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Sure glad I didn't pay more than the Swedish krona equivalent of one U.S. buck for it (big sale, bought 62 albums at once, mostly crap), I mean this album is just awful on so many levels. This is the former Anthrax vocalist's second solo venture after his 1995 self-titled debut, and as far as albums featuring metal musicians as famous as him go, this one definitely ranks near the very bottom. The s/t I've heard people say is not bad at all, but if that's true, something must've gone terribly wrong in the four years passed between the two, because this album is so bad it makes the latest Michael Kiske album sound like the worthy follow-up to Keepers II. All I can say is, what the hell was Joey thinking?
To describe the sound here, you know how in the early 90's, the thrash metal bands started backing down on speed and intensity, in favor of a lighter, more groove based and straight up heavy metal sound? Flotsam and Jetsam, Sacred Reich, Testament...now imagine the transition in their sounds from circa 1987 to circa 1992, taken one or two steps further, and you're in the right ballpark. Even with many instances of the "alternative" sounds of the 90's popping up here and there on this album, it's an overall decently metal sound on display, but the guitar tone must be especially noted for being rather light and more on the rock side of things. Now don't get the idea that I went into this expecting to get my head thrashed and neck snapped, and that I'm just disappointed that the album didn't do exactly that for me - no, this is my objective assessment of the album's sound, nothing less, and not one of the reasons for its severe ass-suckage, of which there are plenty.
So the riffwriting may not actually be bad on its own (tasteful enough to rip off Pantera's "A New Level" on one song, anyway), but as for songwriting, playing and production, this is nothing short of a train wreck we have here. Like a really bad and totally sloppy jam session with far too many drugs involved (I do get a bit of a stoner rock/metal vibe from this) and with far too little thought put into it, it's basically just a bunch of thrash/groove riffs haphazardly thrown together, recorded and mixed poorly at that. Which is rather disappointing, considering the songwriting on here is clearly driven by riffs and not melodies, and also did I mention that weak, flat, shitty-ass guitar tone already? Sonically, Spells of Fear is total grunge rock - in itself not a bad thing in my book, but what on earth a guitar tone like this, utterly lame by any musical standards, is doing on a METAL album is entirely beyond me.
Overall, this might have been simply terrible were it not for the vocals - HOLY FUCK THEY ARE BAD! Now Joey may not have been all that great of a vocalist in the first place, but man, this is simply the pits. No power, emotion or range to speak of whatsoever, vocal lines so poorly conceived they were likely made up on the fly and singing off-key frequently enough to drive anyone mad. This has to have been done on purpose for some god unknown reason, there's no possible way such an established musician can screw up this badly. "No name, like a shadow on a moonless night" - ha! Try elsewhere! Certainly, good ol' Anthrax held some catchiness in their vocals from time to time, but needless to say, none of that is found here. Even if the music on here had been cool, the vocals would've totally ruined it.
No less than thirteen songs on here and the whole thing drags on for more than an hour...I need a drink. This album is pure torture. Abominable. Vomitous. The audial equivalent of the movie Speed 2. Other mean remarks I can think of. Hmm, must go consult Angry Video Game Nerd for more of that the next time I'm to review something this bad, or at least approaching it. Ah well, bottom line: this is one of the worst albums I've ever heard in my life and quite frankly I don't see it appealing much to anyone. This isn't just downright anti-musical, it's completely, flat-out fucking BORING to boot and thus does not score any "so bad it's good" points. It is naught but a massive waste of your and anyone's time. Shoo!