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Dario Mollo Tony Martin - 'The Third Cage' (frontiers) 4.5/5

Ooo this is a good un. This is the third studio opus from sometime metal supergroup Mollo / Martin. Formed around the core duo of ex-Crossbones axpert Dario Mollo and former Black Sabbath and Forcefield vocalist Tony Martin, and also featuring some of the great and the good from the Italian metal scene such as ex Voodoo Hill drummer Roberto Gualdi and former Crossbones bassist Fulvio Gaslini, Mollo/Martin play good old school hard rocking metal in the style of Rainbow, late era Sabbath etc. And they do it very very well indeed.

I've always had a great admiration for Tony Martin as a vocalist, and its a particular bug-bear of mine that those great albums he did with Sabbath, such as Headless Cross and the magnificent Tyr are not hailed as the classics that they undoubtedly are, and are dismissed by the philistines as inferior to the product of the Ozzy and Dio era's. Still he has a great and distinctive voice, sounding like a mix between Dio and Maybe Graham Bonnet and boy can the guy belt em out, Just listen to the cut Still In Love With You (no NOT the Lizzy track of the same name) or the albums opener Wicked World and you will hear storming performances by one of the best rock vocalists of the past 30 years.

As for Mr Mollo; well I will admit I'm not all that familiar with his stuff, having not heard the past two Mollo / Martin albums and only having heard a few odd Crossfire tracks over the years. However I will say his playing on this one is impressive to say the very least. When he is riff riding he can churn them out along with the very best riff merchants of times gone by (Iommi, Brock, Tipton etc) and when he is playing his freak out lead work he has a touch of the Richie Blackmores or the Michael Schenkers about him, and thats a sure way to get this old metalhead sit up and take notice!!

However you need more than great guitar work and amazing vocals to make a good album, you need the songs as well. And thankfully I can say that 'The Third Cage' has great songs in abundance. To pick a few at random you have Wardance, a cut that wouldn't sound of of place on a classic Rainbow album such as Straight Between The Eyes, and then there's Blind Fury and Cirque Du Freak (the later being my fave cut on offer here) which revives memories of Tony Martins time in Sabbath.

OK I'll admit the sound here is rooted firmly in the 1980's, but hell there was a lot of great stuff around back then and in a musical world awash with endless formulaic metalcore wannabes and angry young thrash revivalists, a bit of expertly performed and produced old school metal makes for a welcome change once in a while.

This really is a good record, older metalheads and hard rockers will lap it up, and I recently played this to my 13 year old nephew who has just discovered the world of rock and metal, and he was raving about it, so I can see some of the more open minded younger crew getting into this as well.

Well worth a listen or six.

For fans of... Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Michael Schenker Group, UFO, Crossbones etc....

Beyond The Bridge - 'The Old Man & The Spirit' (Frontiers) 5/5

Ah the new year is here, and first releases of the year are beginning to fill my inbox. Now I do like this time, the months of Jan and Feb are when many labels release their new signings, and I just get such a buzz from hearing new bands.

So first up we have this, the debut album from Frankfurt outfit Beyond The Bridge. Now the germ of this project first formed apparently some 13 years ago as a high school band under the name Fallout. They were regulars on the local circuit for a couple of years, then as is the way of many school bands, adult life and university called and the band fell apart. However guitarist Peter Degenfeld-Schonburg had a plan, a 'meisterwerk' of a vast concept opus he had been working on with his old friend and keyboardist Christopher Tarnow. So by late 2005 with university nearly finished Peter decided it was time to get the band back together. With some old Fallout personnel returning and some new faces joining in a new band slowly came together under the name Beyond The Bridge and work on the album 'The Old Man & The Spirit' started.

Now in 2012 after much hard work, fitting in around other musical 'jobs' (all members of this band are professional musicians - playing sessions or working in other outfits), the album is out, and bloody hell, its a cracker.

The Old Man & The Spirit is a work that manages to sit perfectly between the worlds of classic heavy metal and old school prog rock. The concept here is a simple, yet engaging tale of an old man facing death and the dilemmas and memories that are running through his mind. It is a tale told simply, clearly yet with purpose and passion and delivered with a superbly polished and meaningful musicality tht is so often sadly lacking these days.

From the opening cut of The Call with its almost Diamond Head influenced metal riffage and Eloy style mellower moments, to the closer of All A Man Can Do (a true epic of a shade under ten minutes duration) not only is there not a weak moment on offer, but the whole album is constantly sending shivers up my spine, and in my book that is the mark of something very special indeed.

The musicianship here is flawless, every member of this seven piece outfit plays their role to perfection, but I must give special praise to the two vocalists; Herbie Langhans for delivering the male vocals with power and clarity that reminds me of former Diamond Head vocalist Sean Harris and especially female vocalist Dilenya Mar- whose powerful jazzy almost Janice Joplin style delivery is a breath of fresh air in a time when most metal devas are doing the operatic style stuff.

As this is a concept album, and such a smooth flowing one at that, it would be wrong to single individual tracks out for praise, after all, this is a work that should be listened to in one go to get the full effect. But personal highlights of mine include Doorway To Salvation, a prog-metal classic that sounds like Dream Theater stripped of the 'head up the backside' self indulgence; the shiver inducing prog-tastic The Difference is Human where Dilenya Mars vocals are given a full run out and my personal fave, the almost balladic World Of Wonders which makes you want to wave a lighter in the air without the slightest hint of irony.

The bottom line line is this is a great album, and should become seen in future times as one of the true classics, and it should be in the collection of ever discerning progger and metalhead.


For fans of... Opeth, Martyr, Within Temptation, Royal Hunt, Diamond Head, Darkesis etc....