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Better and Weaker than Helms Deep - 87%

orionmetalhead, April 20th, 2013

After Battle at Helms Deep, Attacker parted ways with Bob Mitchell and Jim Mooney - they went on to numerous projects with each other - and brought in the excellent John Leone and Tom D'Amico to round out the lineup. Leone's replacement of Mitchell was just what Attacker would need for Second Coming. A much shorter, more direct and simplified album would not have suited Mitchell's vocals which were geared much more towards the more epic and tangled compositions on their debut, regardless of if they were in key, too high and nasally... whatever people found to complain about them. With Second Coming, an album written mostly by bassist Ciarlo, those epic flourishes, sadly, were dismissed and what originally had been a band of long-winded tales about magic, mystery and Merlin became a stream-lined and more aggressive typical 80's metal band. In some ways, Attacker lost a lot of their originality and uniqueness with Second Coming.

One of the most heinous acts which can be attributed to Second Coming was the artwork of the album, two automatic weapons facing each other amidst a background of various western mustaches. Who knows what artist Dan Muro was thinking when he offered that cop-out to the label/band. Luckily, the Sentinel Steel release which I have offers a much more visually appealing cover of a dragon scaling a tower over a sulphorous pool of jell-o. What this has to do with any of the songs, I have no idea. There isn't a single inference to fantasy on the album at all. In a strange way, the original cover actually represents the aggression and attitude of the album more, even though it's about as amateur an image as could be deceived. Also of note on this version of the release is how the track listing has changed. More of note is how in the interesting and informative liner notes Denis Gulbey mentions "And unlike the first album, The Second Coming flows. Nothing is wasted, nothing is out of place." So Denis decided that on an album where nothing is out of place, he would reorganize the entire track listing. I have no idea why. Inside the booklet is an image of the original back cover of the album featuring obvious political cold war imagery - the flags of the USSR and the United States facing each other. Returning to the cover, one notes the weapons used on the cover are an M16 (USA) vs AK47 (USSR).

I don't really see the need for any of the bonus tracks on this release either. They offer nothing really except three of the same tracks but from their demo that came out before Second Coming. Perhaps historically significant, they don't make the album BETTER in anyway. Notable on them perhaps is the louder bass playing of Ciarlo but whereas the bonus tracks on the Sentinel Steel release of "...Helms Deep," include an unreleased track and an actual better version of one or two of the tracks on the album, this doesn't have any of that. Additionally, why offer bonus tracks on an album which was self-described as perfect? I just don't see enough of a noticeable difference in them to be necessary.

Musically the album is pretty much a straight forward release. Opening with "Lords of Thunder," I think any listener will immediately recognize that this will be a significantly less round-about album and much more straight forward. Lords of Thunder reminds me of Battle Axe off Slauter Xstroyes' Free the Beast - memorable, catchy and heavy enough to render even the most masculine pair of nuts a pulpy mess. Notable tracks are also "Zero Hour" which exhibits a strong chorus, memorable lyrics and a great bridge with subtle inverted chords, "Revelations of Evil," the most epic track on the release, with a softer bass intro with an Arch style vocal phrasing similar to the famous intro to "The Apparition" or, to a lesser extent, "Fata Morgana," that pummels quite effectively and works great as the final track on the album - an appropriate switch in the track lineup. "Desecration" gets a lot of attention as well in reviews offered with the lyrics in the booklet. I'm under the impression that this entire album may have influenced by the direction that Helstar was taking on Remnants of War as there is a distinct similarity in the chug-based guitar lines and listening to the usage of guitar leads and fills to end riff phrasing I'm reminded of tracks such as "Conquest" or "Suicidal Nightmare." There are a handful of tracks which have some more tremolo riffing on them, and all are relatively fast but nothing particularly light-speed paced.

Overall, I feel that "Second Coming" is a stronger album than Battle at Helms Deep but I honestly like their debut better even with the more amateur vocals of Mitchell, and the less consistent track listing. As an album, this has a great production, is heavy hitting and is right on that fine line between thrash and traditional metal which is often blurry at this point in time. For me, this is the iconic example of what was once called Power Metal - powerful, fast and heavy but not all out thrash. I think it lacks a bit of the originality of "...Helms Deep," and though there is nothing wrong with any of the tracks - they are all great - I feel that their debut had way more memorable moments.

Originally written for Contaminated Tones