HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Ark - Burn The Sun
(Favored Nations)

In a power world gone mad and ultimately comical, it is inspiring indeed that folks of that pedigree can conspire to create stirring, intelligent, complex, while seductively and counter intuitively soulful, metal such as is found on Ark's second album, Burn The Sun. Think Dream Theater or Vanden Plas crossed with Whitesnake and Peter Gabriel, and you're sort of in Ark's stressfully dramatic and hallowed rock zone. The list of conspirators is more than impressive, comprising TNT drummer John Macaluso, bassist Randy Coven (Steve Vai, Steve Morse), guitarist Tore Ostby (Conception), keyboardist Mats Olausson (Malmsteen) and Company Of Snakes singer Jorne Lande, who somewhat concurrently has a solo album that is even better than this thing, if that's possible. All five guys are on lively sparked fire, but it is Ostby and Lande that positively titillate the stadium rock starry couples, Ostby inventive during both riff and solo, Lande an AOR stylist for the decade, a vocal genius, if such a superlative can be applied to the act of singing (probably shouldn't be). Macaluso also deserves special mention, his drumming intriguingly hyperactive, busy, yet floaty and graceful. Man, what a band, what chemistry. Note: this album's been out for a year-ish (?) in Europe, now seeing its first North American release through Steve Vai's well-regarded new Favored Nations label.
Rating 8

Battlelore - Where The Shadows Lie
(Napalm)

Battlelore are a pretty self-evident confluence of influences, the end result being something you'll pretty much embrace or push back after a minute's experience. What you get is this: a power metal base slathered with some interesting cross-genre bits, including pagan folk, gothic vocals, black vocals, female vocals, more keyboards than power's usual quota, and production values that are somewhat futuristic or electronic (he says vaguely)... let's go for synthetic. Press photos got these Finns in full on mystical medieval warrior garb and lyrically, the band is (git in line) on about Tolkien and Hobbits. Marks deducted for the thin drum sound, the cheese song titles and the name of the band, but marks reimbursed for the fresh kitchen sink of ideas.
Rating 7

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