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Dakesis - "Trail By Fire" (CapsAArx) 4/5

Birmingham in the UK has in recent years styled itself as 'The Home Of Metal', and whilst there is a certain amount of tourist trappage in the whole claim and the new museum they have set up there, it cannot be denied that the West Midlands has had a very important role to play in the development of hard rock in the UK and beyond, and the area is still turning out some pretty impressive stuff, in recent months we've had cracking albums from Zombie Xtras and Bide Your Time, and now we have the debut release from power metal outfit Dakesis to add to the mix.

Now this lot have been around for a few years now and have previously issued an eponymous ep, before hitting us with this their first full lenght album. Now I showed this one to a friend the other day, who proclaimed that the album cover was 'a bit iffy' and therefore they had little interest in the music on the disc. Well after I had slapped him around a bit I pointed out that; a) there are far worse album covers out there than this one, and b) the quality of an albums cover is no reflection on the quality of the music there in. (Just look at the cover to the old Battleaxe album 'Burn This Town' for example, then play the record!)

Leaving the album art aside, the music on offer here is pretty damn cool. Dakesis are a five piece with both male and female lead vocals, and they know how to smith a good song. Just take Liar for example; here is a song that reminds me a little of NWOBHM supergroup Tytan with a touch or two of Diamond Head thrown into the mix and a classic Judas Priest style guitar duel section to cap it all off. Great stuff indeed. There are other influences on show here as well; After The Storm has a touch of the big epic operatic style euro-metal about it, think Nightwish, Within Temptation, Nemesea etc and you'll get the idea. Then in other places, such as on the track Valhalla Dakesis are heading off into the power-metal territory of the likes of In Solitude, Royal Hunt, Dignity etc. The up shot of all this is that 'Trial By Fire' is a good and varied album that keeps the interest up from beginning to end.

The musicianship is first rate, both male and female vocals sound clear and natural, the guitars are the stuff of axe heroics, the rhythm section is a driven powerhouse and the keys give the whole thing a nice smooth polish that finishes off the whole sound to perfection. OK I will say the production here is a little flat and lacking in sparkle, but this is a low budget album from a new up and coming band, and that can be forgiven. I'm sure this will be an album that opens a fair few doors for this lot and I'm sure we will be hearing a lot more from Dakesis in years to come.


For fans of... Nemesea, In Solitude, Tytan, Diamond Head, Royal Hunt, Kivimetsan Druidi....

Vantage Point - "Tomb of The Eagles" (Power Point) 4.5/5

Edinburgh outfit Vantage Point are not a band that's a household name, if fact outside their native Scotland they are almost unknown, and that's a shame, cos they really are a gem of an outfit with a lot to offer, and with this their second album, they really laying out a stall full of goodies that could well move them on from being local heroes into an act the whole of the UK and beyond should take notice of.

From the off, lets be perfectly clear, Vantage Point play metal, heavy metal. We are talking no bullshit, devil horns in the air, bang your head til your carpets full of dandruff, air guitar a-go-go, whiplash inducing MMEETAALLL of the old school. the sort of metal that dates from about 1983, late NWOBHM, pre-thrash sort of stuff. If your familier with the early work of say Saxon, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Weapon, Nightwing, Toyko Blade, Persian Risk etc you'll know exactly what I'm on about. Nothing too heavy by todays standards, but nice driven crunchy controlled riffage, howling guitar solos, air punching anthemic choruses, pounding drum beats and the rest. In short the sort of stuff I fell in love with back in 1980, and has been my musical true love ever since. (OK I've had affairs with prog rock, punk, goth, thrash, doom, hardcore and even jazz and ska over the years, but its still old school metal that really floats my boat.)

There are 14 tracks on offer here, and every one is a bit of a belter. I'm not gonna give a track by track guide, I believe in letting you check things out for yourselves, but I will give you a few personal highlights. We have the epic title track Tomb of The Eagles, which sounds a bit like Toyko Blade jamming with Heavy Pettin' and features some wonderful off metre vocals and a solo to die for; then there's High Plains Drifter, with a riff that hat tips Angelwitch and lyrics that praise a certain Mr Eastwood, (the greatest cowboy of all). Obedience School (the current single) is a classic slice of down and dirty sleaze metal that wouldn't sound out of place on Girl's 'Sheer Greed' album; and then there's my favourate cut on offer Global Delay with is post Kashmir verse riff, Nightime Flyer style chorus and mindblowing shred and widdle solo. All very good stuff indeed!!

Now I don't for a minute think this album will make Vantage Point interational metal super stars. It sounds far to retro for that, but with a renewed interest in the roots of metal and the NWOBHM in particular I can see it making them cult legends of the underground and winning them friends and admirers far beyond their native Scotland.

Well worth a look or three

For fans of... Marsellie, Tygers Of Pan Tang, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Witchfynde, Witchfinder General, Heavy Pettin'.... etc

Awake - "Forever More" (Lion music) 4.5/5

It's been four years since Cambridge prog/melodic metal outfit Awake last hit us with an album, and there has been a lot happening since. Line up changes, tours with the likes of Magnum and Everygrey, live BBC sessions and a number of praise winning festival appearances, but now at last we have the new studio album in the form of "Forever More".

And what a corker it is. Right from the off it's easy to see that this release is a more complete and rounded offering than it's predecessor, 2007's "Illumination",  The over all sound is more polished, the new guitar paring of brothers Andrew and Steve Coles bring a new heavier and more purposeful diamention to the sound, Keys player Craig Burkitt, who I felt was a bit of a spare wheel on "Illumination", seams to have found a place in the band at last and adds more to the over all sound than just a vague synth wash. Even vocalist Simon Shedwell sounds more at home here than on previous releases, his voice seams less edgy and somewhat smoother over all, and it fits into the Awake sound all the better for it.

There are 12 tracks on offer here, all pretty damn impressive. If you've not encountered the band before, imagine if you can a sort of subtle blend of Royal Hunt, Iron Maiden, Marillion (Fish era), Magnum and perhaps classic Queensryche, all rolled around a core of Judas Priest and seasoned with hints of Rush and Fates Warning. We get cuts like the beautifully realised, almost balladic Closing The Door, the vast and epic power rock of the closing title track, the driving prog metal of Bleed From You and the anthemic Drift Away; all of which go to show what a superbl;y talented and wonderfully diverse outfit Awake really are.

Highlights? well, Mr Shadwells vocals on the intro to One Wish are spine tingling, the guitar work and riffage on Out Of Control is to die for and then there is my favourate cut on the album King, with is sweet piano intro, Wishbone Ash style twin guitar lines and sadly plaintif vocals, a real shiver maker if ever there was.

Over all this is a great record, it shows that Awake are a band who are on the up and rightly deserve a place at the top table of British metal. Highly recommended.

For fans of... Iron Maiden, Royal Hunt, Evergrey, Dignity, Charred Walls of the Damned....

Bi-Polar Sluts - "Out-4-Dinner" (New Model Label) 5/5

There has been a lot of good stuff coming out of Italy of late and now we have the latest offering in the form of Parma based hard rockers Bi-Polar Sluts, with this rather impressive debut offering.

Drawing its starting point from the likes of AC/DC, Guns And Roses, Moltey Crue this album of 14 tracks (well 12 plus a short intro and outro) has to be perhaps the best platter of hard and heavy balls out rock and roll Italy has produced since their label mates Speedjackers gave us the impressive 'Favourite Sons' opus a year or so back.  There are no pretentions here, just great rock and roll, cuts like Aperiti've, Keep Screaming and Never Trust A Woman just steam roller from the speakers and set your motor neurones slam dancing around your cranium.

Vocalist Mike Molinari has a remarkable voice, sounding like Bon Scott, Axle Rose and Brett Michaels rolled into one, he can carry a tune perfectly and yell and growl with the best of em. Then we have the twin guitar attack of Guix Morini and Federico Arcuri; here are two guys who are masters of their craft, swapping riffs like the good 'uns they are and covering all bases from the Sweet Child Of Mine style chiming riffs on Something To Kill The Pain and the pseudo classical acoustic approach to Sammy's Backyard, to the balls to the wall drive and crunch of Treat You Bad, all taken in their pretty musical stride. Add in the ducks buttocks tight rythym section of Joe Forlini and Paulo Casali (the latter formerly with Italian hardcore legends Raw Power) and you have a band who can be described as truly great performing an album to match.

Highlights? well this album is really one long highlight, but if I had to pick a fave moment or two it would be the impressive single Keep Screaming, the low down and sleazy Vodka and Lime and the high octaine rock out of Listen To Me.

In short this is one damn fine album and one that will go a long way to putting both Bi-Polar Sluts and Italian rock in general firmly on the world music map.

For fans of... Speedjackers, Guns and Roses, Poison, AC/DC, Black Veil Brides.....