HardReviews 3
by Martin Popoff

Hatesphere - Ballet Of The Brute
(Century Media)

Onto their third album, Denmark's Hatesphere crank out signature Scando-thrash with an emphasis toward faster, more claustrophobic and intimate American hardcore moshing. Which makes Only The Strongest... a shockingly welcome doomy track right in the middle of the madness, Last Cut, Last Head also pleasing the ear with its hint at melody over a mid-paced groove. One of the changes for this album was the acquisition of drummer Ander Gyldenohr, and I must say, he propels these heads-down roar-corers with aplomb, his meticulous fills and crisp tom sounds pushing this a cut above. Kudos also to power metal guy Tommy Hansen, who produces cannily, balancing edge with bass perfectly, as required, but also as per the usual high standards impressed upon this style. The result? A great record for those who can't get enough, but unnecessary for those who only sample from this well and want the five best, or five with personal idiosyncrasies. Closes with an amusing, almost unrecognizable cover of "Bark At The Moon," sped up and black 'n' blue battered to a teeming mass of quick picks.
Rating 7

Rhapsody - Symphony Of Enchanted Lands II: The Dark Secret

Lordy is this thing classical, Italy's princesses of ballerina metal returning to blow the budget, offering 72 minutes of symphonic priss rock (and for once, symphonic means just that - a 60 piece orchestra was used, and used often and seamlessly) about dragons and castles, as the album cover cries loud to the heavens. Opening with thespian Christopher Lee prattling on about typical crapsody, the album eventually lifts off... with the most politely produced power metal I've ever heard, the speedy, keyboard-drenched double bass minuets of this most singular band barely pricking the ear to the fact that the suits have stopped sawing away with the longhairs taking over. And in fact (see Erian's Mystical Rhymes) they do indeed stay, as the two solitudes build musical cathedrals to world peace, er, imagined worlds actually. Fabio's vocals rule though, and the background vocals hail the hall like Blind Guardian, and as soon as you're threatened with boredom, everybody breaks for a major classical and metal merger of some sort, or a soundtracky bit, or... some flutes. Recorded in five separate studios over the course of two years, this certainly sounds like it, although one suspects modern technology has a lot to do with allowing such flagrant plushness. And that evenness to the frontline no matter what the volume, and the resulting emotional evenness, cloys, much the way modern special effects in film (Rhapsody call this Film Score Metal, by the way) make the unimaginable possible, but then commonplace.
Rating 7.5

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