Various - Lion Music - Progressive Metal and Hard Rock Sampler

Year of Release: 2000
Label: Lion Music
Catalog Number: LMC 2010-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 62:58:00

Lars Eric MattssonAs sort of an overview of some of the other reviews published at the same as this, we look at the sampler CD from Lion Music, sent to us via Nightmare Records and Distribution. What becomes very apparent is that many of the bands included feature Lars Eric Mattsson on guitars. The first track out of the gate is "Hell," from Mattsson, which is Lars Eric Mattsson, and Baltimoore vocalist/guitarist Bjorn Lodin. The album this track is taken from, and also leads off, Another Dimension which also features guests Patrick Rondat, Erik Norlander (Rocket Scientists/Lana Lane), Ella Grussner, Rob Johnson (Magnitude 9), P?r Lindh, and Esa Pietila. "Hell" is a very Iron Maidenish tune, that starts out as if it will be a more classically influenced track. Lodin doesn't sound exactly like Dickinson, but I can't quite place the voice, as he's got elements of various folks in his delivery and tone -- with his own Baltimoore, I though of a rougher, higher Rod Stewart. There are some other classic metal influences in the music as well, making this feel very mid-to-late 80s. The label itself specializes in Hard Rock and Progressive Metal -- this falls somewhere in between. Some great guitar playing, but it otherwise seems rather routine, as merely a vehicle for guitar pyrotechnics. Nothing excessively flashy, mind you, but very solid, deft soloing.

Next up is the classically influenced "Calls Out My Name," the lead-off track from the recent Condition Red "supergroup" of Mattsson, guitarist Alex Masi, vocalist Torgny Stjarnfelt and vocalist/violinist Ella Grussner -- a suggestion of Bach or Beethoven. A little hint of ELP with rumbling keys, but then we get into a very peppy rhythm, which breaks for a little more classicism, and is then transformed into something equally peppy, where guitar and violin take the lead, keys still very much in evidence. There is quite a bit of drama in this long intro, and is really the most interesting part of the track. We get lyrical guitar solos, before a deep bass transition leads to the funky, 70s-hard rock, groove. The idea and whole feel of this part of the song is great - I really like the vocal melodies of the chorus, and of the verses. Grussner has voice that fits into the Lane/Bushelle/Hitchings category ... Teri Nunn and Yvonne Ellman also come to mind. Stjarnfelt's voice isn't one I can compare anything to, but it isn't very strong. A little more punchiness to it is what's needed. And there is a slight sense of clumsiness in their getting through the chorus. Grussner starts it off, though in harmony with the backing vocalists (Stjarnfelt and Orjan Sjorstrom), answered by Sjarnfelt, who on the fifth line takes the lead, singing the title. On balance this track is mostly instrumental, which gives you about 70% to 30%. A middle solos section takes another chunk, of the song, as, even though I like the vocal section, this instrumental section is a little more interesting. Production-wise, it seems very...well, bundled. Everything seems close in to each other, like the studio was a 5 x 3 room or something. Separating out instruments is easy, and in that respect they are clear. It has a 70s funk feel at times, once the long intro is over, and again after the long guitar solo section -- overall the track is 10-plus minutes. On the album this is taken from, guests musicians include Derek Sherinian and Alexander King on keys, Esa Pietila on sax (as on track one), Eddie Sledgehammer on drums.

Torben Enevoldsen -  Heavy PersuasionTorben Enevoldsen is next with the title track to his Heavy Persuasion album. This is an all-instrumental track, very crunchy and metallic, with grinding guitars (Flemming Hansen on bass) and pounding drums (Mickey Hurricane) that settle into a very routine chugga -chugga backing track. Enevoldsen's guitar is meant to be the focus and it is, his lines are very clear, his style expressive. Although initially influenced by the likes of Tony Iommi, Richie Blackmore and Edward Van Halen, it was Yngwie Malmsteen that was his main influence and it shows in his style here, though I can still hear a little bit of Eddie Van Halen, too. While his first album Guitarsma included a couple vocal tracks, Heavy Persuasion is all instrumental.

Baltimoore is next, though for the first few seconds, you'll swear it's Chicago's "Feeling Stronger Everyday." And believe me, if you think of that song, add a bit of a disco groove with a Rod Stewart/Kim Carnes-like vocals only gruffer (or Glenn Hughes with laryngitis), you'll have a good idea of what "Indecision" sounds like. Oh, okay, how about a disco AC/DC? This squarely falls under the hard rock banner. You know, it also has strong hints towards Stewart's take on "(I Know I'm) Losing You." It's attractive in a weird sorta way. I mean, I find Lodin vocals a little too gruff for my tastes - a little too whisky soaked I guess. And don't think the Carnes reference means there's any femininity about Lodin's voice, only that Carnes could be masculine.

Alex MasiSo, anyway, we're next treated to Alex Masi playing "Toccata And Fugue In D Minor," a track taken from his In The Name Of Bach. This is just Masi playing, and you don't need anything more, really. Using a combination of acoustic and electric guitars Masi's sound becomes very textured, the production clear enough for you to hear each note and each layer of that texture. It's a studied performance without feeling sanitized of emotion, especially during the metallic guitar bursts. For guitar aficionados and classical music fans, this sits in just the right place. Terrific.

Hard 70s-blues-rock returns with Rolf Munkes and "You And I," which also at times approaches the sound of Boston, though Munkes' guitar solo stylings aren't like Stolz'. But listening to this, you think of such Boston classics as "Don't Look Back" and "Let Me Take You Home Tonight," though it doesn't sound exactly like either one of them. This aspect lays the foundation for Munkes harder-edged solos -- fleet fingered runs versus slower, lyrical notes. These two disparate elements do work together of course, though it makes is seem as though Munkes couldn't decide which end of the genre he wanted to be in. Balance Of Power's Lance King handles vocals here, while on drums its Gerald Kloos, with drummer Anders Johansson also guesting on some tracks (Yngwie Malmsteen, Hammerfall). Munkes is also the guitarist with two other bands -- Vanize, a German metal band, and Empire, a "supergroup" of sorts which features BOP's King along with Neil Murray, Mark Boals, Anders Johansson, Gerald Kloos and Don Airey.

Lars Eric Mattsson is back again with "Just A Leo" from his solo release Obsession. It's Lodin on vocals again on a track that is more pop metal than neo-classical or hard rock. Rainbow comes to mind, mostly, though except for Lodin's vocals. It's another showcase for Mattsson's guitar, where he treats us to some more clean and crisp solos, though he seems to be showing a little restraint. You can hear where he wants to just take off, but the confines of the chorus/versus/bridge format seems limiting. But, in the space of five minutes he does play some very nice, light textures.

Astral Groove - Astral GrooveOf course, it's Mattsson again with Astral Groove, which also features Lodin on vocals, plus Thomas Tornefjell on drums, Micke Ahlshog on bass, Randolph Reymers on backing vocals, and Johan Karlsson on harmonica. The self-titled album was recorded in 1995, and has been re-released by Lion Music. "Heart Of Stone" is the name of the track, and again we get a Rod Stewart "(I Know I'm) Losing You" vibe from this -- blues rock versus hard rock. And now I have another "sounds like" for you, as Billy Squier just popped into my head as well, in terms of Lodin. Anyway, the production on this track is very good, as you can hear all sorts of percussion from Tornefjell, which gives this some textures we've not heard from a Mattsson track thus far, though perhaps not so unique on the whole. Again, this seems about 15 - 20 years older than it is, though on the other hand it doesn't really sound dated. That's down to production and Mattsson's soloing.

Vision - Till The End Of TimeMore Mattsson with the balladic "Out Of Love," from his Vision project. This is arena rock, this time with vocals by the John Wetton/Greg Lake-like Randolph Reymers (though he doesn't sound so consistently). Keyboards are more prominent here, the guitars more symphonic in sound. Of course, it being balladic it's more soft focus than the harder edged stuff. Asia is a more apt comparison I think, but also of many an 80s soft-rock ballad. Actually, the keyboards during the chorus seem out of place and a lot like MIDI...they just don't fit here. But this is a rather nice track, if a bit light. It's another side of Mattsson. (From the album Till The End Of Time and also on the Best Of Vision)

Although formed in the New York/New Jersey area, Jarra are now an Arizona based metal quartet, featuring singer/guitarist Kathie Jarra, lead guitarist Johnny Russian, drummer Shane Diaz, and bassist David Chaney. "Two Evils" is from their Test Of Faith album (though also previously released on an EP Two Evils). Jarra play a darker sounding metal, a smoldering rhythm of grinding guitars and lumbering drums. There is nothing hurried about the arrangement here, as the song seems to move at it's own pace. Jarra sounds like Lita Ford to me, which may seem like the easy comparison to make, as she's a longhaired blond as is Ford. But given that female vocalists, at least in the metal realm, seem to fall into three or four distinct categories...maybe its just one category with lots of shading. I don't know. I could mention Lana Lane, too, though Jarra sings an octave or so up, which puts her alongside Tracy Hitchings, I guess, only I like Jarra's voice much better. Musically, there isn't a lot to distinguish Jarra from another other progressive metal band. They play well and are very tight, which puts them among the better metal bands. I will say that the track timing is 6:58 but it doesn't seem to last that long.

Guess who closes out this sampler? Yup, Mr. Mattsson himself, with a solo guitar track from his "Electric Wonder" album called Adagio. This is neo-classical influenced metal, but instead of Mattsson taking flight with needless wankery (as they say), there seems to be a path his solo is taking, there's a musical statement being made, which really seems to be true of all his solos I've heard here. It's not showoffmanship, but showmanship, craftsmanship. There is such emotion here in this particular track, a bit of melancholy, but not despair or depression. More like...hmm, a reflection upon an age that is long past.

So there are some interesting paths to explore in the Lion Music catalog, whether your thing is hard rock, progressive metal or blues-rock. We take a closer look in our album reviews of Condition Red, Mattsson, Baltimoore.

Hell (Mattsson) (3:54) / Calls Out My Name (Condition Red) (10:28) / Heavy Persuasion (Torben Enevoldsen) (4:24) / Indecision (Baltimoore) (3:46) / Toccata And Fugue In D Minor (Alex Masi) (9:30) / You And I (Rolf Munkes) (3:55) / Just A Leo (Lars Eric Mattsson) (5:04) / Heart Of Stone (Astral Groove) (4:39) / Out Of Love (Vision) (4:55) / Two Evils (Jarra) (6:58) / Adagio (Lars Eric Mattsson) (5:04)



Genre: Various Genres

Origin VA

Added: July 26th 2001
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Hits: 1393
Language: english


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