Review Summary: 90s Power Metal that gives a slight nod to 80s rock.
I’m not the biggest fan of power metal; in fact I’m not a fan at all. I can count the number of power metal albums I like on one hand because I honestly find a lot of those bands annoying. I’m sure there are exceptions that I just haven’t heard, but in my experience the abundance of cheesy keyboards, horrible fantasy lyrics and general lack of dynamics are just more than I can deal with. One exception that I am already familiar with, though, is this album by Vicious Rumors. Welcome to the Ball
manages to avoid the clichés that are commonly associated with the genre and not only does that make it easier to listen to, but it is also very good anyway.
One of the main appeals that this album has is that it doesn’t just bludgeon the listener with a steady barrage of double bass and speedy riffs for the entire album. The actual truth of the matter is that 90% of this album sticks with a mid-paced, groove-oriented, power metal sound with enough variation to provide a diverse collection of songs. Album opener, “Abandoned” is a good example of what to expect from this album as it showcases the powerful and aggressive, Halford-ish, vocals of Carl Albert over chugging power chords and melodic leads. This song is a great showcase of the more aggressive side of the band, but they are also able to inject a lot of melody into their songs without losing any of the power.
The track, “Dust to Dust”, begins with a clean guitar melody before the power chords come in and introduce what turns out to be a very good, groove-oriented metal song. As it continues on, the powerful vocals of Carl Albert carry it forward with additional melodies and a catchy chorus interspersed with classy dual-guitar harmonies and a melodic solo. Even the two ballads manage to retain the power of the album with “Children” doing the better job simply because “When Love Comes Down” does give a slight nod to those big 80s ballads with its sappy, exaggerated theme of love and cheese. Even though the focus has been on the mid-paced rockers and ballads, the band does know how to pick up the pace when they want to.
“You Only Live Twice” comes out at a gallop and while it never reaches Dragonforce
speeds it is still plenty fast. The cool thing is that even when the band does reach these higher speeds the drummer never simply delivers a monotonous pounding. Instead he varies his playing to suit the song allowing it to never sound as if you’re hearing the same looped beat and drum rolls through the entire song. The solo on this song is also worth mentioning as it displays the guitarist’s ability to do more than just shred as it is actually well played with a melodic edge. On the other hand, those wanting at least one song that is just high-speed power metal complete with a solid wall of double bass need look no further than “Six Stepsisters”. This song about sleeping with a woman that has six different sexually-deviant alter-egos is a fun, fast and catchy experience.
Keeping in mind that this album was originally released in 1991, there are some issues that the modern listener is going to run into. The choruses on a few of these songs do take a page from 80s rock as does the occasional riff which sporadically makes it sound very dated (even for power metal). Another issue was already hinted at earlier when I mentioned that this album is by no means “unrelenting” and no song is going to break any speed records. While this album is definitely power metal, the band does seem to lean more towards the metal and less to the “power” part on occasion. That lack of continuous speed and aggression combined with a slight nod towards 80s rock in the occasional riff or chorus may be enough to put some people off, but those people are missing out.
It was a surprise to me to find in the over-saturated genre of power metal a band that doesn’t adhere to all the stereotypes and doesn’t sound vaguely similar to everyone else. I was even more surprised to find that this album had already been around for seventeen years before I found it. While I’m not a fan of the power metal genre, I have heard enough of it to know that this album should be held near the top of the genre, even if it’s partially due to how long it has been around and how well it has aged. Obviously, there are some elements that immediately make it sound dated, but overall this is a good solid power metal album that just happens to lean a little bit towards the metal.