Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Martin Popoff is the author of The Collector's Guide To Heavy Metal (previously known as Riff Kills Man!), now a 540 page, 600,000 word compendium comprising 3,700 heavy metal record reviews. Also included are rock lists, a glossary of terms, a concise listing of almost 500 9's and 10's, plus a roll-call of non-metal faves. New to this edition is an exclusive 19-track sampler CD from premiere metal label Century Media. The book is now in its second pressing. For more information, visit the book website or contact martinp@hardradio.com


Reissue Review

Rainbow - Catalogue Reissues
(all Polydor '75 to '86)

The whole Rainbow-on-CD thing has been done pretty roughshold and slaphappy over the years, but now Polydor has gone back, grabbed the entire good gracious spread (except the reunion album Stranger In Us All), remastered them and re-released them with „packaging faithful to the original LP releasesš, which means you get all the front, back, gatefold, insert and inner sleeve material, no more and no less. The surprisingly overlooked hits, live and rarities album Finyl Vinyl also adds two tracks not on the original CD reissue, but other than that, it's the straight goods, no bonus tracks. So if you're missing any of these suckers, now's the time to enter the majestic realms of Ritchie Blackmore and the catalogue's three legendary vocalists: Ronnie James Dio, Graham Bonnet and Joe Lynn Turner, all captured to perfection in remastered format, all a crucial piece to metal's historical puzzle. The place to start would be one from each era, beginning perhaps Rainbow Rising, which is the heaviest and most epic and doomful from the Dio years. Personal fave though is Dwon To Earth, featuring Bonnet. On this one, Roger Glover's production is so methodically all businesss, the Purplemeister blessed with perhaps Ritchie's half dozen or so best riffs, plus the band's rousing cover of Russ Ballard's Since You Been Gone. All told, a serious piece of rock royalty. The Joe Lynn Turner years marked Rainbow's pop finesse era, Ritchie focussing on shade and texture around a smooth vocal and keyboard axis. Fave here would be Bent Out Of Shape simply for its cohesion, the record concentrically courting relationship depression with the AOR mastery of Stranded, Can't Let You Go, Desperate Heart and smash single Street Of Dreams. But hey, even though there are a few weak links in the chain (the debut and Difficult To Cure, both underproduced and confused), no self-respecting metalhead should be without this catalogue. Go now, my son . . .
Ratings 6, 10, 4, 9, 10, 7, 8, 9, 7

Danger Danger - Dawn
(Low Dice/Rondel)

In conjunction with their sparkly and considerably more cheerful new record called Four The Hard Way, Low Dice/Rondel are relaunching the band's „dark AORš '95 detour called Dawn. And as my AOR expert bud Mike Drew sez, if you've heard D2's unreleased Cockroach record, Dawn's grinding gurgling grooves will come as less of a shock, the band really gathering a head of steam, learning, progressing, updating, and making a record that builds on their strengths as pop metal semi-somebodies. The band is officially a three piece here with Paul Laine in as leonine roaring pipester, straddling quiet acoustic and freight train rumbling with capable aplomb. I never thought I'd say it, but all is rock solid confident here, D2 joining the ranks of Tyketto, and even the re-tooled Warrant as saviors of AOR, blurring the lines between hard alternative, hair band rock, roots music; basically capturing in one brushstroke, the '70s through the '90s (six-ton blues ballad Wide Awake And Dead is an impassioned example of this). Well-constructed, bottom-heavy, traditional US of A rock 'n' metal, what more can you say? Contact: www.majestic-rondelrecords.com.
Rating 7.5

Liege Lord - Burn To My Touch
Liege Lord - Master Control
(both Metal Blade)

Here's a couple reissues from the Metal Blade camp, Liege Lord's second and third (also their last) releases dragging us bound and gagged back to the workmanlike days of the late '80s. Signed to Metal Blade in '87, complete with new guitarist Paul Nelson plus BOC's Joe Bouchard at the production helm, Liege Lord proceeded to carve up the same sort of confused he-man metal as their Freedom's Rise debut, ringing ears somewhere between prog thrash and old Shrapnel plonk. Kinda whimsical in a good way hearing this kind of committed metal passion with fresh ears here at the millennium, but ultimately those Andy Michaud yelps just date this thing to Helstar and back. But like night and day really, Liege Lord, with '88's Master Control, had given nod to their inner thrasher, coming up with more bloodthirsty riffs (Fear Itself, Rapture), producers (a soon to be famous Terry Date) and lead singers (Joe Comeau, later to join Overkill). So there's a sense of unified purpose here, the band really digging into the underground, Comeau doing his best Jag Panzer, Nelson and Truglio building the firewall. Still, I think Date's drum sound and Cortese's drumming are both a drag on the system, both too loose for the hoary rides enclosed. All told though, something of a trad./thrash crossover classic, especially with that smart Kill The King cover. Contact: www.leigelord.com.
Ratings 5, 8

Hard Reviews Part 2