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As a citizen of ancient Albion, there seems to be something quintessentially Germanic about the latter half of Doro's post Warlock output. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing at all, stood toe to toe over the last twenty years, England has been totally out classed by the old Prussian (metal) Kings when it comes to "True heavy metal TM". Dragonforce's sword of steel, is all well and good but, when their shield of irony is held aloft to defend a mighty axe blow of sincerity from, say Grave digger et al, then me and my country men are left to desperately reference monaural World cup wins and global wars, that few people are still alive to remember; just to save face.
However, call me a cynic but, the Germanic quality's that her resent back catalogue contains; seem to be, rather than a cultural quirk, a product of methodical and a somewhat considered market targeting. It’s no secret that Doro's biggest audience is in her land of birth, but this geographically narrow (near) over ground success seems to have led to a rather insular outlook on the part of; if not Doro herself, then the team around her, for last few releases. The most obvious facet of this stance is massive reliance of the metal ballad. A Doro staple since the Warlock days, you can count on at least one or two of these mellower gems with every release, yet since her "return to metal” with Call of the Wild, metal Ballad saturation seems to have been the perceived rule for success. "Fill an album with enough of them and one is bound to be a hit!" I can hear a record company exec say to himself; and well, I guess he’s right. Germany at least, loves them, and it’s kept her profile high on home soil, but to me it has sucked the dynamics out of her full lengths, for every air punching anthem there are there are three or four decent but rather fatiguing ballads. Maybe I've called It completely wrong from a motivation stand point, It could just be that Doro just loves Ballads that much (her live set doesn't sync with that mind) but whatever the truth of it; I'm exceedingly pleased to report that this is not a problem on Fear No Evil, the Queen of metal is indeed back.
"Night of the Warlock" kicks in right after a lovely cheese wedge of spoken word into, from whom I presume to be the eponymous Warlock himself, with a pounding metallic march to sing along anthemic glory, its Lovely stuff all round and a wonderfully brooding way to kick things off. Well, we usually get a rather badass opener, so now it’s time for a ballad right? To my surprise; no, a heavy bass swagger opens track two and continues throughout, muscling its way right to the end of "Running from the devil" with each instrument getting in on this attitude filled workout before its cocksure climax. "Celebrate" next and its anthem time again, with Angela Gassow from Arch Enemy providing grim vox among an ensemble vocal cast keeping the whole things more than caustic enough for my taste. Rolling right into "Caught in a Battle" adrenalin time has arrived, cranking up the speed, making it one of the most extreme tracks Doro has sung since the Hellbound album, fantastic. So now five tracks in we do indeed get the ballad, but instead of bogging down the momentum with schmaltz "Herzbult" catches a nice dynamic tempo shift the way old warlock Ballads used to, and it end up been a perfect counterbalance to the storming opening tracks.
The rest of the record keeps this equilibrium nicely, "Walking with the Angels" (duet with Tarja Turnen) may well be her best ballad ever; you see Mr imagery record exec, its quality over quantity that counts. A special mention goes out to "lay my Head Upon my Sword" It’s the strongest track on the album, a totally killer guitar lead and an emotionally charged vocal performance, make this an immediate entry into anybody's best of Doro/warlock playlist. Fully amazing power metal greatness all round really.
So the negatives, well album closer "25 Years" Is perhaps a little over wrought and slightly bloated, but I can listen the album through quite happily and ultimately, it doesn't spoil the party. The main crux for negativity is the production/mix. It seems to be going for a punchy powerful sound, but end up sounding only, well, loud, almost Death Magnetic style. Particular instruments are chosen to dominate parts without any consideration to the consequences for the songs. Also the vocals are mixed to stomp over everything, taking some of the guts out of riffs that should have been given space. On top of this, the smooth yet powerful production on the last record "Warrior Soul" is nowhere to be found here, and we are left with a rather crude overall sound job. It’s a shame because that type of service from the production team would have really taken this one up a notch. Having said that, it doesn't stop Fear no Evil form been Doro's best album since Warlock dissolved.
So there we have it, a Doro album targeted at the Metal community, not just the German metal market or indeed the erstwhile American market, which her early solo stuff was made for (but that another story). So allowed to stand on its own hard rock/metal merits, song wise at least, it shines. Doro’s vocals don't hit the banshee shrieks nowadays, but they have feeling in bounds her band really step it up for the very capital H capital M, heavy metal task given them and overall, production aside, it’s wonderful to hear. With a new label in the form of "Metal Major" Nuclear Blast, I wonder, with that type of backing, could the next release bring forth a latter day magnum opus for Doro? Well, the spot for Empress of metal is still open isn’t it?
Fear No Evil is Doro's heaviest offering since Warlock and as far as the music goes, it doesn't disappoint. The production is a different story, however.
But first the music. As I said, this album is Doro's heaviest and maybe the most like her Warlock days, and she celebrates that fact clearly with the opener "Night of the Warlock". It has a whole lot of cheese at the beginning with a warlock giving a short speech in an ominous voice. In fact, there is no shortage of cheese on this album, whether it's "Celebrate" with several female guests that Doro has gotten to know in the course of her long career or in "25 Years" when Doro whispers "I love you" and "Fur Immer". But Doro can get away with it. Maybe it's her voice or her heavy metal attitude, maybe it's that these songs are just fun and catchy, but she gets away with it.
That's not to say that everything is cheese though. "Caught in a Battle" is one of the hardest songs of Doro's solo career. "Running from the Devil" is slower but heavy and chunky with a nice guitar solo. This album has beautiful moments, too. The ballad "Herzblut" has Doro singing in her native German and it's one of the highlights of the album. Another beautiful moment is her duet with Tarja Turunen, "Walking with the Angels". These two ladies' voices go together better than you'd expect.
All in all, solid songwriting. Solid performance both from the band and Doro. The production however, is not solid. The mastering of this album is so bad. It sounds like Doro is singing on one end of a football field and the band is on the other side. There is such a separation from her voice and the music. It's not as bad if you listen on headphones, but it's still disappointing. As enjoyable as this album is, it would be so much better if this was remastered. It deserves to be remastered.
Unfortunately, I have to take off some points for production, but I do recommend this album to fans of Doro and anyone who enjoys good old fashioned heavy metal.