At Vance - _Heart of Steel_
(Shark, 2000)
by: Alvin Wee (9.5 out of 10)
Helloween maniacs, listen up: all is not lost with the deluge of sub-standard power/prog acts pouring out of Europe these days. At Vance attack with a stunning blend of top-level virtuosity and masterful song-writing that belies the obscure nature of the band. _Heart of Steel_ scales the heights of bands like Freedom Call and Edguy, as soaring melodies sweep forth in torrents of epic majesty. Cheesy to some, but for most bands, finding a competent voice to carry forth the music is challenge enough (see Drakkar, Heimdall, etc.). Vocalist Oliver Hartmann rises to the occasion even as Olaf Lenk shreds his way through solo after incendiary solo. Tracks like the opening "Soldier of Time" are few and far between, often the highlight of the album, but the following anthems don't leave any room for complaint. Right down to ballad "Princess of the Night", an old-school crooner a la Axel Rudi Pell, the quality of music and musician never once fall short of near-perfection. Axel Thubeauville's impeccable production leaves nothing to the imagination, accentuating every incisive beat and heart-rending note with a crystal-clear punchiness. Die-hard fans of ballsy, "true" metal might find the smoothness somewhat offending, and should stick to the new Exciter instead. But anyone who appreciates classy Teutonic Helloween-worship must never miss this classic-in-the-making. Take my word for it.

(article published 10/1/2001)

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