HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Penance - Alpha & Omega
(Martyr Music)

I never would have thought it possible, but Penance have stared down a hundred bands that have crafted doom since the band's ascendance with '94's pioneering Parallel Corners opus, and created a record that is defiantly, incredibly top-flight Sabbatherian metal that oddly bears little similarity to its many competitors. Recording only sporadically, and remaining more low key than underground, Penance have made their isolation work for them, finding ancient riffs made of stone, bone and howling wind, recording these fragments with a production heft that truly strikes at the core of what made Trouble such an important band. Alpha & Omega, however, combines two batches of music with different pedigrees. The back half is a little spacier and sonically drier (although not much; you probably wouldn't notice had it not been documented), comprising four songs from the self-released Turn For The Worse mini, two tracks of which (Love Dies and Misery Song) stand up heartily to the scary quality levels of the front five. And man, what a collection. Opener Wizards Of Mind just packs a sorrowful and harmonizing punch, Butch Balich turning in a shuddering doom vocal that digs graves at midnight. Into New Machine, and Penance gives a clinic on how to make slow interesting (clue: make the guitars howl). Dig deeper in and a variety of stomping black rock styles shove and grunt for position, all adding to a heartening variety and sequence, that punches the peaks and has you bad trippin' through the valleys. All told, reassuring and wise doom metal that sounds like it's created by 55 year old contemporaries of the masters. Pointer: listen to the secret track at the very end. You may never drink again, or at minimum, you'll put that beer down for the duration. Maybe even slide it across the table a bit. Maybe even put it outside the door for a couple minutes.
Rating 9

Legend - Anthology
(Monster) Hey gents, here's your ticket to get a couple hundred bucks of rare Legend product for the price of a two-pack CD (one that is essentially a US version of the '98's Retroshock 1981 - 1984). Legend was one of the more adventurous and lesser-known of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal acts, adventurous because they felt like it, lesser-known because of their all 'round amateurishness, although Mike Lezala was an interesting and fully competent vocalist. The biggest culprit was the band's thin productions, these spare and sparse recordings (not to mention the talent of the band) not up to the standards of these ambitious, dark proggy metal compositions. But that doesn't mean the trip ain't a treat. You gotta put it in temporal and financial context, and then for real enjoyment, notch the clock back to about 1972. Then this rips, although even without the mindgames, Legend had something going, this brave genre-straddling work ethic, sounding like Demon crossed with Saracen, Nightwing and Witchfynde, dripping with arty Anglo-isms and a sense of impending doom. Plus, Anthology is a gorgeous package, offering two full, very rare albums, the band's Frontline EP, plus a demo track, plus full credits, lyrics and an essay on the band lifted with permission from Malc Macmillan's massive and intense NWOBHM book; two CDs and 26 tracks of impassioned but fragile and wobbly music making, indicative of an exciting time in metal's pimply teenage years. See www.monsterrecords.com for more information.
Rating 7.5

Hard Reviews Page 5