by Martin Popoff

Click Here for Martin's HardRadio HardReviews Archives

Fresh Metal

Dark Tranquillity - Character
(Century Media)

Character... yer damn right. I really think this band has been hobbled by their irregular presence in North America, even though their form of manic but studied and classy Swedish thrash should have them duking it out with the metalcore bands getting all the press. But Character is a snap back from Haven and Damage Done to a gruffer vocal, messier, noisier production, faster songs, less keyboards, more metal. When I heard that was gonna happen, I knew I'd like this album less than the last two, and upon headbanging to the band's underground Maidamphetamine metal for '04, that prescience was confirmed. Mikael Stanne's vocals lack expression here, the tormented frontman unremarkably monotoning like Angela from Arch Enemy (man, I'm hearing growing complaints on the street about her), Stanne going for the jugular like Peter Dolving on the new Haunted, a good comparative, because Dolving and Stanne are some of the smarter, better lyricists in this field. Still, I guess that whole voice as an instrument philosophy applies, Stanne intensifying to match the relentlessly churning music, which still, is of the utmost quality, personality and magnetism in this field (check out Am I 1? and Senses Tied way into the album). If you want pure, consistently loud, undistilled, not so dynamic Dark Tranquillity, then this is the record for you, the record that should easily cause neck damage in each and all who grouse about In Flames and all their experiments.
Rating 8

Jorn - Out To Every Nation

Regal vocal journeyman Jorn Lande is back with another record from his loud and proud main band, and man, is it a corker. Kicked off by a striking cover, the album inhales timeless classic rock fumes and pushes that air through the speakers with confidence and prowess. As time marches on for this vastly under-rated talent, he is sounding more and more like the reincarnation of the very best Whitesnake ideas that ever were. His band of Scandinavian rascals is impossibly groovy, complex melodically, huge of arena rock sound, textured to the hilt and excessively just right. One measure of a great hard rock band is that you forget keeping score with respect to how heavy or fast the album is measuring up. This happens with Van Halen and AC/DC for me now, and it happens as I roam the riches of Out To Every Nation. Still, this totally rocks, in every cool traditional metal direction you would want, from commercial Priest to Zeppelin prog, classy and intelligent AOR, surging balladry, but mostly in and around modern, capable bluesy heavy metal - without ever offering anything so base and simple as an actual blues. Smashing superstar metal born now, but alas most potentially blindingly multi-platinum in another bygone time.
Rating 9

Hard Reviews Page 2