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Pretty Maids - 'It Comes Alive' (Frontiers) 4.5/5

Now there are a couple of odd facts about Danish melodic metal merchants Pretty Maids. Firstly, despite twelve critically acclaimed albums and lord knows how many singles and eps; and being almost household names in their native Denmark, they have never achieved much success beyond their home boarders, with the possible exceptions of Japan and parts of Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Secondly unlike many other acts, they have never issued a live album... until now (ok there were two live archive compilation releases but they don't really count as true live albums).

Now as I have said before in this blog, live albums are a bit like a certain yeast based spread, you either love the raw in your face sound and raw live on stage attitude and atmosphere, or you see them as an excuse to fob fans off with rehashes of old material. Now I am firmly in the former camp, I love live albums and I gotta say this one is pretty damn good.

Recorded in Switzerland on the bands recent Pandemonium tour, this 21 tracker is a great cross section of Pretty Maids impressive career. It blends some of their more recent material such as Wake Up To The Real World and Pandemonium with a shed load of the bands old faves such as Future World, Love Games and Hell On High Heals. In fact, if  you have yet to experience the wonderful worlds of Pretty Maids, then this album is a damn good place to start to get to know them better.

The performances from the band are first rate, and the response of the crowd is equally enthusiastic and infectious as the assembled faithful scream the hooks and chant along at every opportunity. All good stuff, well nearly, there is a rather tedious and over long version of Please Don't Leave Me, a big rawkin' power ballad, and a track I have never really liked, but thankfully its followed immediately but a storming ten minute version of the bands classic anthem Red Hot And Heavy that ends the album in fine style.

In short this is over all a great record and Pretty Maids fans will love it up, and those who are Pretty Maid curious will find this one a good starting place


For fans of .. Royal Hunt, Vow Wow, Primal Fear, Gamma Ray etc....

Lay Down Rotten - 'Mask Of Malice' (metalblade) 3.75/5

This is release number eight from German death thrashers Lay Down Rotten and the first to feature guitarist Daniel Seifert who has recently joined as a replacement for founder member Daniel Jakobi, who laid down his axe at the tail end of last year due to personal commitments.

Now on first listen I gotta say this one is pretty enjoyable if not groundbreaking. There are ten cuts on offer, all nice and well delivered slices of fairly typical Teutonic death bludgeon; you get the growled vocals, the death and the devil lyrics, riffs that switch frequently between 100mph speed blur and slow and menacing smash and grind, some nice little interludes where monks chant, latin is spoken and people give confession... If you know your death trash you will already know exactly what to expect.

So no marks for originality, but I will give these guys their due and say this is still an enjoyable and very listenable album, and I will give special praise to the aforementioned Herr Seifert and his oppo Nils Forster for some fairly impressive guitar work, both on the riffing and the lead, the slow and plaintiff lead on The Devil Grins is especially noteworthy

Other highlights include the dark and devilish The Serpenta Canta, the pound and grind of Swallow The Bitterness and the opening thrash out of Death Chain.

All in all, although this album is a bit formulaic it is not without merit.

Worth checking out.

For Fans of... Exumer, Charred Walls Of The Damned, Slayer, Testament....