AGATHODAMON - "Blacken the Angel" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 61 min) Sample (166 k)
New Black german band, that immediately became one of the best in this genre. With dense songs, melancholic, varied and sometimes long (the imponent "Near Dark" has 15 min), this is a CD to discover and to appreciate.

ANGEL DUST - "Border of Reality" (1998 Century Media, 55 min) Sample (183 k)
Here it is the return of one of the most popular speed metal german bands. With new vocals, AD present us with an headbanging speed power, including some parts of classic and progressive metal. Also included is a cover of Spotlight Kid from Deep Purple. Welcome back.

ANGEL DUST - "Enlighten the Darkness" (2000 Century Media, 53 min) Sample (210 k)
In this flood of reunions, the german act Angel Dust is one of the best. This is already the 3rd album AR (After Reunion) and what a surprising stuff we have here. From the fast first two themes to the slow last theme, this is a great album plenty of effects and played and sung by very efficient musicians.

ANGRA - "Fireworks" (1998 CNR, 57 min) Sample (155 k)
Angra rules!! Another excellent work from this brasilian band that is risking to become the best power prog band around. Extremely melodic and varied, this one uses and abuses from guitars and orchestrations, but the best instrument is still Andre Matos voice. And there is even a song dedicated to Lisbon;-)

ARCH ENEMY - "Stigmata" (1998 Century Media, 46 min) Sample (148 k)
First work for Century Media from this swedish elite project, with members and ex-members from Carcass, Carnage and Armaggedon. The genre is thrash death but some touches of traditional metal are included. To be discovered.

AVALANCH - "La Llama Eterna" (1997 Bunker, 66 min) Sample (163 k)
Great surprise coming from Spain. Avalanch plays an avalanch of excelent Power with some Prog touches and where some melodic ballads aren't absent. The vocals link quite well the medieval lyrics (in spanish) with the music.

AVANTASIA - "The Metal Opera" (2001 AFM Records, 59 min) Sample (172 k)
One of the most desired albums for this beginning of the year, and probably one of the best! This grandious project was totally conceived by Edguy's frontman Tobias Sammet, who invited an all-star team. The music is assured by Tobias Sammet (keyboards and orchestrations), Henjo Richter (Gamma Ray, all guitars), Markus Grosskopf (Helloween, all bass) and Alex Holzwarth (Rhapsody, all drums). To the voices of the various characters we have, besides Tobias himself, Ernie (aka Michael Kiske, ex-Helloween), David DeFeis (Virgin Steele), Rob Rock (ex-Warrior), Andre Matos (ex-Angra), Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray), Timo Tolkki (Stratovarius), Sharon Den Adel (Within Temptation) and Oliver Hartman (At Vance). The lyrics are about the history of a monk in the medieval times. The music is some of the best melodic power metal ever made, improved by the guests excellence. A mandatory album in all collections.

BAL-SAGOTH - "Atlantis Ascendant" (2001 Nuclear Blast, 49 min) Sample (144 k)
The hyperborean warriors are back with their fifth chapter. And again, the symphonic dark metal masters deliver an album plenty of fantasy, misticism, extremely melodic, varied and magic. Bal-Sagoth's music still can't be confused. Byron alternates the clean with the black metal voices as only he knows. The solid music is pompous, normally fast and is a perfect "nest" for Byron's voice. Excelent clean production.

BEWITCHED - "Pentagram Prayer" (1997 Osmose, 41 min) Sample (150 k)
Hail Black Metal Hail Speed Metal. Try to marriage Running Wild with Black lyrics and atmosphere and the result is Bewitched. Fast and aggressive music, maybe not so original but who cares...

BLIND GUARDIAN - "Nightfall in Middle-Earth" (1998 Virgin, 65 min) Sample (168 k)
The proeficient BG are back with another excellent CD, this time a conceptual album based on a Tolkien book. Between the songs are spoken parts that situate the songs. Musically they remain in the soft melodic Power.

CHILDREN OF BODOM - "Something Wild" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 36 min)
First album of this finnish band. And what a start!! The music gathers influences of Power, Death, Thrash and even Malmsteen, but always melodic, fast and quite varied. It's only a pitty the duration of the album. 36 minutes leave us thirsty, which is explained for the fact that the recordings were paid by the members.

CHILDREN OF BODOM - "Hatebreeder" (1999 Spinefarm, 38 min) Sample (189 k)
Perfection arrived to Earth. Well, one complain: same size as his precedent. The guitar work is fabulous, like if Malmsteen played speed, and with lots of classical influences. Plenty of variations and speed in this work that originally mixes power, death and classical music as no other band can. One of the best relases so far for this year, impossible not headbanging...

CHILDREN OF BODOM - "Follow the Reaper" (2001 Nuclear Blast, 41 min) Sample (158 k)
Any new album from CoB is a great Metal moment. The genious Alexi Laiho and Friends made it again, the explosive mixture between power, death, classical and the Malmsteen types. For the first time we are presented with an album with more than 40 min, but with the help of a bonus song: WASP's Hellion in the european digipack release.

COVENANT - "Nexus Polaris" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 44 min) Sample (191 k)
One of the best releases of year 98. Nexus Polaris is a brilliant album from this parallel project that gathers members from Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and Mayhem. Black/Doom Metal melodic and very varied.

CRIMSON GLORY - "Astronomica" (1999 NTS, DBL Special Ed. 70+20 min) Sample (170 k)
Three members of one of the most charismatic old-prog bands, the men of the silver masks, joined together under the same name but without masks and what a great comeback. Beginning with an epic instrumental over war speeches, CG delivers prog melodic themes, sometimes with unusual aggression but always with excellent quality. I miss Midnight, the former vocals, this one screams too much, maybe due to the production trying to give a more actual sound. Another negative point is the last song Cydonia, very very soft and including more than 22 min of radio communications about an UFO. The Limited Digipack includes a bonus CD with 3 CG oldies recorded live, great to remember Midnight.

CRUACHAN - "The Middle Kingdom" (2000 Hammerheart, 49 min) Sample (149 k)
Cruachan is a band from Ireland that plays an exquisite mixture of celtic music and metal. "The Middle Kingdom" is their second album and revealed to be a great and unexpected one. The female vocalist has a crystal clear voice that fits perfectly in the athmosphere and in the music, always melodic and plenty of folk sounds. Having one of the best design layouts I've ever seen, all the songs are explained in the booklet. Together with Skyclad and Haggard, Cruachan became one of my fave folk metal bands.

CRYSTAL EYES - "World of Black and Silver" (1999 ABS, 59 min) Sample (167 k)
The roots of this swedish band come from 1992 but only now they have their first opus. Melodic and fast swedish power metal from beginning to end, except for the last almost acoustic music. Good melodies but I wonder if the bad vocals production was an accident (with Axel Thubeauville, I doubt) or a way to hide something. They have the potential but stay now quite behind Nocturnal Rites and HammerFall.

DARK MOOR - "The Hall of the Olden Dreams" (2000 Arise Records, 49 min) Sample (143 k)
Second album (as far as I know) from this spanish band with a female vocalist. Produced by Luigi Stefanini at the New Sin studios, this is their first album to Arise Records, a spanish label. Dark Moor is a serious case of popularity in Spain. The music is a very well played Power Metal where the aggressive and emotive vocals from Elisa add an original touch. Since the slow "The Sound of the Blade" to the fast "Silver Lake" or the epic "Quest for the Eternal Flame", all songs are great.

DARK TRANQUILLITY - "The Mind's I" (1997 Osmose, 46 min)
Awaited CD from one of the most famous death swedish bands. It maintains the style and level of the previous CD "The Gallery", that is, death vocals over a base of two powerful guitars. Excellent.

DEATH - "The Sound of Perseverance" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 56 min)
This new work of Chuck Schuldiner's band is quite complex, joining Thrash, Death and principally Progressive influences. Highlight for an interesting Painkiller version.

DESTINY'S END - "Breathe Deep the Dark" (1998 Metal Blade, 45 min)
First CD of the James Rivera (ex-Helstar) new project. BDtD is an excellent work with Power Thrash Prog influences, very intense and full of variety, but always very heavy.

DGM - "Change Direction" (1998 Elevate, 50 min) Sample (182 k)
After heard 2 songs from a label compilation, I was looking for this one. DGM is another great progressive Italian band, mainly on the line of Symphony X, but also with some Power influences (Stratovarius) and acoustic moments. Great performers and great vocals. Advised for those who like melodic and varied prog.

DIMMU BORGIR - "Godless Savage Garden" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 41 min)
The kings of Black are back with a mini CD of 41 minutes (?!!). And what have we here? Two new songs, on the same Black symphonic style, two rerecorded songs from the first work, three powerful live songs and a fabulous Metal Heart cover from Accept. If you want to buy it, try to get the digipack edition, with the embossed cover.

DIMMU BORGIR - "Puritanical Euphoric Misanthropia" (2001 Nuclear Blast, 63 min) Sample (178 k)
Hail Kings of Symphonic Black Metal. Since last album "Spiritual Black Dimensions" two line-up changes occured. The new members came also from black references, Cradle of Filth and Old Man's Child, and helped Dimmu Borgir to have now a strong and solid line-up. Another important change was the studio and producer. This album was recorded in the Studio Fredman, with a great production by Fredrik Nordstrom. If you liked Dimmu Borgir, you won't be disappointed with this album. As bonus we got another great cover, Twisted Sister's "Burn in Hell".

DISPATCHED - "Motherwar" (2000 Music for Nations, 47 min) Sample (162 k)
Dispatched is a swedish band, existing since 1991, but stabilised only by the end of 1997. After an almost anonymous mini-CD, this is the first full presentation, released by Music for Nations the 26th June. The music is the fastest melodic death I've ever heard, sometimes similar to old Dark Tranquillity. It is usual in the middle of the songs to find some bonuses, like Mozart or old Helloween. Motherwar is a very uniform album, with no weak points, very well produced by Peter Tagtgreen's younger brother. Just hear the fantastic 14 minutes long theme with the band's name and be delighted.

EMPEROR - "Emperial Live Ceremony" (2000 Candlelight, 66 min) Sample (183 k)
Powerful live album from one of the most representative black metal bands around. Recorded at the Astoria Club, in London, after the successful release of their last studio "IX Equilibrium", this CD captures the essence of the group and gathers all their most important songs. The "I Am the Black Wizards" video and a band screensaver are included in the CD.

EXCELSIS - "Kurt of Koppigen" (1998 Self-financed, 67 min) Sample (165 k)
After hearing "The Dragonslayer", their bonus track on the Iron Savior's "Unification" I knew that I had to got this killer album. This is pure Heavy Metal, medieval type, extremely melodic and symphonic, with an exquisite voice that fits perfectly in the music. And the music is a never heard total harmony between all instruments, plein of changes, with the addition of chorus, flutes and others in some places. If you liked "The Dragonslayer" the others are at the same level. The members look quite young and they must have strong classical skills. Thanks to this and some other type of bands that's why I LOVE METAL.

FALKENBACH - "…magni blandinn ok megintiri…" (1998 Napalm, 41 min)
Second album from the icelandic Vratyas Vakyas living in Germany that assures all the service. He defines its music as northern symphonic melodies & lyrics having annexed all the Northern Europe mithology, well seen on the sound, lyrics and cover. Good Viking Symphonic Metal work, reminding me in parts "Blood on Ice" from Bathory.

FREEDOM CALL - "Stairway to Fairyland" (1999 SPV, 55 min) Sample (213 k)
Freedom Call is a side project from Gamma Ray's drummer, Dan Zimmermann. The result seems like Andre Matos (Angra) singing in Gamma Ray, but actually very good. IMO this album is even stronger and more melodic than Gamma Ray's Powerplant. Another good surprise and a must for any Power Metal fan.

FREEDOM CALL - "Crystal Empire" (2001 SPV, 49 min) Sample (212 k)
Power Metal rules!! Extraordinary second work from the Dan Zimmermann (Gamma Ray drummer) side project. If the first album was great, together with Chris Bay, vocals and guitars, Mr. Zimmermann deliver us with an almost perfect Metal album, with great melodic songs. It seems sacrilege but to me this album confirms Freedom Call as a better band than Gamma Ray. If you have the chance, don't loose a Freedom Call concert, diversion guaranteed.

GAMMA RAY - "Somewhere Out In Space" (1997 Noise, 64 min)
New album from the Power kings, deserving followers of the good old time Helloween. Excelent work full of force and melody.

GODGORY - "Resurrection" (1999 Nuclear Blast, 51 min) Sample (182 k)
This band is a huge surprise to me, I never heard the previous works. Now they are only 2 official members with the help of studio musicians. Resurrection mixes beautiful dark with some death, creating a magic environment. As references, we can find the most melodic Edge of Sanity and Dan Swano's moments.

GRAVE DIGGER - "Knights of the Cross" (1998 BMG, 57 min)
These german friends follow a pattern of conceptual albums, maintaining the heavy power genre. After the scottish battles, now it's time for the Templars history. In the Digipack it is included Children of the Grave from the fathers Black Sabbath.

GRAVEWORM - "When Daylight's Gone" (1997 Serenades, 45 min)
Italian doom band, in the same line as Crematory and Heavenwood but heavier and not less interesting. Death vocals, predomining keyboards and some magic moments where "Eternal Winds" is highlighted.

GRAVEWORM - "As the Angels Reach the Beauty" (2000 Serenades, 42 min) Sample (172 k)
Once again, Graveworm did it, another superb symphonic black metal CD from this italian band, but now with a much better production. I just can't find weak points. Since the first 9 min epic song, passing through a 2 min introductory drum solo just before the fantastic "Prophecies in Blood" until the "The Graveyard of Angels", introduced by violin, I'm in Metal Heaven. All players are great, specially the drums and the two tone vocals, one death ant the other black.

HAMMERFALL - "Glory to the Brave" (1997 Nuclear Blast, 45 min)
When listening such kind of works it's impossible not to like Heavy. First work of this swedish band that plays a melodic power metal of excelent quality. Influences from Helloween, Blind Guardian and Manowar are noticed. From magestic hymns like "Hammerfall" to slower tracks as "I Believe" or the title theme, everything in this CD is closer to perfection.

HAMMERFALL - "Heeding the Call" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 24 min)
The great HammerFall present us with an apperitif of what will be the new album, to be released by the end of September. It will be difficult to equalise the excellent "Glory to the Brave" but from this EP we all can rest. The song from the new album, "Heeding the Call", is from the best that can be done in the melodic speed. A cover from Picture (remember them?) "Eternal Dark" and three live songs recorded at their home city Goteborg are included. We all are heeding the Call.

HAMMERFALL - "Legacy of Kings" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 45 min)
Second album from last year's revelation. Several improvements, specially on vocals, guitars and prodution can be noticed. This CD is, however, very similar to "Glory to the Brave". It has the same structure, the same duration and the same type of songs, including two slows (one at the middle and the other at the end). The only negative aspect is the fact that the slows are inferior to those from last year. I highlight a special limited edition box including authographed photos, a sticker and a plectrum.

HAMMERFALL - "Renegade" (2000 Nuclear Blast, 47 min) Sample (159 k)
Here it is the third chapter from one of the most popular swedish bands, the responsibles for the huge wave of power/true metal bands. Two years after "The Legacy of Kings", the Templars went to the States and worked with acclaimed producer Michael Wagener. Those who thaught that the "HammerFall" sound could change drastically can calm down. They still follow that "the winning team don't need to be changed" so we have another great power metal album, similar to the first two. The genious behind In Flames, Jesper Stromblad, collaborates in half the musics. As differences, the rhythmic section is stronger, not strange due to the inclusion of Anders Johanson, Joacim is singing better than ever and there is an excellent instrumental theme. I still think that previous producer Fredrik Nordstrom could reach the same result..

HEAVENLY - "Coming from the Sky" (2000 Noise, 61 min) Sample (171 k)
I received lots of emails from Noise about this new Power band coming from France, so my curiosity increased. And the first impression was quite negative, as they are old Helloween or Gamma Ray clones, with worst songs and without adding nothing new. The booklet is useless, as it only contains regards from the band members (narcissism already?) and doesn't identify either who plays what. Strange is the neo-romantic look of Ben, vocals and leader. Piet Sielk, the producer, and Kay Hansen, guest, should have better things to do. While audible, it's better to hear both Keepers or anything from Gamma Ray.

HEAVENWOOD - "Swallow" (1998 Massacre, 56 min) Sample (202 k)
Another excellent work from the second most known portuguese band and actually my favorite. Following "Diva", the band present us with a dense gothic, very profissional, but without forgetting the melody and complex arrangements. Some power and traditional heavy metal parts are included. Unexpected participation of Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) and Liv Kristine (Theathe of Tragedy). The theme "Soulsister" will stay in the Portuguese Metal history.

HEIMDALL - "The Temple of Theil" (1999 Elevate Records, 60 min) Sample (154 k)
Second and awaited work of this Power Metal Italian band. We still have good PM, varied and melodic. Comparing with the first "Lord of the Sky", some improvements have been made, like a better cover, the inclusion of keyboards and a much better production. Now the concept story, following all album, is about a warrior fighting a cruel wizard troops to save his love, but without success. Great music where, as in the first album, the weakest point is the vocals. Read the exclusive interview.

HELLOWEEN - "The Dark Ride" (2000 Nuclear Blast, 53 min) Sample (182 k)
After the joke of "The Metal Jukebox" and three years after the last originals album, here we have another Helloween album. Some people call this the Keeper 3, as it is the most melodic album since the Keeper 2. Well, to me the true Helloween spirit was taken by Master Kay Hansen with his departure and is now with Gamma Ray. With excellent musicians and vocalist, no question about that, the shy return to roots initiated with Master of the Rings is now fully assumed. I'm still wondering if it was not the huge success of the Power Metal these last years what will Helloween be playing these days? Last time I saw them alive, 3 years ago on the Master tour and again never headlining, I didn't see any flame, seemed playing for money. The special edition box is too expensive for the contents (normal CD, lighter, mouse pad), what reveals the complete money-seek from the management. Maybe next time, they will re-release old works in digipacks with bonus tracks.

HIGHLORD - "Heir of Power" (1999 Northwind, 49 min) Sample (161 k)
My first thoughts: another italian power metal band? Just being well impressed by the great Luis Royo art-work and the digipack layout design, let's hear this one. The music is power metal (how strange, coming from Italy :)), but very symphonic. After being used to the weak production with some more spins, I really got into this and discovered a good album, very uniform, where the long ballad Burning Desire or the fast symphonic Bloodwar in Heaven are easily remembered. With a good promotion, this band will be a serious case.

HIGHLORD - "When the Aurora Falls..." (2000 Northwind, 55 min) Sample (147 k)
Second album from this italian melodic power band. Again we have a great digipack layout design with cover by the spanish artist Luis Royo. This time, the band took care of the production with the known Luigi Stefanini (Secret Sphere, White Skull, Domine, Dark Moor) and the result is much better than its predecessor. All aspects have been improved: Vasce vocals, more epic, better harmonization between the keyboards and the guitar. The band is particullary successfull in creating great ballads, as "Again" and "You'll Never be Lonely". In the interviews section, please read the interview with HIGHLORD, answered by Stefano.

HUMAN CLAY - "E4IA" (1997 Music for Nations, 44 min)
Another parallel project, this one from guitar Marcel Jacob and the master Jeff Scott Soto, one of the best vocals on the Metal scene (ex Malmsteen, ex Axel Rudi Pell). I haven't heard the first Human Clay but who likes Malmsteen and Rainbow shouldn't miss this "Euphoria".

ICED EARTH - "Something Wicked This Way Comes" (1998 Century Media, 62 min)
Excelent Power work that should finally take Iced Earth to the top. This american band, more popular in Europe or Japan than at home, present us a very complex work and powerful, where the song Melancholy is highlighted.

IMMORTAL - "At The Heart Of Winter" (1999 Osmose, 46 min) Sample (190 k)
Another surprise for me, never cared about Immortal before. With Dimmu Borgir, Cradle of Filth and now Immortal, Black Metal is far from death. Unusual long songs for a BM act, this album is heavy as hell, with a great production and guitar work.

IN DARKNESS - "Too Cold Inside" (1997 Eclipse, 35 min)
First album for this Portuguese band. Heavy doom, with keyboard orientation. Very interesting work, despite the production being nothing special.

IN EXTREMO - "Weckt die Toten" (1999 Metal Blade, 46 min) Sample (149 k)
Folk medieval metal from Germany. Most songs are in german but also 2 in archaic portuguese (!!! anyway badly pronounced) and other archaic languages, as a result of searching old medieval songs. The comparison to Skyclad is immediate, but not so variated and less heavy. Also reminds me old Moonspell folk songs (Ataegina, for instance). Not for everyone, anyway it's interesting.

IN FLAMES - "Clayman" (2000 Nuclear Blast, 44 min) Sample (153 k)
Another masterpiece from one of the best melodic power-death bands around. Maintaining the same line-up and the same musical lines, all the songs are superb, often including some treasures and surprises. The death vocals of Anders Friden are better than ever. Eleven songs of pure joy for my ears and a strong candidate for best album of the year. Release date: 3 July.

IN SOLITUDE - "Eternal" (1998, Independent, 48 min)
Auspicious beginning of another Portuguese gothic band, and from this audition, one of the best. Very melodic band, where the guitar prevails over keyboard, giving a heavier sound than the normal gothic bands. Best wishes and best success also outside Portugal.

IN THOUSAND LAKES - "Lifeless Waters" (1998 Arise, 42 min)
A good surprise that arrives from Bilbao, Spain. These bascs play a melodic death with two agitated guitars that remind Dark Tranquillity. To be followed in the future.

IRON SAVIOR - "Iron Savior" (1997 Noise, 53 min)
Project with the participation of Kai Hansen (Gamma Ray) and Thomen Stauch (Blind Guardian) about a starship made by the Atlantis that orbits Earth. By the participants we can see the IRON SAVIOR style. Despite being reasonable, I still prefer Gamma Ray and Blind Guardian.

JAG PANZER - "The Fourth Judgement" (1997 Century Media, 42 min)
Good surprise this strong return of Mark Briody's project, with the old line-up. Even it was he that made the cover with 3D Studio and maintains the JP webpage (see LINKS). Pure Heavy with some Power influences. Very good concert at Seixal, this year.

JAG PANZER - "The Age of Mastery" (1998 Century Media, 57 min) Sample (161 k)
Another obligatory CD in any PM collection. Fast, melodic, plenty of choruses and experiences, like violins, it's even better than its predecessor. I highlight the fantastic song The Moors. Jag Panzer becomes for sure one of the PM top bands.

JAG PANZER - "Thane to the Throne" (2000 Century Media, 65 min) Sample (210 k)
Two years past after the great "The Age of Mastery", expectations about the new Panzers work were enourmous... and they were fully corresponded. Enclosing in a great layout (while, due to job deformation, I prefered the previous 3D covers), Mark and friends deliver us, for the first time, a conceptual album and the subject is Shakespeare's Mac Beth. The emotive Harry's voice, perfectly surrounded by all the instruments and choirs, leads all the atmosphere since the first moments. The epic 8 min long "Tragedy of Mac Beth", preceded by an acoustic guitar solo, closes with a golden key this album. The "Thane to the Throne" is an obligatory CD in any Metal Collection. More info at The JAG PANZER website and read the exclusive interview.

JAVELIN - "Seasons of Grey" (1997 Self-financed, 22 min) Sample (187 k)
A self-financed EP from a band that I ordered after finding some info in Scream #41. This german band plays strong Heavy Metal (not power) with progressive influences. Good performers. My favorite is the in crescendo title theme. I wish them a quick contract.

KAMELOT - "The Expedition" (2000 Noise, 61 min) Sample (145 k)
It's not usual that a band with only four albums releases a live one. On the tour for promoting the excellent "The Fourth Legacy", this album was recorded in Germany and Greece and again is efficiently produced by Sasha Paeth. This is a great live album of prog power metal, with a very clear sound. Khan is one of the most powerful vocals around and is also a great live performer. The keyboards are assured by Gunter Werno from the prog act Vanden Plas. In the album, among the three special studio tracks included, we have "We Are Not Separate" from the second album, but now sung by Khan.

LABYRINTH - "Return to Heaven Denied" (1998 Metal Blade, 58 min)
An Italian band that started to be known for loosing the vocals Fabio Lione to Rhapsody, by the way very well replaced by the actual. We are in front of a first quality symphonic Power that will please the Helloween, Angra or Rhapsody fans.

LEGENDA - "Autumnal" (1997 Holy Records, 50 min)
Debut of Sir Luttinen's project, ex-Impaled Nazarene, that only doesn't play the bass. Death vocal over a melancholic and melodic base. Also a CD to look at.

LEGENDA - "Eclipse" (1998 Holy Records, 51 min)
Sir Luttinen is back with another melodic Dark/Death work. If you liked the previous Autumnal you also will enjoy this Eclipse even more varied.

LOST HORIZON - "Awakening the World" (2001 Music for Nations, 43 min) Sample (163 k)
Four extra-terrestrial beings arrived to Earth. Once landed, they saw hiprocrisy, corruption, misery and many other mankind defects. So, Transcendental Protagonist, Cosmic Antagonist, Preternatural Transmogrifyer and Etherial Magnanimus decided to use the Supreme Music (Metal, of course) to change the World. They assumed human shapes with face paintures, under the names of, respectively, Wojtek (guitars, synthetisers), Martin (bass), Christian (drums) and Daniel (vocals), and Lost Horizon is born. The real roots of Lost Horizon members are the same as the mighty HammerFall, as Highlander, a band from the city of Gothenburg. European power metal at its best, with some manowarish touches, played by high skilled members and with an important message, that's what we get. Awake to a great band and help saving the World. True Metal Forever!!

MANTICORA - "Roots of Eternity" (1999 Black Lotus, 57 min) Sample (177 k)
Danish band coming on a small greek label. Having this album already some time, this band is almost unknown and due to its quality, I can't resist to comment it here. The music is fast melodic metal, being the main references, IMO, Blind Guardian and Iron Maiden. The production could be better. The band wasn't frightened by difficulties and includes unusual long songs (the longest "Roots of Eternity" has almost 12 minutes), full of changes and new rhythms.

MAZE OF TORMENT - "The Force" (1997 Corrosion, 41 min)
Another new swedish band in melodic Death area and, as expected, produced by Dan Swano (references Nightingale, Edge of Sanity, Opeth). If you liked the lasts Edge of Sanity you will like this one as well.

METALIUM - "Millenium Metal - Chapter One" (1999 Massacre, 59 min) Sample (194 k)
After some promising reviews, I wanted badly to buy this one, and I wasn't disappointed. Great band name, great digipack, great spirit "My love for pure metal burns deep within" and the music... Pure Heavy Metal, usually fast, always melodic and great songs, very well planned and produced. The band is an all-VIP line-up with guitar Chris Caffery (Savatage), vocals Henning Basse (ex-Brainstorm), bass Lars Ratz (ex-Zed Yago), drums Mike Terrana (Malmsteen, etc) and guitars Matthias Lange (no references). My favorite tracks are Free Forever (heavier Stratovarius) and the best Smoke on the Water cover ever. The digipack includes Accept's Burning and a great screensaver. Just listen to this and praise the Metal Gods.

MISANTHROPE - "Visionnaire" (1997 Holy Records, 64 min)
And here we have one of the best current French bands. Dense sound, death vocal, original music with a mixture of styles where gothic and progressive predominate. Some themes are sung in French. Allez les mecs.

MITHOTYN - "In the Sign of the Ravens" (1997 Invasion, 56 min)
The best surprise from recent times. This band is similar to compatriots Dark Tranquillity, but much more epic, melodic and medieval influenced.

MOB RULES - "Temple of Two Suns" (2001 LMP, 49 min) Sample (182 k)
I never listened the first album but this one is an example of european power metal, a little bit "deja vu". The story behind the lyrics refers to an era after a nuclear war that left only a few survivors. The music is similar to Heaven's Gate, or wasn't Sascha Paeth the producer, and eficiently played. My favorite is Flag of Life, with some italian power influences.

MOON'S DOC - "Realm of Legends" (2000 Spitfire, 52 min) Sample (197 k)
Do you remember Herman Frank, ex-Accept's axe guitar? Well, after Victory this is its adventure. And what a great Heavy Metal album played by great musicians, where Herman is at its best and the vocals Jurgen Wulfes resembles a lot Dio. From the fast "Welcome to the Show" to the instrumental "Pour Ayleen" everything is a pleasure.

MITHOTYN - "King of the Distant Forest" (1998 Invasion, 58 min)
Second work from one of the most viking representatives. Comparing to the previous "In the Sign of Ravens" this a less acoustic album, but equaly epic, melodic and varied.

MORBID DEATH - "Echoes of Solitude" (1997 Independent, 39 min)
Sometimes portuguese bands arise that can have success abroad, besides in Portugal. I heard that the first edition sold out. This quintet from Azores Islands plays a melancholic doom quite reasonable.

NIGHT IN GALES - "Towards the Twilight" (1997 Nuclear Blast, 38 min)
New death german band. The prodution is from master Dan Swano (Edge of Sanity). Fast music, with guitar duels, death vocals and quite influenced by Dark Tranquillity. A good surprise.

NIGHT IN GALES - "Thunderbeast" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 54 min)
Second album from these teutonics that play melodic death nordic influenced à la Dark Tranquillity. Like the previous work, we have two nervous guitars, an efficient rythimic section and death vocals. My favorite track is the slow "Heralds of Starfall".

NIGHTWISH - "Oceanborn" (1999 Spinefarm, 49 min) Sample (162 k)
My first contact with this finnish band. Imagine a less power Stratovarius with a female opera singer and more classical influenced. They have taken some Therion opera experiences to a more power field. Very clear sound and good production makes this a CD that only people that don't like opera singing should avoid.

NIGHTWISH - "Wishmaster" (2000 Spinefarm, 54 min) Sample (181 k)
This is probably one of the best metal opera works of all times. Perfect compositions and combinations, excellent production and the classical voice of Tarja over great melodies. Everybody that enjoyed the previous "Oceanborn" will love this. Due to the huge use of synths, traditional metal fans should check first. Now that Therion is almost dead for Metal, Nightwish is the choice.

NOCTURNAL RITES - "The Sacred Talisman" (1999 Century Media, 43 min) Sample (165 k)
Return of this Power Metal Swedish band with its third work. Together with their country mates HammerFall, NR are in risk of becoming one of the exponents in the new wave of Power Metal. This album is even more consistent and have better songs and production than the precedent "Tales of Mistery and Imagination", but still fast and melodic. One contribution to this is the full time addition of a sixth element playing keyboards.

OLD MAN'S CHILD - "The Pagan Prosperity" (1997 Century Media, 37 min)
Second CD from one of the best Black bands now. Epic, it conjugates calm to aggressive, and death vocals that leave much space to music and pure Heavy riffs. Full of variations.

OPETH - "Still Life" (1999 Peaceville, 62 min) Sample (203 k)
Fourth album from one of the most interesting bands around. While very influenced by Dan Swano (ex-Edge of Sanity, Nightingale), who produced some of the first works, these swedes play a very efficient e intricated progressive death, with proper musical lines. They maintain the long songs, normally 9 min and more, plenty of variations and interesting parts.

ORATORY - "Illusion Dimensions" (2000 Limb, 56 min) Sample (176 k)
Oratory is the first power metal band coming from Portugal. They started as a Gothic band, but have been converted after discovering Helloween's "Time of the Oath". With both a male and female vocals, the music is a very melodic power metal, well served by competent musicians and good vocals. Not considering the distance, Stratovarius can be named as the main reference, but the female vocals add sometimes a Therion feeling. Included is the hidden (??, announced by a sticker on the cover) track "Oratory" from the first EP.

ORPHANED LAND - "El Norra Alila" (1997 Holy Records, 68 min)
Second work from the most known israelitic band. It's a dense and original mix between heavy doom and oriental influences. Some tracks are sung in hebraic.

PEGAZUS - "Wings of Destiny" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 49 min)
After discovering the golden mine with HammerFall, Nuclear Blast started to bet on Power. Pegazus come from Australia and they play a Power technically OK but not so original. To me, the vocals are a little bit annoying.

PENTAGRAM - "Anatolia" (1998 Century Media, 60 min)
My first known turkish band. We have a slow doom, non death vocals and lots of oriental influences, which makes their sound different and atractive. Do not confuse this band with the old american band which had the same name.

POWERGOD - "Evilution Part I" (1999 Massacre, 39 min) Sample (184 k)
Power Metal is stronger than ever. This new german band gets influences from several bands, HammerFall, Judas, Twisted Sister, Manowar or Rage. Let's wait for Part II. With the birth of so many quality bands, I feel in paradise.

PRIMAL FEAR - "Primal Fear" (1998 Nuclear Blast, 48 min)
New Power superband with Ralf Scheepers (ex Gamma Ray vocals) and Matt Sinner. PF is a kind of happy fusion between Gamma Ray and Judas Priest. Highlighted is the "Chainbreaker" track, by itself deserves the CD cost.

PRIMAL FEAR - "Jaws of Death" (1999 Nuclear Blast, 54 min) Sample (190 k)
Here is Judas Priest Band 2. Ralf Scheeper and Matt Sinner's project deliver us his second album, and better than the first one. If you like Priest, you'll also like this one. Pure Priest-a-like songs, not original but good material. Very nice digipack.

RHAPSODY - "Legendary Tales" (1997 LMP, 45 min)
Second CD of this excellent symphonic power italian foursome (Metal rules in Italy!). One of the best releases in 1997. With imponent melodias and choruses, it marriages what is best from Stratovarius and Gamma Ray. The lyrics speak about warriors and legends, perfectly adequated to the music.

RACER X - "Technical Difficulties" (2000 Mascot Records, 55 min) Sample (200 k)
One more reunion, this one from the charismatic LA band in the 80's, where a guitar hero named Paul Gilbert started to be known (after he moved to Mr. Big), but also including Scot Travis (Judas Priest), Jeff Martin (Badlands/The Black Symphony) and John Alderette (The Scream). From the original line-up, only the second guitar is missing. Compared to what they made 13 years ago, it's still great classic Heavy guitar based, but more experimental and a little bit less melodic. The album closes with a not-so-doomy Children of the Grave cover.

RAGE - "Welcome to the Other Side" (2001 BMG, 65 min) Sample (169 k)
After the earthquake that left Rage with only its mentor Peavy, bass and vocals, everybody wandered what will be their future. Peavy then invited two known musicians, the drummer Mike Terrana (ex Malmsteen, Metalium and several others) and the guitar magician Victor Smolski (ex Mind Odyssey). The result is this superb long work, where classical orchestrations and power metal melt perfectly. Another album to increase the music expenses of HM fans.

RAWHEAD REXX - "Rawhead Rexx" (2001 AFM, 59 min bonus ed.) Sample (177 k)
"Hey Folks - this f... record is guaranteed without any f... keyboards" says on the back of the CD. This new german band reveals an excellent Heavy Metal with attitude, without weak points. Another auspicious debut. They were touring with Annihilator and Savatage, but unfortunately I missed the concerts here in Portugal. The music follows the american power metal line, in the vein of Jag Panzer or Iced Earth. Among fast riff-based songs we have mid-tempo songs ("Sons of Mayhem", remembering the best Dio songs) or slower songs ("Blood on My Hands"). The limited edition has 2 additional tracks and a multimedia part including photos, the lyrics and a Flash Shoot'em game.

RHAPSODY - "Emerald Sword" (1998 LMB, 14 min)
Preview EP for Symphony of Enchanted Lands. This EP from the italian masters that play "Symphonic Epic Hollywood Metal" (or whathever is this, it's written on a sticker) contains a track from the new album, an original track and a Land of Immortals version (IMO, with nothing new). About the new tracks, we have a symphonic power, lots of keyboard and the brilliant vocals of Fabio Lione.

RIOT - "Shine On" (1998 Metal Blade, 72 min)
Excellent live album, recorded on the Inishmore japanese tour. We are getting a fast and melodic Heavy, which is normal with these americans. The sound quality is very good, closer to a studio production (these japs don't make any noise?!).

ROLAND GRAPOW - "Kaleidoscope" (1999 SPV, 56 min) Sample (170 k)
New solo project from one of Helloween's few attractions nowadays. With Mike Vescera, an excellent vocals that worked with Loudness and Malmsteen, this album is quite interesting, despite some weak moments (monotony "in crescendo" in the hard rock tracks The Hunger or Kaleidoscope and the acoustic Lord I'm Dying). The remaining 8 tracks are divided by good slows, fast tracks and Malmsteen-like tracks that together makes this a varied album that worths a listen.

ROTTING CHRIST - "A Dead Poem" (1997 Century Media, 47 min)
New work from my favorite greek band. Maintaining the same style, that is harmonious gothic with death vocals and some choruses, RC have created a proper and original sound. Highlighted is the participation of Fernando Ribeiro (Moonspell) on the second track and the inclusion of an extra CD Darkness We Feel with 15 gothic bands from the Century Media catalog plus Orphaned Land. Good buy.

SECRET SPHERE - "Mistress of the Shadow Light" (1999 Elevate Records, 50 min) Sample (166 k)
Brand new Italian band that plays symphonic Power Metal, in the vein of country mates Rhapsody and influences from Stratovarius and Angra. Technically very good (how unusual in Italian bands;-)) with good vocals and fantastic songs. Those who like the above mentioned bands must check this one.

SENTENCED - "Frozen" (1998 Century Media, 49 min)
These finnishes are back with the logical sequence of "Down". We have the same line-up, same producer, even the same type of lyrics and cover. About the music, maybe this one is deeper. Inside melodic Heavy, with melancholic touches, Sentenced already defined a proper sound, strongly based on the characteristic vocals of Ville Laihiala e guitar of Tenkula.

SEPTIC FLESH - "Ophidian Wheel" (1997 Holy Records, 52 min)
Most recent CD from this powerful greek band. Death with the addiction of female vocals and a base full of changes and melody, thus making a dense and sublime atmosphere.

SEVEN WITCHES - "Second War in Heaven" (1999 Massacre, 44 min) Sample (186 k)
Another auspicious debut, now for an american heavy/power band. SWiH is a solid work, with good vocals and guitars. Some more weak songs, like "Dying Embers", very US, and "The Chain", a Fleetwood Mac cover, don't spoil too much the overall, where we also find the excellents "Camelot" and "Metal Daze" (Manowar cover).

SEVEN WITCHES - "City of Lost Souls" (2000 Massacre, 46 min) Sample (167 k)
If their first "Second War in Heaven" was not so bad, this album brings nothing new, seeming like a third category Metal Church. I can't find any interesting part and even Exciter's Pouding Metal cover is weak and without flame. With so many quality bands and albums around, there are better ways to apply my time and money.

SINERGY - "Beware the Heavens" (1999 Nuclear Blast, 34 min) Sample (171 k)
What a super-project... Jesper Stromblad (In Flames), Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom), Sharlee D'Angelo (Mercyful Fate, Witchery) with a female vocal (Alexi's girlfriend) and a drummer advised by Joacim Cans (HammerFall). One of the best releases of the year, so far. Power Metal of excellent quality, where the virtuous work of Alexi is well noted. The comparison with Nightwish became obvious: musically they are superior and for those who don't like opera (like me, but I do like Nightwish) Sinergy is far better. The same complain about Children of Bodom, CD too short.

SINERGY - "To Hell and Back" (2000 Nuclear Blast, 42 min) Sample (153 k)
After the everybody-must-have first Sinergy opus, this is one of the most wanted CDs of the year. I don't know if expectations were too high but I was quite disappointed. This new album is very raw and the strong personality of Miss Kimberly Goss surpasses the work of the other members, including the genious Alexi Laiho. Lack of inspiration or new non-power paths? Having a more decent size, this includes however some musics that are pure waste of plastic.

SIRIUS - "Aeons of Magick" (2000 Nocturnal Art, 47 min) Sample (161 k)
Since Moonspell's debut mini-album, that Portugal hasn't entered the european Black Metal map. Anyway, SiriuS' symphonic black doesn't follow ex-metalers Moonspell, its music and attitude is closer to Bal Sagoth and reached the same excellent quality, despite being the first work. Hail Stellar Ocean Warriors. More info in Portuguese Metal.

SIX FEET UNDER - "Graveyard Classics" w/ 3 bonus (2000 Metalblade, 58 min) Sample (172 k)
I'm not particullary a death metal appreciator, but after knowing that one of the best and most representative death metal bands released a covers album, I knew that I had to check it. The alignment is great, with versions from Savatage, AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Exodus, Accept, Sex Pistols, Angelwitch, Dead Kennedys, Deep Purple, Scorpions, Jimi Hendrix, Venom, Kiss, Iron Maiden and Thin Lizzy, the last three only in the special edition. For those who say that death metal is only noise, Six Feet Under proves the opposite, great players with the cavernous voice of Chris Barnes adding a very special and curious feeling. I doubt that all the youngest death metal fans know these classic anthems, so this is a great way for contacting the metal roots.

SONATA ARCTICA - "Successor" (2000 Spinefarm, 31 min) Sample (138 k)
Following Ecliptica, the first album of this excellent Finnish band, Successor is an EP comprising 7 themes. We have a better version of Fool Moon from the first album, a good and fast Scorpions's Still Loving You cover, an interesting Helloween's I Want Out cover, a fast and an acoustic new songs and two live songs. The EP title is one of the most well chosen, confirming Sonata Arctica as one of the excellent melodic Power bands, much in the line of Stratovarius.

SORCERY - "Eternity" (1998 Arise, 52 min)
Another spanish band with an interesting proposal. These neighbours bet on a fast Power with a very fulfilled sound (2 guitars and keyboard). The music is good, but not too innovative. The vocals, which is the band leader, is its weakest argument.

SQUEALER - "The Prophecy" (1999 AFM, 43 min) Sample (178 k)
This is the fourth album from one of the underrated german power bands. With the participation of Edguy's guests, maybe this Prophecy will change the way this band is being seen. Well produced, we can find several influences here, from good power metal, to thrash, doom, monotonous and slow songs and even covers from shitty pop songs (Depeche Mode). This is a good album, but be aware to find less usual influences.

STEEL ATTACK - "Where Mankind Fails" (1999 AFM, 51 min) Sample (165 k)
When buying CDs some time ago, I saw this one. Unknown band but with this name and a cover with dragons and warriors, it smelled Power Metal to me. My thought: another unknown PM band... but let's hear it. To my surprise they're good. Notorious influences from HammerFall and so, that means, speed, melody and good songs. The weakest element is the vocals, anyway, lots of vocals around are worst. Besides a great instrumental (Mozart's influences?), I highlight "Dragon's Skull" (HammerFall), the 2 epic parts of "The Tragic Kingdom" and "Forgotten Land" (pure Running Wild).

STEEL PROPHET - "Messiah" (2000 Nuclear Blast, 57 min) Sample (161 k)
After an excellent "Dark Allucinations" released last year, one of the most expressive american power metal bands is back, and better than ever. Despite being american, no trash influences are found, and the music is somehow like a mix between german metal, Iron Maiden and a little bit of progressive. The vocal Rick Mythiasin is one of the best around, in the same line as Bruce Dickinson but more flexible. Great production and a must to check.

STRATOVARIUS - "Visions" (1997 Noise, 61 min)
New work from this finnish band that play a mix of melodic speed and progressive heavy, with Helloween, Dream Theater and Yngwie Malmsteen influences. Excellent CD but I prefer the previous "Episode".

STRATOVARIUS - "Destiny" (1998 Noise, 59 min)
Awaited return of one of the most popular Power Metal bands. The new CD of Timo Tolkki band cames in the logical sequence of the previous Visions, that is, fast, clear sound, hyper-melodic, plenty of choruses and excellent production.

SYMPHONY X - "The Divine Wings of Tragedy" (1997 CNR, 65 min)
Finally someone edited in Europe the 3 CDs from prog masters Symphony X (congratulations CNR). This one, released in Japan in 1996, delivers a very technical sound with great melody lines and variations. Sometimes it reminds Malmsteen, but not so guitar dependent.

TARANTULA - "Light Beyond the Dark" (1999 AFM, 48 min) Sample (183 k)
The portuguese veteran metallers launched its 5th release, now at AFM records, Edguy's label. About the music, it's straight Heavy, with progressive influences and a few power rhythms. The guitar is strongly influencied by Malmsteen. Some more structured melody and power rhythms would make this a killer.

TARANTULA - "Dream Maker" (2000 AFM, 43 min) Sample (156 k)
Sixth album, the second to AFM, of the oldest portuguese metal band, who are gathering some fans out there. "Dream Maker", produced by Tommy Newton, is another fine example of straight metal, well served by experienced musicians and their best, so far. Highlights are "Never Surrender", dedicated to the people of East Timor, "Winds of No Return" and the acoustic "To Feel the Light".

THE FIRSTBORN - "From the Past Yet to Come" (2000 Guardians of Metal, 64 min) Sample (188 k)
The Firstborn is a successfull portuguese epic metal band, that released two years ago a black metal album under the name of First Born Evil. The black metal roots are completely diluted in an extraordinary symphonic, dark and epic metal, transforming The Firstborn in one of the main portuguese metal acts and reminding me in parts old Moonspell. Bruno's vocals and Gustavo's keyboards give an impressive athmosphere, very well followed by the remaining members. Excellent production. This album is a must for all that like dark symphonic epic metal and IMO the second best portuguese metal album ever, after Moonspell's Wolfheart.

THE HAUNTED - "The Haunted Made Me Do It" (2000 Earache, 36 min) Sample (174 k)
The Haunted is a swedish band with members and ex-members from At the Gates, Witchery and others. After the acclaimed first album and some line-up changes, one of the best modern thrash bands is back with another demolition album. With 11 heavy, and I mean heavy, small themes (the longest has 4.39 minutes), we have death vocals, fast guitars, furious rhythmic section and several surprises that make my head banging. The strange cover is filled with serial killers photos that illustrate the album's name, if The Haunted were the reason for their crimes.

THERION - "Deggial" (2000 Nuclear Blast, 58 min) Sample (192 k)
More regular than the pope. "Deggial" is the new opus of one of the most acclaimed swedish bands. The power influences had almost gone, leaving some gothic and mostly classical, acoustic, experimental and opera behind. Let's balance: 30% Metal, 65% classical and opera and 5% for other styles. Even a Carmina Burana version ends the CD. The only real full-Metal music is Flesh of the Gods, very Loudness influenced. Despite the decrease of Metal importance, still unique and interesting stuff.

THE STORYTELLER - "The Storyteller" (2000 No Fashion Records, 49 min) Sample (167 k)
Great album and great opening for The Storyteller, IMO the best Power Metal release of the year, so far. By allying fast Power Metal, in the vein of HammerFall or Nocturnal Rites, to some folk and medieval influences, The Storyteller achieves a proper sound, that I compare in some parts to Excelsis. Following an excellent intro, that situates the album into the medieval universe, is an alternate mix of superb Power hymns, like Guardians of Kail, with slower songs, but with lots of feeling. Other highlights are the medieval acoustic Chant of the Thieves and the epic 9 min title song that induces us to play the album again and again. Great production, as usual by Fredrik Nordström. Keep Powerin...More info at The official THE STORYTELLER website and read the exclusive interview.

THRONE OF CHAOS - "Menace and Prayer" (2000 Spinefarm, 39 min) Sample (155 k)
In Flames younger brothers? This is a brand new finnish melodic death band, following the Gothenburg sound. Not as perfect as In Flames, but very, very good. All that like In Flames/Children of Bodom must check this one. I can't stop headbangin', which is not very nice at my job's desk ;-).

VARIOUS ARTISTS - "The Keepers of Jericho - A tribute to Helloween" (2000 Arise Records, 70 min) Sample (156 k)
It's my first review of a compilation from various bands, but as it is about Helloween... This compilation came from the same spanish label that has Dark Moor and only includes songs until The Keeper II, that is the Power phase of Hellowen and my four favorite albums. The bands alignment, as well as the songs chosen, are great. Rhapsody plays a somehow weak "Guardians" version, Sonata Arctica plays a great "I Want Out", Heavens Gate also a weak "A Little Time", Metalium a powerful "Ride the Sky", Luca Turilli a symphonic "I'm Alive", the danishes Morifade a good "Judas", Vision Divine also a weak "Eagle Fly Free", Brainstorm with a thrash "Savage", Labyrinth a reasonable "Future World", Cydonia with a personal and avoidable "Save Us", Squealer a reasonable "Victim of Fate", Dark Moor a good "Halloween" and Secret Sphere an emotive "How Many Tears".

VIRGIN STEELE - "Invictus" (1998 Noise, 76 min)
To me this is the best CD of 98. Superb work of Power with so much melody and variety. Sometimes it reminds Manowar and Omen. This work will not get dust on the shelf. In a total of 16, we have fast songs, epic, slow, but all powerfull and together they form a logical sequence.

VIRGIN STEELE - "The House of Atreus Act II", 2CD (2000 Noise, 45+44 min) Sample (183 k)
Master David DeFeis is back with the second and last episode of the Atreus Family metal opera, this time in a double CD. Following the first act's story, Orestes comes to revenge the murder of his father Agamemnon. The mixture between humans and gods from the greek mythology is the basis for this adaptation by Virgin Steele thus making these two acts the longest metal opera ever. Musically, very powerful and symphonic, it's Virgin Steele at its best, with the emotive and magic David Defeis voice. Comparing with Act I, this one has a better equilibrium between the metal and the piano parts.

VISION DIVINE - "Vision Divine" (1999 NTS, 57 min) Sample (179 k)
Italian project where Fabio Lione lends his voice and Olaf Thorsen the guitars. It's particulary significant that none of the themes have been written by the band members. So, it was a question of "here are the themes, just play it". The result is, however, good power metal with a sensation of "heard similar" several times, but never be tired.

WIZARD - "Bound by Metal" (1999 BO Records, 50 min) Sample (170 k)
My first contact with this True Metal band. And the analogies with Manowar are evident, by the lyrics, the look and even the music, but they have to improve in all aspects to be compared to the Masters. With some more imagination in the lyrics and some tracks, this could be an interesting concept album. Anyway, I like it. In the same vein, much better than Sacred Steel, same level as Heimdall, worst than Manowar.

ZONATA - "Reality" (2001 Century Media, 45 min) Sample (171 k)
Zonata is one of the main Century Media references in the Power Metal scene. After the promising debut "The Tunes of Steel", the nordics, now reduced to a quartet, came again with a great album. Influences from old Helloween, Stratovarius, Iron Maiden and Rhapsody can be traced. Comparing to the previous one, "Reality" is more melodic and epic, has more keyboards, even better melodies and improved vocals. It's hard to highlight some songs, but my favorite ones are the the fast "Reality", the epic and varied "Dimension to Freedom" and the hooked on classics "Life?". A last word to the great art-work of Derek Riggs (old Maiden, new Gamma Ray covers). In "reality" a must to all power metal fans.

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