Thursday, February 24, 2011


Templar’s 2009 release Dark Circus is a full on heavy metal assault that goes for the throat and doesn’t let go. With a musical sound more akin to Mushroomhead, Slip Knot or Mudvayne, this group of Aussies plays convincing and powerful compositions designed to make you think!

Touching on subject matter such as media control, military malfeasance, institutionalization, self mutilation, and international bank cartels. Yet the there is always the underlining feeling of something better to come. Templar opens these subjects with thoughtfulness but with the belief that nothing is as it seems.

The powerful driving guitar attack provided by Dan Yohann drives the overall musical cacophony. Yohann provides some rather tasty guitar passages that stitch it all together. Yet it’s the assuming bass player Rafael (aka Ralph Dix) who is the musical backbone of many of the compositions. Locking in with drummer Symon, provides a solid bottom end that pushes Yohanns guitars to the forefront.

Vocalist Toad delivers nonstop barks, growls and moments of total vocal meltdown. Putting all together in a strong package that automatically will get to hit replay more than once…. Or allow you to just let it replay on your IPod….

Crushing anthems abound within Dark Circus, Institution, Black Scar, Greenback Nation and New Years Revolution. The musical onslaught is strong and memorable with fabulous melodies that will stick with you.

With a high production value without cutting away the rawness factor, the overall sound is very enjoyable. The sound allows the instruments to breathe but is still tight enough to drive the point home. YoungSide Records has given us a fantastic album of modern metal.

This is a 2009 release, so I can only hope that Templar is working on another release. If you’re a fan of modern metal and don’t already own this release, don’t wait another minute. Dark Circus is a definite addition for those fans of the acts mentioned above. Dark and foreboding Templar’s dark wave is a sound that should delight many.

8 axes


Saturday, February 19, 2011


The latest release from Finland’s HB has piqued my attention for sometime now. Not having heard them before I was unclear what to expect. There have been comparisons with Nightwish circulating for the last several years, with many fans and other critics claiming epic symphonic metal.

The Jesus Metal Explosion is the title of the current HB album and an amalgam of assorted musical styles it is. Hard Rock, Elements of Heavy Metal, Symphonic overtones, Power Pop and pure Balladry shine throughout this musical offering, without a true musical focus. As I listened I harkened back to Stryper’s early musical exploits where you’d find 2-3 heavy metal songs, 3-4 pop rock tunes and 2 ballads. It was often hard to nail down what you were gonna get. The Jesus Metal Explosion is very similar in those aspects.

Album opener and title track kicks things in a solid anthemic hard rock style, yet the following two songs are much more radio designed with pop leanings. Heavy Metal is primarily a guitar driven medium and while HB clearly has feet in that genre, the amount of guitar in the mix varies so much that it almost gets lost amidst the vocals and keyboards.

Three ballads are offered, Hands of Time, Abandoned, and The Lord of Lords. They are beautiful melodic and worshipful, but not heavy metal. It would seem they would be more appropriate on an album of CCM.

In addition to the strong title track other driving rockers include Joy Upon the Lord, King’s Design, and Nightmare. These songs show that HB does know how to cut loose and deliver a blistering musical attack to accompany their intense lyrical offerings. The guitar solo on King’s Design is sheer joy.

The songs are well crafted and the performances are substantial. A tightly slick production wraps this 10 song affair in a neat and perfect package. However if the guitar was allowed to breathe and be more forthright this disc would contain the metal explosion that is very much trying to escape amidst the keyboard drenched melodies.

Strong lyrical content is evident and it should be noted that English is the second (or third) language spoken amongst the band. So if you’re feeling that a slight cheese factor is evident in the lyrics (no complaints from me) you might want to take that in account. Make no mistake that HB is here to lift up the name of Jesus, amen to that.

The Jesus Metal Explosion provides the listener with a well produced album of enjoyable hard rock melodies. Symphonic elements are evident throughout, yet if a driving guitar were more consistently heard throughout perhaps the explosion hoped for, would have been achieved.

7 axes


Wednesday, February 2, 2011


A new Stryper album is due out any minute. The Covering, the title of this latest offering of metallic hard rock is an assemblage of songs that were amongst the most important in the musical development of Mike, Robert, Oz and Tim. According to Mike this is the first album they’ve recorded with Tim since 1990’s Against the Law.

The songs are like a who’s who of classic hard rock and heavy metal acts of the 1970’s and early 1980’s. It would seem that this is an album that Stryper can really let their hair down and just flat out ROCK! Not having to write the material but just arrange and perform it, this album breathes with energy and vitality. The guys sound like they’re having a great time playing these songs.

Opening with a version of Sweet’s Set Me Free this horse is off to the races. The pedal is put to the floor and the nitro is kicked in; how can you listen to this song and not start the proverbial air guitar action???? UFO’s Lights Out is a tour de force of solid driving rock n roll, the influence on More Than a Man is not just passing. The guitar solos rip it up one side and down the other.

I’ve always enjoyed Deep Purple’s Highway Star, but this version is a tisch faster and Mike cuts loose like no one’s business. Why he hasn’t received more attention for his vocal ability in the metal community is a crying shame. Robert’s drumming propels this version and does Ian Paice proud. Kiss’s Shout It Out Loud locks a groove and the guitars take over. Tim delivers some choice bass work holding it under locked.

Black Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell, Ozzy’s Over the Mountain, Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song, Scorpions Blackout, Kansas’s Carry on Wayward Son, all shine with some great performances. Their version of Iron Maiden’s The Trooper was creative with the middle section solo, one of the few times they really expanded the original compositions and made it their own. Perhaps making a harmony out of Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell solo section would have been fitting, yet Oz’s solo is stellar regardless.

A few moments found me wanting particularly with a slower sounding version of Judas Priests Breaking the Law. At times I felt that the version of Blackout suffered a little from the tempo. Yet in contrast their version of Van Halen’s On Fire (perhaps my favorite song from their 1978 debut) ranks on par with the original. Passion, drive and power define this version, can I just keep hitting the replay button!

The overall sound of the album reminds me of a beefier and cleaner Soldiers Under Command. Great sounding tones are achieved and are given their opportunity to breathe and develop. No tight sounding compression that squashes the dynamics and leaves everything flattened. It sounds fantastic.

There is one new track. Entitled God, it does feature a heavy and haunting melody line. A powerful chorus which will prove to be a show stopper from Mike. The solo section is strong with a fantastic guitar harmony courtesy of Oz and Mike. If this is a preview of their next full length album of original material watch out.

Some may want to wallow in unfounded criticism of the ‘apparent lack of spiritual content.’ May I just say how ridiculous that is, the amount of festivals, celebrations and feasts given in Scripture are many. This album is about THE PARTY! THE CELEBRATION! And having some fun.

The Covering is an exceptional release of material that influenced Stryper before they were Stryper. If it wasn’t for this stuff there might not be a Stryper. Solid performances and production throughout, The Covering should be a solid addition to any Stryper fan’s collection. I wasn’t sure at first how I’d respond to this, but after five spins its double thumbs up from here.

8 axes