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A disappointing sophomore effort - 68%

TitaniumNK, November 28th, 2011

''Whom Are You With?'' or ''С кем ты?'' in Russian, is a second album by Russian heavy metal icons Aria. Released just one year after the ingenious debut ''Megalomania'' it should prove was Aria in for a long haul or just a ''one-hit wonder'', like countless other bands in the '80s. So, did this album fulfil expectations?

Well... Kinda. It has some killer tracks, some great metal to be found here, but sadly, it just isn't on the same level with the debut. There are several reasons for this. First, this album sounds very ordinary compared to ''Megalomania'', this is pure '80s hard 'n' heavy, without progressive elements whatsoever. Then, pretty much as a consequence of the former statement, it lacks originality. The debut was influenced by Maiden, Priest, Scorpions, Purple, combined music of those bands to result as an incredibly original album. Here you have one song and a couple of riffs that are virtually stolen from other bands, but I'll focus on that later.

The production has improved and it's technically way better than on ''Megalomania'', but it lacks the charm and overall feeling that the debut had. The sound here reminds me of Divlje jagode, the best and the most famous ex-Yugoslavian hard 'n' heavy band; their '80s records sound exactly like this. To conclude – the production is neither bad nor very good. The band members' performance is pretty good, but Alik Granovskiy is the one who really shines in here. Just listen to his masterful bass playing on ''Metal Is Forged Here'', ''Icarus'' and especially on the bass-only instrumental ''Memory of…''. The notable new member is Andrey Bolshakov, who I believe is very much responsible for band's musical change of direction, since he wrote four out of eight tracks for this album. This is his first and last album in Aria, after Aria he went to Master, probably Russian's most famous thrash metal band. Alik Granovskiy departed to Master after this album as well.

Although quite ordinary and unoriginal, this album still has some winners. ''Will and Reason'' is great opener, catchy as hell, it's meant to be played live. Sadly, even though the song is just four and a half minutes long, the last minute is totally stretched and unnecessary. ''Stand Up, Vanquish Fear'' is a blatantly ''Jawbreaker'' rip-off, but it's far more interesting and catchy than the ''original'', ''Icarus'' is an excellent speed metal with Maidenesque riffs and ''Without You'' is a very good ballad.

The rest of songs range from average to downright dull. ''Metal Is Forged Here'' and ''Games Not For Us'' are meandering mid-paced songs that offer nothing particularly interesting except Granovskiy's bass playing at all. The title track could’ve been great if there weren't for that stupid chorus which totally ruins the song. You don’t know what is a dumb chorus is you didn’t listen to this. ''Memory of…'' is quite useless, it’s a display of Granovskiy’s skills (great skills, I must add) but it sounds like some leftover from jamming sessions.

All in all, if you love good ol’ '80s hard 'n’ heavy, you’ll probably like this, but if you want some more mature and progressive music from Aria, stay the fuck away of this and go to ''Megalomania'' or their later ''Generator of Evil'' album. Luckily, after this release, the band woke up and made some phenomenal albums in the future, but that’s another story…

Note: Review rechecked and corrected grammar and writing errors.

Faceless average hard rock and heavy metal - 70%

kluseba, March 7th, 2011

After the promising first album, my expectations were quite high for the follow up. I thought that even if this record wouldn't be able to keep the high level of the brilliant first strike, it would at last go into the same direction and be a truly enjoyable and diversified heavy metal record. But the Russians really regressed with this record that has nothing of the rude charm and magic of the first album. Instead of developing their own sound, the band sounds even more like their idols. The opener "Will and reason" sounds like "You've got another thing coming" and "Jawbreaker" from Judas Priest and bores to death. "Without you" is a decent ballad and probably the most memorable track of this record but nothing we haven't heard before by Scorpions. In fact, Valery Kipelov sounds a lot like Klaus Meine on this record like someone already said before. The path between heavy metal music and hard rock on this record is indeed much smaller than on the first record.

The problem is that the choruses on this album try desperately to be catchy but they eventually aren't. Even after four or five tries, the songs refuse to stay on my mind. The semen are planted, but no beautiful flower grows out of this potpourri. The band has got talent but a really catchy and stunning song is missing on the entire record. The only positive thing to say is that the album sounds very coherent. The only time the band really breaks the chains is in the bass instrumental "Memory about" that develops a haunting atmosphere and sounds quite much of what Iron Maiden would later do on the "X-Factor" album with bass introductions like in "Fortunes of war" or "Blood on the world's hands". At least in here, the Russians inspired one of their idols and not vice versa.

Don't get me wrong, this album is in the end enjoyable to listen to. There are neither really weak songs nor any amazing songs. It simply is a standard heavy metal album that you can easily listen to as good background music. But after the great debut album I was expecting more than eight average heavy metal tracks.

Pretty original speed metal - 87%

natrix, July 18th, 2007

This is where Aria really starts developing into a unit capable of delivering good songs. Not that Megalomania was a bad album, but you could tell that they had not entirely gelled as a band. Here, however, you have tighter performances, a bit more original sound, but a few weaker moments. They hadn't yet descended to Maiden worship yet, so here it's basically a cross between Priest's British Steel and the Scorpions' Love at First Sting; really catchy, driving riffs, good guitar solos, and soaring vocals. In fact, Valerii Kipelov reminds me a bit of Klaus Meine.

To get the crap out of the way, I personally find the title track to be a bit weak. It does feature a great speed metal riff, a nice, melodic mid-section, but the stop-start structure of the song just doesn't do it for me. "Without You" is where their native music comes in, the mid-section sounding especially typical of Russian rock bands, and as a ballad, this is a really good one...except for the repulsive chorus! AAAARGH! I can't believe they couldn't have done better than that. "Games Are Not for Us," is not a great track either...not terrible, but not nearly as good as the other parts of this album.

"Will and Reason" is a great, driving track, with a ferocious riff and catchy chorus. The solos on here are pure Priest! "Stand, Vanquish Fear" is the Soviet version of "Jawbreaker," and it is damn good, with more quality solos, and a really nice galloping beat. "Here Metal Is Forged" has some absolutely enjoyable bass work, courtesy of Alik Granovsky, and heavy riffs...oh, and the clanging metal sounds and chanting chorus make this both heavy and fucking epic! It's like if the Soviet Union created Terminators to crush the west...Metal Gods indeed!

"Icarus" at first sounds like a Boston song, but it is not...it's fucking nice speed metal, and the twin guitar play that I loved so much on Megalomania makes an appearance here. "Memory About" is a bass solo, much better than the title track of their first album, but pretty useless. Still, it's very impressive to hear Granovsky tear it up on his bass, as he is a very overlooked bass player, easily the Cliff Burton of the Russian scene.

Overall, a real gem of an album, and certainly an enjoyable one.

Nicely done 80s power metal - 78%

UltraBoris, August 21st, 2002

This is a pretty damn good album, with its own distinctive sound, before they decided that Iron Maiden was THE thing to sound like.

Two of the songs here, "Will and Reason" and "Stand up and Vanquish Fear" also appeared on the first Master album, because three people that would form Master in 1987 are on this album (Alexander Granovsky, and two others which I can't remember right now). Those two songs are slower than the Master versions, but generally similar.

The rest of the album is similar to those two, though at times heavier and faster. For example, "Icarus" is probably the fastest song on here, and is almost speed metal at times with the riffs underneath the chorus. There is a lot of random little guitar solos thrown in here at times - as opposed to the very long guitar passages that they would employ later. The whole album has a definite NWOBHM sound to it, with Iron Maiden being the heaviest influence but the riffs aren't quite as galloping. Diamond Head and the Soviet band Legion are also huge influences, and the album also manages to sound something like the first Fates Warning album at times too, though better in quality.

The only real downer is the ballad section in the middle... "Without You" and "Memory Of" just don't hold up to the rest. Oh well. The title track is good, as is Metal is Forged Here - worth getting for 6 great songs.