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Mob Rules has had a unique career since it’s initial release in 1999. What has since followed has been a steady diet of good metal that is slightly geared more towards the traditional styles of the Dio/Sabbath/Deep Purple/Rainbow/Priest vain. This release sees most of these influences realized, as was the case with the previous 2 releases, however there has been a narrowing of the field, and that is why of all their releases this one received a slightly lower grade, despite still being an excellent release.
Probably the only real weakness in this album is the lack of variety of sounds and tempo. There is not a single acoustic guitar present in this album (one of their greatest songs “End of All Days” off of Savage Land was dominated by acoustic instruments), nor is there anything that really functions as a ballad, which is often necessary to create a sense of variety amongst the various tracks. Most of these songs are also up tempo, though individually they are all excellent, together they tend to run together because of recycled drum beats and similar sounding keyboard motives.
Having said that, this is still a very good album and I listen to it often. The guitar work on this album, particularly Roland Grapow’s two guest solos, are excellent. The keyboard work doesn’t carry quite as much flash as it did on “Temple of two suns”, but what it lacks in technique it makes up for in musicality. The rhythm section is extremely tight and Klaus Dirks is still at the top of his game. The production of this album is yet another step up in quality, particularly exploiting the more complex keyboard arrangements that have come about with Sascha Onnen becoming a permanent member of the band. Now for the individual track break down.
1) Hollowed by thy Name (9/10)- A simple and beautiful piano line kicks off this mini-epic, accompanied by a gloomy sounding set of lyrics sung by Klaus in a mid ranged tone. What follows is about 4 ½ minutes of guitar and keyboard driven metal in the classic 80s style, bringing to my memory the sound of mid-80s Iron Maiden. This song sees Oliver Fuhlhage pumping out a decent guitar solo with a high amount of character and melodic sweetness.
2) Speed of Life (10/10) - Guitar and synth driven intro that reminds me a bit of “Pilot of Earth” off of Temple of two suns. Although I prefer the other song to this one, this song has a driving beat and an impressive vocal line by Klaus that can render it as an instant classic. At times it sounds a little bit like early helloween, and at other times mid-80s post Ozzy/Dio Black Sabbath. The solo section is very straight-forward and idiomatic of a harmonically syllabic chorus.
3) Land of Wind and Rain - This is my favorite track on the album, mostly because of the dense texture that reminds me somewhat of Freedom Call. This is another high tempo song, though it has a slow keyboard dominated middle section. Klaus delivers a top notch vocal performance, spearheaded by some very thought provoking lyrics. The piano intro actually sounds like the looming threat of an oncoming storm.
4) House on Fire - A more down tempo rocker that reminds me a lot of late 70s Prog. Rock songs such as “Miss America” by Styx. The verse line is extremely simplistic and sounds like it’s right out of a Ronnie Dio Sabbath era song. I would probably qualify this as the weakest song on the album, mostly because it drags a bit and doesn’t change a whole lot.
5) Ghost Town - A more guitar oriented song that reminds me a lot of the song “Speed of Life” heard earlier on the album. The keyboards in this tend to phase in and out of prominence, holding their highest point of interest during the chorus, which sees more good voice work on the part of Klaus Dirks. My sole complaint about this song is it sounds stylistically too similar to various other up tempo rockers on this album, and though by itself it is a great song, along side them it loses it’s individuality.
6) How the Gypsy was born - This song is apparently a cover, but as I have not encountered the original version of the song, I can not give a comparison between it and the remake. But suffice to say, this song is pretty well suited for the genre, so kudos to the original writers for creating a very stylistically flexible song. Mostly this song is piano and voice driven, much as “Hold on Reprise” on the “Temple” album was, but with a more dynamic set of changes. This song starts off very slow and haunting and then picks up to a fairly high tempo rocker. All the while, Klaus holds his own, at times to the detriment to the other musicians.
7) All Above the Atmosphere - This is a nice heavy track with a good amount of double bass madness at work. The chorus is probably the most catchy of all the ones appearing on this album, as it reminds me a lot of a Freedom Call chorus in terms of it’s triumphant melody and dense texture. This song also sees guest guitarist Roland Grapow of Helloween/Masterplan fame doing some nice soloing, exploiting his unique stylistic blend of harmonic screams and melodic runs to sheer perfection.
8) Lord of Madness - This song was the single release before the full album came out, and on the first listen you can immediately tell why. The beginning keyboard line hooks you in immediately, and the up tempo beats and crunchy guitar sound keep you satisfied until the end. If we treat Speed of Life as an evolutionary next step from “Pilot of Earth”, this song is the equivalent to that of “Temple’s” other high tempo rocker “The Eyes of all Young”. Klaus is still wailing away with the best of them, giving us yet another memorable Mob Rules chorus.
9) A. D. C. O. E. - This is pretty much a short prelude to the closing epic, and doesn’t really function independently as a song, even though it is listed as a separate track. Basically a gloomy atmosphere created with a low tone pipe organ drone combined with a low male chorus chanting the title of the album in a manner befitting a concert hall.
10) Way of the World - This song kicks in a highly memorable guitar driven intro that mirrors the chorus line that Klaus will later deliver with his impressive high range. This is basically an all electric epic that bears some structural similarities to “End of all days” off of Savage Land, including a very memorable guitar riff and a very long drawn-out interlude section. Strong finish for an album that has some weakness in overall structure.
In Conclusion, this is the weakest album that Mob Rules has put out to date, however that does not by any means qualify it as bad or mediocre. The lads tried to capitalize on the chops of their drummer and thus create a more speed oriented album. The problem is that that isn’t what they are known for, thus some fans may be slightly disappointed. The album will do more for the avid fan of power metal than for the traditional metal heads whom like more variety in their metal albums, and to them I recommend the two albums preceding this one.
German power metallers Mob Rules have really progressed since their 1999 debut, SAVAGE LAND. The first two albums, SAVAGE LAND (1999) and TEMPLE OF TWO SUNS (2000) are straightforward melodic power metal, however both albums failed to impress me. Picking up HOLLOWED BE THY NAME on somewhat of a whim, I popped the album in my stereo and was in for a surprise.
A brief piano intro opens the album on its title track, segueing into a wall of powerfully heavy and melodic chords. As the guitars kick in, the influences of Savatage and Queensryche can be heard in the lead structure. Symphonic keys build up the background, and vocalist Klaus Dirks lines creep in in somewhat of a sinister fashion. Brilliant, I’m thinking, as the bombastic, though lyrically simplistic chorus is sung over a catchy riff. Full-on speed-power metal in the vein of Helloween or Gamma Ray is the theme for the next track, “The Speed Of Life.” This one has some catchy guitar hooks, and a nifty keyboard bit during the chorus. Up next is “(In The Land Of) Wind And Rain,” my favourite track on the album. Another fast paced song, the main riff chugs along, interrupted by another epic chorus that I am compelled to sing along with. Dirks’ vocals are powerful and cover the spectrum of power metal competently and can hit all the high notes without the unnecessary wailing.
I guess every power metal album must include at least one ballad. “House On Fire” is the gratuitous ballad on HOLLOWED BE THY NAME. The keyboards create a feel much like early Virgin Steele (I’m talking about the Guardians/Noble Savage days). Other than that, it’s decent, but does not hold my interest. “Ghost Town,” has an Edguy feel to it, a solid slab of power metal. “How The Gypsy Was Born” is a cover track, though I could not find the original artist, other than the songwriting credit: Rumpf/Kravetz. With the exception of Peavy Wagner’s (Rage) guest vocals at the end of the song, I find the entire track to be both plodding and annoying; an utterly useless add-on. “All Above The Atmosphere” is another favourite of mine from the album. This track has a distinct Helloween style to it, but incorporates the Savatage influence in the rhythm structure. The keyboard/guitar interplay towards the end of the track is exceptional. Speaking of Helloween, it may be no coincidence that Roland Grapow performs the intro to this song, and also provides the guest solo on the album’s closer, “Way Of The World.”
Power metal fanatics will want to snatch this one up quickly. This certainly ranks leagues ahead of Mob Rules’ previous albums. HOLLOWED BE THY NAME has everything a power metal fan is looking for, plenty of melodic solos catchy choruses, and powerful, driving songs. Fans of Savatage and Virgin Steele will appreciate the influence that both bands have had on Mob Rules’ songwriting style. This album expands upon the band’s Germanic power metal roots to create an album that blends power metal and symphonic metal with the progressive metal approach of U.S. epic metal. HOLLOWED BE THY NAME is the surprise hit of the year for me. I strongly urge you to check it out.