Sunday, October 22, 2017

Loanshark – Loanshark

Last year, Finland’s Loanshark released their first EP. Both the band’s name and their humorous mascot appear to be homages to the legendary Riot, and while they aren’t necessarily an identical point of comparison, Loanshark definitely plays classic, old-school heavy metal. This EP is 5 blistering tracks of pure metal, with not a single modern influence in sight. Even the production sounds straight out of the 1980s, with a thick bass sound that easily cuts through the mix, and distorted, but not totally overdriven guitars.

The immediate highlight on “Loanshark” is the infectious “Dead Men Tell No Tales”. This is a high-speed, energetic affair that has a chorus designed to sing along to at shows. While the rest of the EP can’t reach these heights again, the approach isn’t all that different, nor is there a major drop in quality. “The World Is Yours” (another Motorhead title?) shows Loanshark’s singer unleashing some falsettos in an attempt to compete with his Canadian brethren. His voice in general is a little bit out there, which is exactly what makes him such a great heavy metal singer. His voice hearkens back to a time when singers were somewhat distinctive, and you could instantly identify a band after just a few words. He spends much of his time in a fairly high range, only occasionally progressing into the stratosphere. 

Much of Loanshark’s success comes from their ability to create memorable hooks. Admittedly, connecting the dots between the song titles and each vocal line can be a little difficult, but each song is almost instantly recognizable after just a couple of listens. “Cry Manila” sticks out on the latter half as being another major winner. Once again, it is the vocals that really elevate the track, but it also features some worthwhile soloing. The closing effort, "The Mirror Never Lies", gains its strength from stellar harmonized lead guitars that open the song. Truthfully though, nothing this band does will surprise or wow you, but they’re so good at it that it prevents Loanshark from getting swept away amongst the crowd. The hilariously terrible mascot helps too.  

Be sure to check out and like Loanshark on Facebook!

Highlights
"Dead Men Tell No Tales"
"Cry Manila"
"The Mirror Never Lies"

Final Rating
4.3/5 or 86%. 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Game Over – Claiming Supremacy

Italy’s best thrash band must have realized they struck gold with their third record, “Crimes Against Humanity”, because they’re back with another album just one year later. The prior album showed the band taking considerable steps forward by diversifying their songwriting to incorporate more technical elements alongside more mellow, ballad-esque sections. It wasn’t a major left turn for Game Over, but it did show them continuing to be creative within a somewhat predictable style of music. For this reason, “Claiming Supremacy” is an important release for the band, as it marks an opportunity for Game Over to vault themselves towards the top of the thrash metal scene in 2017.

After a short intro, Game Over hits you with their signature riffing style on “Two Steps In The Shadows”. One thing is for sure: Game Over has no plans to sellout despite their increasing popularity. For each of the first four full-length tracks, the band delivers exactly what you’d expect of them. Each song fires riff after riff at you, only letting up for catchy choruses (overladen with gang vocals) and occasional melodic breaks. Game Over has always been more melodically inclined than many of their peers, but they do so not at the expense of riffs, but to complement them. “Blessed Are The Heretics” utilizes the most melody of these four tunes, and is the lengthiest and most experimental of them as well.

The real problem with “Claiming Supremacy” is most noticeable on “Last Before The End”, which was confusingly released as the single. It contains all of the great tendencies noted above, but for some reason, Reno’s vocals are absolutely buried in the mix. Not only is he difficult to hear on this song, but the actual words seem muddy, making it challenging to understand what he’s even saying most of the time. Both issues seem like major production failures, which is disappointing given the involvement of Joel Grind. A quick review of his history mixing/mastering albums shows few bands with as clean of a sound as Game Over, so perhaps this was just an ill-fated choice, but the outcome definitely weighs the album down. It is worth pointing out that the remainder of the record doesn’t suffer as badly from this problem, and that the YouTube pre-released version sounds worse than the actual album, but the damage is nonetheless done.

Aside from this blip, the only other moment of weakness on “Claiming Supremacy” is “Eleven”, which is a slow, boring track with little to offer. It feels almost like an incoherent mess, with misguided leads and drumming that struggles to keep the beat. Reno tries his hand at some unique vocals, but ultimately falls short. The track eventually speeds up a bit and does a serviceable job redeeming itself After this song, however, Game Over returns to pummelling thrash efforts with no shortage of riffs. Of the later tracks, “Show Me What You Got” stands out as being one of the more classic Game Over numbers, and stands tall alongside the first half of the record.  

Claiming Supremacy” is a very confusing album for the band. It’s like they knew exactly what to do to make another brilliant record, but struggled to execute it. Between the production snafus, and one outlier song, it’s easy to be soured on this album. But looking beyond those mistakes, there is still a lot to enjoy, and several of these songs are as good as anything Game Over has ever done. So while the band certainly can’t claim supremacy after this release, they have put together something fans should buy. Given how easily fixable the missteps on this album are, Game Over maniacs should still have plenty of hope for the future!

Be sure to check out and like Game Over on Facebook!

Highlights
"Two Steps In The Shadows"
"Last Before The End"
"Blessed Are The Heretics"
"Show Me What You Got"

Final Rating
4.2/5 or 84%.