by Martin Popoff

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Fresh Metal

I - Between Two Worlds
(Nuclear Blast)

The Beatles, The Police, Jane's Addiction, Soundgarden, Emperor... Immortal. All are bands that shocked the faithful by breaking up in their prime. In Immortal's case, Abbath sort of disappeared (to do scaffolding), and then word got around about this I thing. Well, it's here and despite what you hear from the more extreme press and even Abbath himself, this is not really a mainstreamy hard rockin' biker rock release. More accurately, it's easy on the ears Immortal, almost a trajectory drawn from that band's immense Sons Of Northern Darkness record of 2002. Helping thaw the somewhat jovial ice king, the production of the album is warm on bass and wet on drums. Then Abbath, along with his pretty damn distinguished band of Norwegian black metal brothers, set about creating grooves of various palatable speeds, all with just enough permafrost doom ice-picked into the melodies to make the whole butt-shakin' (butt-freezing?) collection sound like efficient, high fidelity... Bathory? Call it today's Voivod crossed with the last two Immortal albums and you're sort of in the right sci-fi stun guitar space, Abbath creating epic worlds that draw the listener in with a sense that something historically newsworthy is about to happen... after that first guy chucks a rock.
Rating 9

Europe - Secret Society

Europe perch tenuously on the same razor's edge as Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Dokken and TNT. Each is a band writing hair metal turned inside out to contemporary, their version of contemporary being a mix of pop and grunge, with those old hair characteristics (hooks, power chords, golden god vocals, work ethic) glossing the songs up nicely. The positioning (not pose, not ruse) is always controversial - I run the hell the other way at anything Bon Jovi-related, Def Leppard more often than not fails, and Aerosmith's Just Push Play was crap. But I always have time for Dokken, and TNT are (were) the greatest. Europe are nestled in there as well. Start From The Dark was a fantastic return, and this one is almost as good. The negatives are a bit too many low, down-tune-y, droney, mid-paced numbers, and Joey Tempest is just a little too silk shirt ''n' chains in love with himself, syrupy, self-important... earnest. But the verve and creativity of Europe these days cannot be held back - they are trying and trying hard, recording and arranging well, striving for variety. What lifts the album further is that all the rocky bits - I say bits because many wimp out and shuffle away come verse time - are all good, glammy and memorable. As well, the songs mostly rock and push forward, even if they often aren't that heavy. Secret Society somewhat becomes one of these albums where you don't find yourself partitioning the tracks into rockers 'n' ballads, and that's healthy. Bottom line though, this is a bit of a vanilla cone compared to Start From The Dark.
Rating 7.5

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