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If one is to think of 80s metal as the Old Thrash Country, at the end of the day Vicious Rumors can easily lay claim to at least a fiefdom therein, being important innovators of the American Power Metal Sound, along with bands like Sanctuary/Nevermore and Meliah Rage. On this, their eleventh full-length album after over 20 years of work, the band sounds like exactly the kind of tight, thrashy unit you would expect them to, writing rock-solid-occasionally-veering-into-excellent compositions. At this point most of the vestiges of the original band are long gone, with only original member guitarist Geoff Thorpe carrying the torch into the 21st century.
"Break" starts off with a decidedly aggro riff, suddenly veering into a great power-metal chorus, and introduces us to (then) new vocalist Morgan Thorne. Thorne has the power, but doesn't have quite the command or grace of the infamous Carl Albert. He reminds me a bit of Graham Bonnet, though not as obnoxious. "March of the Damned" and "Sadistic Symphony" are also solid pieces, chock full of shred and riffage, with adventurous changes and imaginative production flourishes (despite the low-budget sound of it all). "Blacklight" is the most impressive piece of the album, starting out with gentle acoustics and unfolding majestically, continuing with its fantasy-tinged lyrical themes and relaxed ebb and flow. It's great conceptually and is a perfect reason that why, even on a lesser album, this is a band still worth spending time with. Several more forgettable tracks follow, though things start to perk up towards the end with "Elevator to Hell". Vocalist Thorne should be singled out for his work on the epic "Cerebral Sea." With its fine acoustic flourishes and Thorne's excellent, restrained vocal work, it is another album highlight. "Liquify" provides the thrashy bookend to "Break" that the album needed to go out on.
One of the treats of any Vicious Rumors album, and very prominent in the first track is the phenomenal guitar work typical of ringmaster Thorpe and new guitarist Ira Black. Thorpe is really quite a player, gifted in equal doses at both creating memorable riffs and dexterous flights of fretboard fancy. Any fan of metal guitar *needs* to hear his work.
I have to say this was the first album that I heard after purchasing 1990's self-titled debut, and initially I was unimpressed. The production is rather raw, with a somewhat wimpy, dry kit sound, especially the paper-thin snare, and a very prominent Thorne who is mixed just a little too bare and up-front. The drum sound is surprising, especially given that its old-school Shrapnel regular Atma Anur, as fine of a kit-basher as any of metal's great session warriors. Nevertheless, its certainly worth hearing, though I would check out some of the band's other albums first.