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Speed Wars: The Dark Wizard Strikes Back. - 78%

hells_unicorn, June 18th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1990, CD, Aurophon

In any sub-genre of metal, there is always one band that many will point to and say something along the lines of, "This sounds generic, so it's one of the worst things ever." For mid-80s speed metal, the short-lived German outfit known as Vectom seems to be one of the more popular whipping boys, though this sentiment seems to be more triggered by the evil KKK looking guys on the album cover than anything else because the actual contents of their albums have tended to be fairly solid, if maybe coming up short on taking risks. But one area where there tends to be a consensus is that Rules Of Mystery, the band's second LP in as many years, is a step up from its predecessor. Everything is just a bit more polished this time around, from the songwriting to the production quality, with the only real reduction being the smaller number of evil characters resembling icons of American racism adoring the cover.

Precision is more of a factor for Vectom this time around, as the arrangement has gotten a bit tighter and the stylistic leanings of the songwriting, while still mostly nestled in speed metal cliche, has also taken on a power metal oriented approach to chorus creation and melodic instrumental underpinnings, not to mention a more thrashing feel at times. Occasional trace lead guitar melody drones pop in and out from time to time, perhaps most notably on "Dipsomania" to complement a more symmetrical songwriting structure that leans towards Iron Maiden. Similarly, while sporting a couple faster Judas Priest oriented spurts, "Why Am I Alive" has all the mid-paced, galloping chug riffing meat and potatoes of a slower paced Metallica or Testament song. Truth be told, this album listens pretty close to a poor man's The Legacy with a vocalist that has more of a classic punk-persona with a German accent.

Barring the few aforementioned exceptions where things are a bit more restrained and catchy, much of this album tends towards a mix of flashing speed and punchy thrashing riffs. The speed metal stock and trade of this band that ruled their debut is heard yet again on straight-line speeders such as "Prisoner's Back" and "Outlaw", following the typical German model that is best represented in the early Kai Hansen days of Helloween. On the other hand, "Elixier Of Death" and "Evil Run" carry the closing end of this song on more of a thrashing note, conjuring up some similarities to Tankard's Zombie Attack, while "Feelings Of Freedom" manages some impressive bass work and some mid-paced riff work right out of the early Metallica playbook. This whole album manages to capitalize on Ralf Simon's impressive speed picked bass work by putting him fairly high in the mix, enough to hold a candle to what Joey Demaio brought to early Manowar.

The accusation lobbed at this band of being generic has some truth to it, as it is very possible for a novice in mid-80s metal to confuse this with any number of noteworthy early German speed acts and even some of the earliest thrash output of the Bay Area scene circa 1983-85, but the charge has been exaggerated by many to the point of unintentional parody. Sure, the band didn't really add anything substantial to the sizable scene that was in place where they put out their material, but that alone doesn't a good album from a poor one. The imagery is kinda comical, and at times the music inadvertently plays into that, but the competency factor is definitely there and the fun factor is close behind it. There are better speed metal bands from the era in question, but Vectom's Rules Of Mystery is far from the worst.

Harmless - 39%

Felix 1666, June 18th, 2016
Written based on this version: 1986, 12" vinyl, Scratchcore

Vectom's debut is a great piece of simple, catchy speed / thrash metal, but their second effort fails to provide another explosive cocktail. Basically, the guys still play the style of the first album, yet they do it in a more controlled manner. Don't be fooled by a misleading song title like "Caught by Insanity". Exactly this certain touch of madness is missing and the brutal power of previous jewels like "Black Viper" seems to enjoy its more or less well-deserved retirement. Vectom offer a very harmless kind of thrash. It could be suitable for a concert in a Catholic girls' boarding school. No doubt, "Rules of Mystery" would be the wildest music in this surrounding - but only in exactly this surrounding.

Lead vocalist Christian Bucher is completely aligned with the mysteriously timid approach of his comrades. From an artistic point of view, this might be a laudable harmony. Yet in my humble opinion, Bucher lacks of aggression and vileness. Worse still, his pretty monotonous style cannot be described as charismatic or formative. The more or less clean vocals only exist in order to avoid an instrumental full-length. Of course, this is not enough to satisfy the listener.

Apart from the harmlessness of the compositions, there is another grave error that has to be mentioned. I know some bands which are able to write harmless yet pretty good tracks, for example Testament, Metal Church or Darkest Hate Warfront (little joke...). The songs of albums such as "The Ritual" or "Blessing in Disguise" do not cause any damage, but some of them have intriguing melody lines ("Electric Crown") or an interesting aura ("Badlands"). However, Vectom are not able to deliver comparable qualities. The album lacks of dynamic moments, each and every song sounds like its predecessor and the result is a faceless album without any gripping elements. As soon as the opener is over, you know the entire album in view of the interchangeable tunes. Okay, the opener and the directly following "Dipsomania" are slightly better than the rest, but this is just another argument to stop the listening session rather sooner than later.

It is not easy to identify praiseworthy details on "Rules of Mystery". One might say that the songs have a fairly good flow, because the formation avoids amateurish breaks. The production sounds neither extremely powerful nor belligerent, but it also does not suffer from major deficiencies. Anything else that must be mentioned under the headline "advantages"? Perhaps the honest attitude of the band, but that's all and, of course, this is not enough in order to leave a positive impression.

Finally, just to avoid misunderstandings: no, the band did not fall between two stools in view of its stylistic modifications. No matter from what perspective it is looked at, the failure of "Rules of Mystery" was not based on any kind of tragic elements. I am not speaking about an album with unexpected yet strong songs. Quite the contrary, the compositions were just too weak, not only in comparison with the great number of energetic German thrash albums which were (more or less) simultaneously published. Thus, it almost appeared as a logical consequence that the group had no possibility to release a third album. Too bad that this unexplainably lame legacy overshadows the brief discography of Vectom.

Swamped under better speed metal releases - 59%

Lane, May 10th, 2012

German was bubbling with speed metal bands in mid-80s. Vectom released two albums around that time. 'Rules of Mystery' is their last one and also the only one I've heard.

After a short, stupid intro, 'Prisoner's Attack' opens the album in a bloody nice way. It's pure German speed metal in its commonness, but especially that great guitar melody steals the show, making the song very memorable. Next two songs with their familiar riffs aren't as catchy, but again, the lead guitar work is well executed and that lifts the songs up from gray mass. However, 'Metallic War' is the first song, where unskilled vocalist begins to really annoy quite a bit, as he sounds like out of key, but maybe the fact is that vocal melodies are simply shite. A-side closer 'Why Am I Live' with its thrashed-up glam rock song chorus is just that gray mass material. B-side starts with more ass kicking thrasher 'Outlaw', and once again I must point out good lead guitar work. 'Feelings of Freedom' starts building up weirder rhythms, but soon the thrash begins and goes into punk territory, too. Okay, it's a varying song, but not really very coherent. Instrumental 'Caught by Insanity' a good one, bringing some action back to the dulled atmosphere. 'Elixir of Death' with its dark atmosphere created together with some samples is the second best song on the album (not sure about the titles, as they seem to be in wrong order on vinyl and this song is missing on back cover track listing). 'Evil Run' is a straight thrasher, and not a bad one either. 'This / Is / the / End' is a funny outro.

The vocals... When aggressive, they're okay, but clean singing is quite shite, at times very shite. I do not like the vocalist's nasal voices he makes when trying to sing cleanly and higher. Speed metal Vince Neil, eh?! Pretty much, I'm afraid. But, his pronunciation is good. The production is clean. Bass is loud compared to some lead guitars, that are left under everything else. Definitely not the most biting specimen of speed metal mayhem, this. Still, the rhythm section pounds enough.

The fact is, that proper opener 'Prisoner's Attack' is a very fine song, next two good ones and then it's pretty much downhill until 'Caught by Insanity' and fine 'Elixir of Death', so about half of the songs are infamous gray mass, the rest are good enough speed metal. If you're a speed metal maniac, try this, just for 'Prisoner's Attack' (or 'Prisoner's Back' as it reads on the back cover) alone. Just do not expect anything mind-blowing. Suitable music for beer drinking sessions.

(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2006)

Building a bridge to nowhere - 62%

autothrall, January 7th, 2011

The second time out, Vectom were down to just one pointy hooded figure on the album cover; its eyes glowing and its hands offering you a skull libation of blood, wine, or whatever their shared fantasy would allow (though it seems his fellow cultists might be off in the distance to the right, I am not sure). However, don't let this ritual reduction fool you into believing that the finished product is inferior to their debut Speed Revolution, because that is not in fact the case. This album, Rules of Mystery, is cleaner and more refined, with more of a leaning towards melodic, memorable chorus parts and effective riffs instead of just endlessly jabbering on about Satan over mediocrity that only made Destruction and Iron Angel look better by comparison.

No, Rules of Mystery is far from perfect, and in fact I wouldn't even qualify it as very 'good', but I would be lying to admit that it didn't evoke more headbanging moments than its predecessor. This is no Hellish Crossfire, and no Reign of Fear, but it definitely channels a similar aesthetic that fans of either might appreciate, at least in the better songs. "Prisoner's Back" is one such gem, a straight forward speedster with rumbling drums, airy production, wailing, accented vocals and cutting solos. Had the rest of the album retained this general level of fortitude and quality, it would likely remain a cult classic. But from this point on, the standouts are few and far between. "Metallic War" has a nice bounce to its trotting riffs, but "Outlaw" feels like a sloppy attempt at writing an early power metal hymn ala Running Wild. "Caught by Insanity" is an attention grabber with its atmospheric, backing chant vocals, and the dingy, opening guitar melodies, but its not solid through and through, and the finale "Evil Run" seems like it will build into something impressive, but doesn't really pan out.

Still, despite its consistencies, I'd take this over Speed Revolution any day. It's not as lethal or aggressive sounding, but the songs feel more distinct and better up to the task of contending with the band's mighty peers, who were at this time releasing albums like Zombie Attack, Pleasure to Kill and Reign of Fear and securing their positions in metal infamy. Vectom were obviously not at the same level, but I get the feeling that had their career continued beyond Rules of Mystery, they might have had something of worth to offer. Alas, the brief legacy ended here, before their prime, and at best this is the sort of album one might turn to if they're craving that authentic German speed of the mid-80s, before the dawning of tech-thrash monsters began to shift the entire landscape to something more divine, and mindless of its lack of truly memorable tunes.

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Rules of Speed Metal???? - 60%

Infernali, July 4th, 2006

After the rawness of Speed Revolution this release came as quite a shock when I bought it on release. The band had adopted a more clinical sound and was really trying to produce a quality release. What let’s this album down is the production, which is high end and lacks power and aggression. Songwise there’s nothing wrong, with Prisoners Back starting proceedings off with a simple but catchy riff before the bass drums completely drown out the guitar. The drummer certainly had talent in the speed metal field, but this genre is about riffs and fiery guitar solos not just galloping bass drums. The band have just tried too hard to upgrade their musicianship and attempt to compete in the mainstream, but unfortunately they were always going to remain at the back of the field. Personally I like many of the tracks on this release, e.g. Feelings of Freedom and even the typical cheesy effort Metallic War. Christian’s vocals have increased in tone and seem strained at times as he tries his best with the English language. This release, like their debut, is not rubbish by any means but there were just better bands around at the time and so unfortunately they got left behind and forgotten about. This release is still a worthy addition to any speed metal fan’s collection if you can find it.

Eh... generic speed metal - 36%

UltraBoris, March 28th, 2003

Hard to say precisely what's WRONG with this album... it isn't as much that there is anything wrong as in there is nothing really right about it. It's okay speed metal, but the guitar work is just unspectacular. Each song has pretty much one standard backbone riff to it, and then when they need something different they try the old standard "play the same note over and over again really fucking fast over double bass" trick.

Helloween "Walls of Jericho", this is not. Again, it's not a bad album but generally forgettable. The only thing you'll really take away in your memory is that the singer sounds exactly like the dude from the Clash, only with a German accent. "Why, why, am I alive". Totally punk rock, but with metal riffs. That's probably the highlight of the album since it has a nice galloping uptempo riff basis.

The opener... "Prisoner's Back" is pretty nice too. This is the song that sounds most like the Helloween EP, with the most Kai Hansenesque vocals too... it's a good opener, and "Dipsomania" is also pretty good at second, but then what happens is that they pretty much play the same song over and over again.

The highlights - "Evil Run" has a great melodic break in the middle, and the aforementioned "Why Am I Alive" is not overt speed for the sake of overt speed.

Not a bad album - after all the German speed metal scene could do no WRONG. But this is one of the REMFs of the genre. See also: Tyran Pace for bands that just never really got anywhere or did anything.