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City of Solid Metal. - 87%

hells_unicorn, May 31st, 2008

Before he was in the business of taking back the metal, Jack Frost and his gang in the Seven Witches coven were in the business of actually making consistent power metal of the 80s USPM persuasion. Even though this style has been done a lot since the time of its original inception, it still turns out a good share of powerful albums when done with the right combination of lyrical sensibilities and energy. And in the case of this particular band, they’ve always seemed to do their best work when writing somewhat scary sounding (by early 80s standards) speed metal with the occasional down tempo, heavy rock interlude.

Obviously, as this album coincided with Jack Frost’s brief collaboration with German power metal outfit Metalium (Matthias Lange does a guest guitar solo on here), there has been a spill over of influences on here. The cheesy yet tolerable intro “The Question” sounds like it could have appeared on a Metalium album, although it doesn’t dwell too much on self-conceived mythological metal heroes. “We are the coven” also mixes Metalium’s brand of simplistic speed metal with a catchy as hell fanfare chorus that just can’t help but stick in your head.

Probably the biggest positive on this album is vocalist Bobby Lucas’ performance on here. He gets a rough beating from a lot of fans of this band for not being James Rivera, but he really delivers the goods on here, particularly when he is in his mid to upper middle range. His high notes are a little bit nasally and don’t quite carry the punch of Rivera, or the soaring majesty of Halford or his many emulators, but it’s sufficient in the same manner that Kai Hansen’s voice is on Helloween’s pre-Kiske material. Out of all the vocalists that have come in and out of the Seven Witches family, he pulls off the plain sung ballad voice the best.

For the most part, every song on this album is a better version of what you may or may not have heard on “Xiled to Infinity and One”. The title track is far more ambitious, containing a much more epic sounding acoustic guitar line and a much more climactic fast section. Picture a Manilla Road style epic song with a modern production and you’ll have a pretty good idea. Most of the speed metal on here also sounds more like an epic variant on the US power metal style rather than the groovier, simplistic formula that popped up on the next album.

Even when this album ventures a little bit towards what would be groove territory, the result is something more akin to mid-tempo thrash metal or 80s traditional metal than groove metal. “No Man’s Land” has an opening bass and guitar riff that has a strong Anthrax character to it, definitely something that might have been a serious b-side to any song from “Persistence of Time”. “Pounding Metal” is pretty damn groove driven, but instead of sounding like a stupid grunge song, comes off as a faster and harder rocking variant on the riff set Motley Crue used on “Shout at the Devil”.

For fans of bands like Helstar, Judas Priest, Jag Panzer, and even the earlier speed/thrash metal of Anthrax and Overkill, this is an album that is pretty heavily conducive to what you listen to. It has a fair amount of cheese to it that some of the bands mentioned obviously lack, but in terms of overall performance this is a pretty solid chunk of metal. With maybe the exception of some of the James Rivera material, which I’ve only heard a little of; this is as good as it gets with this outfit.