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When you look at this band's previous and subsequent works, it is obvious that this is not a common sound for them. You would have to have a wooden ear to not hear that this album was carefully put together by its creators for commercial success. That being established, the question you have to ask yourself of this record is weather It fulfilled its intent or not. Its not as simple as "I like it" or "I don't like it". The answer to the question is both yes and no.
Yes, because to this day this is this bands most commercially successful record. No, because it still didn't make them all that popular. On its own terms its a completely acceptable affair, its nothing more than an attempt at mass acceptance, and doesn't try to be a larger, or more sophisticated body of work. You have to drop a lot of preconceived notions of what metal is supposed to be to understand why this album is good. They weren't trying to make a break through, genre defining, magnum opus here. The title track is "The Beauty and the Beast" for crying out loud. This was an album aimed at peoples ears from the very start.
You need a few things in the year 1987 in a rock record in order to get mass radio play. Number one, bring forth the pop synths. Remember, Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" had just come out. I should not have to remind you of how much synth there is in that song. So BATB (as I will now abbreviate this album) covers that base early and obviously in the title track. Pop synths: check.
Next, lets take a look at what the number one single of that year was. I doubt anyone remembers, but I looked it up, it was "Walk Like an Egyptian" by the Bangles. Oh joy. So what did that song have that gave all the stupid people an eargasm? I'll save you all the trouble of listening to it by telling you that it was an unreasonable amount of good cheap catchiness. Its upbeat, its in a major key, you can dance to it, you can play it to almost any demographic, and no one is offended (except maybe some Egyptians). So, where can we find this in BATB? Well, its nearly every-goddamn-where. I compared all the songs in the album to "Walk like and Egyptian" on a time signature/ tempo basis. Call of the Wicked, Just for One Night, Tigers of the Sea, and Welcome to Bedlam all have a 4/4 time signature that hovers around the 180-190 bpm range just like the aforementioned song, and they'll all in a major key. Catchy upbeat song writing: Check.
Now what would seal the deal for a potential pop metal single on a very pop metal album? Hmmmm, you know what was big back then? Metal singers doing duets with chicks. Once again, the title track. Ozzy followed their cue a year later when he did "Close My Eyes Forever". Then Dave Mustain did it with that chick from Lacuna Coil. Even Lemmy took part in this practice with some woman named Doro Pesch. Theres more of them too. The point is that this was a popular tactic around that time, its probably some attempt to keep the female demographic involved in the scene.
There are other things that made this album really exceptionally mass media friendly, but those are the main points I wanted to illustrate. When you are making an album with the clear intent to sell a bunch of records, you start noticing formulas and repeated themes. Does it compromise the total integrity of the album in the vastness of metal, yes. Does it compromise itself as a work of up beat poppy metal goo, no, as it is clearly not trying to be anything loftier than that.
Now that I've spent too much time explaining all that crap, lets get to the actual music, shall we? Despite this being an obvious attempt to reach some kind of audience, I admire the honesty in the music. Nothing is disguised or ambiguous here. You're practically punched in the face by how pompous and upbeat this is, and you know what? Its damn consistent. The tone of this album follows through straight to the end. The only time it kind of dips into a more solemn tone is "Russia's on Fire", but that song still sounds like it belongs with the rest.
I won't burden this already long review with a track by track review, but I will mention my favorite tracks. This doesn't happen often, but I have to admit that the last 3 songs are my favorites, "Russia's on Fire", "Cheyenne", and "Welcome to Bedlam". "Russia's on Fire" seems to me to be no less gloomy than a nice depressive black metal song. The notes could have been tremolo picked if this song were done by a different band. As it is played, however, its perfectly fine. Nothing feels missing, or over indulgent, just a level headed, plodding, melodic song. There is one weird part, an interlude features a woman delivering some kind of monologue in russian. I asked my friend who speaks the language fluently to tell me what she was saying, but its so washy sounding that he couldn't make heads or tails of it.
"Cheyenne" appeals to me because of its pacing and riffage. Its probably the closest thing to true thrash or speed metal on the whole album. Double bass is always a plus. The song also features some Blind Guardian-like lead guitar harmonies, also always a plus. I can't lie and say that it isn't worthlessly catchy, because it is, and I know some people don't appreciate that. It works for my taste. Unlike a lot of metal musicians, I don't have a problem with major keys. I'll skip the paragraph on "Welcome to Bedlam", because I'd only be reiterating things.
Finally, after I've said all of that, I hope you understand where I am coming from with my review of this cd. I tried as hard as possible to not be "I like it, its good" or "I hate it, its bad". Foregoing the pretense of my personal tastes seemed paramount to make an effective review. Overall, if you're open minded, and don't get furious over mildly over stated pop metal records from the 80s (if thats not a forgiving decade for this sort of thing, than I don't know what is) than I suggest giving this a shot. That is if you can find the damn thing, these Stormwitch records are getting sparse. If theres one song I would absolutely tell you to skip, it would be the title track. It just reeks of failed-pop-hit-singleness. They set out to make this record exactly what it ended up being, and although that may not please all of us, they did a good job of it.
I made it through three songs. Three entire frickin' songs. Then I realized that it was my duty to inform the public about this living monstrosity and forced myself to plow through the rest of its putrid contents. Okay... here we go...
Recommended on the basis that it sounds like German power/speed metal bands such as Helloween, this band seemed to have some good potential. I mean, their name is a combination of two of the most metal words in the entire English: wait, you mean a STORM and a WITCH? Like, together? Hell yeah. Metal claw all the way. Then we arrive at the cover art; okay, sure, it's cheesy as hell, but then again, Fates Warning and Liege Lord dwelt in mildewy subjects and they both kicked ass. However, what wasn't revealed by the band name should have gotten through to me in the album title. Beauty and the Beast? Seriously? I know this was a few years before the movie came out, but come on. Imagination, guys. Use it.
Unfortunately, mentally defunct decisions like that also translate directly into Stormwitch's music. This is obviously the work of a band starved for commercial success. The choruses are simple and repetitive, with enough of those overloud, layered gang shouts to make even Leatherwolf sound about as melodic as Hellhammer (the production as a whole has the keyboards and vocals way too loud in the mix). The riffs--none of which are good--are light and pompous. And the keyboards...oh boy, the keyboards. Let's just say they should provide a nice wet dream for avid Duran Duran fans. Oh, and it's all delivered by one of the wimpiest, most pathetic sounding vocalists I've ever heard. Imagine a drunken Michael Kiske who's been run over a couple times pitifully belting out of key high notes. Yeah, it ain't pretty, and neither are the laughable lyrics. A sample:
"He's longing, longing to stray
Leaving back all the yesterday's clay
Right down where the streets have no names
The winds were never tamed"
Random cliches systematically formulated running rampant at a rapid rate. This is a bigger trainwreck than that last sentence. My, oh, my, I haven't even covered the songs yet. Most are just generic, inoffensive 'rockers' that sputter out like opener "Call of the Wicked," so I'm just going to cover the centerpiece that should receive the most damning of your malice. The title track is, in the most basic terms, a murderous behemoth of suffocating hair product fumes. The eardrum-assaulting keyboard intro is just a taste of the musical spoilt milk to come, complete with a soullessly derivitive refrain that exclaims (proudly, I might add) 'hot nights' with all sincerity. What scares me is that no one stepped in at this point and said, "hey, wait a minute, music is supposed to be enjoyable." I mean, why not go all the way and start a Bon Jovi cover band. The horrendous female vocals sound like something you'd hear on a cheap 80's exercise video. And to think, I didn't even discuss the ballad...
This almost hurts. I don't take solace in trashing the lesser-known albums of metal's past; quite the opposite, in fact. I love finding those long forgotten gems and relish spending time in their warming glow, and I often like some 80's cheese, too. That just makes Beauty and the Beast all the more harrowing to endure. There are about a thousand obscure albums more worthy of your attention, and though I can't speak on the behalf of Stormwitch's other material, I can say without a shred of doubt that this isn't one of them. Oh, well; every metal 49er is bound to strike a big lump of coal every now and then.
This is some awesome power metal, very well-written and consistant throughout the whole album. Even the ballad is very nice.
The first song, Call of the Wicked, is a very cool fast power metal song, with nice verses and an OK chorus. The verses stand out on this album anyway, very catchy most of the time.
The title track starts off quite cheesy with a keyboard intro, but the song is actually very good, if you can stand the keyboards and the female backingvocals in the chorus.
Just For One Night is a straightforward rocker which is done very well, Emerald Eye is a real power metal song, with again very nice verses and a totally power metal chorus - a bit cheesy, but enjoyable.
Then we have the ballad, Tears By The Fire Light, which is totally acoustic and comparable to The Bard's Song - In The Forest by Blind Guardian. They use female backing vocals again which sounds very good.
Then we have the best song of the album, Tigers of the Sea, very cool song, with a good riff and very nice vocal lines in the verses and especially in the pre-chorus, the best part of the song.
Russia's on Fire is quite a slow song with a great catchy chorus, but the rest of the song isn't that interesting which makes it grow old quickly.
Stormwitch knows how to write great fast, Helloween-ish, power metal songs which they prove with Cheyenne, another great song, very catchy.
The last track Welcome to Bedlam is absolutely amazing, again it's all about the extremely catchy verses with a very nice guitarriff under them.
This album is highly recommended to anyone who likes german power metal in the style of Helloween. The songwriting is great throughout the whole album, so it's definitely worth getting.