Hard Reviews 2
by Martin Popoff

Strapping Young Lad - No Sleep 'Till Bedtime
(Century Media)

It kind of makes sense in the top-turved world of sonic madman Devin Townsend that a live record would emerge two records deep into a critically acclaimed, masochistically enthused recording career. Recorded live in Australia in '97, No Sleep 'Till Bedtime (Devin's third parody title) features one new track, Far Beyond Metal (Devin's fourth parody title), a kickin' appropriately Pantera-esque homage to metal and the cheesy voices that come with announcing it, plus a couple of bonus cranials, previously available only in Japan. All three newies roar with Devin's unique deafening and cynical laugh-factor, and the others are simply the catchiest tunes from the two studio albums. The ears may bleed, but one should always accept encounters with greatness when possible. Oh yeah, and thankfully it don't sound all that live.
Rating 8.5

Blitzkrieg - The Mists Of Avalon
(Neat Metal)

More like it (I sez waveringly), Brian Lurch, I mean Ross, getting it together with mid-years axeman Glenn Howes to re-create those Blitzkrieg vibes you either found hallowed or just kinda OK. But even if you were of the non-plussed camp, these murky retro-tunes might just convey and convince, The Mists Of Avalon sounding like a true NWOBHM record, maybe even like an old classic, slight cheese factor and all, sorta like debut-era Maiden with more ideas, but not as many good ones as Killers. Churning, chugging, turgid, grey, rainy British metal with a sort of urgent, floundered passion, especially come ballad time, where Ross' arresting, underground vocals really cause a chill.
Rating 7

Samael - Exodus
(Century Media)

Another tempter/taster from this most elegant of Swiss atmospherics, Exodus is a 29 minute grab-bag of new tracks (three of them) and remakes (four of them). All coalesce into Vorph and Xy's unified vision, to create a no man's land between death, black, goth and industrial with the smooth drinkability of classic metal. Production is exquisite, and the drum programming highly imaginative, both disciplines combining to create a hard, sharp bed over which to place the band's saddening and intoxicating compositions. The new record should rule. As usual.
Rating 8.5

Morgana Lefay - Fata Morgana
(Black Mark)

The prolific (for better or worse) Morgana Lefay just keep getting more dramatic and interesting, ironically by toning down the dressing up, and heavying up their grooves. This latest finds the band power-riff headbanging like an uptight, behaved Nevermore, sorta like Iced Earth from icy Sweden. Fans of '80s metal should be suitably impressed, Morgana really making their play away from prog into power metal realms.
Rating 8

Sweet Savage - Rune
(Neat Metal)

Now we get to hear the real thing, unsaddled by a history pretty much all about Dio and Leppard guitarist Vivian Campbell. And what we get is a strong selection of songs fraught with strange stabs at modernity (l'il bits of techno beats, funk and grunge), and Ray Haller's still somewhat tone-dead, tuff-man vocals, which when performing to satisfaction, remind one of John Bush. 19-year-old axe whiz Simon McBride is the real gem though, McBride writing in a classic rock context despite his age, thrilling with his solos and eliciting knowing smiles with his unshowy infectious riffs. A great mix helps his cause, turning this Scottish trio all beefy and universally about 30 years of metal (well, mainly the middle 15). Sturdy, solid, almost Sykesy barroom metal.
Rating 7