Mean Streak - Declaration of War (Black Lodge)

Two new guitarists and an upping of intensity finds these trad-minded Swedes heading towards metal's first division
Release Date: 
27 Jan 2011 (All day)

When Swedes Mean Streak were last earnestly requesting the attention of our ears (in 2009 when they released the excellent Metal Slave) they could easily – though not by this reviewer, I hasten to add- have been dismissed as mere Maiden/Priest tributists. Now, in 2011, though the band is still unabashedly heavy metal, they come at their task from a variety of angles, all of them enjoyable and therefore liable to increase the appeal of this excellent band.

To this end, album opener – and title track, natch- takes the band purely into Euro power metal territory, all double kick and catchy chorus; In for the Kill follows a more trad (read: eighties) approach to banging heads, in the process channelling memories of primetime Accept where once flowed something slightly more obvious. This, in it’s way, is proof that this band is progressing and thinking about how to best deploy their inarguable metal nous. Crimson Sky is pure viking metal of the sort Yngwie was trotting out in 1986 and which is so readily received from the likes of Grand Magus in the modern day – are you getting the picture here? At the End of the Rainbow and As You Sow You Shall Reap both consolidate these early gains (despite their cliché-ridden titles – something we can probably forgive a band that doesn’t speak English as its first language), and it isn’t until Brothers Til the End – track six, fer chrissakes – that the first whiff of the NWOBHN is detected. Sons of Metal is, as its title might suggest, rather more mundane (though riding in as it does on a monstrous, plodding riff straight outta 1984 it is actually pretty hard to resist!), whilst Sign in the Sky, though possibly the catchiest song here, falls down slightly owing to an uninspired set of riffs that don’t add sufficient backup to vocalist Andy La Guerin’s impassioned vocal performance.

Indeed La Guerin is the star throughout here; You may not have heard of him but he’s definitely a top drawer metal throatsmith, and a man who possesses the sort of voice that could easily do a job for Tobi Sammet next time he’s looking round for Avantasia casts.

But I’ve digressed. History of Lies comes and goes before you realise that’s just what it’s done, leaving only the epic The Oblation to come. In the old days this kind of song would have rounded out side one of an album, giving band and listener a break before heading off again at breakneck speed into the madness of side two; now it’s the album closer and despite it’s good intentions, it actually just dissipates the momentum built up over the front end of the album, which is a shame.

Almost a game of two halves, then, but overall there’s enough good stuff here – notably the acquisition of two new guitarists in Patrik Gardberg and David Andersson, both of whom seem to possess the skills and songwriting smarts to go all the way with La Guerin- to suggest that Mean Streak are heading in the right direction.

Mean Streak's Declaration of War is out on 27 January on Black Lodge.