Hard Reviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Various Artists - King Diamond Tribute
(Necropolis)

I would have expected more from these bands, although to be statistically true, only Dark Funeral is an elite force here, Necropolis filling this wholly unremarkable bit of soot with a combination of unknowns along with solid but not exemplary acts like Usurper, In Aeturnum and Exhumed. Man, the whole thing is pretty much a bust, simply unimaginative deathy versions of the King's creepy power metal anthems. Major variations in recording are bothersome, as is the fact that these tracks are executed (exterminated?) like demos with grind vocals, save for the odd time some bloke tries pointlessly to do the King or another bloke even more pointlessly places his pipes somewhere in between. Dumb cover, dumb title, but great booklet with a historical essay by label head Typhon, as well as band shots and brief texts designed to dress mutton up as lamb. You expect more from Necropolis.
Rating 4

Arena - Immortal?
(InsideOut Music America)

I'm quite glad to see that there are bands out there filling the gaping maw between progressive metal and progressive rock, U.K.'s Arena doing so with Marillion-like aplomb on their fourth studio album Immortal? And like their name, Arena do so with a flair and flourish that is pure NWOBHM-era prog bombast. By that I mean look for neo-prog with a hard rock edge, along the lines of Pallas, IQ, Shiva, Twelfth Night, maybe Peter Gabriel, maybe Saga and of course Marillion, which is an excellent comparative given the dreamy Floydian escapism enclosed, the mastery of keyboardist Clive Nolan and above all, the precise enunciations of vocalist Rob Sowden. There's an expansive and powerful chill to this thing too, lent even more gravity given that these are some of the most mature and intellectually provocative lyrics to hit the genre in a long time, once more the domain of Nolan. Impressive metal-tinged prog, and like I say, the band's fourth studio record from a catalogue that includes an EP, a live album, and soon, another live album, no doubt driven by the line-up changes that have plagued the band since day one five years ago.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 4