Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

The Reign Of Terror - Sacred Ground

As good as Yngwie album but at the same time not as good as any of them basically because it's a late copy, Sacred Ground is the third album from The Reign Of Terror. Two dominant figures run up and down the scales here, namely Leviathan Records shred king Joe Stump, yes, a blazing Yngwie clone, and metal journeyman Michael Vescera (Obsession, Loudness, Killing Machine, Yngwie, Roland Grapow). The end result is high energy, high quality power metal, perhaps more anthemic than Yngwie, more of a grind, and dripping in gothic Dio vocal melodies. Which is why the closing cover of Kill The King makes sense, oddly, this track being the only place where the band sounds uncloney, save perhaps for the ripping Machine Head vibe(s) of Undercover, and a few of the slower tunes which just clone other bands. Man, what can a sincere, competent band do to get a break? Obviously, judging by this review, you just can't win by being all things but original.
Rating 6

Steel Prophet - Book Of The Dead
(Nuclear Blast)

Written quickly, new band members, self-doubt... these things swirled around the making of Steel Prophet's newly minted Book Of The Dead. The result however is less the signature power metal of last year's Messiah (probably the best example of the form from a U.S. band all year), more so an open, less cluttered vibe, marked by the more expressive, lower register vocals of Rick Mythiasin, his best performance to date, slotting somewhere between David Defeis and James LaBrie. There's a strong Flotsam isolation to the thing as well, these melodies that are doomy and defeated and hooky at once (sorta like Shakespeare), as witnessed on passionate one-and-three opener When Six Was Nine, as well as Locked Out and the jagged but beautiful Tragic Flaws, one of the coolest songs I've heard all year, and this coming from a guy with a low tolerance for flower, er power metal. There might be a little too much wandering late in the album, but man, the front half is so strong, including the tongue-in-cheek Maidenisms of Escaped, that given attention spans, you may never care or find out about. And that's all you can ask these days. If you get three or four tracks you want to play over and over and embed in a corner of your personality like a little toothpick NASA flag, you've found a pretty useful album indeed. And damn it if Messiah didn't work that way as well (The Ides Of March, yeah yeah yeah!), main force of impression coming from things you don't think about, like the discovery, construction and fine-tuning of inventive vocal melodies.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 3