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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.