HardReviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Chinchilla - The Last Millenium
(Metal Blade)

Darker but thankfully similar in enigmatic retro tone to the band's Madness album of last year, The Last Millenium finds this long-suffering German band putting their heads down and briskly goth-galloping through a collection of tracks with all sorts of strange, apocalyptic lyrics. Vocalist Thomas Laach brings a heavy foreign accent to his impassioned vocals, but you kinda don't care, given his enthusiasm and his power metal force, one that grows with the goodly amount of back-ups used. The production is kind of thin and noisy and live at once, much of the album reinforced with even thinner keyboard tones to emphasize the melodies. I don't know, you're looking at a pretty strange power metal band here, one that sounds like an underground gem of indeterminate age and questionable budget, the record's harsh tones and odd mix decisions only adding to the mystique. Oh yeah, and if you want to hear a power metal, double bass drum version of The Boys Are Back In Town, well look no further. Verdict: you'll probably find this very average, or abstractly and intellectually, so average it isn't.
Rating 7

Shadows Fall - Fear Will Drag You Down
(Century Media)

Doing this sort of thing validates that there's a buzz happening on not only a band (MTV is doing some stuff) but indeed a whole scene, Shadows Fall seeing the reissue of their Of One Blood album with a new title and new cover art, bracketed by two shockingly metal new tracks at the beginning and three live rendition of Of One Blood'ers at the end. The opening tracks (Deadworld and Stepping Outside The Circle) are amazing, tight, groovy, sort of retro-riffed, strangely highly strung, totally catchy and punchy, Shadows Fall proving their mastering of this uniquely American synthesis of metal, hardcore and Swedish thrash, the band able to stop before things get too full. It's like Overkill, Maiden, Venom (parts of the guitar sound, the riff of Stepping Outside The Circle) and Soilwork in one no-nonsense package. Of One Blood, the guts of this package, is of course peerless, one of the underground highlights of the last few years, and then once that blazes out, it's three live versions, back to the reality of the clubs with bad vocal mixes, back-up equipment, not a pleasant memory for me, given that when I caught the tour at Toronto's Opera House, their regal, pretty important sound became victim to the vagaries of playing in hellish environs. This is intricate music and it demands a headline situation, something which is undoubtedly around the corner.
Rating 9

Hard Reviews Page 3