The world of metal would not be complete without cover versions, right? And the world of metal would most definitely not be the same (or complete) without Iron Maiden. So today we are taking a look at 10 very different cover versions of the same track, in this case classical Iron Maiden with “The Trooper”!
The main two defining Striker elements are still the same, that being Daniel Cleary’s voice and the very detail oriented guitar work of Chris Segger and Tim Brown that likes to introduce little runs and melodies into the songs and add this little something to set them apart. Now when saying that the main focus of the sound has changed a bit does in no way mean that there is any less energy or power to them, but back in the days Striker would surely have been one of these arena bands that would sell out the big ones, which unfortunately is not quite the case anymore in the here and now.
Leading in with “Heart of Lies”, the Canadians come off a furious start that gives way to beautiful dynamics, soaring melodies and the already mentioned melodic lead guitars, above which Cleary takes a commanding presence and by the end of the song one is already able to sing along with the chorus, representing the power metallic side of the album, together with intense “Summoner”. What each of the songs, though, regardless of the musical focus, have in common are the Albertans’ uncanny knack for catchy melodies and dynamics that impose themselves over the glossier and slicker approach, which might be a detractor to some, as the production undoubtedly sees more layering (especially in the vocals) and the keyboards playing a bit more of a stronger role in the songs.
Take the hook of “Position of Power”, the arena anthem feeling of “Head First” or dynamic “Heavy is the Heart”, they all are unmistakably Striker and even when they venture into the terrain of (power) ballads they can keep their stamp on the songs. As so often when a certain subgenre picks up steam and other bands jump on, the danger of bands losing their identity and just becoming another face in the mass is prevalent, but despite their shift towards a what once would have been a more radio friendly sound, this troop still sticks out and for all the right reasons.
Some may hold it against them that they lost a bit of an edge, but there still is so much talent at play here that they make it believable. Whoever needed any proof that the 80s are still alive and kicking, Play to Win is a strong manifesto to this claim and keeps Striker firmly entrenched at the forefront of the NWoTHM!
For decades now Finland has been a veritable hotbed for top quality metal and power metal, obviously, is no exception. Even just a cursory glance reveals a plethora of names that most metalheads at least recognize by name, such as Stratovarius, Nightwish or Sonata Arctica, immediately jump out. Some bands took different roads from their power metallic beginnings, yet there never was a shortage of new bands pushing through, which leads to Frozen Land. Offering their self-titled debut album via Massacre Records they fall into the category of new young band that does not necessarily bring anything new to the table, but delivers their shtick in such a convincing manner that said fact does not even matter.
Leading in with “Loser’s Game”, Frozen Land forgo any kind of intro or preparation, but go full speed ahead from the get go, channeling older Stratovarius to the core, yet without sounding like a mere rehash of their compatriots, all the way into the chorus, the doubled guitar/keyboard work and the energy and melodies, kicking things off in style and definitely setting the pace of what the following 40 minutes will bring.
While some people do not quite subscribe to the “rather an outstanding copy than a crappy original”, the sheer quality of material like driving “Delusions of Grandeur”, pounding “Underworld (Manala)” or all-out double-bass cracker “The Rising” will bring the name Stratovarius to the mind more than once, but where the original, while still putting out outstanding albums, has shifted their style somewhat, it actually is refreshing to hear the “old” sound brought back to life in such convincing manner.
The biggest strengths lie in their all-out power metal anthems like the above mentioned songs or also “Unsung Heroes” or “Mask of the Youth” and complete their flashback mode with a cover version of the E-Type eurodance song “Angels Crying”, which not unlike Labyrinth’s “Vertigo” cover off their No Limits debut shows that eurodance and power metal might be closer related than some people might dare to admit.
For a debut Frozen Land surely is an impressive first step and it does not come surprising that a label as established as Massacre has decided to take it on, this quintet has everything a power metal band needs to succeed and it is just another gemstone in the already rich 2018 harvest.
What’s the Rush?
Why in the hell is Rush on Metal Archives? Have you ever wondered that? I’ve had discussions with fellow metalheads and I’ve heard the arguments for both sides. Some say that Rush have written unabashed metal songs, and other say that, while they have been influential to the metal scene, they’ve never written an album full of metal, which should disqualify them from being included on an encyclopedia for metal bands. I fall in with the latter group—I think Rush was influential (and obviously a fantabulous, world-beating band) but not a metal band. Why am I going on and on about Rush? Because Sacral Rage’s new album has a metric fuckton of Rush influence, AND I LOVE IT.
Since their 2015 debut album, fans of the more extravagant corners of heavy metal have been waiting with baited breath for more material from these Greeks. Their Helstar meets Watchtower style of USPM/speed metal was an instant hit, and their debut, Illusions in the Infinite Void is an unabashed modern classic. So what did Sacral Rage decide to follow that monster up with? Well, though they’re definitely recognizable as the same band, they have upped the influence from tech-thrash, prog metal, and (as mentioned) Rush, to create an album that at the very least equals all the hopes that everyone had for this album.
The album starts off with the excellent, synthy opener “Progenitor,” which immediately calls to mind the holy triumvirate with its washes of electronic, outer-spacy noises. This intro gives way to “Eternal Solstice,” the first proper track on the album, which starts this thing out on an interstellar bang. Right off the bat, we’re treated to some extremely over-the-top theatrical vocals from Dimitris K. For those who don’t like banshee screaming, this may be a bit of an adjustment, because this man is all over the map on this album, from ear-piercing falsettos, to mid-range growls, to more traditional heavy metal singing. It all sounds a bit unorganized at first, but once you’ve made your way into this album’s atmosphere, it is hard to imagine the album without these vocals. And on “Eternal Solstice,” like every other track, we’re treated to every maniacal vocalization Dimitris can come up with. We also begin to get a taste for the absurd guitar wizardry that is present throughout the album, the most striking of which is near the end of the song, where the guitar solo warps into a riff—that turns out to just be the guitar solo but lower and palm muted. It’s a truly breathtaking piece of guitar work.
We get a little taste for the importance of the bass and drums on the first track, but “Vaguely Decoded” really brings us into contact with what a monstrous rhythm section Sacral Rage possesses. The song begins sounding a lot like Cygnus Book I, with the bass noodling around on a riff while the drums work their way in, matching the bass tit for tat. And the drums and bass stay tightly intertwined throughout the song, and indeed through the rest of the album—they might as well be running a three-legged race they are so in step. The bass tone is aggressive and in your face and placed such in the mix that you can always hear it, no matter what is going on. “Vaguely…” also features a beautiful bass solo—how often do we get those?! Vagelis F.’s drumming is tightly controlled, aggressive, and staggering in its intricacies. He never takes a second to breathe, infusing his drumming with little flourishes regardless of song. In addition to being individually impressive, he balances this with also enhancing every riff and solo throughout the whole album. He. Does. Not. Fuck. Around.
Throughout the album, one notices that there is much more of a thrash feel on this album than their first one. But thrashphobics (like myself) need not worry. They incorporate this influence in a way that melds very naturally with their heavy, speed, USPM, and proggy ambitions so that the album never quite feels like a thrash album, even though one could argue it is. A good point of reference would be Agent Steel, who undoubtedly is indebted in some way to thrash metal, but still comes off as a heavy/speed/power band predominantly.
There isn’t one week track here, and “Suspended Privileges” and “Samsara (L.C.E.)” keep up the excellence throughout the middle of the album. “Suspended” is one of the most straightforward speed/thrash numbers on the album, while still featuring some ear-harassing theatric vocals to die for. Of course, the guitars, which surprisingly I haven’t covered much up to this point, are excellent. The chorus really shows off how well the guitars work with everything else, when they move from chunky thrash/speed riffing to more melodic, textural work to highlight the excellent vocal melodies. There is also a beautiful break featuring some clean work, which will feature a little more heavily later in the album. It should be noted that the guitar solos on this album are to die for. Every song features excellent soloing, but my favorite may be on the album-favorite “Necropia.” This song, for me, is the highlight of the album in an album full of highlights. The riffing throughout is absurd, the chorus is catchy as hell, and perhaps the most breathtaking moment of the album occurs during this song. During the guitar solo, the rest of the band moves through the verse, pre-chorus, and chorus, all while an astonishing solo is taking place. It’s seriously awe-inspiring stuff.
Now, back to the Rush. One can hear the Rush influence throughout in the keys, the intros, the aggressive bass tone. But it’s on the last track, “The Glass,” when Sacral Rage prove themselves true disciples. Before this track though, is the amazing interlude “Onward to Nucleus,” Which shows that interludes do not always have to be throwaways. It evokes the feeling one might have when aimlessly drifting through the blackness of space before coming upon an abandoned and decrepit spacecraft, or a planet that has not yet been explored. Eerie stuff. Now onto “The Glass.” The intro could easily fit in on an album between A Farewell to Kinds and Hemispheres. There’s also an interlude that sounds a hell of allot like “Cygnus: Book one.” Sacral Rage also lift the chromatic riff from Natural Silence just before the 5-minute mark. After the interlude we’re treated to a brief theatric vocal before things become eerily similar to Steven Wilson a la Hand. Cannot. Erase. Later in the song there are sections that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Voivod album. The whole song is really a tour de force of prog history, punctuated with furious bursts of speed metal.
The bottom line is that you should be listening to this album. It lives up to every expectation set by the excellent debut and may go down as a modern classic as well. Sacral Rage have managed to incorporate a ton of new and expanded influences into their music while continuing to sound like no one but themselves. Beyond Celestial Echoes is one of the most unique, masterful, and just overall best albums of the year.
Aaron’s Accuscore: 9.2
Welcome to Secret Steel, the fifth chapter, “Black Metal 1: An Unholy Union”
Larry breaks down each album by the German industrial goliaths to decide which one sits on top.
Interview with Mikko Aspa of Clandestine Blaze
Conducted by Colonel Para Bellum of Blackdeath.
Larry rounds up all the decent (and some not-so-decent) thrash releases for the headbang-happy year of 2017.
This was a banner year for death metal by any measure.
Here are some of our favorite death metal releases from 2017.
The diverse spectrum that encompasses metal music’s many sub-genres could be likened to various mythical races united under two opposing banners, staring each other down as they make ready to charge and turn the field red with the other’s blood. From one year to the next, the advantage may tip from one side to the other, but in the grand scheme of their eternal conflict, the forces of light and darkness have tended to be equally matched. 2017 saw the forces of melody and order take the advantage in the eyes of the reclusive bard that tells this end of the year tale, though naturally his is not the final word on such things, and other codices in the grand archives of metallic exploits deserve your consideration. Still, these are the 50 acts of heroism that defined the year, because too much has occurred to settle for a mere 30.
2017 has proven to offer up the tightest race we have seen in a long time in the quest for the gold! So without any further ado, here is the creme de la creme of the year!
December’s still a month, right?