HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Blowin' Up The Machine (Frontiers)

Was dismayed for the first well on four tracks of this thing, finding it way to down-tuned and churning and grungy... trying to be Crisis or something, too dark, too tuneless. But then personality and magnetism enter at track five, 'Hang 'Em', guitarist Michelle Meldrum reminding us why her legendary Phantom Blue outfit was so damn impressive, pretty much the greatest girl metal band ever. Amusing that Gene Hoglan drums this thing (him an' Michelle go way back to Meldrum's first band Wargod)... Rikki Rockett look out! Second weapon is vocalist Moa Holmsten who can sing baby doll and also belt it out with big-mouthed air-shifting passion (check out the solid gold chorus of 'Another Kind'). Other really heavy songs on this show some mobility, such as the odd, eccentric and rich 'Exploited', while 'Miss Me When I'm Gone' is prime Sabbath versus the dirgy Iommi solo stuff slowing things down at the fatigued start of the album. Late in the sequence, there's a casual rocker, a classy ballad and then to close things out, a Black label-styled cruncher amusingly called 'Bite The Pillow'. Damn, this is one of those albums I can see playing half of it over and over again, and then half, not at all. I actually really dig those though, the addictive songs often winding up like gateway drugs to the more opaque selections on offer.
Rating 7

Serenity (Candlelight)

Timo's a funny bird, isn't he, making these albums - now three of them - that sound like relaxed, under-stated Stratovarius, stakes not nearly as high, so he goes for intimate, laid-back, but, one supposes, doing it all so he can sing exactly how he wants to sing. There's a bit of Strato-speed here, but it's always powerless, almost in an organic Sweden '85 manner, although most of the album recalls the simple chording of Coldness, with Janne Wirman pulling out his improbable, ill-fitting tones to stick on like novel synths from Saga at the turn of the '80s. The production is sorta just there, Timo is clear and almost virginal of pipes, and the songs, like I say, no hurry to impress, 'Mr. Know-it-all' being the first real chest-thumper and that's eight tracks in. Still, there's a certain charm in being absolutely unshowy on any facet, Kotipelto winding up with another record that is almost ageless, fully unselfconscious, and certainly enjoyable from a singing aspect alone.
Rating 6.5

Hard Reviews Page 4