Saturday, February 28, 2015
Scanner - The Judgement 
''Hypertrace'' was a record which garnered a huge amount of plaudits for probably as long as it was around, especially by the turn of the 20th century, when the lack of classic 80's power metal niches really began to felt by mainstream audiences, and although it's never been a record which I've held near and dear to my heart I can't deny its sort-of-cult appeal, nor the iterative listening value of songs like ''Across the Universe'' or ''Warp 7''. In any case, it placed Scanner on the map, and has frankly been the only Scanner record which I've bothered to deal with. Evidently, ''The Judgement'' wasn't destined to be a second ''Hypertrace'', or a highly worthy entrant into the modern power metal field with a scene already saturated with anything from Angra to German contemporaries such as Primal Fear or Blind Guardian, and the nerdy, lackluster cover art only confirmed that I had to keep my expectations a little low on this. Even those Teutonic legends had stopped spewing forth career highlights about a decade ago, - give or take a few years - so how the hell is Axel Julius fresh lineup going to end up better?
''The Judgement'' was a somewhat different experience than I'd anticipated, but all the paths led to the same doorway in the end. The 80's speed/power aesthetics meet with a softer hard rock mentality and immediately Scanner tears through the walls of space and time with laser-gun riffing redolent of, well... Scanner. This is clearly a meatier and better produced effort than Scanner's 80's catalog, thanks to the benefits of modern audio technology, but there's also something of modern power/thrash modulus peppered on the riffs, as well a grating, metallic tone that should hold instantaneous, if ephemeral, appeal to any expecting listener. I've come to compare this record a lot to Attackers's latest, especially since the chuggy, percussive thrashing is very prominent, although the Attacker record was a busier, more exciting avenue of great, genuinely original riffcraft, while this album just swaggers with a fast, fairly busy compendium of samey riffs, mostly recycled from the 80's. The leads and swerving harmonies are the sheer selling points of the record, with enough melodic hooks to keep you buckled and grappled on your spaceship's seat to sift through the record with relative ease for the first 1-2 spins.
The vocals equally hearken back to the school of Germanic banshee screaming, with plenty of Rob Halford-esque inflections pelting the concussive riffs, like on the verse of ''Warlord''. The drumming was also fairly efficient, and for the most time I was definitely on board with the vocal lines. The problem with ''The Judgement'' is nearly all the songs are devoid of some constant audibility (''Warlord'' and ''Known Better'' were the two memorable pieces on this record, with the former having a excellent, gaunt chorus and the latter stockpiled with bright guitar work that somehow exceeded the overall performance of the album) and the album almost never tries to break through the boundaries of the box, not to mention the fact that songs which should have been cropped to a nifty 3-4 minutes hang around for lofty 5-6 minutes, (don't even get me started on the outrageous ''Poseidon'') making spacial trip all too jaded with space lag. This is not a bad album, but there's a fundamental dilemma on whether staying on course with traditional or modern power/thrash metal, and there's certainly too much reliance on cheap hooks and choral sections to be called anything extremely worthwhile. Still, if you're that in the need for semi-frilled, catchy power metal that blazes with a searing 80's feel, this is one record you could give a shot, though I doubt that it'll circulate through many end-of-the-year lists.