Released: 2002, AFM
POWERMETAL!!! And not that wimpy, fluffy, speedy stuff from Germany…oh wait…Squealer is from Germany too… Seriously. Whatever you call it, Squealer kicks ass! Another triumphant for the excellent label AFM, (Edguy, Tarantula) and fortunately many of these acts are becoming available for the first time in North America thanks to The End Records. Don’t confuse this band with the vastly inferior (in my opinion) Squealer from France…
Album number six from these stalwarts, UNDER THE CROSS is certainly heavier darker and slower than many of the Helloween, Blind Guardian style acts active today. I group them in my mind with other acts like Eidolon, Angel Dust, Jag Panzer, Imagika and so on. They are heavy, but not thrash… and as my colleague Martin Popoff once remarked, “crunchy and in the pocket”.
The vocalist, Henner sounds a bit like Rock ‘n’ Rolf and at times a touch of UDO, which to these metal ears is a good thing! He has growl and power but keeps his vocals out of the stratosphere. The style suits the music very well. He has quite a nice cleaner style of intonation as well as evidenced on the semi-ballad “Fade Away”. It is almost a deep timbre like the dude from Moonspell. Another component I really like about the vocals was the use of big sing along back up vocals. At times it sounds almost out of place, like they belong on a Bon Jovi album, but not quite… somehow it works, especially on the track “Out of The Dark” which is really infectious. “Rules of Life” is a classic and timeless power ballad with powerful chorus and acoustic verses. The last track “In Zaire” is weird…almost out of place, a marching anthem, a very simplistic song but the again there are those cool backing vocals and some African sound effects! I think it is a cover tune but I have no idea who did the original.
The fast songs really drive along, reminding me at times of Metalium, and…oh look, Mike Terrana is in Squealer too! Terrana is racing Fischer and Banali to see who can play in the most bands. The drumming is magnificent. Everything about this release is high quality and the people surrounding the band are some of the best, for example Andy Sneap and Tommy Newton. This is rapidly becoming one of favorites of the year because the songs are so strong and well written. UNDER THE CROSS has depth, clarity, power and originality. A highly recommended buy!