HardReviews 4
by Martin Popoff

BLACK BONZO
Sound Of The Apocalypse (The Laser's Edge)

Folks are comparing this to Uriah Heep, but this Swedish collective's sound is actually less powerful than the distorted majesty of Heep. No, this is more along the lines of ELP or Styx in the texturizing, applied to songs that are punchy, proggy, event-filled, and slavishly retro in every smart-ass way. Even Starcastle comes to mind, as does the long-lost genre of pomp rock, populated in the late '70s/early '80s by the likes of New England, Touch, Balance, Hounds, Saga, Harlequin, and then held over for Night Ranger. Magnus Lindgren's sublime and innocent vocals might make you want to slap the guy, but the band backs up this provocation with smart, complicated songs, as well as acoustic guitars, flute, loads of tricky drumming, ancient keyboard sounds, and thankfully, a recurring, softly insistent heaviness that will ensure that prog and power metal fans will accept this into their world. It's easy to screw up such archival quality attention to old sounds, but like I say, part of the reason this will have you cheering this particular set of time travelers on is that they're constantly flipping over new cards, suggesting a new passage, taking you dancing threw the flower power like Porcupine Tree.
Rating 8

TANK
Live And Rare (Soundhouse)

This material's been issued before, but 'ere's the version you ought to buy, as Tank guitarist Cliff Evans has started his own label, launching this as his first release, simultaneous with Murder One by Killers, another band of drunkards of which he was part and pummeled. The first eight tracks present a raw and raucous live set from Germany in '81, the classic lineup rumbling through their Motorhead-on-a-creative-clip classics, Algy in charmingly challenged form. Next up are three studio demos from '81, funniest of which is 'Blood, Guts And Beer' which finds Pete Brabbs still trying to pick through the complicated riff, causing this killer track to be played slower than what would occur on the album. Two tracks live in Germany from '84 are next, Cliff now in the band, as the guys back up Metallica and smoke the stage with massive versions of 'Echoes Of A Distant Battle' and 'This Means War'. Main shortcoming here - Algy's croaked vox are mixed way back, although this is somewhat improved for the second of the two tracks. Closing out, we've got two from the band live in Japan from way up into '99. Again, fortunately, like the whole damn disc, it's two more of the band's very best songs, 'T.W.D.A.M.O.' sounding bold and rock-solid of groove, and 'Don't Walk Away' injecting a thimble-full of perfectly appointed melody into Tank's fine canon. The booklet adds some pics and full explanations, capping off a swell celebration of one of the NWOBHM's most beloved bands.
Rating 7