EXHUMATION "Traumaticon"

death metal - Holy Records (1998) - mp3 : Awakening - Rating : 8/10

I had never heard of Exhumation until I was slipped a promo copy of that CD into one of my mail orders. An excellent idea they had since it's one of the best melodic death metal album I've heard for a while. In a nutshell, they sound like Swedish Death Metal a la In Flames with reminiscences of old Paradise Lost. Respectable references and the songwriting lives up to them. Expect non-formulaic tunes with memorable choruses, elaborate leads and even 1and1/2 instrumentals. I also liked the singing which come off as quite original being just halfway through clear and typical death metal vocals. And last, it's packaged in the shape of a nice un-foldable Digipak, which can be ordered directly from their label for no more than $10. Which makes more than a good reason to purchase it.

DESTINY'S END "Transition"

speed metal - Metal Blade (2001) - mp3 : The Watcher - Rating : 8.5/10
Long delayed due to the band's in-satisfaction with the mixing, Transition eventually reached record stores a few months ago and it was definitely worth the wait. Lead by an uncompromising James Rivera, Destiny's End delivers a deeper speed metal follower to the already indispensable Breathe Deep the Dark. And when I say Speed metal, forget about the watered-down, keyboard-plagued ersatz that's all the rage among too many Euro bands nowadays, I mean the genuine one, dark and heavy, the riffs of which rip your sorry face like a razor blade and make you want to give your axe away in sheer desperation. Actually, it took 4-5 listens for the record to grow on me completely as the band bothers offering some intricate and epic tracks - even if it also contain immediate killers like Storm Clouds or The Watcher - but it's now become one of my 3 favorite CD's of 2001.

SAXON "Unleash the Beast"

heavy/power metal - Virgin (1997) - mp3 : Bloodletter - Rating : 9/10
If you're only familiar with Saxon's pre-Unleash the Beast era, be prepared for something of a surprise. The Hard Rock veterans indeed dropped their former style for heavy/power metal with a modern - German-sounding - production in addition. And the metamorphosis turned out to be more than convincing since as from the delicious opening -title- track, to the dark ballad The Thin Red Line with its awesome solo to raw-power-oriented songs like All Hell breaking Loose, the bands delivers its share of catchy choruses, maiden-esque melodies and killer riffs in an addictive kind of way which makes it mandatory listening for any fan of the genre. If you bought Virtual XI, released around the same time, you just have no right to go past it. For your own sake.