Pro-Pain - Prophets Of Doom
Pro-Pain bores me when they're too simple and hardcore (see Round 6), but that ain't in the cards with this new one, Prophets Of Doom serving up dark, rhythmic, complicated riffs that manage a cogent, potent mix between the Slayer-esque and the band's outsider street cred. I doubt any new band could contrive this sort of barbarous balancing act - it takes a bloodied band of pros, guys who've tried everything, from punk to wide-angled metal, covers to... horn arrangements. Tom Klimchuck calls this the most collaborative Pro-Pain album yet (bass and dog-roarer Gray Meskill is erstwhile leader of the band), and indeed Prophets Of Doom improves on this idea of a band feel, something that had lacked in previous dreadful and processed productions from these veterans. Still, it comes back to the ideas, and Pro-Pain '05 aren't afraid to write intros, breaks, speed change-ups, wind-ups, wind-downs... all the while sticking to tight arrangements and tight themes revolving around the band's usual high quality diatribes concerning government, personal responsibility and injustice. Of course, all that "tightness" makes for a lack of dynamic variety both musically and emotionally.
Demons & Wizards - Touched By The Crimson King
Hansi Kursch and Jon Schaffer, otherwise known as Demons & Wizards, struck a chord in '00 with their debut project record. Resplendently packaged, the album emerged at a time when both power metal mavens (one very German, one very American) were living off the avails of the genre's peak. Now, in an era where more fun-loving and hungry acts like Brainstorm, Cornerstone, Masterplan, Falconer and Edguy have charmed their way into our true Metal Hearts, Demons & Wizards sounds stodgy. Make no mistake, Kursch and Schaffer have a certain something, Kursch his distinct voice and his thespian sincerity, Schaffer, his rich grounding in tradition, but that opening track is abysmal (opera is so '00), as is the clinical, computerized, exacto knife production - tapping my new 19" flat screen with a pen sounds more forceful than these snare whacks. And I'm actually not even so sure I can hear any bass guitar - must be that occasional low end vibration. The best material on here comes when the band is melodic, mid-metal, mournful and yearning, but anything fast is just pedestrian and behind the times. And nine tracks, followed by a humourless, unimaginative cover of the way over-exposed Immigrant Song... that's just lacking. Like I say though, I quite like the acoustic, minstrel stuff as well as the melodic metal (highlight: Beneath These Waves), but the sum total, I'll join the chorus of snoozing boos heard getting louder 'round the web.