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Various Artists
Nuclear Blast Allstars-Into The Light
July 2007
Released: 2007, Nuclear Blast
Rating: 4.0/5
Reviewer: Mortuai

Back in October 2005, Roadrunner Records celebrated its 25th anniversary with the release of the ROADRUNNER UNITED - THE ALL-STAR SESSIONS album, featuring tracks written and performed by members of various bands who were or who had once been on their label. Now it's 2007 and German-based label Nuclear Blast is celebrating its 20th anniversary in a copycat fashion with the release of the first of two CD's full of songs written and performed entirely by members of bands who are now or once were on the Nuclear Blast roster. Like the Roadrunner release, this isn't just a compilation of cover tunes or individual band tracks from other releases...with two exceptions, this is entirely new material. The songs on this disc were written by victor Smolski, Rage's virtuostic guitarist, and a different lead vocalist was chosen for each track. The final result, INTO THE LIGHT, is exceptionally well-produced and solidly heavy in sound, and while it may not be something which will stand as an all-time high point of the metal genre, for a celebration of a label who's brought us so many great acts over the years, it is absolutely perfect.



What's interesting about the choices of vocalists is how much they affect the style of the song they perform on. Smolski, as you might expect, writes and delivers the music very much in a similar fashion to the ultra-heavy yet incredibly technical power-metal style of Rage, and given that group's penchant for variety of stylistics within their chosen genre, you could easily imagine just about any of the songs on this release appearing on a Rage album. But the individual vocalists lend their own touches to the material so you could...in most cases...also almost imagine their bands performing the same numbers. Opener "Dirty Wings" features vocals by Tobias Sammet and is a cool midtempo melodic-power metal song with a catchy chorus very much in the style of Edguy's more serious moments. Following track "Terrified" was probably the easiest on the album for Smolski to write with an appropriate style, as his bandmate Peter 'Peavy' Wagner is on the microphone. Unsurprisingly, it's very much Rage-like: heavy, fast riffage, complex guitar passages, and blends of aggressive and melodic vocals. It also features a pretty damn cool bass solo partway through. Tony Kakko takes over on "Ruling The World," a faster power metal tune with complex guitar fills and melodic keyboard lines and solos, sounding a bit like a heavier version of Sonata Arctica's more aggressive tracks. Things turn significantly more dramatic and symphonic on Therion/Krux vocalist Mats Leven's contribution "Death Is Alive," then explode into furiously speedy thrashing insanity on "Bloodsucker," appropriate for the participation of Destruction vocalist Marcel 'Schmier' Schirmer.



Blind Guardian / Demons & Wizards vocalist Hansi Kürsch's track "Slaves To The Desert" features a more technical and prog-power edge to the heaviness and is the first of two tracks that has appeared in some fashion before - it was originally a cut on Smolski's former band Mind Odyssey's 1999 album SIGNS. In fact, it's performed almost entirely as a Mind Odyssey track, as Smolski's former bandmates from that group Jan-Michael Keller, Andreas Dirksmeier, and Volker Schultz perform their original instruments on the new recording of this song and Mind Odyssey vocalist Mario LeMole provides backing vocals to Hansi's performance. While the track doesn't sound anything like either Blind Guardian or Demons & Wizards, Hansi's amazingly flexible and emotive voice still fits perfectly with the style. Faster German power metal with melodic interludes is the name of the game for the next song, "A Perfect Day," which features Helloween vocalist Andi Deris, and a moody and introspective prog-power-ballad is delivered on Communic vocalist/guitarist Oddleif Stensland's track, "Eternally." The last two tracks are probably the most interesting pairing as far as potential soap-opera controversy goes..."Inner Sanctuary," an up-tempo, more 'bright'-sounding yet still heavy power metal track featuring Tarot / Nightwish vocalist Marco Hietala...and the other formerly-released tune (also from Mind Odyssey's SIGNS album) "In The Picture," a melodically-accessible midtempo tune featuring former Nightwish vocalist Tarja Turunen. Fortunately, there's no drama involved in their simultaneous presence - both tracks are well-done and focused. Smolski has put together an excellent compilation here...while no song stands out enough to be considered an instant classic, there are absolutely no fillers either. Every track is a solid slab of heavy-toned power metal with great vocal performances all around and unfailing superb musicianship including a heaping helping of Victor's incredibly impressive lead breaks.



The pressing also comes with a bonus sampler CD of tracks from other Nuclear Blast bands, including the relatively rare Helloween track "The Madness Of The Crowds," which was originally a Japanese-only bonus track on the DARK RIDE album. Sometime later this year, a second CD will be released, apparently to be titled OUT OF THE DARK, which will feature another set of new songs with guest vocalists, this time composed by former Soilwork guitarist Peter Wichers. I only hope it's close to as good as this one. Fans of Rage, fans of power metal with serious crunch, and anybody who just wants to raise the horns in a salute to Nuclear Blast's 20th anniversary should definitely give INTO THE LIGHT a try.
Track Listing

1. Dirty Wings
2. Terrified
3. Ruling The World
4. Death Is Alive
5. Bloodsucker
6. Slaves To The Desert
7. A Perfect Day
8. Eternally
9. Inner Sanctuary
10. In The Picture

Bonus CD:

1. Hammerfall - Hearts on Fire
2. Helloween - The Madness Of The Crowds
3. Gotthard - El Traidor
4. After Forever - Sweet Enclosure
5. Ride The Sky - New Protection
6. Thunderstone - Forevermore
7. Threshold - Slipstream
8. Amorphis - The Smoke
9. Candlemass - Devil Seed
10. Sirenia - The Other Side

Lineup

Victor Smolski - Composing, Guitar, Bass, Keyboards
Jan-Michael Keller - Bass
Andreas Dirksmeier - Keyboards
Andre Hilgers - Drums
Volker Schultz - Drums
Mario LeMole - Backing Vocals
Jan Majura - Backing Vocals

Guest Vocalists:

Tobias Sammet
Peavy Wagney
Tony Kakko
Mats Leven
Schmier
Hansi Kürsch
Andi Deris
Oddleif Stensland
Marco Hietala
Tarja Turunen

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