Review – Scanner: The Judgement

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Review – Scanner: The Judgement
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Scanner: The Judgement
Heavy Metal, Power Metal
Massacre Records
January 23rd, 2015
Release length: 55:00
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Back in 1982, there was a little known German Heavy Metal five-piece band called Lions Breed. They issued a demo in 1983, and in 1985 released a debut full-length titled Damn the Night through Earthshaker Records. However, in 1986, they changed their name to Scanner, and in 1988 issued the first release under this new moniker; the very well received Hypertrace. Since then, this new being turned out five albums total, a split in 1988, as well as a demo in 1994. But, as time went on, much of the initial line-up that carried over with the change of name slowly dropped, leaving guitarist Axel “A.J.” Julius the only remaining founding member. For 2015, we are given their sixth album, The Judgement, which is being handled by Massacre Records. With their last full-length having been 2002’s Scantropolis, leaving a nearly thirteen year gap in their wake, and a concerned fan base. Does this new effort hold the same bite, or is it a bitter resurfacing for a once quite pivotal Metal act?

The Judgement has this encompassing higher pitch to the material, which isn’t necessarily from a lack of bass presence. That instrument is fairly loud with a mid-range buzz to it you can often pick up over the other instruments. The culprit seems to be due to the rawer approach to the album, sometimes sounding as if taken directly from a cassette, such as the guitar solo on “The Race”. The vocals are pulled to the forefront of the mix much of the time as well, as are the drums that sound like they can have a bit of washout on certain crashes here and there. The guitars, however, end up loud with varying degrees of distortion depending on the style being tackled, though they shine the best during the faster material.

“F.T.B.”, or “Fuck the Bastards” if abbreviations bother you, unleashes furious guitar work at a Speed Metal pace, incorporating some infectious hooks during the chorus to remind listeners the band still has a Power Metal side. The well paced drums really show a nice amount of restraint, especially when shifting to the latter approach through a Middle Eastern tinged bridge, though the steady quicker pace from the kit doesn’t really deviate all that much from what exists in the main verses. But, where it does, and as brief as they are, the patterns end up the perfect subtle changes to set up the next passage. This is a stark contrast to songs like “Eutopia”, a much softer piece that treads into ballad territory. While addicting, it also highlights some of the albums faults, such as the slight washout that can be picked up on, as well as the higher pitch becoming obnoxious towards the end. Other than that, it’s a powerfully bleak song of romanticism and despair, both pushed by solid pacing and additional backing vocals that aren’t the typical deeper gang chants you find scattered about this and any other album from bands of this style.

“Nevermore” is one of the darker tracks on this release, but also the most melodic. The Heavy Metal foundation is fairly simple, but powerful enough to establish a strong gothic environment to suit the Edgar Allan Poe references behind the lyrical theme. There’s also a bit of Hard Rock thrown in, especially at the chorus, but, other than that, it ends up a pretty straight-forward experience that only disappoints in the vocals. There are plenty of opportunities to really belt out some falsettos other than the incredibly weak and off-key one that hits at the very end, but, sadly, those moments are never capitalized on. Instead, they end up grounded much of the time, working for the aforementioned atmosphere, but makes the listener craving more. It ends up leaving this a far more traditional piece that plays it a bit too safe after the energetic powerhouse of “F.T.B.”, and the many hard hitting cuts that follow.

But, with that higher pitch also comes a number of truly eighties sounding material. “Pirates” has a gloriously over-the-top approach to the music that is comparable to early Manowar and Gamma Ray, which only amplifies the impact of the highly echoed vocals that are at a slight distance, as well as the richer analog buzz of the bass guitar. While some tracks could greatly benefit from a stronger click to the bass kicks, the dulled impact here works perfectly to accentuate that era, especially heading into “Known Better” with it’s Andy LaRocque style riffs and Candlemass gloom over the chorus.

While The Judgement doesn’t quite live up to the band’s first few albums, even with the analog approach utilized that leave you swearing you hear the tape wear at times, this long over-due follow-up just hits all the right spots. You have the nostalgic factor the audio quality brings to the table, a number of kick ass infectious songs, and a great deal of variety at work. There are times where the enthusiasm can take a back seat for the sake of making a thematic or a lyrical point, not to mention once in a while the energy just isn’t quite there, but Scanner can still make their lowest sound intriguing enough that you’ll come back and willingly listen to those again. Prepare to jump into the way-back machine with Scanner‘s latest effort, as The Judgement is something fans of Helloween, Gamma Ray, even King Diamond will find themselves getting wrapped up in.

01. Intro – 0:51
02. F.T.B. – 4:03
03. Nevermore – 5:55
04. Warlord – 5:20
05. Eutopia – 6:14
06. The Judgement – 5:13
07. Battle of Poseidon – 7:17
08. Pirates – 4:56
09. Known Better – 4:42
10. The Race – 5:12
11. The Legionary – 5:17
Initial Pressing Score: 8/10

Scanner

Digital review copy of this release provided by Massacre Records.