Silver Mountain - Breakin' Chains

SILVER MOUNTAIN - Breakin' Chains - 4/5

Known as an early vehicle for Yngwie Malmsteen, Silver Mountain were a Swedish Neo-classical band that unleashed two very well respected albums in the early '80's that helped define the burgeoning scene in that country. These albums - namely "Shakin' Brains" & and "Universe"- were at the apex of the Swedish metal scene in terms of quality and pound, leveling the band up to their peers 220 Volt, Overdrive, and indeed Malmsteen himself. After a bit of a fizzle with their third release, "Roses & Champagne"('88), the band imploded with its various members splintering off to other projects.

Well, in 2000, the original "Shakin' Brains" line up - including the Johansson bros., Anders(Malmsteen, Hammerfall) & Jens(Malmsteen, Dio, Stratovarius) - decided to reform and record mostly songs left over from their halcyon period. Well, I for one am eternally grateful that they decided to do this as they have made a definitive statement in neo-classical metal.

Brightly recorded, the album features bursts of Swedish frost that could only be the product of that countries particular blend of Euro-blight. Soaringly arcane melodies highlight stunning interplay between the guitars and keys. Anyone familiar with the original recordings of the band will understand fully what I mean when it comes to this dueling style. Indeed, the entire album is really a vehicle for brilliant musicianship.

Ultimately however, this album is really a showcase for front man Jonas Hansson, whose fleet fingered axe-werk is the stuff of legend. Superb riffing, interspersed with the most incredible soloing this side of Michael Schenker in his prime, show that Hansson is a guitar God in his own right. Direct, attacking, ultra tuneful, and well constructed, this man's craft should have him entrenched firmly in the pantheon of the all-time greats. Why his name doesn't get more mention among guitar greats is beyond me. Masterful.

If the album has a weakness that should be mentioned, I would venture to say that it comes in the form of Hansson's vocals. Not the most powerful voice, but adequate and indeed complementary to the style of metal on display. One usually equates an operatic vocal to this type of neo-classical bombast(think Soto, Boals, Kiske, etc....), but I think that Hansson's understated(thankfully mixed back a little) stylings do just fine thanks.

So I heartily recommend this playful, exciting display of artful musicianship. It's grooves lift the spirits and crack a smile. And if you are a fan of guitar, DO NOT pass this up. You won't be disappointed.

Standout tracks: Before The Storm, A.S.W.A.S.T.

By J. Costigan