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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.