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I am not a sexist. Definitely not, believe me. There just are a few professions I think fit one of the sexes better than the other. Men are rarely suited to being a midwife (or maternity nurse, or whatever the modern word for that is) for obvious reasons, while women should not work in mines and rarely as a butcher, for example. Metal vocalist is a borderline case for me, since in my experience female singers in metal are usually unable to deliver the needed mean attitudes and emotions with sufficient force. Maybe gothic stuff and operatic vocals are different cases altogether, but basic heavy metal and the more extreme forms of death, black and other genres require yelling, coarse shouting, growls, or just basic powerful metal voice, and that is a rare talent in women. Also, it's quite unusual that a woman even has the will to brutalize her own voice in the way male vocalists often do in metal bands. There are certain exceptions, of course, especially in genres close to and often associated with metal. The Guano Apes' lady, for example, has some balls in the shouting department, and the singer of the finnish alternative industrial band Velcra (IMO not acceptable for the MA) is an angry lady, to be sure. One of the rare actual metal exceptions I've come across is Ann Boleyn of Hellion. Her rare, powerful alto voice delivers, with unusual force, and forces me to rethink my attitude. She is a good, traditional heavy metal vocalist in the best possible sense.
This is one of those albums I've picked up because the price tag had a minimal prime number on it and I just felt like it, not bothering to check anything in advance. The fact that the vocalist is a woman was a surprise. The purchase was a good and cost-effective one. The album is full of pretty good basic heavy metal, and while not spectacular, it's worth every penny. A few euros for an album with a sort of a female version of Dio singing? Anytime!
A theme album, with a seemingly decent storyline of course brings to mind such masterpieces as the best of Kind Diamond's works and my all-time favourite theme album, Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. And since the music is mostly from the very same category, comparisons are not uncalled for. To be honest, Boleyn's vocal delivery is truly mighty when compared to King Diamond's wheezing, and does not need to feel ashamed next to Dickinson's air raid siren. This album is certainly a very good product from a relatively little known band, although I think making a product package of an album and a book is a slight hoax: the story on the album is not complete. You'd need to buy to book to know what really happens, and that sucks, since the entertainment shelf-life of an album is supposed to be much longer than that of a book, on the average. Furthermore, the lyrics themselves do not tell a story, the explanation on the cover is essential to even know there's a story behind the music.
There's very little to say about the music, except that it is well-made, basic and traditional heavy metal. The production is generally good, but somehow the sound quality slumps for a few songs' duration around the sixth song. The songwriting is occasionally pretty good, and especially the title track stands out as a nice heavy metal song. There are a few fillers, but nothing unforgivably bad, and the band plays everything with dedication and more than sufficient skill. Nice, but certainly not earth-shattering.
What is left after hearing the album for the twelft or fifteenth time in six years? Well, not too much. It doesn't bring anything new into the genre, and a few songs could well have been written by some of the essential heavy metal veterans; they wouldn't become hit single releases by those bands, though. The main delicacy here is still Boleyn's voice, and that alone cannot make this one a classic. While from the songwriting and performance points of view this could be an early 80's work by someone famous, this remains a minor work of art form the 90's. Nice, but nothing to become a fanatic over. This does restore my faith in female metal vocalists, however, and that is certainly something.
Both Hellion and their album "The Black Book" are among the most under-rated in the music business. I have never understood why this band was not much bigger. They are definately on the level of Iron Maiden or Priest---with a girl singer that I understand was coached by Ronnie James Dio! (That's waht a friend of mine said, and he is an "expert" on Ronnie James Dio.)
This album is a concept album and I'd compare it in some ways to Operation Mindcrime---if Priest had written it. A fool length novel was also written by the singer and it has the same name.
I really can not think of a flaw on this CD---other than Restless Records' shitful artwork---and the total lack of promotion of this band. (I recently picked up a version of this CD on Music For Nations---and the artwork is really excellent on that. Also, the LP is a gatefold ---like a book and that opens and folds out and it is nice as well.)
The guitar work is metal at it's best. The vocals prove to me that Ann Boleyn is ONE OF METAL'S MOST UNIQUE SINGERS---(this includes the males too).
I really can not say enough about this band. However it does make me angry occasionally to hear people tell me---oh Hellion sounds like they were copying bands who came LATER!