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M.A.R.S. is a great and incredibly obscure power metal project that was collaboration between several well-known and influential heavy metal musicians in the 1980s. This is their only release and is pretty rock solid from start to finish, with a sound that is reminiscent of Racer X and Queensryche.
‘Nations on Fire’ is a strong opener with a thunderous pace and and an often repeated chorus that’s pretty easy to sing along to. There’s some pretty showboating guitar stuff particularly towards the end, as you would expect from someone like Tony MacAlpine. This one isn’t the best track however.
I really enjoy the second track ‘Writing’s on the Wall’ which gives us some excellent Rob Rock vocals, as well as the anthemic uplifting power metal anthem ‘Stand Up and Fight’ which has an incredible majesty to it. Rob Rock is again on form in this phenomenal piece which has a distinct Judas Priest-esque feel to it. There are some great keyboard effect, and the guitar solo passage in this one is absolutely minblowing and definitely has some ‘Priest-ish qualities. This one’s a lot of fun and showcases a lot of technical skill. Of particular note is the epic and drawn out ending, which shows off some great drumming which is pretty ‘tech’.
The fantastical and progressive piece ‘Nostradamus’ is evocative and epic. I don’t know if Judas Priest realized that this historical figure had been tackled by various other metal acts; an in this case, tackled pretty well. The great production and keyboard touches in this one add to the epicness while the lyrics evoke plenty of emotion. There’s some great backup vocals in the chorus “who holds the key, who knows the future”, and a lot of skilful guitar play in this cinematic, majestic number.
M.A.R.S. play a technical, accomplished and majestic from of metal. There are similarities to Leatherwolf and Racer X with progressive touches here and there for good measure. There’s plenty of aggression in tracks like ‘Unknown Survivor’ another standout track which follows the bands tradition of great choruses with strong backup vocals. Speed metal touches are apparent in tracks like the one I’ve just mentioned, and there’s a tonne of guitar wizardry throughout the entire album - Tony MacAlpine is really on form.
Overall a brilliant, technical and ambitious release with this album. A lot of strong numbers, few weak points and original sound make for a winning combination – but you’re likely to get that with a staff that consists of legends like Rob Rock and Tommy Aldridge et al. Excellent short-lived project that only has their release to their name – it’s kind of a must have in my opinion. Good Stuff.