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Overlooked essential - 96%

GrimAndFrostbitten, April 24th, 2004

Though this is for the most part in the neighborhood of other NWOBHM acts like Diamond Head, it seems to go a bit beyond that and moves to innovate what they did. Though it came out in 1983, it would have been ahead of its time -- it has some definite speed and power metal elements in it that seem to be a precursor to many of the elements such legendary albums like Walls of Jericho and Battalions of Fear had, and has timeless elements that seemed to have permeated well beyond. The production is clearly from older times and is just a touch raw, but it's otherwise well mixed, with each of the elements distinguishable both as a whole and when focused on individually.

Blind Guardian fans will easily recognize the second track, Trial By Fire, on this, as it was covered very well by them on Somewhere Far Beyond. In fact, that's admittedly how I got into this album, tracking back the original version of at track that was one Blind Guardian. To contrast the two, the original isn't as heavy or fast as the cover, but everything's there compositionally, from the indelible enigmatic twin guitar attack at the beginning to the wonderful basswork and amazing leads. The vocals are a bit different, since there's no backing voclas and the lead singer's voice has a kind of subdued, soft quality to it that makes it quite striking when he hits high notes out of nowhere.

However, this album does go well beyond Trial by Fire in all those qualities, as well. This album is full of quality headbanging riffs, amazing leads and twin guitar attacks, propulsive basswork, and intense and fascinating drum patterns, while managing to take a variety of approaches. Blades of Steel, No Turning Back, and Hunt You Down are solid heavy traditional metal tracks interspersed with some future ideas that you'll have to hear for yourself to truly appreciate. Break Free is 5:23 of straight out speed metal bliss well ahead of its time. The instrumental track, The Ritual, could have been the older brother to Blind Guardian's By the Gates of Moria or Gandalf's Return. Alone in the Dark is a wonderful, fast-paced but gloomy track as well. The additional CD bonus tracks are excellent, too.

If you're a fan of speed or power metal, particularly Blind Guardian, I highly suggest you acquire this amazing, oft-forgotten, but seemingly amazingly influential album. This is essential NWOBHM.