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Imperial Vengeance - 'The Twentyshilling and Fourpence V-disc' (transend) 4/5

For those of you who haven't yet experienced the weird and wonderful world of steam metal royalty Imperial Vengeance, here's a quick way in for you. 'The Twentyshilling and Fourpence V-disc' is basically the new single from their acclaimed current album 'Black Heart Of Empire' (reviewed here) and features the albums title track, its prologue Scenes Of Inked Treachery and a previously unreleased orchestrated instrumental number Upon The Stair (and in the Chamber).

As an insight to the album this new three tracker is pretty good. The main track shows all the quirky goodness that is IV's trademark sound, pacey yet controlled post thrash guitar riffage, husky and deep yet very listenable vocals, vast gothic backing soundcscapes, gin palace pianos and a voice over section from former East End gangster and 'tasty geezer' Dave Courteney. The prologue track features more Dave Courteney narration and the closer is a short but sweet bit of gas lit atmospherics that come over like the sound track to a classic hammer horror movie.

However IV are never a band to do things the ordinary way (after all the album comes with a penny dreadful novella) this ep also comes with a pretty impressive bunch of documents that delves a little into the whole Imperial Vengeance and Black Heart Of Empire mythos.

After considering releasing this ep on wax cylinder and shellac disc the band have decided to stick to the normal 'modern' methods of distribution such as digital downloads and compact disc, and thus have decided to charge the princely sum of Twenty Shillings and four pennies to purchase this most worthy of musical edification's. (that £1.00 to us modern types).

Now for a quid you can't go wrong, and I would recommend this to everyone, if they have the album or not.

For fans of... Cradle of Filth, Whitechapel, The More I See, Fornost Arnor.

The Magnificent - 'The Magnificent' (frontiers) 4/5

The Magnificent are a new project out of Scandinavia, formed around the core duo of  Michael Eriksen (Circus Maximus) and Torsti Spoof (Leverage) and this is their debut release.

Now anybody picking this one up expecting Leverage style power metal sensibilities or Circus Maximus style prog metalisms is in for a bit of a shock. This album is full on no holds barred stadium rocking melodic AOR in the style of Asia, Europe, Loverboy, House of Lords et al. and to be honest as far as melodic stadium rock stuff goes it is better than most.

Where this album scores over many of the other melodic stadium rockers is the simple fact The Magnificent has left the rock dial set at a higher level than the cheese dial. OK a lot of the tracks on offer are standard light middleweight radio friendly rockers, but they are still rockers. Even softer tracks like Loves On The Line which in the hands of many could have become fairly forgettable filler tracks of AOR blandness, we still have a cracking driven riff and a nice intense widdled guitar solo to maintain interest.

Then we have the quality of the songsmithing. Tracks like Bullets and Tired Of Dreaming come over with the same vibe as those first three classic Asia albums, even to the extent of invoking the spirit of the legendary John Wetton in both the lyrics on offer and the vocal delivery. (The later of the aforementioned pair even has a Steve Howe style solo). Hey, even the pair of power ballads on offer Angel and Smoke and Fire manages to avoid falling too far into the cheese trap thanks to some inspired arrangements, tasty riffage and solos to die for.

Other highlights include the anthemic Harvest Moon (not the Neil Young track), Satin & Lace with its Vow Wow inspired riffs and neat keys lead solo and the Loverboy-esque Lost.

Over all this album is quite impressive and one that should keep fans of Melodic rock very happy indeed.

For fans of... Asia, Loverboy, Europe, Drive She Said, House Of Lords.