Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

In Flames-Clay Man
(Nuclear Blast)

Of course one should now expect nothing short of a masterpiece from In Flames, and the band have delivered what is expected. However, within that phrase "what is expected" there is always subtle let-down. Two things make my list then it's all good. One: the songtitles and lyrics go to those usual places that new, press-darling bigshots from non-Anglo countries go. 'Pinball Map', 'Clay Man', 'Suburban Me', 'Satttelites And Astronauts', 'Another Day In Quicksand' . . . these are all turns of phrase that sound like bad poetry in English, and much of the lyrics in side the tracks are similarly wrinkled and rumpled. Two: a band under this much scrutiny is bound to blow their dynamic load over and above by a half, meaning that of the 30 cheeky, usually in-out, aren't we clever, non-metal moves on here, 10 of them overstep the bounds of the philosophical thrust of the band's sound, one that previously willed itself into metal's forebrain through a compactness of the disparate elements. Enough complaining though, forsooth, this is still a masterwerk, In Flames taking the pleasant Gothenburg (I'm livid: I just wasted 15 minutes tring to find a reference to that damn city to check whether it's an "e" or a "u": turns out most other books/mags don't bother mentioning it because they don't know either: you all suck and so do I, because I never got an answer! I'm so mad I can barely finish this review. Seriously. I'm shaking and my stomach's upset. I don't have no extra goddam 15 minutes. 15 minutes: bloody 'ell!) death metal sound and projecting it through the cleanest, most power-blinding recording this rolled steel truck metal has ever seen. And dynamics? Well, like I say, 2/3 of them work a magic that puts this band above the fray and into that Maiden for 2000 camp in which they belong, Maiden curiously but successfully regressing into their old school (good for them). So look for gothic Moonspell touches, bits of poppy hard rock, extreme quiet, sliced up spacing, four of a kind or at least a straight or a flush of vocal cards, and a bit of Children Of Bodom blackness amongst what are the band's best, most mesmerizing and blood-stirring riffs ever (although it's never a good thing when your fave rave is track 1, in this case 'Bullet Ride'.) Note: I apologize for the second half of this review sucking. I think you know why.
Rating 9

Savage-Xtreme Machine
(Neat Metal)

Album titles, I guess, are the only thing this NWOBHM carryover don't write well, Savage proving themselves three times over (with reunion records in '95, '97 and now in 2000) to be the very best of the reformatted bands from the heavy heady days of the Brit resurgence. Sure thing, many of these acts can work their old mojo, spinning in place with a sound to which all us oldsters can relate, but Savage possess much more, true metal creativity, all without shamelessly modernizing. So what you get is potent power trio magic and mayhem, raucous, crackling drum grooves from Richard Kirk, bed-headed slurred werds from Chris Bradley (gasp! a vocal stylist!) and firestormed fretwork from a frighteningly under-rated Andy Dawson. Topping it off, nobody gets this good a production within this ilk, Savage doing the job themselves, cranking out a harsh, unforgiving stone-on-parched earth thud that is the only venture into a quote "live" sound that ever located the scant worthy qualities of such a preposterous idea. Dunno man, there's just something about this band's riff 'ritin' and 'rithmetic that is just so James Dean cool, it reminds you with a shudder and a slug o' the best why at 10 years old, Razamanaz instantly mattered and Around The World With Three Dog Night suddenly seemed like a wide-lapelled coke-slapped joke.
Rating 9

Hard Reviews Page 3