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Metal Law have a name which is so clever and so approachable from a traditional metal fan standpoint that it's not surprising in anyway at all that they are from Germany and basically appeal only to people in Germany. They are just one of a bunch of bands which have accepted that the whole traditional metal / power metal genre is worth investing time into only if you live in or near Germany. There is something intrinsic in the band's style which appeal directly to German metal fans. I remember playing a few fests in Germany and every single person was basically there to hopefully hear something that sounded like Manowar, Judas Priest or Iron Maiden. It's no surprise that Metal Law, in their song Metal Law, on their album Lawbreaker (an obvious homage to Priest's Breaking The Law) name drop references like small skinny suburban white kids knock back cans of PBR and Coors Lite. It's a scene within a scene which exists for itself and supports itself and now and then someone from another country likes a band or something. If there is one thing Germans know, it's how to spot a mediocre traditional metal band and enjoy them without shame. I wish I could do the same.
The album cover is basically all you need to see to know precisely what the album is going to sound like. Let's run down the checklist! Dungeons? Check! Metal Law must have some elements of epic, early US Power metal prevalent. They may even have grandiose complicated twin guitar leads like Attacker's Battle at Helms Deep which the cover reminds me of if you switched the giant insect wasp creature with the most stereotypical metalhead dude ever. Chains? Double Check! Not only is the metal dude, we'll call him Jasper, chained to the wall, but his guitar has even been chained up, just to be safe it doesn't get away. If each brick in the walls could be wrapped in chain, they would be. Jowita is such a talented artist, it's so bizarre how bands ask her for incredibly cliche and easy artwork to make instead of coming up with awesome original ideas. I mean, Lawbreaker could have had album art of so many awesome things like giant metallic authoritarian cyborgs crushing Bieber fans or the severed bodies of criminals being eaten by mechanical amoebic creations... Metal Law instead go with James Hetfield in handcuffs in a dungeon.
Metal Law effectively sound more like Manowar than any other band they so eagerly throw mention at. The epic movement and flow of the songs screams out tracks like Revelation (Death's Angel) or "Sign of the Hammer" or any number off tracks off those first five legendary albums. Interestingly enough, Metal Law are best when they are embracing that style. "Heroes Never Die" gets my pick for best track and it happens to be the most Manowar-y of the songs here. While other tracks are happy to stare directly in Manowar's direction, "Heroes..." looks over at Manowar, hangs out with Manowar, gets drunk with Manowar, then pretends it's Joey DeMaio on Halloween dressing up like Ross the Boss. The opening acoustic intro reminds of "Defender" with Karsten Degling singing straight into your heart. His vocal melodies on this are the strongest on the album as well. The pace of the song is spot on, it builds slowly into the climax chorus. "Lawbreaker," the title track, is also cool with its pseudo-progressive metal intro before it become another Iron Maiden pulled punch.
The album has a few duds though. "Right to Rock", "Between Dark and Light" and "The Caravan" do little for me. They get lost amongst the other tracks on the album and lack any real character. "The Caravan" has some character but its the same character that would killed off first in a bad horror movie. It's the obnoxious kind of character that tells old jokes no one liked to begin with. By the time The Caravan rolls around, I've heard the song five times already on this album alone. It's not particularly bad but it's just one mediocre track too much. "Right to Rock" and "Between Dark and Light" are between good and bad somewhere but I can't justify them being on the album when tracks like "Crusaders..." and "Heroes..." are so good. "Right to Rock" just doesn't have enough punch or heaviness or epicness or distinctiveness to follow "Crusaders..." even if the leads are interesting. I think the drums in this track are what bothers me but I can't put a finger on it.
Honestly though, there is a lot to like about Metal Law's music. It's got a lot of heart and it's produced just right to sound acceptable by cautious metal listeners but not so produced as to frighten away veterans looking for that rough-edged underground hit. As are most of the Metal on Metal releases, this one also happens to be way over-mastered but even with that issue, the guitar tone is still that of an honest hardworking everyday metal band. Leads are vivid and crisply played and are the definite highlight of the album. Karsten and Thomas Parchem are obviously talented guitarists when it comes to leads and intricate guitar phrases but too often I feel they overplay and snuff out some of the rhythmic parts. For example, "Between Light and Dark" has them playing leads over the bridge vocals which detracts from the impact of the following chorus. I wish that instead of simply dub leads over riffs, they spent more time on the actual rhythm riffs themselves. Most are straight forward and forgettable. Even the intro to "Crusaders of Light" is ploddy after the tense and excellent build up in the intro track. The song ends really strong though, which is one of the band's strengths - once they get into the heart of a track, they keep it interesting and varied and interesting. Their other strength - they really write very good overall songs. If Metal Law can become just a little more unique and original, they have a good chance of appealing to US Heavy Metal fans as well as their German base.
Originally written for Contaminated Tones
The cover art makes it quite clear what you're getting into with the follow-up to 2007's Night of the Wolf, but if you're reading this review in braille then you are listening to Metal Law, a traditional metal band from Germany who sounds like one part Manowar, one part spread out between a whole host of old German influences (Accept, Stormwitch, etc), and one part that dabbles in the modern, melodic power metal genre. Lawbreaker is a pretty raw record, with crunchy guitars and almost a live, garage jam effect, and while some might consider this 'unpolished', I felt that it gave the band a little extra charm.
Don't fret, for it's still quite balanced and all the instruments are more than present here, from the scintillating acoustics and organ of the bridge in "Crusaders of Light" (very Manowar), to the heavy metal balls rock of "Lawbreaker", to the melodic anthem "Between Dark and Light". As usual, I prefer the band when they actually write darker songs like the cheesy "Open the Gates of Hell". The album is loaded with intentionally horrible lyrics, but honestly, if you've made it past the cover then you're already locked in. I was quite happy with Lawbreaker; it's far from pretentious, just a slice of loyal heavy metal from fans of the classics, and though it has similarities to its influences, it never fully rips off anything (Karsten Degling may sound like Eric Adams, but he's got a dirtier tone to his chords with his accent). If you can shove your tongues back up into your cheeks long enough, you'll probably have a good time with this.
Highlights: Between Dark and Light, Metal Law, Open the Gates of Hell
Released last November, just shy of 2 years on from their debut, Metal Law’s ‘Lawbreaker’ is a similarly sturdy traditional metal affair with a couple of mild new twists to the tried and tested formula.
The CD opens in strange fashion with “Crusaders of light” (after an intro rather gratuitously split onto its own track), defying conventional wisdom to begin on a midtempo, atmospheric epic. It is a great song however, complete with a terrific semi-acoustic bridge/solo section, and the quality means Metal Law just about get away with the audacity of putting what really could be the closing track up front.
It also gives the first indication of one of the most notable and welcome improvements from ‘Night of the wolf’, that the lead guitar has been thoroughly tooled up, the songs now brimming with sumptuous, colourful solos and harmonies. Not that Karsten Degling and Thomas Parchem were any slouches on the debut, but the over-the-top soloing shovelled into every song here eclipses their previous efforts without breaking sweat. The duel on the following track “Right to rock” is pretty exceptional, performed in a complimentary trade-off fashion you don’t hear too often, and gives the song a real boost as the guitarists performances do for the CD as whole. Otherwise, it is very much a continuation of the meat and potatoes style of the first CD, the same Manowar and Running Wild influences worn on the sleeve as it varies between adrenal gallopers and rocking, fist-pumping anthems. ‘Lawbreaker’ is notably shorter than its predecessor however, and is a leaner affair with no stick-out weak songs like the clunking “Positive pain”.
Degling’s vocals also remain unchanged and will still most likely to be a point of contention for some. His gruff style is from the same school as Rock’n’Rolf and Chris Boltendahl (though not as melodic as the former, as ragged as the latter or as good as either) and his performance is no better or worse overall than before. Unfortunately the lyrics written this time have turned up a few words he can’t really pronounce properly, so anyone unimpressed with the notion of listening to songs about surwiving swurd fights might want to give this a body swerve.
Despite the improved consistency, a couple of songs in the 2nd half of the CD are close calls and only the impressive instrumental sections save them from falling flat. Despite starting on a brawny, Manowar-ish riff “Metal law” is weighed down by a very weak chorus, and the idea of using a list of other band names and song titles as the lyrics maybe wouldn’t seem so tawdry if Sabaton hadn’t beaten them to the punch (twice) by a couple of years. Similarly, the closing “Heavy metal is forever”, despite having its heart in the right place, is a little by-the-numbers until they let the music do the talking, and both songs really explode into life when Degling steps away from the microphone and gets on with shredding his guitar instead.
Fortunately, there is a moment of proper inspiration at the penultimate track to pick up the slack for these weaker areas on the 2nd half of the CD. “The caravan” opens on an uplifting melody reminiscent of Armored Saint before charging into an exuberant power metal song with a cracking chorus and some amusingly baffling lyrics. As is standard practice by this point, the lengthy, Helloween-inspired dueling solo section is top-notch and really crowns the song nicely.
It is a little strange to say, but despite the technical improvements and the trimming of the fat from the running time, the overall difference between ‘Lawbreaker’ and its predecessor is negligible. A slight improvement over the debut, it is another well above average offering from these steadfast Berliners – they still haven’t taken the big step up into A-grade heavy metal, but they’re not too far away and are welcome to keep punching out CDs of this quality for as long as they want.
(Originally written for http://www.metalcdratings.com/)
Whoever said you can’t judge a album by it’s cover obviously never listened to Metal Law.
Yes, our Germanic four-piece retro-metal outfit is back after 2007’s surprisingly good Night of the Wolf. This time, instead of writing a concept album about Werewolves, they are writing a concept album about metal. Yes, no cliché is left unturned by our intrepid warriors of steel, be it lyrical or musical. Originality is given a big middle finger and forced to take a backseat to unadulterated worship of 80’s heavy metal icons.
In other words, this album owns. Sometimes pretty hard.
The guys of Metal Law realize that there is no reason to reinvent the wheel, so they don’t try. Hammerfall, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Manowar, and Running Wild are the key influences behind this album, and you have to give the guys credit for blending said influences together so nicely. Too often when retro-metal bands set out to recreate the music of their idols, they get too caught up in just trying to sound like one band, and end up sounding like a worthless knock off. Metal Law weaves their homogeneous-yet-distinctive influences together well enough that you feel like you are hearing something new even if though you know you aren’t.
The flaws on this album are mostly on the technical side. The guitar tone sucks butt out of a can (for those of you familiar with Fireaxe’s work, I think they were using the exact same tone), and is especially strange in light of the competent sound on their first album. Also, while bands like Kaledon layer their vocals to the point of idiocy, Metal Law ridiculously layers their guitars. On some tracks, I can count four guitars playing at once. Completely retarded.
Anyways, Lawbreaker is a fun play from start to finish. It begins (not counting the pointless synth intro) with the mid-paced anthem Crusaders of the Light, which is reminiscent of the better parts of Hammerfall’s Crimson Thunder. The album really gets going when the almost embarrassingly pirated riff (it’s scant a note away from Death or Glory and is surprisingly the only instance of piracy [pun originally unintended, but I eventually figured it out] on this album) of Right to Rock kicks in. From then on, the album keeps the listeners attention fairly well, with a few boring moments and a lame ballad (made worse by the singer’s annoying habit of pronouncing ‘sword’ ‘serd’), but a lot of catchy riffs, cool solos, and fun lyrics.
From a musical standpoint, this album isn’t as good as Night of the Wolf. The guitar tone alone is liable to turn many people off to this album. Nevertheless, those who can get past the technical flaws will be treated to a pretty sweet tribute to the greatness of heavy metal.