - Forces Of Nature

Shrapnel's progressive metal pride and joy Artension are becoming somewhat of a power/speed metal institution, offering grounded, song-based improvements on the Yngwie band formula, even when its members continue to make solo albums and session play on other virtuoso records on a regular basis. There's a new rhythm section on this one (Shane Gaalaas, also on Schenker's new one, and John Onder), but it's still frilly sleeves, long, long hair, candles and castles, swirled with the mist of classical metal crystal clear and timeless. Oddly enough, this band is probably Shrapnel's most likely big player right now, what with the frenzy around prog metal these days. Vocalist John West alone is enough of a draw, let alone the rest of this superstar, pan-world band.
Rating 8

Michael Schenker Group - The Unforgiven

Well, well, something from the whole recent, ridiculous but regal UFO experience has rubbed off on tempestuous axeman Michael Schenker, and that would be songs, songs with a band feel, songs outside of trend or metal niche-carving. And that is the beauty of The Unforgiven, a heavy Schenker classic in every sense of the word, fat, groove-brimming riffs that borrow from the blues and the gothic conventions that Schenker helped create, but bow to no sense of obvious. Underscoring the event is the presence of vocalist Kelly Keeling, who puts in a spiritual performance somewhere between Coverdale, Dio, Tony Martin and a two-pack-of-cigarettes a day habit. He rules. And what's more, he fits, countering Schenker's incredible deck of smart riffs that themselves are like prime Sykes-era Whitesnake on smart pills. It's such a home-spun mix, produced to perfection but warm beyond words, even the drums sounding like big, time-worn rocks, as Keeling and Schenker feel out new ways to court tradition. Hot damn, I hope Michael keeps this band, or more pertinently, I hope they keep him. Why can't we all just be friends?
Rating 9.5

Witchery - Witchburner

The wicked pan-fried stake-stabbers are back, hot-footed on the heels of their genre-rebooting Restless & Dead full-length, which, through the backdoor of black, pretty much got everybody rabid again about old school thrash. Well, this 25-minute, 7-track keep-in-touch may keep us old rusted metal types happy, while at the same time being too commercial for regular Necropolis heads. Seriously, I love this swift blemish, but I feel guilty and set for snare being there, 'cos it's almost too easy, too obvious, too pandering and too perfect, Witchery shelling out laddish, red-meat-eating versions of WASP's I Wanna Be Somebody and Priest's overlooked Riding On The Wind, along unremarkable versions of Accept's Fast As A Shark and Sab's Neon Nights, the Accept: too similar, the Sab: the same with a black vocal. But all is forgiven with the lip-rippin' trio of new originals, this band always finding a way straight to the top of your midnight buzz, riffs built of dangerous corrosion, beats full-throttle to the edge of groove's domain but never over it. However he says with concern, it's a guilty pleasure, like discreetly playing Free For All after a hard few hours of click-tripping bruising metal reviews: no challenge, did the trip a thousand times, know where I'm going, music chosen for pleasure rather than work.
Rating 9