Hard Reviews
by Martin Popoff

Fresh Metal

Bruce Dickinson - The Chemical Wedding

Like labelmates Deep Purple, this is one wheelchair-banger (Bruce just turned 40) who is firing on all sixes, a heavy metal legend finding creative wells that seem limitless and groovy and literary all at once. Dickinson's particular muse this time out was poet, artist and closet alchemist William Blake, Blake's inspiration and works being echoed throughout this elaborate, highly interesting concept album. The story rules (despite the occasional cheese-metal line that curiously leaps from the sonics), but it is the music that makes this record special. Bruce and cohort Roy Z (absolutely vital co-writer and producer of the thing) have assembled a record of phat, traditional, sombre and aged heavy metal that sounds like bloody, beefy Piece Of Mind-era Maiden crossed with (and I mean this in a positive sense) Fight or Subhuman Race-era Skid Row. Together, the boys flow knowingly through dark, powerful mellow passages into top-flight anthemic metal choruses and riff-rockers that rumble with authority, the conceptual nature of the album being effortlessly subjugated if need be, to the drums, bass, and more bass power stroll cooked up by these wily veterans. And those vocals, Lord save me.
Rating 9

Cradle Of Filth - Cruelty And The Beast

Whether they want to be or not, Cradle Of Filth are the cleanest, clearest and most corporate of the black metal acts. This is usually more of a good thing, and here one becomes pleasured by crystal-bright mixes, spot-on drums (and drum machines, unsurprisingly) and general separation and identification of all the light-speed neutrinos of mayhem. But for this reason, Cruelty quite often ceases to be heavy. Almost always, keyboards suffocate the guitars, which are rarely furious or electric, usually resigned to sob medievally along with various electronic drones. Dani's vocals are still an acquired taste, but he does sound appropriately demonic, pretty much the scariest part of the show, along with the lyrics which tell the story of Countess Elizabeth Bathory in all her cruel glory. Ultimately, Cradle have become idiosyncratic, anachronistic, inward-congratulatory black metal ambassadors, still perhaps the most regal, upper crust and fastidious, if less so the most dangerous, or the most fun, or the most alcoholic.
Rating 8

Poundhound - Massive Grooves...
(Metal Blade)

Ah yes, the sweet, spiritual rumble of the predictable. I mean, bow down and kiss the ground that this record is exactly what the unimaginative could imagine, King's X singer/bassist Doug Pinnick carving deep into his personal psyche and effortless King's X-ness for a record that (surprise) evokes recent gut-punchy King's X with the bass turned up. Jangle pretty much self-reviews Massive Grooves... (the extended title is the only dil move here: Zodiac and Suicidal both buried this kind of funk diatribe), but the record doesn't really swim within the white-knuckle emotion of Doug until the mid-section, Darker and Friends both slicing with scant precision into the man's make-up, one that is less copacetic than foil Ty Tabor, whose own solo spread was better written yet less properly produced. Love the one word titles and bare, bare-assed, barely werds, Doug offering mere haikus of intense wisdoms you just gotta know are real beyond your dull time o' life. After it lumbers and buzzes by, all you can say is, Īman, harsh', but you know a purification has down-dressed you forthrightly. Now if the figgerin' wherefore and why can take place, an enhancement is inevitable.
Rating 9

Hard Reviews Part 2