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Heart of Steel
Released: 2000, Shark Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
At Vance. Dippy name. The band’s web site, listed on the back of the CD, ends in “.de” and three of the members have umlauts in their names. The cover shows a buzz saw cutting out a heart-shaped hole in a wall of rusty metal plates. German power metal! Gee – ya think? This CD will win absolutely no converts outside of power metal junkies – it was probably never designed to – but said junkies will have a hell of a lot of fun listening to this album.
Now that most of you who aren’t into power metal have stopped reading, I can let my hair down about this release. It’s actually quite good. Well-played, competently produced, and vocalist Oliver Hartmann, while not a lungbuster in the sense of either power or range, is more than adequate to support this band of absolute, literal power metal traditionalists. Even the convention of a long, melodic intro (this one featuring a Spanish-style guitar) is observed, before the first track, “Soldier of Time,” kicks off the festivities. Does it have crisp, clean guitars? You bet. Does it have double-bass drumming? Yes, and how! Do their lyrics deal with swords, battles, victory, and how great metal is? What, are you kidding? Do Germans love David Hasselhoff? (OK, that was a cheap shot). At Vance views the fact of being a power metal band as a contract with the listener to be fulfilled, and every term is meticulously observed. Conservative metalheads who appreciate the old Helloween-type sound will find instant and probably lasting satisfaction with At Vance. While it is on the lighter side of the power metal spectrum, its reasonably consistent speed and energy manage to make up for the occasional thinness of the guitars. Don’t worry about it.
Heart of Steel is not so traditional that there aren’t any surprises, however. Click over to Track 5. You won’t believe your ears. Dammit, what is that? It sounds so familiar. No, wait…it’s…ABBA! Amazingly enough, At Vance has the cajones (I don’t know the German word for “balls”) to cover “S.O.S.” by one of the poppiest pop bands of all time. More amazingly still, At Vance does an excellent job. “S.O.S.” is one of the highlights of the album, a power metal anthem to stand with the best of them. Who’da thunk?
This CD is all about expectations. If you have the right ones, you’ll be all over this. If you expect something truly innovative that pushes the boundaries of power metal where no German has gone before, you’ll be disappointed. Nonetheless, I found Heart of Steel a rollicking good time. And it somehow got those old ABBA tapes out of the shoe box at the back of the closet….
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