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Argentinian outfit Xenotaph promise to take you back to the early eighties and the sounds of bands like Hellion, Black Lace and Bitch with their new release Rock is the Force. And whilst that's a laudable aim to be sure, such a claim really does set a high level of expectation in the listener's brain as they slip the album into the cd deck - can they walk it like they talk it?
Not quite. Whilst there are flashes of metallic brilliance dotted all over Rock... the band never strings enough of them together in one sequence for them to have much meaning or impact. The opening riff of second track Time to Leave, for instance, is pure New York speed metal circa 1983, and it is brilliant. However Xenotaph don't quite possess the smarts to capitalise on such a great start, and, whilst the rest of the track thunders along in reasonably convincing neck-bothering fashion, it falls well short of the classic status that opening riff hinted might be coming the listener's way.
Part of the problem here might be the vocals of Danielle Benvenuti; She's got some pipes, certainly, but, buried deep in the mix, her voice doesn't have the character or quite enough strength to prosper in a production job keen to highlight the sterling qualities of the guitarist (Eric Lancon) and the rhythm section of Emiliano Ottaviano (bass) drummer Gustavo Quiroga. Where she could add some match-winning melody to proceedings she's merely content to wail along as best she can, again robbing some good tracks the possible x-factor that might tip them over the edge into greatness. When she does get going - on the excellent Hot Blood, for instance - things sound infinitely more convincing.
That said, this is a pretty good listen if you like raw, fast and furious old school metal. Buy the record, and next time out Xenotaph might be able to afford I slightly more sympathetic production to get the job done properly - they definitely have the talent.
Comes as black vinyl limited to 400 copies.