Hellish screams thunder from the ground as guitar lines from fly through the air at lightning speed and amid the chaos, Mr. Dave Cardwell of Raise the Shield exclaims: "Twenty years and life's a cliche; / and ever faster, they're passing away." Fortunately for Mr. Cardwell there is nothing clicheic about his THIRD brilliant release in about as many months, Release Yourself. This is, again, high-voltage power-tinged thrash metal of superb and almost unsurpassable quality. The riffs are as bone-shattering as Exodus, coupled with same melodic intensity of the 80s glam greats such as WASP or Motley Crue. Catchy as all hell choruses with like Helloween did back in their day will be bounding around your brain for days to come as will the ferocious Paul Gilbert (Racer X) styled fingerwork that licks at every spare note throughout. Oh, and that's just the stunning opener, End in Violence.
If you can refrain from repeating this stellar opener, it leads on to the self-titled pearler, Release Yourself. A defiant shout of "Oh Yeah!" leads this raucous and rebellious number with a great back beat that reminds one of old school punk - not that bullshit you hear on MTV these days, but the greats - Rancid, Black Flag, Danzig. Deliciously polished off with a blistering twin guitar attack in the greatest traditions of Judas Priest or Helloween, it'lll leave even the most advanced and cynical fretheads breathless. Kiss Your Ass Goodbye is the curious lovechild of Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) and James Hetfield (Metallica), the vocals leaning towards the latter, the riffery carried by the former with a creamy, flurorescent solo to blend it all together. Storm does as it's name hints, lumbering into your speakers like an old Testament track, with a forboding, old school death metal vibe running thick and unrepentantly through.
Then, the gentle strains of an acoustically driven ballad (Sadness in our Hearts) fill the room. My heart stops; do my ears decieve me? Has Mr. Cardwell, thrash rocker with steel flowing through his veins, softened on me? Luckily, he handles his first mushfest admirably, much like in the same way Zakk Wylde can sing about kittens and still maintain his macho persona at the same time. The crunch paired with his melancholic and sincere vocals march along with a reverential pace until a Pantera like riff gathers around towards the end of the song, it's endearment heightened and sculpted into an indictment to all the failed balladeers that have come before him.
Watcher is a bit more European in flavor taking the best of their power and thrash style and raising an American flag on top of it all, with shades of Iced Earth creeping through. Free is another one of my personal favorites, endearingly nihlistic in tone, it just drips of that decadence and indulgence of the L.A. hard rock scene - Dokken, Quiet Riot, Skid Row all inspirations for this deliciously self-destructive and satisfying song. He ends the CD with another balladic song, showcasing his instrumental talents with some truly sensational fingerwork highlighting this personal and tender track, his vocals as crisp and cold as the slowly decending winters' Snow.
I've always theorized there's three types of metal guitar players. All of them upon hearing the solo in Metallica's magnum opus One they either; lock their guitars in a cupboard for all eternity; attempt to practise until their fingers bleed to match the dexterity of Kirk Hammet; or in Mr. Cardwell's case, get so good you can top it with your own personal finish. This is a talent heinously ignored by major record labels, and to their detriment. He handles the production to a near-professional level which is simply astounding, considering he composes, performs all instruments and finances these records by himself. If you like heavy metal from the 80s and 90s concieved with a real love for the music with an intelligent and creative spin, buy this CD. The killer chops and uncompromising riffs contained within his three releases should be setting the metal scene ablaze, but unfortunately has yet to make a spark - but one day soon, it definitely will.
My only criticism? It's too short! I just cannot get enough of this brilliant music - get up and bang your head! Release Yourself from tired, navel-gazing mediocrity - this is the real deal!
Rating: 9 / 10
Standout Tracks: All
02/09/2007 Eyeless Sentry