Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Martin Popoff is the author of The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal (previously known as Riff Kills Man!), now a 540 page, 600,000 word compendium comprising 3,700 heavy metal record reviews. Also included are rock lists, a glossary of terms, a concise listing of almost 500 9's and 10's, plus a roll-call of non-metal faves. New to this edition is an exclusive 19-track sampler CD from premiere metal label Century Media. The book is now in its second pressing. For more information, visit the book website or contact martinp@hardradio.com

Fresh Metal

Mercyful Fate - 9
(Metal Blade)

First track with an instant and unrelenting grip here is Sold My Soul, which you could swear King is singing from white hot experience, an experience perhaps documented on the burning and passionate cover art, which is your initial visual clue that this is a different type of Mercyful Fate record. And indeed it is, for this gathering of metal legends has somehow taken the age and jadedness out of the advanced section of its viewing gallery, and transported them (us) back to the band's classic first two records, capturing all the underworld fire in a flurry of double bass drums, massive, overblown, but quick and impatient riffs, Satanic lyrics and hair-raising vocals that seem barely contained by the slight sly-like-a-fox crap factor of the production values. It all digs into the cold soil of the NWOBHM with a Scandinavian twist of the spade, Mercyful Fate basicaly scaring the bejesus out of the listener with devilish threats and guitars 1,000 years old or at certain silvery, magic moments, flung right out of time. Eccentric breaks, new King characters and foreign guitar tones (the first 13 seconds of the record are enough to raise phantom voices in the head) add to the cauldron of sonic witchery, while Wead and Sherman fill up the rest of the show with their well-written but hastily executed, almost slapped down, riffs from Walpurgis Nacht. Ultimately it's a driven, angry, venomous record that results, one that spins unearthed but still frost-bitten and scratched by grit, advancing toward an imploded title track that blurs Heaven with Hell in complex ways that the King has worked out for he and his crooked self alone.
Rating 9

Marshall Law - Warning From History
(Neat Metal)

Either my shine for Marshall Law is losing its lustre or an already regressive band is digging in their obstinate heels even deeper, but I'm not sure if I can continue to play temporal flip-flop with this band. But then again, maybe I should, because once more, forgetting it's 1999, Warning From History is this quite worthy marriage of Painkiller, Viv Campbell and Accept, a biting, traditional, energetic slice of guitar, uh, history. The trick is this: is my lack of caring based on a critic's jadedness, or the product itself, which is as rock-solid as any of the 1983 records I rate as 8s, 9s and 10s? We constantly ask for and get, bands "getting back to basics", "our roots", but when an odd and elder assemblage from a no longer metal locale like Britain does it, we get confused. Consider this practicallly unrated in a zen-like way.
Rating 7

The Angels - Liveline
(Axe Killer)

These songs were obviously cooked up well to play live, and they sound quite good, although I still have a soft spot for the studio work for the temporal context to my own life. But one can tell a party is being had, The Angels whipping various hometown crowds into a Quotable boogie no doubt greased by a few Fosters. All the tracks are from '83 or '87, save for an '81 Smalltalk, and like I say, it's an easy drinking churn by one of the greats. Doc speaks to the crowd like some sort of fragile, demented Pink Floyd Geldof, crossed with the wink of a Lemmy, somewhat raising the brain stakes on these blooz metal hummers. But the album originally came out on vinyl and CD in 1988. Flash forward to 1999, and Axe Killer in France has picked up the Definitive Digital Remaster from last year for splendid reissue. Can't speak for the detailed appointments of the '98 issue, but Axe Killer's two CD package offers a whopping 100 photos, extensive liner and tour notes, plus an explanatory essay on the unique downunder Angels experience as it exists for so many lucky fans. To top it off, there's ten bonus live tracks, all from '83 or '81, which comprise the real gem-osity of this thing, capturing the band intimately somewhere between the Pistols, the Ramones and the Stones. 36 tracks of golden era Angels. Gotta love it. Contact ericaxe@pratique.fr for yer fix.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Part 2