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One of Europe's Finest - 97%

Marcohateshipsters, November 2nd, 2018

Let's take a trip back in time - Germany, mid to late 80s to be specific. The metal scene was burgeoning globally and Germany was no exception. The Germans played it fast and loud with thrash and speed metal being the flagship scenes at the time. Both scenes were in ways reactions to what was happening in metal globally. The thrashers, spearheaded by bands like Destruction, Sodom, and Kreator, took Venom's blueprint to the next level when it came to raw, visceral aggression. In the same way that the United States power metal scene was a reaction to the NWOBHM, the Germans followed suit with their brand of speed metal. Heavily inspired by the NWOBHM as well as albums like Restless and Wild by Teutonic legends Accept, bands like Helloween, Running Wild, and Blind Guardian blossomer. As this speed metal scene developed, we began to see the rise of something else entirely - the beginnings of European power metal (EUPM) where bands like Scanner emerged from beneath the fold.

European power metal can be traced back to a singular album - Helloween's Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. I which released in 1987. There were plenty of German speed metal albums that flirted with power metal in the same way that the Americans did, but Keeper was something else entirely. It was uptempo, keyboards were more prominent, and the choruses were bigger and more emphasized. Scanner picked up on this and were one of the earliest bands to follow in this trend with their release of 1988's Hypertrace, an album that borrowed heavily from the framework set up by Helloween on Walls of Jericho and Keeper of the Seven Keys Pt. I.

Now you may be asking yourself why I've spent so much time and effort discussing and framing up the importance of Helloween's early efforts in a review for Scanner. What I want to make very clear here is that Scanner's debut is a classic that is more than worthy to be compared to Walls of Jericho and Keeper... , two very well known and cherished albums. In many ways, it surpasses the previously mentioned efforts. However despite being on a relatively large and important label, Noise Records, Scanner didn't seem to make the splash that they deserved with Hypertrace. Notwithstanding the unfortunate lack of success, I believe that Scanner came in at just the perfect time and with the songwriting/vocal chops to catch lightning in a bottle.

The band's unique blend of the German speed metal attitude and riffs with the power metal vocal delivery style made for a recipe that very few bands were able to achieve. Every single aspect of Scanner's performance on Hypertrace is exceptional. Everything. The band heavily utilizes twin guitar melodies and riffs to craft their signature sound. The bass and drums are still fairly prominent here, but less so than most of their peers. Other German speed metal releases in 1988, such as Rage's Perfect Man and Airwolf's Victory Bells, featured a louder and more active rhythm section. In contrast, Hypertrace is very much a guitar and vocals driven album. Each song is structured very deliberately and they're all distinct. You'll find a good mix of fast paced, speed metal bangers and mid-paced songs structured around vocals and big choruses. It's all written masterfully. Hypertrace is a notably consistent album with virtually no dips in quality. It's refreshing to see - even the two bonus tracks are remarkable!

Michael Knoblich is far and away the star of the show here. Even on an album with instrumentation as tight as it is on Hypertrace, his vocal performance stands out to me as truly extraordinary. Knoblich's wails pack a punch and work to drive the songs forward in a meaningful way. His choruses are huge and catchy as all hell - just try listening to "Terrion" or "Across the Universe" without singing along! It's also worth noting that Knoblich is responsible for the album's well-written, sci-fi based lyrics. Michael's inherent charisma, vocal talent, and stellar lyrics makes for an absolutely deadly combination. I cannot overstate how excellent Hypertrace really is and his contribution to it is massive.

I find myself coming back to this album time and time again. It's memorable and in the best way possible. I'm sent on an upbeat journey through space with each listen and I can't help but find myself smiling at the end of it. I've come to find a sense of comfort and familiarity from listening to this album - listening to tracks like "Across the Universe" give me the feeling that I'm surrounded by friends and good company. It's difficult to describe all the feelings I have associated with Hypertrace, but like with all effective pieces of art it evokes a strong and deep emotional response.

Hypertrace came at a crossroads for power metal. It came right at the beginning of EUPM and as the German speed metal scene was beginning to wind down. As a result, you have elements from both worlds mixed in together magnificently. There's really not much material like this out there. Although Scanner wouldn't quite replicate their feat, the album's successor, Terminal Earth, is in a similar style and ascends to nearly the same heights. Both are essential listening for fans of power metal - there's no doubt in my mind about that.

Album Rating: 97/100

Favorite Track: Across the Universe

Originally written for RideIntoGlory.com

True example of 80s Power/Speed metal - 95%

DesecratorJ, May 30th, 2018

Coming from the power metal explosion of the late 80s with bands like Helloween, Gamma Ray, Blind Guardian, etc. Scanner were not quite as much successful as their peers. For some reason, they did not have the same attention level, even if their music was similar. This band also have a background, they were known as "Lions Breed" and actually released a record under that name, which was of course very different from what they did as Scanner. Having said that, the musicians already had some experience and then decided to change their name to start fresh and play something different, also bringing a new singer to fit their new musical style... here comes the power/speed metal band Scanner in 1986.

The band got a record deal with the giant "Noise Records" and released their first full-length album under the Scanner name in 1988, the famous "Hypertrace" album. I'm saying famous because this record is top-notch German quality stuff. In fact, the whole album is based on a concept story and follows through the eight tracks, though 10 tracks were recorded in the recording session of this album. What I liked the most about Scanner and this album is the variety and originality of the material, of course it sounds like other German power and speed metal bands, but in a unique way. Useless to tell how good the singer is on this album, the vocals performances are outstanding and definitely the perfect fit for the musical style, delivering high-pitched screams and intense melodic moments in some tracks. The energy was there and easily noticeable on this record, they had the recipe right there to make the perfect record, and they did it. Speaking of variety in there, power and speed metal are often a mixed genre, but here we can see where they put those stylistic elements.

For example, "Across the Universe" is a timeless German power metal classic, and definitely the catchiest Scanner song ever, for me at least. The kind of tracks that get stuck in your head is basically what you will get from this band. Of course, songs like "Warp 7" and "Grapes of Fear" are the definitive speed metal parts of the record. The guitar playing is magnificent as well as the awesomeness of the riffs. It really didn't take much time for me to be impressed by how these guys were great, I also noticed that the music is less straightforward or bashed to your face, like bands such as Agent Steel or Vectom for instance. What we have here is more musically focused and technically advanced with more tempo changes. The famous "Killing Fields" is a great sample of that, its structure is incredibly well-arranged, and also feature one of the most catchiest moment of the album as well, which is actually the epic outro of the album in fact. It's a pretty nice way of ending a record, even if two tracks are lacking in the original press, "Galactos" and "Wizard Force" were added in the end of the album on later re-releases. Those are cool songs, but not as much as the original material, in my opinion.

When I am speaking of perfection, "Hypertrace" comes near that, not only the music is great, the production work done for it is also awesome. All the instruments are well balanced and mixed, nothing is left unheard, even the bass sounds great, there's nothing that impressive on the bass and drums playing, but it still definitely does the job for its purpose. The lyrics based on a science-fiction story is pretty cool and original, not many bands were doing this back in the 80s, thus making this album a little more original than some other records. The only problem is that the story doesn't really follow the track list order on the record, as well as lacking two songs from it in the original release.

Well, overall, this is one of the best power/speed metal record ever released from Germany, or even Europe. It's very unfortunate that Scanner didn't have more attention because with this album, and the 1989 "Terminal Earth", they had two killer albums, but even with those, success didn't come. Anyway, it doesn't really matter now, we can listen to it and enjoy how awesome it really is. Definitely a record that I recommend to all fans of old school power and speed metal, as a warning, I can tell that by listening to Hypertrace, some choruses will get stuck in your head for a while!

Favorite tracks :

Across the Universe
Grapes of Fear
Killing Fields
Locked Out

EVEN TIIIIME IS STANDING STILL - 97%

BastardHead, April 15th, 2016

I've mentioned before that German speed metal is pretty much unequivocally the greatest short lived subniche of the entire heavy metal family tree, and despite my raging fandom for it, I've never been exactly sure which album to recommend to somebody who has no idea what it sounds like. Running Wild's seminal Gates to Purgatory is far and away the best album of the style in my eyes, but it's a weird starting point because the lyrical focus stakes itself firmly in the grimy satanism of Venom, while the runner up album, Helloween's Walls of Jericho, fits all the themes and hits all the tropes, but it always felt like an album of two or three magnificent songs and a bunch of merely good ones in accompaniment. That's why, after six seconds of deliberation, I have decided to bestow the title of "Absolute First Fucking Speed Metal Album You Should Ever Hear" upon Scanner's 1988 debut, Hypertrace. Why you ask? Why not something a little more obvious and relatable like the first couple Blind Guardian albums? Well that's easy. Scanner may not be as good as Blind Guardian or Running Wild, but let me tell you, they are ten trillion times more awesome.

Really, nothing makes me giddy on the level of a seven year old after his twentieth Oreo like a high speed, spacefaring concept album narrated by a coked up wolverine possessed by the spirit of Udo Dirkschneider caught in a bear trap. Seriously, I raved for eons about how much I loved the unhinged ridiculousness of Bride's vocals, but Scanner tops even those. Michael Knoblich's glass shattering wail is used about as liberally as Nutella in a hipster's studio apartment, and I love it. It's never been a secret that I think subtlety is overrated in the context of metal, and I'm much more prone to loving the shit out of something shamelessly fun and ridiculous. Hypertrace is that in spades, it's just non stop speed and over the top wailing and blistering fretwork from the get go and it basically never lets up. But again, none of that matters, listen to the vocals. They're so over the top ridiculous, so full of overt cheeseball silliness that I seriously can't decide if he's playing it totally straight, stoically imposing his will on the stage like the vocalist of Belphegor while wearing a Terminator mask and Deathworld suit, or if he's this little ball of energy, bounding around everywhere, shooting his toy laser gun into the crowd and swinging the microphone stand like a noob Kilik player, belting his heart out so hard that blood squirts out of his eyes before he passes out at the end of every show with a six foot wide smile rigor mortis'd onto his face. They're so perfect, I want Knoblich to sing to me on my birthday. LOCKED! OUT! uuuWAAAaAaAaAaAAAHH!

So yeah, I could write forty thousand words about how fucking perfect the vocal performance is, but the music and songwriting is pretty much spot on phenomenal as well. There is basically no album opener as great as "Warp 7" in all of metal. Really, for the blast of energy it provides, coupled with how obnoxiously infectious it is, it rivals something like "Painkiller" or "Exciter", and most of the album follows suit. "Terrion", "Locked Out", "Grapes of Fear", "Wizard Force", basically every single song is a high speed burst of enthusiasm that manages to be as ear catching as any 80s anthem. Despite how fast and over the top the album is, it never actually seems "aggressive", so to speak. It's not sinister or vicious, it's just fucking fun. From the explosions and corny sound effects that are sprinkled throughout the album, to the fist pumping singalong monuments, everything hits bullseye in a way that most of their peers would kill to achieve. Despite the over the top speed taking up a large portion of the album, there are definitely spots where the band shows they aren't afraid to slow down a bit to show off their songwriting skill. Nothing here really approaches a ballad, per se, but songs like "Killing Fields" and "Across the Universe" tone down the barnburning ridiculousness in favor of arena deafening anthems that are no less over the top and entertaining. Both of the aforementioned songs have some of the best singalong moments in all of speed metal, rivaling the mighty Blind Guardian in terms of catchiness and complexity. Early Manowar, despite being kings of this kind of thing, still weep at the fact that they never wrote anything as indisputably immortal as the chorus to "Across the Universe". So my claims of nothing but non stop speed are slightly facetious, as the band does an excellent job of throwing in an abundance of Screaming for Vengeance-isms. Despite the variance in tempo and execution, it's never anything less than Evel Kneivel level over the top bombast. From the screaming guitars to wailing shrieks of the greatest vocalists to ever take the stage, everything is the musical embodiment of a wild haired scientist jumping the entire width of France in a rocket powered Star Wars speeder.

So basically, Hypertrace can be summed up as "charismatic". It's a goofy sci-fi concept backed by over the top theatrics and a vocalist who sells everything by singing ridiculous nonsense with as much conviction as anybody ever has. Everything that comes out of his mouth just sounds like the MOST AWESOME THING EVER and I can't find myself arguing against it. In the grand scheme of things, this was sorta lost in the shuffle and Scanner never reached the heights of Helloween and Blind Guardian, despite being every bit as magical. The only reason I can think of for this being the case is simply that they were a little late to the party (Speed metal of this specific niche only lasted what, five or six years? It was basically gone by 1990 and Hypertrace came out in 1988) and missed the intangible of being "influential" instead of just "amazing". Maybe if they'd've transitioned into full on power metal as their career went on like the genre progenitors did, they'd be remembered by the general populace as one of the greats. But as it stands, they're just a cult classic, known widely by the people who matter and basically nobody else. And really, that's probably the way it should be.


Originally written for Lair of the Bastard

Criminally overlooked science fiction power metal - 95%

autothrall, October 21st, 2009

By all rights, Scanner should have been every bit as big of a band as Helloween. They were just a few years too late, but had that same wild, anthemic flare combined with raw, excellent guitar work and shrieking vocals which made Walls of Jericho such a classic. Add to this the science fiction theme, which was pretty novel for early power metal, and you've got quite the find. Hypertrace was the band's first album, and remains their best (only Terminal Earth comes close). If you enjoy German power and speed metal with higher register vocals (i.e. Rage, Gamma Ray, Primal Fear, etc), and have not heard this band, you are doing yourself a disservice. Track down the first two albums immediately.

Hypertrace is in fact a concept album, though the sequence of songs on the album is not the sequence of the narrative. But it only takes the first track "Warp 7" for it to hook you, as Michael Knoblich's insanely melodic, harpy-like vocals carry you out into the universe in gritty 80s style aboard the invisible Star Destroyer in your mind. Powerful leads, perfectly selected rhythm guitar sequences, and the damned song makes me smile every time I turn it on. Ditto for the glorious anthem "Terrion" and the raging "Locked Out", both of which sparkle with perfection and an intense sense for unforgettable riffs. Not convinced? "Across the Universe" is like a galactic anthem for happy space unity, Knoblich's lines in the verse cut out across the void like lasers.

Thousand light years we had overcome
Across the universe
It's a long way to the landing ground
The mission gets real
Human appearance electric inside
Solar batteries and a microchip brain
Android angels on wings of laser
Taking life in their hands

I have already orgasmed three times while writing this review. Try and guess where? "R.M.U." is next, and the longest track on the album (almost 6 minutes). Although it's solid and entertaining, it's the ONLY track on this album that I didn't outright love, and the ONLY reason this album does not have a perfect score. "Grapes of Fear" rules, and "Retaliation Positive" is immense, a slower track which builds up a good fist pump before Knoblich just explodes off in the chorus. "Killings Fields" is a satisfying close to the album, and the bonus tracks "Wizard Force" and "Galactos" are both excellent as well.

To think, 1988 was such an amazing year for metal music that Hypertrace doesn't even qualify as one of its top albums. It's like some cloud of sentient space debris flew over Earth that year, thought to itself "This is the species that broadcast Master of Puppets, I shall reward them with a shower of inspirational cosmic dust to ensure their quality control remains intact." Scanner started with a bang, and carried this quality forward to their second album (even though S.L. Coe took over on vocals, he had a similar screech to Knoblich). Their later work is a mixed bag, but very high recommendations here to any fan of melodic speed/power metal! This is one kickass German album, criminally overlooked.

Highlights: start to finish

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Metal From Outer Space!! - 99%

cravingforvenom, March 25th, 2009

Power metal was arguably Germany’s baby as the earlier bands such as Scorpions, Accept and Faithful Breath practically laid the foundation for what has now become one of the most heard genres of metal today. Scanner was one such band that came out of Germany playing a brand of power metal like the famous four but with lyrics that dealt with futuristic themes and outer space journeys which segregated them from the rest. Their musicianship and delivery being top notch and extremely tight, Scanner perhaps released one of the best pure power metal albums ever.

“Hypertrace” being their debut album sounds like it could make a worthy fit on the Helloween catalog. The similarity is evident as both bands relied on the magic of dual guitar solos and riffs that roughly crossed the thrash territory. The vocalist who’s middle name is M.A.J.O.R also sounds a lot like Michael Kiske for the most part but could shriek out falsettos as high as anyone I’ve heard till date. The choruses too sound very similar that at times it feels as though these bands grew up together and subsequently released their demos at the same time too.

The music in here is traditional eighties power metal with all the essential ingredients present. There is not much you can complain about as almost everything in here is almost perfectly done. “Warp 7” has a melodic intro dual guitar lead solo and the track on the whole is very well structured with over the top vocals whereas “Terrion” carries some fresh sounding riffs with excellent use of the double bass drums and a good chorus.”Across The Universe” is slightly on the slower side but done very well with good guitar solo harmonies.”Locked Out” on the other hand is perhaps the best song in here with a kick ass bass intro solo and a chorus that is likely to stick to your head for days. The lead guitar solo in here blows and must be heard. This is what “Keepers” era Helloween would sound like had they dreamed of going on a space voyage.

“RMU” starts off slow but eventually gains speed and has a great riff similar to Pokolgep’s “Metal Az Esz” with a good chorus. The next best thing in here is “Grapes Of Fear”, a butt kicker of a track with vocals that go viciously high and a devastating lead solo capable of blowing a planet to smithereens. “Retaliation Positive” is a fairly slow one that relies a lot on the usage of heavy riffs and more choruses that any song in here. “Killing Fields” is very similar to Warp 7 except for the slowdown at the finish that simply rules while “Wizard Force” plays the role of a good finisher with Judas Priest like riffs and solos reminiscent of the duo of Tipton and Downing.

Its high time followers of flower metal start listening to some real shit. Good and catchy power metal came out in the eighties and the early nineties and Scanner released some great ones in that phase. Highly recommended for fans of Helloween, Running Wild, Accept, Blind Guardian, Rage and in particular those who really dug into Liege Lord’s “Master Control”. Get your hands on this album before its too late.

A glorious tour de force - 90%

ElectricEye, March 5th, 2007

I won't hesitate to call this one of my ten favourite debut albums of all time. Scanner comes leaping onto the stage with ridiculous confidence - so full of youthful creativity as to be years ahead of their time, but still so sure of their craft, you'd think they've done this a hundred times before.

What we have is a work of totally focused inspiration, and no apologies in the delivery. The sound is completely unique and instantly recognizable. Perhaps it was even too much to handle, because unfortunately, this gem has become sort of drowned in time. But it is absolutely as good as anything by the German "name" bands - Helloween, Rage, Running Wild, etc. - of the same general time period.

I guess you could call the music power metal, but it shouldn't be confused with wimpdom like Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius and friends. The album is as much speed metal as it is "power", though it's really too unique to care about labels. Knoblich's vocals are high and clean (but with edge!), and the sci-fi lyrics will surely appeal to overweight, undersexed Star Trek creeps in glasses, but that's about as far as the power metal associations go. Everything else is too concerned with grinding unbeliever-skull at any given second, to suck like Sonata Arctica, Stratovarius and Star Trek.

I could go over all the tracks, but really, it's just one hit after another. No fuckhead ballads, tons of spacy riffs (you'll wonder how they came up with stuff like this!), and tremendously memorable choruses, some of which (most notably, "Across the universe") are instant classics. The music is alternating between fast and faster, and the melodies - MY GOD! The final minute of both "Warp 7" and "Killing fields" are positively pants-shrinking!

A few songs, "Retaliation positive" and "Wizard force", are not quite as strong as the others. They're still worth the listen, it's just that the bar is raised so high by the tracks before them, the album appears to run out of steam a bit towards the end. Had these two been as strong as the rest, this album would surely get a 95 - I simply can't find any other faults with it!

They also managed to create an outer space atmosphere, almost through the riffs alone, without resorting to distorted vocals and other artificial gimmicks. Although there is some "FX" thrown around here and there, it's sparse enough not to be a nuisance. The production itself has a very "open" feel, with crystal clear instrumental distinction. Guitars themselves are sharp and screechy, "piercing through the void like ancient starlight". :cheese:

The storyline is given a brief overview in the sad excuse for a booklet, but it appears that the songs are not in correct order on the CD to follow the concept, so don't look for cohesion in the lyrics. Weird, but who cares? If you want to sit and contemplate the finer philosophical points of this nonsense (let's just mention that mutant cyborgs and "extraterrestrial wizards" feature heavily), instead of headbanging and playing air guitar, you suck anyway!

An additional note - there is no tenth track (the one supposedly called "Galactos") on my CD, it might be on a re-release of some variety. I will have to look into this.

Favourite songs: Well, absolutely best are "Across the universe", "R.M.U." (these two are near-divine) and "Warp 7", but a good four others are well up there; "Terrion", "Locked out", "Grapes of fear" and "Killing fields", yeah.

They just don't make shit like this anymore. Now it's up to you to catch up!

Iron Savior's Unification, 11 years before - 90%

UltraBoris, August 14th, 2002

This is a very good speed metal album, for the most part, sounding a lot like Walls of Jericho, except at times more power-metalling. The theme is one of aliens and science fiction, thus the comparison with Iron Savior. The vocalist (whose name I can't remember right now, but it had a bunch of acronyms in it because "Captain Kirk" was taken) sounds a lot like Kai Hansen. (Appropriately enough, the next album by Scanner would pretty much be Keeper Part III.)

Some of the songs are just a bit 80s-metal-sounding as opposed to all-out speed metal (see: Sinner, 1984, for what they most resemble), but they are still overall very strong. This is a standout of the genre... this and their next album - kinda like Paradox, they just never quite got the attention they deserved. These guys do give Helloween a run for their money. The production is pretty 80s, but otherwise this really does sound like Iron Savior's Unification - similar themes, similar execution, similar quality.

Speed metal highlights include "Warp Seven", "Wizard Force", and "Retaliaion Positive". As for power metal... "Locked Out" has the sing-along section to end all sing-along sections, and then "Killing Fields" has the sing-along section to end the previous one. Blind Guardian called, they thought they had a copyright on that sort of thing.

If you like German speed metal, there really is no reason why this album won't appeal to you. It's not really all that revolutionary - it sounds like it could've happened in 1985 and not been out of place. But still, it is very well executed. Catchy, fun, straight-up heavy fucking METAL.