Russell Allen - Atomic Soul
Forged in the same spirit as Four Horsemen and Vanderhoof, Atomic Soul roars like a heavy metal fireplace stoked and kept crackling since the summer of '77. This gem of a summer rocker, the first solo album for the man, is going to catch many by surprise, considering that Allen is the lead belter for beloved classicist fusspots Symphony X. In essence, Allen goes back to the music he and his bandmates surely must pull out in the intermediate, not quite wee hours between beers four and seven, Allen writing a love letter to the idea of Mountain, Bad Company, Moxy, Kiss, Ted Nugent and Deep Purple, as that idea refined and somewhat corrupted itself in heavier acts from much later, like Rainbow, Whitesnake, then in succession Badlands, JLT/HTP, Ark, Masterplan and Soul Sirkus. That is to say, Atomic Soul isn't all that '70s-ragged, but more like a clean, perfected, fully modern construction that happens to have simple songs at its core. O'ertop, Allen is bluesy but usually with rowdy roar, expressive as a Shakespearean UK neo-progger, frankly, a joy to listen to, his enthusiasm totally infectious. Complaints? Gaia is a little Zep-forced, and the album finishes weak with a ponderous epic (bad piano sound - great potential as a song but under-produced), and a title track that is a little too glad-handing. Plus...shouldn't Loosin' You be Losin' You? All told though, applause (and clichˇ whiskey shots) all 'round for what is both a refreshing musical move and a cozy fulfillment of purpose - a vocalist's solo album that is an inspiring vocal showcase.
Impellitteri - Pedal To The Metal
Something about Pedal To The Metal feels unsatisfying, like a parody, like the work of a bunch of disparate styles and people coming together to blaze through some paces - and indeed, Chris has always, somewhat frustratingly, assembled bands saddled by this weird, disjointed vibe. All within 37 minutes, there is a joke tune, nu-metal (or the Jugulator equivalent thereof), neo-classical shred, Swedish thrash, Pantera-esque proto-metalcore, groove metal, NWOUSHM, a rip-off of Yngwie's I'll See The Light Tonight riff,... it all feels like a case of "Look what we can do" and not like a band of long-suffering brothas with a mission built of their blood. New vocalist Curtis Skelton has some big boots to fill, following Graham Bonnet and Rob Rock, but he's got a lot of class, personality, versatility - but is that last one a further pox on the record's fragile purpose. And yeah, the funeral parlour called - they heard Judgement Day and want their organ back... geez. And come to think of it, elsewhere, as with The Writing's On The Wall and Propaganda Mind, they're sticking out COB-like as well. Man, like I say, this feels like a barely wound project.
Hard Reviews Page 4