Review Summary: Beneath the Surface leads the charge of traditional heavy metal in the year 2013. Now let’s suit up and join the cavalry.
Think of the bands that are considered the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal and what do you get? Enforcer, White Wizzard, and Cauldron are just a few that come to mind. However one band hailing from Germany is left out. They go by the name of Alpha Tiger and they’re here to kick your ass as only an 80’s heavy metal-inspired band can do. Please note that if you are prone to despising high register vocals, Alpha Tiger would be as welcome to you as Justin Bieber would be at a Lamb of God concert. But if you prefer your metal with chesse-tastic 80’s riffs and over the top vocal lines, then you have just stumbled onto what is quite possibly the greatest band you never heard of!
Alpha Tiger released their debut, Man or Machine, back in 2011 and was met with lukewarm receptions from both critics and fans alike. The most common complaints centered on vocalist Stephen Dietrich who was framed as being too annoying and whiney to produce anything worthwhile. While that complaint could be true for casual fans of traditional metal, the reality is Dietrich has about one of the finest voices in heavy metal today. If you are one who yearns for the return of 80’s vocal deliveries that break the sound barrier, look no further than the Tiger. Debuting their second release Beneath the Surface on Century Media, the time has come for the band to step up their game and finally become a leading name in the traditional metal movement. From the get-go, Alpha Tiger waste little time with beautiful acoustic intro before flying full force into ‘The Alliance’ which boasts rip-roaring guitar solos by the promising duo of Peter Langforth and Alexander Backasch. The chorus is extremely catchy and once Dietrich hits the right note, the listener is transported back to a blissful time of denim and leather. Quickly moving into the single ‘From Outer Space’, Alpha Tiger soar with a track that boasts one of the catchiest choruses this side of Berlin. ‘Waiting for a Sign’, ‘Beneath the Surface’, and ‘Along the Rising Sun’ follow suit with dueling guitars and standardized power metal drumming and wailing but it is on track number seven, ‘Eden Lies in Ruins’ where the band are able to show off a more progressive side. The change is welcome after the previous rockers, but where ‘Eden’ truly shines is in its overall composition which spans little over seven minutes. The verses are extraordinary though the chorus seems kind of flat to me. However, once the solo kicks in, its heavy metal paradise resurrected.
The quasi-power ballad ‘The Rain’ is where the band almost slips up but is able to retain their metal roots with another catchy chorus and vocal registry. Beneath the Surface ends on a one, two knockout punch which should usually come at the beginning of albums, but in this case hits the listener at its conclusion. ‘We Came from the Gutter’ is a great way to bookend the album, making the listener crave for more, but ‘Crescent Moon’ is the spotlight song here. Not only does ‘Moon’ have the most intelligent lyrics off the album which is not saying very much, but it also boasts the best vocals of Dietrich where it is incredibly difficult to decipher if it is actually Dietrich behind the mic or possibly Geoff Tate who snuck over to Germany to record with these guys. The verse flow nicely into a bombastic chorus and skip right into a flamboyant guitar solo that will indeed melt the flesh from your face. All I can say is after listening to ‘Crescent Moon’; I had to go for immediate facial reconstruction surgery. That, my friends, is the trademark of a great heavy metal song!
Beneath the Surface solidifies Alpha Tiger’s claim to the throne of youngsters bringing back the traditional heavy metal of yore while not sounding too dated or recycled. Overall, this is a much more solid composition that Man or Machine because it feels more centered, focused, and mature. The lyrics are substantially better, but still suffer from the cheese factor occasionally and Dietrich’s vocal performance should not register any complaints this time around. The rest of the band sound equally as good, showcasing great talent and ability for the future yet to come. While Alpha Tiger will not appeal to most, the select few who discover them and appreciate their talent and passion for great music will adore them. Beneath the Surface now leads the charge of traditional heavy metal in the year 2013. Now let’s suit up and join the cavalry.