by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

Labyrinth - Labyrinth
(Century Media)

Beyond the blabber and conjecture, I first gotta say that this is the only power metal album I've played dozens and dozens of times, through years of getting this kind of crap. And like any good power metaller, guitarist Andrea Cantarelli vehemently curses and spits upon (with Italian e'lan) that tag. But he knows of which he speaks, confident in the band's new start, self-titling the album, and going for less goofy artwork, this time by Travis Smith. As well, his long-time friend and co-axeman Olaf Thorsen is out of the band, de-restricting Labyrinth as they turn in some of the most soulful, up-the-irons metal melodies of their career (and everyone else's). There's a groovy, organic quality to these songs, with keyboard work that is slightly old school, and vocals from Robert Tiranti that can swell a listener's medal-bedecked chest with coursing heavy metal blood pride. It's sick. I never expected to find a Rainbow rocker that I played purely for pleasure. But then again, once ever 24 - 36 months, it happens (last time: Steel Prophet, I believe). Check out This World, Slave To The Night or even, if you dare, Glenn Hughes-tall ballad Neverending Rest for diamond carbolic songs of infinite emotion, tracks that glitter then warm the cockles of the parapet-pensive moat metal warrior whose sunken eyes are eternally glassy with sullen visions of grandeur and the effects of a near opaque blood-red claret.
Rating 9

Michael Schenker Group - Arachnophobiac

I continue to love what this guy is all about. Michael has got to be the ultimate song guy amongst anybody considered a guitar hero, the man writing simple, effective, straight-lining hard rock anthems, any of which could be the focal point of a UFO album - huge praise indeed. Songs like Rock And Roll Believer, Sands Of Time and opener Evermore demonstrate starkly the guy's near AC/DC-like skill at breaking down ego, at emptying the moving truck, vocalist Chris Logan then turning around and packing the furniture back in, his timeless, sonorous Coverdale phrasings piling on a bravado that restores each track's sense of drama. I hope the core of these two stays, 'cos I suppose it's too much to ask for Michael to stick with one drummer and/or bassist. Logan is a perfect Match for the platinum hooks of Schenker, a man ironically known for his eccentricity while simultaneously writing such clear-headed, accessible music.
Rating 8.5

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