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by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Gun Barrel - Power-Dive

Finally some old-timer metal that doesn't wear a green silk robe and jewel-encrusted crown. Bloody well time somebody roughed up the idea of power metal, Gun Barrel being the spiritual descendants of Tank, then Wolfsbane then Dirty Deeds, rocking roughshod over the Hobbit rockers on hill and dale with a nod to Aussies like Rose Tattoo and Heaven, even if these aimless aviators are plucky Germans always in need of a stein 'n' stone. The recording seems willfully inept, the songs, drunken romps through blue collar booze cans, but wandering widely within that pigpen to the odd poppy ballad, the odd boogie woogie, a l'il AC/DC, a l'il Wildhearts, some NWOBHM, a bit of Metal Blade '86 (Lizzy Borden, whatever) and a bit of a chase at least into the affirmative ambitious firmament of power circa say Angel Dust and Mob Rules, that is the biker end of things. Damn, maybe it's hapless, maybe deliberately hapless, but Gun Barrel have found that rough 'n' roll place where personality lives. It takes bravery not to shoot the ego load like all the power metallers polluting their home label. I'm sure they hear the snickers, but the last guffaw and spirits-induced boom of a belch goes to Gun Barrel, dumb name and all. God luv 'em.
Rating 8.5

Virgin Steele - The House Of Atreus Act II

Bookending Act I of this vast project now comes Act II, ballooning up to two CDs of highly dramatic, melodic true metal with just a detectable amount of power trio grit to keep things grounded in grinding heavy metal. David Defeis is of course the quintessential rock star from another time and place, and his ambitions are lofty, coming up with a lush and moving and literary interpretation of Greek tragedy that actually became a successful touring rock opera in Germany. The touchstone is still Manowar, if mainly in the distinctly enunciated vocals and the strange bass churn. This might be a little overwhelming to the average metalhead, with lots of lyrics, a cast of nine characters, much orchestration and indeed, intro narration in tiny point size. But once into the album, one quickly realizes that things are demarcated nicely between the soundtracky passages and quick-to-headbang metal anthems of an obstinately retro nature, songs that adhere to linear basics, perhaps written with smoky live club execution firmly in mind.
Rating 8

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