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

Fresh Metal

Ratt - Ratt

Ratt never said as much, but you kind of knew they were being polite tolerating this hair thing, given their complex hooks, their hot riffs that fused the blues of the past and the techno-fire of metal's front edge, and their smart arrangements that gave their biggest hits lasting power. Ratt '99 hasn't lost this regal stance, but they have somehow gotten uptight and claustrophobic, relying on co-writes with outsiders and a slick, thick production job by Richie Zito to befit their new-again major label status. I mean, there's something relaxed and raw about Collage that would have been nice here. Still, the band has done a worthy job of making hard rootsy party rock that doesn't sound embarrassing either in terms of the writing, nor the riffs, DeMartini turning in a classic set of tones that are timeless and breathless. Weird, but there's almost too much to digest here. Maybe I'm just too used to having my Ratt served on vinyl, but I'm finding this thing impermeable, and I'm not sure if my aging constitution wants to put in the effort. Don't let that stop you though. The record's just fine.
Rating 7.5

Megadeth - Risk

I was fixin' to find this OK after the first couple of tracks, Dan Huff somehow updating the production of the band and even adding a little buzzsaw bite to the guitars. Insomnia sounds like heavy Tea Party, Prince Of Darkness, acceptable, hummable Load o' Metallica. But then things hit the skids, Huff unable to resist all these annoying little bells and whistles, violins, electro drum effects, samples. Then there's Crush 'Em, a song that selectively forgets that wrestling is fake. Plus it's lame, unheavy, and laughing-out-loud nerdy with those big 'Crush 'Em' crowd chants, which one can't help think come from twelve-year-old boys in oversize wrestling merchandise. The tie-ins with the sport indeed have gone too far when you step-dance up to ringside and actually write a song for it. The rest of the record musically goes to this moody, spooky, introspective place where the dynamic is no guitars for the verse, and then '80s Alice Cooper chords for the chorus. Add it up and it surely is a risk: this is the band's mellowest record, and most produced and arranged, and most lifeless, all of that annoying in its own right, even moreso when 3/4 of the record is within the slow range of mid-speed, the rest just slightly snappier mid-speed. The record ends on a high note with its best riff (Time: The End), which sent me back looking for the rest of the inspirational/inspired riffs, of which I found but three. I guess what's left are supposed to be (in the parlance of the record industry) 'good songs'. Think again.
Rating 4.5

Orange 9MM - Pretend I'm Human

Orange 9MM used to be a really cool cross between Helmet, Fishbone and Lenny Kravitz, sort of Candiria-lite, but all that is gone on this much-vaunted latest, a record that is perhaps deeper in terms of persona, certainly braver, but highly immersed in rap and electronica. The production is bright and accessible, but man, I wish there were more up-tempo, guitar-fueled tracks to compete with the mouthful of vocals overwhelming each uh, performance piece. I dunno, it's just too gunked up with trendy stuff, artsy as all hell, but like the curse of Fishbone, confused, tugged and Godsmacked in too many directions. Mildly positive grade due to the band's Skunk Anansie cool, even it has little use in my world.
Rating 6

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