Lillian Axe – Love + War reissue (1989/2007)

Lillian Axe - Love + War (1989)

Lillian Axe – Love + War (1989/2007 reissue, Metal Mind)

  1. All’s Fair In Love And War
  2. She Likes It On Top
  3. Diana
  4. Down On You
  5. The World Stopped Turning
  6. Ghost Of Winter
  7. My Number
  8. Show A Little Love
  9. Fool’s Paradise
  10. Letters In The Rain

Band Lineup:
Ron Taylor – Lead Vocals
Stevie Blaze – Lead Guitar, Background Vocals
Jon Ster – Rhythm Guitar, Keyboards & Background Vocals
Rob Stratton – Bass, Background Vocals
Danny King – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Michael Berlan – Keyboards

Producer: Tony Platt

Total Time – 47:46

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Metal Mind Productions

The Music
Building on what was a strong debut, Lillian Axe comes roaring back with LOVE + WAR in 1989, an album that is heavy but seems to be a little more mature in the songwriting department and better as musicians. Things are a bit more streamlined and radio friendly on this album whereas the debut was a little more raw.

‘All’s Fair In Love And War’ is symbolic of the late ’80s as it’s a little silly lyrically today but it worked for the time. It’s a rockin’ tune, definitely one of the heavier songs on the album. Really good harmonies and solid guitar by Blaze, Ron Taylor’s vocals have that gritty grime that makes it sleazy. Things get a little poppy with ‘She Likes It On Top’. What a title! It’s a catchy song but it sounds like a mix of bad Poison and Autograph circa THAT’S THE STUFF (1985). The keyboards distract me a little.

Listening to ‘Diana’ reminds me of my senior year of high school. This was the ballad that got many spins when everyone hung out in the parking lots, usually played when the girls came by. Definitely an underrated ballad and better than some that were big on the radio at the time. The keyboards distract me again when I listen to ‘Down On You’ but it’s still a decent Hard Rock tune. ‘The World Stopped Turning’ is slow and heavy with another strong performance from both Taylor and Blaze and the keyboards being in check. ‘Ghost Of Winter’ keeps things heavy even though it’s a ballad, it’s very similar to the previous song but with a bit more keyboard.

‘My Number’ is sleazy Hard Rock with a cool riff but annoying gang vocals. ‘Show A Little Love’ was the first single and video and it’s my favorite of the album. I always thought this song sounded like Hurricane for some reason. Anyway, I always liked this song, definitely another underrated Hard Rock classic. I’m surprised this single didn’t do more for the band. ‘Fool’s Paradise’ is another great song that would have translated well to Rock radio, lots of guitar and hooky chorus. I like the drum and guitar intro to ‘Letters In The Rain’, the song is an undiscovered Metal gem. This is the direction the band should have stayed on with two guitars and less keyboards, stay heavy and not try to pander to the MTV/Pop audience.

The Package:
Like the other reissues from Metal Mind, each reissue is limited to 2000 copies (mine is #1232). Full-color digipak and color booklet with additional liner notes. The music is remastered using 24-bit technology on a gold disc.

Bottom Line:
LOVE + WAR is a solid album that got a lot of airplay back in ’89 and it seems to be one of those lost classics now, kind of like the band itself. I hadn’t listened to this CD in a long time (I own the original MCA release) and I was surprised that I remembered all the words and the solos! What bothers me is the keyboards, they are a little annoying on some songs and they make them sound too pop-ish. It’s a small complaint because I’m hearing it with fresh ears and heavier tastes. Favorite songs: ‘Show A Little Love’, ‘Letters In The Rain’, ‘Fool’s Paradise’, ‘Diana’, ‘All’s Fair In Love And War’.

Primal Fear – New Religion (2007)

Primal Fear - New Religion (2007)

Primal Fear – New Religion (2007, Frontiers Records)

  1. Sign Of Fear
  2. Face The Emptiness
  3. Everytime It Rains
  4. New Religion
  5. Fighting The Darkness
  6. The Darkness
  7. Reprise
  8. Blood On Your Hands
  9. The Curse Of Sharon
  10. Too Much Time
  11. Psycho
  12. World On Fire
  13. The Man (That I Don’t Know)
  14. Fighting The Darkness* (videoclip)
  15. Sign Of Fear* (videoclip)

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Band Lineup:
Ralf Scheepers – Lead Vocals
Mat Sinner – Bass, Orchestra Arrangements, & Vocals
Stefan Liebig – Guitars
Henny Wolter – Guitars
Randy Black – Drums

Guest Musicians:
Simone Simons – Vocals
Matz Ulmer – Keyboards, Orchestra Arrangements
Magnus Karlsson – Guitars
Tobias Lundgren – Backing Vocals
Ronny Millianowicz – Loops & Support

Producer: Mat Sinner

Total Time – 53:53

Primal Fear official website
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If you’ve read this blog over the last couple of years, then you’ll know I’m a big Power Metal guy. There are many really great bands out there carrying the torch for Power Metal like Hammerfall, Gamma Ray, and Primal Fear. In 1998, I picked up the debut and loved it because it sounded so close to Judas Priest thanks to Ralf Scheepers’ almost clone-like imitation of the Metal God himself, Rob Halford. I say it everytime I write anything on Primal Fear: “How did Ralf Scheepers NOT get the Judas Priest job?”. Sure he sounds almost exactly like Halford but is that a bad thing? That just means Scheepers is one of the best singers in Metal. What I like most about the band’s performance on NEW RELIGION is that they are starting to diversify their sound with more melody, orchestral arrangements, and keyboards while retaining their Power Metal roots.

‘Sign Of Fear’ starts the record off with a Metal feast that sounds like it came from Judas Priest. Ralf sounds like classic Halford almost exactly but that’s still a good thing, he hits all the highs with relative ease and brings the vocals down for the chorus. The guitars blaze and Randy Black pounds the kit. The start of the new sound is evident on ‘Face The Emptiness’ with the orchestral/symphonic music supplementing the band. Again, is it Halford on the mic? It’s eerie that there is such an exact sound. The song is fast and is very heavy but it sounds richer, fuller.

Simone Simons (Epica) guests on lead vocals with Scheepers on ‘Everytime It Rains’, a heavy ballad full of keyboards and symphonics. The band is experimenting with a sound that is popular right now with bands like After Forever and Lacuna Coil but it’s not Primal Fear’s core sound, that’s why it works. Probably my favorite of the album. ‘New Religion’ kicks things into high gear again with simple main riff and straight forward approach. The harmonies and melody in the chorus are really good and the solos are on fire.

‘Fighting The Darkness’, ‘The Darkness’, and ‘Reprise’ are three songs blended into one epic piece that really encompasses everything the band is trying to accomplish on this record. Speed, melody, keyboards, orchestras, harmonies, great guitar solos, and superb powerful vocals. This is the masterpiece of the album without a doubt, this is the sound that will make Primal Fear the Power Metal leader now and in the future. The blending of styles, speed, and sound is just superb and makes the song sound grand and majestic. Another favorite of mine.

‘Blood On Your Hands’ picks the pace up again and seems similar to ‘Sign Of Fear’. Scheepers sounds different while employing a grittier vocal, less highs up front but you can hear them in the background. ‘The Curse Of Sharon’ surprised me a little bit because it sounds very melodic but still very heavy. I think the title threw me off a little because I expected a faster song. It’s actually an uptempo track with a break in the middle that slows things down for a minute and builds back up. Another grittier vocal staying away from the Halford-isms and another favorite of mine.

Back to the basics for ‘Too Much Time’, the band goes back to the tried and true Power Metal form with a chugging main guitar and soaring vocals. A big riff and ballsy bass line opens ‘Psycho’ and this song just crushes! ‘Psycho’ isn’t as fast as some of the other songs but it has that Heavy Metal crunch and a thick solo. Things pick up again with ‘World On Fire’ as the drums really drive the song and the keyboards supplement the sound. ‘The Man (That I Don’t Know)’ is ballad number two and it’s probably the weakest song for me on the album. There are keyboards and the orchestra supplementing the overall sound but it sounds to overblown come the chorus. This is also the best Halford that Scheepers can do. I think it’s just out of place ending the album and it’s a notch below ‘Fighting The Darkness’ and ‘Everytime It Rains’. I do like the guitars at the end, very nice.

Bottom Line:
The comparisons to Judas Priest will always be there but Primal Fear is experimenting and adding to their overall sound, giving them more separation. There is enough traditional Power Metal for the purists and enough symphonic/orchestral numbers to enhance the sound. I think Primal Fear has taken the lead in the Power Metal race from Hammerfall and has shown that there is room to grow and explore in this well defined genre. Favorite songs here: ‘Everytime It Rains’, ‘Fighting The Darkness’ trilogy, ‘The Curse Of Sharon’, and ‘Sign Of Fear’. I like the whole album, even ‘The Man (That I Don’t Know)’, there isn’t a bad song here.

NEW RELIGION made my Top 15 Albums of 2007, coming in at #6.