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Friday, January 04, 2008

CD Review: Nuclear Blast All-Stars - Out of the Dark

Nuclear Blast All-Stars - Out of the Dark (20 Years of Nuclear Blast)
2007 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

As Metal Blade partied up 25 years in the business in 2007, Nuclear Blast enjoyed their own fiesta celebrating two decades on the scene, which included this unique little enclave collection corraled by Soilwork's Peter Wichers. Rather than unleash a commissioned banner Soilwork album as totem darling band for the successful metal label, Wichers instead wrote ten songs for Out of the Dark, which includes his instrumentation along with two drummers (including his Soilwork pal Dirk Verbeuren and Henry Ranta) and two hands' worth of vocalists for each song.

In proper retrospective fashion, Out of the Dark lassos singers from both periods of metal, which gets you Armored Saint and former Anthrax powerman John Bush and Death Angel's Mark Osegueda to current leaguers Maurizio Iacono from Kataklysm and Scar Symmetry's Christian Alevstam. Add on bridge period elites Anders Friden from In Flames and Wichers' mad mic master Bjorn "Speed" Strid, and this assemblage of hellhounds makes for a highly entertaining endeavor that many fans have simply called a Soilwork album in disguise.

Be that as it may, Wichers has penned ten mostly memorable songs that best suit his guests' particular strengths, whether it's the combo chop-stomp tempo for Mark Osegueda on "My Name is Fate," which he bravely tackles a more updated thrash mode than Death Angel is noted for, or the static crunch of "The Overshadowing" that allows Christian Alvestam and growl and croon to his heart's content.

While Wichers saves the album's poignant balladry for his music brother on the impressively elegant "The Dawn of All," to which Bjorn Strid swoons quixotically, Out of the Dark's obvious statement piece comes on the rocksteady "Paper Trail," fielded gallantly by John Bush. As one of the old school's undeniable greatest vocalists, his calm execution and professional delivery works like a charm, giving this track the most personality of all the songs on Out of the Dark. As Bush sings "the same old shit couldn't be more stale," there's a lot that comes to mind, be it a statement that the metal scene is veering towards a dead end of repetition all the way to his inexplicable separation from Anthrax. Whatever the case is, John Bush steals the show with this no-nonsense rocker that would never appear on a standard Soilwork ablum, so let's raise a pint to Wichers for the savviness to write an old-school-minded metal jam with the perfect helmsman for the job in mind.

Wichers blasts, pounds and thrashes his way through the other cuts on Out of the Dark, such as the brutal crush of "Cold Is My Vengeance" featuring Maurizio Iacono, the cautious agro mash of "The Gilded Dagger" with Sonic Syndicate's Richard Sjunnesson and Roland Johansson, as well as the punishing hammer of "Schizo" with Hypocrisy's Peter Tagtgren rasping his way effectively along. Also worth mention is the whip-snap velocity of "Devotion," one of the album's finest songs, as Wintersun's Jari Maenpaa steers it with full command.

While Out of the Dark could've fallen on its face miserably as a hotshot gimmick ploy, it is a rollicking cascade of molten lava held in check with a few intentionally destabilizing moments, all indicative in sound of where Nuclear Blast Records has come since its foundation all the way up to its uncontrollable uncaging of some of metal's most extreme beasts. This album is also available as a special edition with a bonus disc featuring tunes by Exodus, Agnostic Front, Dimmu Borgir, Meshuggah and Bleed the Sky.

Rating: ****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great CD

Nice vocals, nice instrumentation, nice harmony, dynamically perfect.

The music really accords to the lyrics and vocals.

Love it