Mattsson - Another Dimension
Mattsson's one of those Yngwie-style guitarist from Sweden, and in various incarnations, the man's amassed eight records. Another Dimension is definitely the best though, sturdy of song, Mattsson cranking forth a curiously homey sounding collection of frantic power metal compositions with lots of drums, dated (but fresh!) keyboard sounds, and a vocalist in Bjorn Lodin that is really the band's secret weapon. Lodin sounds like a cross between John Lawton, Bernie Shaw and a whiskey-soaked blues man, adding er, another dimension to the staid rules governing power metal. Mattsson also includes all sorts of cult hero guest stars as well as odd instruments, including saxophone, grand piano, Hammond, and most pleasantly, the violin work of Ella Grussner on Angel Blue, a fine, organic way to make a power ballad. There's a rough and ragged feel to this album despite the complication, everything that might make Primal Fear sound more like old Deep Purple than its present state as an all too self-evident and scrubbed-gleaming cross between Hammerfall and Sinner. See www.lionmusic.com for more details.
Helstar - Twas The Night Of A Helish Xmas
Texas lite thrashers Helstar were pretty much smiled upon, tolerated and often well-regarded during their original six year, four album run in the latter '80s, combining the Bay Area's joie de vivre with a melodic sense that leaned toward Maiden crossed with grimmer dimmer NWOBHM. Now that vocalist James Rivera has moved on to Destiny's End (also notably a Metal Blade act), there's a soft-pulsing continued interest in the band. Ergo this live set from a Houston club show on Christmas (!), 1989. The performances are tight, proggy and metal-mad, but man, the recording was obviously not executed for future album status. You forget the muffling after a while, but with some distance, you really gotta call this half way to boot quality, although most of the frequencies are handled acceptably. What's anybody doing at a grimy hovel of a club show on Christmas would be my question.
Hard Reviews Page 7