Rawk roundup – Holy Moses vs. Mekong Delta vs. Alien
Steamhammer / SPV
I realised how old I was a couple of years back when the “30th Anniversary – In The Power Of Now” double album came out. I didn’t think it was possible as I still thought of the Sabina Classen fronted thrash metal outfit as being relatively new. But, as is often the case, I was wrong. And here they are with another album of gut wrenching thrash.
Fraulein Classen reckons that this is “Holy Moses mark 2014”, but I think you have to say that sort of thing when you’re band is cracking on a bit, because it sounds just like Holy Moses mark every other number to me. And that’s a good thing, because they were always near the top of the second division thrashers, and unlike some, have pretty much stuck to their guns.
Granted, the wonders of 21st century production techniques means that the sound is better than on the likes of “Finished With The Dogs”, but they have remained true to their thrash roots, with the paint stripping guttural vocals of Sabina still a remarkable force.
They lay down their challenge straight from the off, with the powerful ‘Hellhound’, and across tracks like ‘Undead Dogs’ and the slower ‘Into the Dark’, they riff with the best of them. Best of all is ‘Fading Realities’ which benefits from the best guitar solo on the album. Another excellent volume of thrash from Holy Moses, which old school metalheads will rejoice in.
In A Mirror Darkly
Steamhammer / SPV
And now it’s time for some progressive thrash metal courtesy of German veterans, Mekong Delta. It’s actually their tenth studio album, but I’m going to ‘fess up and admit that I haven’t heard any of their albums since “The Music Of Eric Zann”, their second album, which came waaaaay back in1988.
Yup, they passed me by, so I didn’t even notice them splitting up and getting back together. I think I may have got them mixed up with Manilla Road. Which is daft. So, colour me stupid, if the fact that they are currently on their fourth vocalist, with no original members left had passed me by. I know that Ralf Hubert claims to be a founder member, but that writes Peavy Wagner (Rage) out of their history.
So, it’s really a new band. And they’re a very good one. The technical aspects of progressive thrash are very much to the fore, which may be why it’s the instrumental ‘Inside The Outside Of The Inside’ that I keep returning to. Away from that, it’s the slower material such as ‘The Sliver In Gods Eye’ that catch the ear. They give the music scope to breathe, and really does show just how accomplished the musicians are.
Some of the faster tracks seem to sacrifice the music for showing off, but if I could play anything that well, I’d be showing off as well. Take a listen to ‘Mutant Messiah’ and shake your head in disbelief. It’s quite hard to categorise them, but fans of the heavier end of the Dream Theater spectrum would do well to check this out.
Here’s a blast from the past. Swedish melodic rockers Alien (as opposed to the Neat signed NWOBHMers Alien) almost made it big in the eighties. 1987 saw them recording with producer Mark Dearnley (AC/DC, Def Leppard) at Abba’s Polar Studios, and one of the tracks, a cover of Marbles sixties hit ‘Only One Woman’ topped the Swedish charts.
So it was off to Los Angeles to record their self titled debut. They placed a couple of tracks on film soundtracks, they signed up with major management, and then their singer left. Which meant the international release saw some songs changed, the first single ‘The Air That I Breathe’ and ‘Tears Don’t Put Out The Fire’ had videos made for MTV, but they’d missed the boat. And grunge rang out with a shotgun blast.
They muddled on for a few years, broke up, tried to reform in 2005, broke up again, but then 2010 saw the original line-up back together to play some festivals and to release a single. It’s taken a wee while, but the album is finally here, and it’s a cracker. This is top quality AOR, and it’s real shame they missed out first time around.
There are some amazing songs which should have been huge eighties hits, with ‘In Love We Trust’, ‘Burning Heart’ and ‘Love Will Lead Me Home’, chart toppers in an alternate universe. Jim Jidhed on vocals, Tony Borg on guitars, Jimmy Wandroph on keyboards, Ken Sandin on bass and Toby Tarrach on drums gel together in fine style, and it’s an album that everyone who loves classic AOR should buy.