Finland’s Gandalf finally return with ROCK HELL, a death-rock masterpiece of unholy proportions. I loved Gandalf’s first full-length, DEADLY FAIRYTALES, but after several listens I believe this one outdoes its predecessor.
The band has grown musically since their last album and that is a good thing because DEADLY FAIRYTALES was released in Europe in 1998! Since then the band has also had some slight line-up changes. The end result is a more grooving HEAVY album that I found myself really getting into after only a few listens. The music is not only “groove” but has plenty of melody, especially in the guitar department and on solos like on the track “Geysir.” Most songs on here are not all fast but are more mid-tempo and grooving. “Nightderanger” is an exception; this one has some pretty fast parts. The vocals are pretty much in line with what was offered on the last CD. The addition of some clean vocals (primarily as back-ups) really, really adds to their sound. I’d like to see even more of this mixed in, but it’s a start. The lead vocals are abrasive a la In Flames, but the comparison to that band ENDS THERE!!!!! The bands that I hear which have impacted Gandalf include AC/DC, Entombed and At The Gates. This album is one of those rare ones that manages to “rock” yet still be quite heavy. The album begins with three songs that are so damn catchy I want to almost put just those three on repeat for an entire day. The opening track is “L8X Queen” which beings with a riff that has a big time AC/DC feel. Imagine the intro to “Let There Be Rock”, only played a lot faster. Up second is “One More For The Dead” which has an amazing groove and grasping chorus that you can’t help but bounce your head along to. Third is “Morning Sun” which is currently my favorite track on the CD. The backing vocals on this one fit so damn well; I can’t get this one out of my skull! “Live To Suffer” is an example of a song that sounds like a cross between Sentenced and AC/DC. Some of the verses are sung in a more “cleaner” voice. I think it would have been fitting if this one were sung clearly. Sometimes the “sore throat” vocals (for lack of a better adjective) are not suited to the music – despite how awesome of a “sore throat” vocalist Jari Hurskainen has!! For the most part though, they fit perfectly. It’s only in a few places like this that adding another dimension to his vocals could of really helped the song.
Back in a 1999 interview with Nalle “-sterman, Gandalf’s drummer, he ended the interview with the closing words “Remember… Gandalf will ROCK HELL!” These words are the truth and never a more fitting name to describe the feeling of the music has been used. So crank this one up when you get to hell!!!!!!!!
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