HAMLET / Directo (mCD sampler/Locomotive Music/2003) (2tx/8'49")

Man, I really hate this kind of promotional samplers. Let me explain : the version that will be available to the public is in fact a 2CD, including 20 songs. Yet all that we get to hear on this promo is 10% of it, clocking in at under 9'. And it's even worse since I had never heard of HAMLET before. And since they don't seem to have a website, the info is rather scarce. All that I know is that they are a Spannish quintet, and that they have released five studio albums prior to this double live one. As a result this 2CD (recorded in Madrid and Bilbao) is said to be a collection of their best know songs, but quite obviously I'm not in a position to confirm this statement. The band has already been described as sounding along the lines of KILL II THIS, MACHINE HEAD, SOULFLY, ILL NINO and even SEPULTURA. Most of those bands I'm not even familiar with, and for those that I am I couldn't care less. Indeed, HAMLET does come across as a crossover mixture of nu-metal and hardcore, but really, it's almost impossible to judge a band accurately on the evidence of just two songs. Even moreso when you're totally unfamiliar with the band. But based on these two songs I can only conclude that HAMLET are not my cup of tea, as they sound way too modern.
(promo copy kindly supplied by Rock Inc. Promotion/ Holland)

HANKER / In Our World Revisited (CD/Art Of Music/1996) (13tx/60í28Ē)

Back in 1994 Canadians HANKER released their debut CD on their own, entitled In Our World. In Our World Revisited is the European version of the very same scorcher, accompanied by an entirely different (= way better) booklet, and including two bonus tracks. Those being the two original demo tracks that didnít make it onto the initial release. Not unlike GOTHIC KNIGHTS, HANKER is in the melodic power vein as well, albeit slightly more aggressive. Actually, itís power bordering on speed metal at times. But not all of the time, there are also some slower and more varied songs on offer, including melodic vocals. HANKER has often been compared to early JAG PANZER before, and I can go along with that as far as some melodies and vocal parts are concerned, but Iím sure this happened naturally. Besides, HANKER has enough potential to make it on their own merits. I can hardly wait to hear this bandís next release, set for release in early 1997, on Art Of Music once again. Meanwhile get this directly from the band (address elsewhere) or try Art Of Music Gmbh / Postfach 1117 / 25501 Itzehoe / Germany.
(this review originally first appeared in DEN OF INIQUITY fanzine # 1, released in 02/1997)

HEATHEN HOOF / Demo 2002 (mCD/Heathen Hoof/2002) (3tx/13'42")

Finland's HEATHEN HOOF is a side-project of MORNINGSTAR and MINOTAURI mainman & guitarist Ari Honkonen. As a matter of fact they're a quintet, including plenty of other (ex) MORNINGSTAR members, and they started out in the summer of 2002. After only two rehearsals they decided to enter the Sounds Of Manala rehearsal studio, in order to record a first demo on a digital 8-track machine. That was in August 2002, and on the evidence of this demo Germany's Metal Coven Records offered the band a deal. The band subsequently went into a professional studio one cold Wednesday evening in September 2002, to re-record one of the songs. And thus Son Of The Horned God ended up being released on a split 7" with Germany's AXEWIELDER in early 2003. So far for a short HEATHEN HOOF history lesson, let's concentrate on Demo 2002 from here on. Unlike Ari's other bands HEATHEN HOOF is neither epic nor doom, but rather in the N.W.O.B.H.M. vein. The up-tempo opener Banging Horns has this typical early 1980's British sound, including cool and melodic guitars along the lines of very early IRON MAIDEN. And with rather rudimentary vocals, which I'm sure not everyone will enjoy. Son Of The Horned God is slower and not strictly N.W.O.B.H.M. sounding, rather mid 1980's heavy metal. In fact, the vocals remind me of HEAVY LOAD on this one, to a certain degree. Night Hunter concludes this first demo by Finland's self-proclaimed N.W.O.B.H.M. masters in an excellent way. I know, HEATHEN HOOF's material is in no way innovative, but being a longtime N.W.O.B.H.M. fanatic myself I just can't help but enjoying Demo 2002. The only thing they should pay more attention to next time is a better, stronger production. In the meantime the band has been writing new songs and as soon as their new drummer will be completely settled in they'll start recording songs for what most likely will turn out to be another demo CD. Meanwhile this Demo 2002 CD-r is still available at a cost of Euro 5.00. A bargain! Check out their website for more details.
(promo copy kindly supplied by HEATHEN HOOF / Finland)

HELLISH CROSSFIRE / Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram (CD/I Hate/2007) (8tx/38'58")

HELLISH CROSSFIRE is a German band that has been around for half a decade now. Two demos were issued (in 2004 & 2005) before a limited (500 copies) vinyl version of Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram marked the bandís official release late last year. That limited edition vinyl release sold out quickly, and now itís available on CD at last as well. It is graced with a different cover, but there are no bonus tracks on here. Taking their name after fellow compatriots IRON ANGELís debut release, it shouldnít be a surprise that HELLISH CROSSFIRE are along those lines musically as well. Meaning old school Teutonic speed / thrash metal Ö The band claims to be part of the current thrash revival by accident (which is true, considering they started out in 2002 already) but Iím sure it comes in handy nevertheless! The bandmembers are known as Iron Tyrant (vocals), Iron Incubus (guitar), Sick (bass) and Evil Possessor (drums). How about that for originality, huh? Might have been cool twenty years ago Ö Then again, HELLISH CROSSFIREís music is firmly rooted in the mid 1980ís as well, as itís totally in the old school Teutonic thrash vein. Despite the fact that the band is more than capable of playing their instruments, HELLISH CROSSFIRE hardly ever manages to convince me. Itís just that this kind of thrash is not what I enjoy most, for itís too one-dimensional overall, at least in my opinion. Iíve heard this CD plenty of times now and still none of the songs sticks to mind Ö All of them are similar to eachother, which doesnít add to my listening pleasure. Having said that : fans of old school aggressive German thrash along the lines of DARKNESS, IRON ANGEL, KREATOR, WITCHBURNER, Ö are advised to check this out, as they will most likely enjoy Slaves Of The Burning Pentagram tremendously! For them it may well turn out to be one of the best German thrash releases in recent years. For those into more variable thrash, including myself, Iíd say thereís plenty more fish in the worldwide sea of thrash Ö
(promo copy kindly supplied by I Hate Records / Sweden)
(reviewed by EddY, posted 29/09/2007)

HELLS FELONS / Guitars And Misdemeanors (CD/Shanghai-G.M.E./1999) (9tx/47í33Ē)

HELLS FELONSí line-up includes three former STEEL ASSASSIN members (guitarists Kevin Curran & Mike Mooney + drummer Greg Michalowski), and even a guest appearance from former STEEL ASSASSIN bassist Phil Grasso on three of the songs made it onto this CD. But thatís about where any possible comparison between both bands ends. HELLS FELONS has next to nothing to do with STEEL ASSASSIN, musically. Most of their seven originals on display here are a mixture of Southern rock and hardrock Ďní roll. You know, over a decade has gone by since the good old days, the long hair has vanished, their Flying Vís have been sold, and their music has changed as well ... thatís life, Iím afraid. If youíre into the likes of MOLLY HATCHET & Co., Iím sure youíll enjoy this. Itís not my fave style of music, but I did enjoy MOLLY HATCHETís energetic live set at the Karlshamn Rock Festival, back in 1997. And more recently at Biebob as well. The one track that stands out here is the powerful instrumental Lookiní For Trouble. More power to that kind of tunes! The final two cuts are THIN LIZZY covers (Hollywood & The Rocker), and they follow closely behind the instrumental, as far as quality goes. I just wish their own material was more along the same lines, so Iíd enjoy their entire effort, in stead of just 3 or 4 songs. Maybe next time? Time will tell ...
(this review originally first appeared in DEN OF INIQUITY fanzine # 2, released in 06/2001)

HOLOCAUST / Spirits Fly (CD/Neat Music/1996) (14tx/68í52Ē)

Basically, this CD is Neat trying to cash in on other peopleís previous efforts, by re-releasing HOLOCAUSTís Hypnosis Of Birds CD (Taurus Moon Records/1992) + 3 bonus songs. Two of those extra tracks are 1993 versions of old classics (Heavy Metal Mania & Death Or Glory), which already appeared on the Heavy Metal Mania mCD (Taurus Moon/1993). Despite recording facilities being way better in the 1990ís, Iíd still say the original versions of both classics are not equalled, let alone surpassed. The only Ďnewí song on here is a cover version of METALLICAís Master Of Puppets. I guess this was done in an attempt to get even with METALLICA, but HOLOCAUSTís version adds nothing to the original version. Most classics simply canít be covered better than they were originally meant to be; thatís why they are regarded as being classics! As for the remaining 11 songs, the original Hypnosis ... session, theyíre hardly comparable to 1989ís The Sound Of Souls. That CD was very experimental, like thrash meets VOI VOD. On these Ďnewí songs, HOLOCAUST managed to get rid of the thrash-influences, and became even more experimental. Things are now more concentrated on feeling, melancholy. Some songs are doomier now, others are longer and more diversified. The occasional use of flute and cello brings SKYCLAD to mind at times, but overall these songs are very original, even more so because of John Mortimerís distinct voice. Just donít expect this CD to be anything like the bandís early N.W.O.B.H.M. material! If youíre into experimental metal, youíll enjoy this! I know I do, but still Iíd rather like to see Neat releasing a completely new album, in stead of just recycling old stuff. Oh well, maybe some day ...
(this review originally first appeared in DEN OF INIQUITY fanzine # 1, released in 02/1997)

HOLY MARTYR / Hatred And Warlust (CD/Holy Martyr/2003) (7tx/40'19")

I first got to know about this Italian quintet in early 2003, when they contacted me out of the blue. The band has been around since 1994, when they started out as HELL FORGE, only to change their name to HOLY MARTYR in 1997. Hatred And Warlust is their debut and it's a do-it-yourself one. The bandmembers are influenced by 1980's epic metal, as well as Bay Area thrash, and those influences definitely surface here. Especially MANILLA ROAD must've been a major influence, as can be noticed during the thrashy opening segment of Warmonger, or the slower parts of Hatred Is My Strength and Son Of A King. And not just the musical similarities, the vocals sound akin at times as well. Not that I mind Ö Opener Warmonger is a very powerful and versatile tune, clearly expressing the band's influences and abilities. Under Siege is a fast, epic heavy metal song, along the lines of OMEN, and with plenty of room for the instrumental side of things as well, including delicious, melodic twin guitar solos. Hatred Is My Strength clocks in at 9'20" and is the longest song on display. Cool Am I Evil-like beginning and overall very versatile. The solos remind me of early TOTAL ECLIPSE a bit. Son Of A King (8'22") starts out way slower but continues to gather speed along the way, and has sort of a WARLORD feel to it. The Shadow Over Innsmouth is a progressive power tune, while Metallian is the shortest one, and the most straightforward one too. All of these six songs were included on the initial version that I received, but in the mean time they've released the final version, including one bonus track : a cover version of CIRITH UNGOL's classic Frost & Fire. Along the lines of their own material, and very enjoyable. In conclusion I'd say that HOLY MARTYR are in the pure heavy metal tradition, but with influences from both speed & thrash, as well as epic, and even a bit progressive. All resulting in an excellent blend of pure and powerful heavy metal that deserves to be heard. An interview with guitarist Ivano is set for inclusion in DEN OF INIQUITY # 4.
(promo copy kindly supplied by HOLY MARTYR / Italy)

HOLY MARTYR / Hail To Hellas (mCD/Holy Martyr/2003) (6tx/30'19")

Here's the second release by Mediterranean epic metallers HOLY MARTYR. And it's not really a promo review, since I had to pay for it, just like anybody else, but for once I'm making an exception. Actually, if it wasn't for a bunch of loyal followers this mCD may have never been released at all. In order to be able to release it HOLY MARTYR decided to ask for help by having people pay in advance, in order to be able to get the CD and artwork done. In return those faithful people receive a special version of the CD, including a bonus track, as well as a free HOLY MARTYR t-shirt. Musically, Hail To Hellas is still in the same vein as before : still no trendy keyboards, nor plastic power trend metal here! On the contrary, it's even more epic than before. And, as a direct result, overall a bit less fast and thrashy. The first four songs are based around the same concept, being the story of king Leonidas and the battle of Thermopiles. Opener The Call To Arms is midpaced, melodic and epic, along the lines of DOOMSWORD (musically), MANOWAR (lyrically) and WARLORD (guitar sound). Molon Labe (Into Glory They Shall Ride) is a short, calm yet epic piece that leads into Defenders In The Name Of Hellas (Leading Three Hundred Heroes Through The Pass Of Thermopiles). This one starts out slow, then switches to midpaced and has references to DOOMSWORD, since it's epic and melodic. And including some cool battlefield sounds as well. I especially like the change to a way faster pace that starts at 5'40", and continues until the end. The Lion Of Sparta clocks in well over 8' and is the longest tune on offer. Needless to say that it's extremely variable, ranging from midpaced to up-tempo, but always epic. And with a 'Celtic' sounding ending. The short instrumental Ta Deilina is actually a rendition of a traditional Greek song : short, sweet and swinging. And for those fortunate enough to receive one of the first 200 copies (out of a total of 500) there's a bonus track : From The North Comes The War. Actually, this is a 'forgotten' song that dates back to 1994, when HOLY MARTYR was still a trio that was known as HELL FORGE. Only guitarist Ivano Spiga remains from that line-up today, and, especially for this one song, he went back into the studio in November 2003, together with the other two original members, to re-record this long lost tune. It's midpaced and melodic, but already epic in approach, albeit a bit more rudimentary and less polished perhaps. And a good indication of even better things to come, as can be witnessed on Hatred And Warlust and Hail To Hellas. The latter may not be as fast or thrashy as its predecessor, it's all the more epic instead. And all fans of the former will enjoy this one too! Let me put it this way : if HOLY MARTYR had released both of their efforts on one CD, that would've been a real scorching 70'+ of pure & epic traditional metal!
(reviewed by EddY, posted 23/02/2004)

HOLY MARTYR / Vis Et Honor (mCD/Holy Martyr/2005) (4tx/24í38Ē)

Another HOLY MARTYR release, at last! Recorded back in August 2005 already, and mixed and mastered in September and October of the same year respectively, Vis Et Honor was released last November already. Once again itís only a 4-song mCD affair. And it is said to be the last effort from HOLY MARTYR in the booklet. More about this later on Ö Track 1 is made up of a spoken intro (Legionís Oath), followed by the short instrumental March Of The Legionaries, which leads us perfectly into the titletrack. Which of course is totally in the bandís familiar epic war metal style. Somewhere in between mid-paced and up tempo, and lyrically covering the life of Roman soldiers in days of yore. Clocking in at just over six minutes, itís the longest tune here as well. Albeit by a nose-length, as Ares Guide My Spear lasts for 5í43Ē. This is a bit slower in approach, but still has all other HOLY MARTYR trademarks : epic, melodic, superb dual leads, Ö Lyrically it deals with ancient Greek wargods. Concluding this mCD is an acoustic version of The Call To Arms, the original version of which was the opener on the bandís previous Hail To Hellas release. At first glance it looks like it lasts for well over 10í, while in fact itís over after 5í25Ē. Only to be followed by a 3í+ sound of silence, followed by a Ďhidden bonus trackí (= two minutes of studio quarrels in Italian). This being the only downer from my point of view, as I donít see the meaning behind this. It also reduces the running time of this mCD to 19'18". Nevertheless, Vis Et Honor is yet another convincing effort by HOLY MARTYR, who are still refusing to turn commercial. Something I can only applaud! It was thus all the more surprising to read that this was to be the last release, knowing that the band has gathered quite a fanbase in recent years. One look at the bandís website though reveals that the band did in fact sign a deal with Italyís own Dragonheart Records earlier this year, and that they started with the recordings of their debut full-length CD last month already, at Conquest Studios, with producer Alex Festa at the helm. Which is about the best news an epic metal fan (like myself) received in recent months. Iím already looking forward to HOLY MARTYRís official debut release with impatience!! And itís about time as well, as the limited to 500 copies edition of Vis Et Honor has been sold out since May already!
(reviewed by EddY, posted 12/08/2006)

H‹RLEMENT / De Sang Et DíAcier (CD/Emanes Metal/2009) (11tx/48'57")

Based out of Franceís capital of Paris, heavy metal quartet H‹RLEMENT (= French for SCREAM) formed in the summer of 2003. From the very beginning it was their intention to play old school heavy metal, made up of such aspects as aggression, melody as well as speed. And although the band claims to be primarily influenced by the likes of MANOWAR & RUNNING WILD, I hardly noticed any similarities. Sure, The Iron Fist In A Metal Glove is reminiscent of MANOWAR when it comes to the lyrical aspect, but musically? In my opinion it sounds more like TITAN STEELE. As for RUNNING WILD : Iím not too familiar with that German bandís musical legacy, so there may actually be some references here and there. But more than anything else H‹RLEMENT reminds me of all those French bands that were doing the rounds in the 1980ís (think of ADX, H-BOMB, KILLERS, SORTILEGE, Ö). One thing that definitely sets this band apart from most of their compatriots is the fact that they have songs sung in their native French language, while others are in English. Most other bands would go for either French or English, yet H‹RLEMENT refuses to be limited! Anyhow, De Sang Et DíAcier (= Of Blood And Steel in English) is in fact the bandís debut. It was recorded in between March 2007 and March 2008 and mixed & mastered in between September and December of 2008. Considering that pace, one would be tempted to assume that H‹RLEMENT is just another bunch of doom metallers Ö Rest assured, theyíre far from doom, although there is a healthy dose of variety on offer here. All within the boundaries of good old-fashioned true heavy metal of course. Melodic guitars, at times high-pitched vocals, powerful rhythms, at one time epic, at others rather raw : itís a good mixture of all things metallic indeed. I hate to be the judge, but for me personally the songs sung in French go down best, with Mercenaire being my utmost fave. Together with Ordalie it may well become a crowd favourite. In Rock strongly reminds me of Marylandís BALLISTIC, both musically and vocally, while NOTK (Night Of The Killer) displays references to THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG. As you can see, thereís still plenty of room for progression when it comes to original ideas. But for a debut, De Sang Et DíAcier is far from bad. Now that the foundations are ready, itís just a matter of building an even stronger first floor (= next release)!
(promo copy kindly supplied by Emanes Metal / France)
(reviewed by EddY, posted 07/05/2009)

HYDRA / Exhibition Of Malice (Obsidian Factory/1999) (10tx/63í30Ē)

HYDRA, founded in 1991 in Japan, didnít really manage to impress me on the evidence of this, their debut full-length. Thatís mainly because of their vocalist, who isnít exactly the greatest. Not only does he have a serious accent, the lyrics are made up of very basic English as well. And the guy also has a tendency to start screaming from time to time, which doesnít really work out. The music itself isnít too bad, but nothing too original either. Itís powerful heavy metal, bordering on thrash at times. Funky & jazzy passages are included as well, which I donít really enjoy. Of course there is an obligatory ballad (Guardian Angel), but the songs I enjoyed most are Computer Syndrome, Changes For Primary Form, Dark Seeds & Purgatory Way. If these guys ever manage to decide which style they want to head towards, and improve the vocals/lyrics at the same time, I might actually even enjoy HYDRAís next release entirely, as these musicians are without a doubt capable. Itís just that the end-result isnít all that convincing. Itís sad that I have to say that the cool artwork (by ETERNAL ELYSIUMís vocalist/guitarist Yukito Okazaki) impressed me more than most of the music on Exhibition Of Malice. Sad, but true! or
(this review originally first appeared in DEN OF INIQUITY fanzine # 3, released in 06/2002)