By Bob Nalbandian

Dead Heart In A Dead World
Century Media

Nevermore returns with their forth (full-length) release. This band represents what true Seattle metal is really about. Long before grunge, existed a young bombastic metal band called Sanctuary, fueled by the the musical power and energy of some of the great Northwest predessesors from the early/mid '80s-Queensryche, Metal Church, TKO, Culprit, Wild Dogs- Sanctuary released two very underrated albums on Epic in the late '80s establishing themselves in the metal underground. The band re-grouped, changing their name to Nevermore, and released their self-titled debut on Century Media with famed producer Neil Kernon (Priest, Queensryche). The band has since generated a strong worldwide cult following and have toured with other great metal stalwarts Blind Guardian, Death, Mercyful Fate, and Iced Earth. The bio states this record "further explores the bands original ways of melding melody and rythmic brutality while retaining the integrity throughout." I couldn't have described it better myself! Produced by Andy Sneap (Machine Head, Testament, Stuck Mojo) the CD has a rich metallic sound, much less polished than the Kernon releases, but just as tight and technically brutal. Vocalist Warrel Dane and guitarist Jeff Loomis shine throughout the disc with great Tate-ish vocals and intricate, yet catchy, riffs and leads. At times, the band sounds a bit too traditional-metal sounding (like many of the new-breed Century Media and Nuclear Blast "Priest clones") but it's still a refreshing change from all the over-exposed rap-metal crap out today. Stand out tracks include the opener; "Narcosynthesis," "Inside Four Walls," the Queensryche-ish ballad, "The Heart Collector," "Engines of Hate," and an interesting, metallic re-make of Simon & Garfunkel's "Sound Of Silence" (sounding almost as cool as Sanctuary's version of "White Rabbit"). Definitely a CD worth checking out.

Spirit Of Live
Inside Out Music/Century Media

This CD was recorded live in Paris in February 2000 and captures the true spirit of Vanden Plas. This is German prog-metal at its finest! Rather than brandishing self-indulgent technicalitylike so many of today's (and yesterdays) prog-metal bands, Vanden Plas pride themselves on sriting catchy, melodic, yet powerful songs with great vocals (and, yes, great musicianship as well.) Reminding me of the British band Magnum, vocalist A. Kuntz (great name, although probably no pun intended) sounds a bit remnicent of Bob Catley (one of the most underrated vocalists of the NWOBHM era) yet not quite as strong or charismatic. But like most prog-metal CDs, the songs tend to get boring after the fourth or fifth song, not to mention, the majority of the tunes on this 10-song CD span over seven minutes long. Highlights include; "I Can See," "How Many Tears," and "Iodic Rain."

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