Somehow, this here blog has developed a reputation for being anti-power metal. Let me just say, that’s a big bunch of hooey! In fact, your friendly neighborhood Steel Druhm is a HUGE power metal nerd. That’s one of the reasons AMG brought me onboard way back in the day (my devastating good looks and cutting wit didn’t hurt either). As proof of our collective committment to all things power, I’ll now blather on endlessly about Mob Rules: a band that I liked and followed, then inexplicably stopped paying any attention to. I can’t explain why exactly, I just allowed them to drop off my radar despite finding several of their platters quiet enjoyable. I guess my overworked brain decided it only had room for so much Euro-power metal and started culling the herd without my being fully conscious of the process (my brain does a lot of stuff without my approval so I’m not surprised). Though Mob Rules never took a step outside the predictable power metal template, albums like Hollowed By Thy Name and Among the Gods had plenty of catchy, easy to digest metal ditties. Yes, their stuff reads like a primer on how to utilize the dreaded Euro Power Checklist™, but mercifully, they always managed to avoid the frilly shirt and fruit salad excesses of the genre. Though my brain and I completely spaced on their last two platters, Cannibal Nation sounds pretty much how I remember them and it seems little has changed at Camp Mob (except an increase in Iron Maiden-isms in the guitar work). Cannibal Nation delivers their typically no frills, mid-tempo power metal with solid musicianship, an ear toward tight, catchy writing and just enough punch to remind you its a metal album. Kudos guys, if the style ain’t broke, don’t fuck with it. This certainly won’t blow any minds or stun with originality, but its a solid outing with a few top notch moments of power metally goodness.
I’ll stress again, Mob Rules isn’t all that inventive and they tend to sound like other, better known acts at times. Case in point, opener “Close My Eyes” is a dead ringer for vintage Edguy, with direct, heavy riffs, ballsy vocals and a big chorus, it’s that type of anthemic power metal Tobias Sammet buttered his bread with for years. Elsewhere, huge doses of Maiden-worship enter the fray, with “Ice and Fire” sounding like a B-side off of Fear of the Dark with someone else on the mic and “Scream for the Sun” featuring a slow burning simmer that recalls the dark material off The X Factor. Moreover, the title track is infected with heaps of galloping, Maiden-style riffs. Perhaps the biggest surprise comes with the gritty, bareknuckle 70s hard rock on display during “The Sirens.” Its like Rainbow during the Graham Bonnet era: angry and tough!
Other songs like “Lost” and “Soldier of Fortune” establish more of a unique identity as the band blends Euro-power with traditional, early 80s metal and gets some solid results. Both songs are hooky and likely to get a raised fist out of even the most casual fan of the genre (the epic flavor on “Lost” is especially tasty).
All nine numbers work and all have something going for them hook-wise. Even the terribly named “Tele Box Fools,” which gets a huge ESL point deduction, works well and has a nicely anthemic feel. Also working in the band’s favor is the laid back, slick charm apparent on many of the numbers. Its tough to explain, but there’s a sort of unhurried feel to the songs that really adds to the cool factor in a way you wouldn’t expect from power metal weenies like this.
As far as performances go, Klaus Dirks is the epitome of the generic power metal vocalist, but somehow he always rises to the occasion and gets the job done via good vocal patterns and choices. He’ll never be anyone’s favorite crooner, but he delivers a solid performance and wisely stays away from the high-pitched, balls-to-Jesus histrionics many Euro-power mavens consider compulsory these days. The Maiden-heavy fretboarding by Matthias Mineur and Sven Ludke is fun, energetic and largely tasteful, and some of the solo-work is quite impressive and even emotional. I wouldn’t say they’re the most skilled players out there, but they execute this style well without having to get too showboaty or overly wanky. The keyboards by Jan Christian Halfbrodt are subdued by Euro-power standards and he contributes without overwhelming, which I appreciate (I also appreciate the Hammond organ on some of the tracks). Basically, the band is made up of average to slightly above average players that rise to new heights when put together.
Cannibal Nation is a by-the-numbers power metal outing that manages to work better than it probably should (much like their early albums did). It’s not going to appear on many end-of-the-year lists, but it’s still a refreshingly simple and addicting spin for genre enthusiasts (of which I am one, you lying bastards!) with a lot of growth potential. If anything, this makes me realize I had better investigate the albums I missed due to brainial interference. In the meantime, stop the anti-power metal slander and libel or you’ll make Kamelot cry on their fancy pirate shirts!