HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

angL (Candlelight)

Man, I know it's by choice, and it has been so back to the mid-years Emperor days, but enough already with the compressed, screechy, midrange production disaster already. Still, if you can get around that, or rationalize it, or otherwise ascribe to Ihsahn's bad taste in sound (these drums could fit in a matchbox), what you get here is a progression from his last solo album The Adversary, but closer to Emperor, Vintersorg or Satyricon and even Opeth (see 'Unhealer' - and Mikael's even on it!), less variety, more resolute snobby (apparently and fittingly Nietzchean) extreme metal origami. Forsooth, impressive, dreamy, floaty progressive black metal ideas are everywhere, highlights being 'Scarab' with its leaves falling arc motion, and 'Emancipation' which could be on the next Saga album, and features our Mangrim using a trio of passion-filled voices. 'Malediction' on the other hand is all Emperor. Providing drums on angL is Asgeir Mickelson, with bass duties handled by Lars Norberg, both of Spiral Architect, although it is the former's Borknagar ties that really help define the album.
Rating 7.5

Master Of Illusion (Napalm)

Not sure why UK bands struggle with power metal. You'd think it would be a natural, given ancient history and the more recent NWOBHM, yet here's another saccharine keyboard-popped act turning in cliche after cliche, from the cover art through the band and record title, into every pore of the music. The production is appropriately prissy, with staccato guitars massaged in as rhythm support to those clean, clear vocals and attendant Sonata/Bodom keyboard tones. It's over hill and dale with a spring in your step, off to the medieval fair, for a joust and a swing 'round the maypole. Zero desire to live in the real world here, and zero desire to carve out any fresh spot in the dungeon and dragons realm in which the band is caged, frilly sleeves fraying. Yeah, granted, I can only tolerate pi percent of the power metal pie, but even earnest fans of the genre would have a hard time finding interesting elements to this, save for a thorough demonstration of synth settings.
Rating 3.5

Hard Reviews Page 5