HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

The Gathering - A Sound Relief
(Psychonaut/The End)

Impressive in that it's somewhat of an indie production, A Sound Relief offers two discs of Gathered goodies, housed in a card oversleeve package with austere, spot-varnished packaging. The root of the package is an expertly shot, hi-fidelity 15 song show of very slow, mellow songs. This causes impatience, but is quelled by Anneke looking great in casual white top, white pants and white sneakers. She's a great front woman as well, always smiling, singing effortlessly, not moving around much, but you quickly don't care. Aiding the motion of the concert is animation and video images deftly and sparingly used - this is right in the DVD - plus projected backdrop imagery in the actual concert. Interestingly, one can hear a handful of songs purely with this imagery, some of which is dull, but much of the pure animation professional and worthy. Additionally, there is Dutch and Italian documentary/interview footage, lots of backstage, and through it all, one picks up a fair bit behind the motivation of the band as they moved from metal into the moody, trippy, gothic alt./art rock they play now.
Rating 8

Dragonforce - Inhuman Rampage

Used to be the other way around, mainlanders following the Brits and Americans by two years or 18 months into whatever style they just whipped. Anyway, here's a UK freak show continuing in their obstinacy, building an ornate and pure power metal preposterousness when all the big acts from Germany, Sweden, Finland and Italy have wisely moved on. Fast and Finnish in its rhythms, melodic like a half hour toddler show, meticulous of tattoo-needled note, Inhuman Force also lathers up synth sounds that would make Janne Warman blush with drunken, naked in the tour bus area pride. The band call themselves "extreme power metal," but that gives them too much credit: this is more like "extremely power metal," drawing up images of Sonata Arctica and even Narnia. Sounds ProTooled and triggered to death, but then again, power metal is all about music geared like a fine Swiss pocket watch.
Rating 5

Hard Reviews Page 5