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Like the title says this album is indeed a killer. From start to finish there really isn’t a weak track on the entire album. Musically all of the members of their band play quite well, and it all comes together rather nicely with Tim “Ripper” Owens awesome vocals. The album also follows an interesting concept for the first six songs.
Tracks 1-6 follow the story of an unnamed killer who is sentenced to death by Judge Cohegan. The judge is later assaulted by the killer before the execution resulting in a heart attack. The killer is shot, and the judge receives the killer’s heart during a transplant. The judge begins to hear the voices of the killers victims who can not rest until the heart is dead. Long story short the killer possesses Cohegan who then kills his wife and is subsequently sentenced to death. The rest of the songs do not have any part of the story, but are all played quite well. The only real divergence from the rest of the songs is the instrumental self titled track; which is also very good.
I really wish that more power metal sounded as ballsy as this album. The guitars are well played, and each song is filled with amazing riffs that at times have a very thrashy sound to them. Along with some excellent riffing many of the songs have ably played solos that never go into hour long wankfests. The bass is also not buried under the rest of the instruments, and can be heard very easily throughout the album. There is never any time that it really shines, but the bass is well played and it’s nice to actually hear it. Same goes for the drumming. It’s done quite well, but there is nothing that is going to make you go wow for the most part. Tim “Ripper” Owens shows off his amazing vocal abilities on this album. Quite simply the man can sing, and he really seems like the perfect fit for this album. He belts out high pitch screams throughout the album, and really sets the mood for every song.
I would say that this album is a must have for someone looking for a very dark and heavy power metal styled album. There is not a weak track to be found on the entire album, and its got more than its far share of headbangable moments. Whole-heartedly recommended.
Before Judas Priest and the Judas Priest tribute band, Tim Owens was just another man in a band; that group being Akron’s Winters Bane. Although they’re mainly known for shoving their old singer into the limelight, Winters Bane has openly morphed with each and every effort, typically showing various colors of groove on “Girth” and full-blown power metal on “Redivivus,” which cannot be done by any normal group. However, “Heart of a Killer” is commonly hailed as their finest effort, and doing so isn’t any outrageous statement simply because of its presented lineup; everything that represented the band, and still does, is firmly rolled up into a stellar ball of in-your-face speed metal that shreds like a rabid wolverine. Who loves hearing it? This guy!
Primitively, Winters Bane was bloodthirsty beyond bloodthirstiness; truly, this record is them in heaviest form. The production, for one, strips Lou St. Paul’s riffs down to the bone, making his chops weigh more than a goddamn whale while Terry Salem pounds the juice out of his drum kit, equating total neck-snapping ambience. Paul’s contributions, however, are stunning supplements of wretched speed metal influence made from honest homage and his technical strife. Ten out of ten experts seem to agree his riffs and soloing are years ahead of similar squads providing identical services, yet those great numbers are lasting, memorable, and impeccably played; not just crushing, but principal as well. If your spine doesn’t snap at least once, I suggest killing yourself, poser.
Major hitters have also swiped this rocker because it holds Tim Owens’ virgin attempt at holding the vocalizing instrument, but “Heart of a Killer” has much more than a future idol bellowing; in fact, his showmanship is fundamentally better than most of his Priest-era material. You know, the man has might in that voice of his, so the whole record shows him flying from high registers to haunting chants rather impeccably, especially for the zesty approach Winters Bane took. Plus, how he entwines himself into “Heart of a Killer” is quite amazing, because Owens has so much unity in the surroundings, that it could be his real modus operandi, but let’s not argue about that; instead, just understand the microphone was held by the proper user. Ripper’s vocals are saintly forceful, shaping several anthems into phantasmal pieces that probably wouldn’t trample so hard if Owens wasn’t there, thus proving his talent was primordial and not granted. Uncle Timmy leads the charge, from Alpha to Delta, baby!
Although not perfect, “Heart of a Killer” still performs refreshing functions that every power/speed metal release must have to endure criticism, time, and change. The record’s constant durability leaves a treaty impression upon its victims right from “Wages of Sin” to the final ticks of “Cleansing Mother,” so calling “A Heart of a Killer” consistent would be a bulls-eye description. What about filler, because EVERY record has some, right? Well, you should give Opposite Land a call, but otherwise, your luck has gone dry. If either heavy-as-anvils metal makes you engorged or that old-school hunger just keeps coming back, look no further than this swell offering.
This review was written for: www.leviatan-magazine.com
Most of us know Tim "Ripper" Owens for his work with Judas Priest and Iced Earth, but not so much for his original commercial success Winters Bane, an underrated power metal band from the early 90s, which is truly a shame given this disc. While I never was too into the work with Priest, I did like his vocal work on Iced Earth's the Glorious Burden and decided to check out some of his other bands. I came across Heart of a Killer by chance and I have to say I'm quite impressed.
Heart of a Killer is a metal album right in its time, it surprises me how over looked and underrated it is. This is the perfect blend of metal with balls it's no doubt on this album why Priest would eventually go with him. Owens sounds like a modern day rob halford or king diamond with this record. On the musical side the album is very similar to both bands as well during the time period as well as some similarities to Iced Earth's Night of the Stormrider. Definitely a powerful metal debut by a promising band that would please fans of any of those bands or a metal fan in general. There's no doubt this band and this album is worthy of a title like power metal because the work done on the tracks is definitely powerful.
If you happen to come across this record or want to try getting it i'd definitely recommend it. This is definitely Owens in his finest hour, and it's definitely an amazing metal record which baffles me why it's so underrated. Definitely a potentially killer album, very solid, and there is little that can be faulted about it. It's well worth checking out if you ever have the chance!
When people talk about Tim "The Ripper" Owens and his career it's usually all about his somewhat short stints in Judas Priest and Iced Earth, or perhaps even about his newer formed band Beyond Fear. But do you ever really see anyone mention Winters Bane? Probably not too often and that's a bit disappointing, because right of the bat Owens was doing more than just an impressive job performing powerful vocals at the mic.
For what Winters Bane were going for they were probably formed a bit too late, which is perhaps why this release (or the band for that matter) doesn't get a lot of attention. This is pretty simplistic stuff, straight up poundingly heavy traditional metal in the vein of Painkiller, Sanctuary's two albums come to mind at times too. The production suits the style very well, everything is pretty damn heavy and the drums are quite a force on their own. Guitars are very thick and actually comparable to some of today's modern bands (which may or may not be your thing). The mix is however sometimes a bit inconsistent, on some tracks Owens might sound like he's magically a street behind the band, some tracks don't sound as good as others, etc, the usual issues some albums have. Overall though it's not much of an issue.
As stated above this is pretty basic heavy metal having its ups and downs. Owens as usual sticks to a lot of higher notes and he probably shrieks on here more than you've ever heard him before. There's definitely a dark atmosphere to some of the tracks and you can tell they wanted to go for something a bit "epic" at times. Though some may enjoy it for being a bit more lax than say, Iced Earth's Night of the Stormrider that released a year before this. It works pretty well at some parts like during the middle segments of Night Shade, with perfect vocal delivery and swift harmonies. Which brings me to another high point here, the dual harmonies and some of the guitar melodies are downright cool. The solo's seem to be a hit or miss though, some stick and some don't. The downside is that the album seems a bit lopsided, as you progress through the album it tends to feel like the songs themselves do also. So you may have to give it a few tracks before the quality hits, though maybe it's just the slight repetition with some of the tracks that causes this. In the end there's a lot to offer here for fans with a variety of tastes, old school power metal fans may enjoy it, modern metal fans, traditional enthusiasts, and especially those who enjoy everything Tim Owens. Definitely recommended. This is what Beyond Fear should sound like!
It's obvious after listening to "Heart of a Killer" why Tim Owens was chosen to replace Rob Halford in Judas Priest. This is far better than the albums Tim did with Judas Priest and is the the best album Owens has recorded to date.
"Heart of a Killer" is an album that will recall bands like King Diamond, Queensryche, and Judas Priest. The first six songs outline a story about Judge Cohagen who receives a heart transplant from a man he had condemned to death. This heart transplant has unexpected supernatural consequences for the Judge.
The guitar playing is very competent, especially with regards to the soloing. The drumming is also good, but somewhat standard for this type of music. The music is well-developed but not particularly progressive. The emphasis is more on creating headbanging dark power metal rather than showcasing the band's technique. The most outstanding aspect of this album undoubtedly are the screaming vocals of Tim Owens. He can scream to the rafters and also put a lot of nice grit on his voice in the midrange, as evidenced at the beginning of the track "Horror Glances". His singing features a lot of octave jumps, probably the most notable example of which would be the song "Nightshade" which contains some insane vocals that I think few heavy metal singers could replicate.
I subtracted a few points over a few minor issues. First of all, let me be clear that I don't believe any album is perfect. I believe there is always room for improvement for musicians to strive for. My rating reflects that belief. I think the instrumental "Winters Bane" is superflous and would've worked much better by adding a vocal line to it. As an instrumental, it isn't distinctive enough to work on its own. I also think some of the guitar riffs would've benefitted from a bit more flair in the riff work. I think the drum parts could've been made a bit more interesting in some spots as well. Keep in mind though, that I consider these critcisms to be very minor considering the number of things "Heart of a Killer" has done well and I consider this album to be a gem of underground metal.
This CD was reissued by Century Media with a bonus disc of demo and live tracks. It shouldn't be too hard to find and is well worth the money! This album is a great purchase for people who really love the darker and heavier style of power metal.