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A slight step down. - 88%

hells_unicorn, February 25th, 2006

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.