Hard Reviews 4
by Martin Popoff

Pallas - The Cross And The Crucible
(InsideOut America)

It was Marillion, IQ, Twelfth Night and Pallas that comprised the new wave of British prog acts back in the low '80s, a movement that never took off quite like the concurrent metal boom. Pallas persevered in the limelight until '86 (their classic is The Sentinel from '83), and for all intents toiled sparingly in the background until '99's Beat The Drum. Now back with a full concept album ambitiously contrasting religion and science and man's ability to mess up in the name of both, Pallas have no problem maintaining their distinct old school prog metal sound, in fact upholding their status as one of the only bands to mine this terrain. Pallas have no bad new habits, arguably some bad old habits, but that's what makes this endearing. There's a boomy liveliness to the album, even when in some sort of dark ballad zone as is the case with Who's To Blame. It reminds me of commercial mellow Heep at times, or Saga, but the band is almost always grand and panoramic, big drums, synth washes, precisely picked riffs, and relentlessly dramatic (check out Towers Of Babble with its stuttery Egypto feel). It's cool... you just know you're in a place that is time-locked, Pallas distinctly from a sliver of a subgenre that produced little, this brief refreshing time when the '70s prog bands went pop and this serious breed took over and tried to say important things. Note: not sure if this is a pressing error or not, but the first two tracks are barely audible intro incidentals that had me annoyed and skipping to track 3 to get the ball rolling.
Rating 8

Artch - For The Sake Of Mankind
(Metal Blade)

Quite overlooked at the time, Norway's Artch toiled away for six years before their Another Return album came out in '88. For The Sake Of Mankind followed in '91 and now both see splendid re-release with lyrics, liner notes and a second CD each of rarities. The sound was a vicious early form of power metal, perhaps tempered with the steadying force of Accept but really quite inspiringly Scandinavian and well-recorded. Icelandic vocalist Eric Hawk was a power throat like Dickinson on steroids, selling each chunky block rocker well down the path of metal manna. There's an edgy confidence here that reminds one of the hopeful early Gamma Ray years, Artch's songs leaping from the grooves with bright brash drumming, forward vocals and riffs that sound like Europe crossed with Overkill. CD2 includes the seven track Time Waits For No One demo from '89, which are for the most part rougher, more electric versions of tracks from the official album, if that's possible. A lost piece of the power metal puzzle definitely worth revisiting.
Rating 8

Hard Reviews Page 5