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Broken around the edges, but catchy as hell - 75%

Xeogred, August 23rd, 2007

Hailing from Portland Cruella is one of those starving bands that released their material just a few years too late. They had the charisma that probably grappled a lot of fans in and the originality that surely should have earned them more recognition than they got. Whatever it was, be it financial issues or label problems, Cruella definitely had what it took to be more than what their fate allowed them to be.

Whenever I play this album I can't help but think of Riot's Thundersteel. That laid back and catchy speed metal vibe is definitely here, along with screaming wails from vocalist Nolan, unforgettable choruses and solo's that shred until no tomorrow. That's where Cruella arguably topples Riot, when it comes to the solo's and technicality. Its as if they triple their speed and break anything in their path, they're not letting anything hold them back. Nolan's vocals are another huge highlight as this guy delivers with the performance. Just as their sound and style are comparable to Thundersteel, Nolan's vocals sound a lot like Tony Moore's. He gives it his all and the screams are way over the top and pretty damn impressive. When the production allows it, Rob Conrad actually gets quite a bit of air time alone with his excellent bass work. The bass is usually extremely clear and you can even expect a few solo's from time to time. Lone guitarist De Carlo is another highlight as he switches from upbeat catchy riffs to terrifying solo's that don't really try to be melodic or anything, he just unleashes the shredding. Last but not least is drummer Dave Hval who does a fantastic job at changing it up from time to time while keeping the pace extremely fast. The entire lineup is a huge highlight, everyone is above and beyond here.

Their are a handful of faults at hand however. The production is usually above par, but the mixing itself can get a little random. This usually doesn't happen during the songs, though you might notice a few changes from track to track. Then, there are the amateurish issues, sometimes it seems like they slip up with a few mistakes here and there. Sound effects used here and there seem totally unecessary at times, the random static distortions that open up Devil's Gone could be an excellent example and that lasts for the whole first minute of the song when it could be completely thrown away. There's a few slip ups from time to time, but I'm sure its just because of time constraints that they had. As I stated earlier, Cruella was probably just a starving band wanting to get -something- released. The energy and charisma does however prove to be an antidote against these minor mistakes.

The entire album is quite an experience. Specifically I'd have to give a ton of props to Traitors. As someone who usually enjoys the faster tracks over the rest, I found this mid paced one to be easily one of the best tracks on here. They've got some dark mystical vibe to this one and the mysterious leads really sound like nothing I've ever heard before. The second half of the track jumps back unto the speed metal boat however and well, they just go all out. Kicked In The Ass is interestingly weird because its barely two minutes long, but hands down the fastest track on here. Nolan's vocals on this one turn the would-be goofy lyrics into something to be afraid of as well. In Time, Beyond Belief, Bat's Breath, and Devil's Gone are the simpler tracks on here, more straight forward speed metal material. Regardless they're all extremely catchy and the ones that remind me most of Riot's classic Thundersteel. Fight the Dragon and Broken Bones seem a little more traditional than the rest, while the speed is slowed down a bit the virtuosity and 'over the top' factor is still all over. The second half of Broken Bones has all instruments float away from the scene leaving you with nothing but some mesmerizing bass lines. Its odd, but pretty damn cool at the same time. About Faces simply sums up the entire album, catchy and over the top speed metal.

The slower build up at the end of About Faces can really put you in a trance. Its that mystical feeling that can really put you back in the 80's when this was what metal was all about. Its a powerful moment and while I was just a lad in the late 80's, it can still be said: they just don't make them like this anymore. Ultimately recommended, I've been trying to decide what rating to give this album and a 90 may be high for something with several mixing flaws, but that's kind of the magic that makes this what it is. Easily among the best in speed/power, its a shame they'd get a little more laid back with their next release and would lose vocalist Nolan in the process, replacing him with drummer Hval who defines monotone. Still a great album but this one just had the magic.