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Millenium is a band that I have to say I have known for awhile This may seem strange, as this incredibly obscure band is never referenced or anything, but I first heard them in 2001-2002 when I was only 12 or 13, because an uncle of mine who was really into obscure music brought the Angelfire album over and played it. And I must say I really liked it quite a lot then. Granted, I was grown up on 80's metal and had already gone into the underground so I actually thought it was a little too poppy, but I was instantly impressed by Ralph Santolla's guitar work, who remains to this day one of my favorite shredders.
So, though I am probably the only person to have memories of some kind for this band, I don't consider them a favorite but if there is one thing they can claim it is this: they can play pop influenced metal and still come off as serious.
So today I have decided to review what I consider the best of Millenium's four albums: Hourglass.
Hourglass continues in the poppy metal direction of the two previous albums, but with the help of Masterplan vocalist Jorn Lande at the front, they come across much more seriously. A fantastic singer, Jorn is able to express emotion in such a way that you really do feel what he sings. The problem though is he sounds a little too reminiscent of Sammy Hagar and Steve Perry.
Accompanying Jorn and Ralph, we have guitarist Shane French, bassist Manfred Binder, and drummer Oliver Hanson. They all provide a solid backing but never are really noticed as the focus is mostly on Jorn and Ralph.
So onto the music:
Kicking off with "Power To Love" you can immediately hear what makes this band very good and that is what you might call "guilty pleasure".
"Guilty pleasure" in this case refers to metal that is so heavily influenced by 80's pop/rock bands that you simply don't want to like them but the music is so catchy you simply can't resist. Not to say that this album is just a full on commercial assault only wanting to reach the top 10, as Ralph and Shane constantly deliver memorable riffs, and mind blowing solos(especially Santolla), and in the case of "Power To Love" a unique song structure. Definitely one of the best on the album. Catchy vocals, solid bass/drums, an amazing guitar solo, and riffs you'll be humming for a few days, this is a true highlight.
Other highlights include the unfairly catchy "Rocket Ride", the 80's power ballad "I Still Believe"(the vocals really rule here), the well balanced "Superstar"(which contains possibly Ralph's greatest solo on this album), and the best track "Hourglass".
"Hourglass" is really in my opinion the crowning achievement of this forgotten band, it has a really catchy chorus and such but the cool part is it is still metal, and probably the most intense metal track here. Granted, it's still pretty poppy, but with amazing guitars, great bass/drums, epic vocals, and an unconventional song structure it really shows the potential this band had.
Despite all the fluffiness in this album, the thing that keeps it from being unbearable(because I usually would strongly dislike this kind of stuff) is the guitars. Wow. I mean I am a huge fan of Ralph Santolla, but if a player can take what would've been a fairly mediocre pop metal release and make it something to remember, you know this guy's good. Despite the criticism he gets in Deicide and Obituary, he really shines here. Playing off the vocals very nicely and blowing your mind with his shred solos. I really can't say enough about the guy, at least in this album, and truly makes this album a Melodic/Poppy heavy metal opus to remember.
Granted it's not without it's flaws. In fact, there are quite a few. First off, overly poppy melodies in general wear thin after a while, no matter how talented the singer is. Secondly, there is a bit of a lack of pace change. It's mostly played at a midtempo rock beat. Sure you have your token ballads like "I Will Follow", and "No More Miracles", but those don't really change pace much either. The only two songs that really mix things up rhythmically(somewhat anyways) are "Hourglass" and "Power To Love". Thirdly, there is a good deal of filler. "Wheels Are Turning", "No More Miracles", "Masquerade", and "I Will Follow" are okay I guess, but don't really offer anything special, and pretty much just eat up time.
So overall, this album would have received about a 60, but because the balance between catchy vocal hooks, powerful riffs, shred soloing, a rocking rhythm section, and songs like "Hourglass" work so well and are actually quite fun to listen to. So this album earns an 83, or B-. That's about the highest rating I can give a poppish metal album which makes this an album worth remembering but will probably only enter you CD player once or twice a year(unless you an obsessive guitar fan like me and pop it in just to listen to the solos every now and then).
I would recommend this to anybody who likes 80's mainstream metal, but done with a sense of sincerity and a nice balance of full on metal elements as well. It's a good album, so check it out. Just don't expect anything too mind blowing or heavy.
Highlights: "Power To Love", "Hourglass", "I Still Believe", "Rocket Ride", and "Chasing Time".