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The late 90's. Metal was starting to make a slow, painful rise to power again after abominations like Pantera and Machine Head were losing steam. Yet other nu horrors were awaiting in the horizon. That aside, as many know, the only true metal sub-genre, aside from death or black, to survive in the 90's was power metal. Yes sir, Hammerfall, Grave Digger, Blind Guardian, Iced Earth and so many others followed the Helloween/Iron Maiden/Dio formula to stay alive. This is where Marshall Law's 3rd album, the sci-fi-oriented "Metal Detector", comes into play. The Lawmen already had something of a power metal aesthetic to their tunes as it were already, but they took the sound up a notch or too for this release. However, congested with 13 songs, an artificial production and a lack of solid ideas, this is probably their weakest effort.
The production is odd; kinda messy, but not intolerable. This is probably one of their clearest-sounding albums, but at the price of sounding very artificial and processed. The mixing is screwy too. Andy Pyke's charismatic vocals are ridiculously high in the mix, as is the solid, pounding bass of Roger Davis, which while kinda refreshing, still creates sound issues. Particularly when I swear his bass is higher than that of the riff-spewing duo of Andy Southwell and Dave Martin, who put on their usual good show of nice riffing and really solid solos, but it's almost for naught when their work gets drowned out a bit. Let's not forget this either; we now have a drum machine in place, adding further to the fakey production. Programmed by Roger Davis, it sounds natural enough but way too monotonous as you can imagine. I guess their were tired of picking up average drummers.
The sci-fi ideas for the album was a pretty good one I thought, as it's a subject rarely touched upon in heavy metal. However when your album isn't flowing and consistent in its ideas, and without anything memorable to hook onto, it matters little in the end, right? That's a big issue with "Metal Detector". There's very few really memorable songs, and even when they are, they're only really average when compared to other more superior numbers in the group's discography. First off, let's throw the pointless intro and outro out the door right now; there's too damn much on this record as it is already. Most of the weakest stuff permeates the second half of the record. The punkish, weirdly groove metal "Feed The Need", the plodding "Addicted To Pain" (where Andy goes back and forth between sounding like Phil Anselmo and Ozzy !), the whiny, too-modern half-ballad "Seeds of Change" and so many others come and go, go, go, leaving either no impression at all, or at the very most a sense of sigh-inducing confusion. Some "stronger" numbers include the opener "Twisted This", a solid speed metal number with a hooky pre-chorus (the main chorus is pretty half-assed), mid-paced skull-crushers like "War" and the catchy, powerful "Swarm", and the crunchy "Meganoid" with its corny but fun lyrics.
Overall, this is easily Marshall Law's weakest studio effort, and I'm pleased to say their next album would be much, much stronger. Here the songs rarely resonate, and when they do they're woefully average. There's also too damn many of them, and of course the lifeless, fake production and half-cocked mixing do "Metal Detector" no favors either. This is a pretty hard album to come by, and, unless you're die hard curious, I suggest leaving this inoffensive but plain album at that status.
Marshall Law's 3rd full length album, Metal Detector, show a band who is finally coming into their own. While I still enjoy their first(self titled) album the most, it was pretty much a by-the-books 80's metal release. And their second album, Power Games, found the band trying way too hard to be heavy, instead of just playing for the fun of it, as a result the album was relatively lifeless. On this one though, they seem to have combined the 2 albums together quite nicely. It's dark and heavy, with a sort of modern sound, but it's still catchy old school heavy metal being played. These guys really remind me of U.S. power metal bands from the late 80's and early 90's, especially on this album. It doesn't sound too far removed from the albums Vicious Rumors released with Carl Albert. There's also a big Painkiller influence on some of the songs, as Marshall Law have always showed a found love for their fellow countrymen.
That's not to say that it's all good, apparently the band(for whatever reason) chose to use a drum machine on this album. And while I'll admit, it fooled me at first, when you listen to the album in it's entirety you start to notice it, every cymbal clash sounds exactly the same as the last, and it begins to make everything monotonous. The production as a whole is not great either, the most notable flaw is the vocals are WAY too loud in the mix. And while Andy Pyke is an amazing singer, his voice sort of drowns out the riffs(which are quite good.) This was a problem on their first album as well. But the bass pounds along nicely, which was something I really enjoyed about their last album, it's nice to hear a bass player who can actually be heard and doesn't always follow the guitars. But it's really mind boggling while they choose to mix the guitars so low in the mix, because these guys can fucking shred. They always remind me of Tipton/Downing, who I'm sure is their main influence. Lots of awesome melodic solos pop up here and there, some of them are jaw dropping.
Overall it's not a bad album, not great either. It's a lot more consistent than their previous full length. But still seems to lack that special something to make it a truly good album. Another thing is 13 songs is probably too many(even though 2 are instrumentals) for this type of music. 8 or 9 real songs would have been better, and would have helped cure the monotony found on here. But I still enjoy the album a lot, if you're looking for some good heavy metal, or maybe some power metal with balls, this is a pretty solid release.