Tuesday, December 29, 2009

X-Wild - Monster Effect (1994)

It may not seem like much time had passed before X-Wild were already into their sophomore effort, but it arrived late in December whereas So What! (likely a collection of older songs) dropped in February 1994, so there is enough distance here to recognize the upgrade in quality that this album conveys. The title is a little better, the songs are a little better in general, and the album has a more cohesive, consistent atmosphere that dominates the occasionally scatter-shot debut. This is pretty good, although the Running Wild comparison is still very obvious, and it is best remembered as a 'prequel' to the later Savageland.

The line-up is identical to the debut, and there is a more mature, airy vibe to the recording which makes it quite the class act as far as derivative German power metal. "Wild Knight" (named in part for Frank, I'm sure) begins the festivities with a great, atmospheric intro, melodic leads resounding deep within, before a very Kasparek charging rhythm. "Souls of Sin" has a dash of Maiden and a pretty straightforward, catchy verse where Knight really lets his vocals wander. Good stuff. "Theatre of Blood" may sound like an outtake from Death or Glory, but it's quite good regardless, one of the tracks that best evokes the windy, glorious feel of the record, with an excellent maritime melody at around :50, and great vocals. "Heads Held High" should be titled "Cocks Held High", because it rocks out with that proverbial member flapping in the wind like a bold Teutonic flag. "Dr. Sardonicus" is no "Dr. Stein", but it has a catchy, slow pace which is quite mighty in delivery. "Sinners are Winners" is back in Running Wild's 1989-90 territory, a scorcher with a nice piratic flair to the riffs.

The arrogant muther
Kicked dirt in the face
Sweetened his deals
Mixed with arsenic and lace

The title track commences the latter half of this slab, a fairly written mid paced classic power metal anthem with good vocals and atmosphere. I love the rather Saxon feel to the riff after 1:00. "Serpents Kiss" is another biker-style rocker akin to Running Wild's "Raw Ride", or a good number of Accept tracks. "Sons of Darkness" has a nice intro, with light bass and guitar melody, then a meaty rhythm which the band will also perfect on their 3rd album. "D.Y.T.W.A.C" seems a rather roundabout way to exclaim the song's chorus, 'Do You Think We Are Crazy?', an almost doom-like groove with a nice bridge and lead segment. The album ends with "King of Speed", one of its best tracks, even though it's a multi-layered bass solo instrumental from Jens Becker. Seriously kick-ass, and probably would have worked even better as an intro to some epic historical track.

Monster Effect sounds resilient, keeping stride after 15 years with its majestic tones and bone crunching German Panzer power. There is enough melody and memorable sensitivity to keep any power metal fan thrilled through the 50 minutes of playtime. All the songs are listenable, provided you have no problem with the similarities to THAT OTHER BAND.

Highlights: Souls of Sin, Theatre of Blood, Dr. Sardonicus, Monster Effect, King of Speed

Verdict: Win [8/10]
(too late to let you out)


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