Mystic Force

Shipwrecked With The Wicked
Killer Pro-Ductions

Call me a wiener, but until now, I had never heard Mystic Force. Not that I've actively avoided the band; circumstances just never threw us into the same nightclub on the same night. Well folks, I've heard them now, and my ears are all the better for it.

The title cut opens and closes with the sound of a crashing surf, but in between there is a maelstrom of searing vocal wails and pounding, grinding chops. I'm almost ashamed not to have heard Bobby Hicks sing before. His range and power set him apart from the multitudes of thrash/speed metal frontmen who rely on limited melody lines and gargle with broken glass for their sound.

The music is written like an Iron Maiden song, complete with sinister lyrics and a slew of rhythmic changes, and Rich Davis' potent riffs make sure that there are no sonic holes in the production. This one would have fit nicely on "Number of the Beast."

The second cut, "Eternal Quest," displays more of the same rhythmic variations. Mystic Force's rhythm section, which consist of Keith Menser on bass and Chris Lembach on drums, is versatile and furious. If Lembach can pull off onstage what he accomplishes on this record, then he is worth the price of admission. The same goes for Hicks. A cross between Bruce Dickinson and Michael Kiske, this guy's voice goes from moving bellows to sonic highs that threaten to shatter the stars.

The weak point on "Eternal Quest" is the guitar solo. Like so often happens on this type of song, the solo is an unimaginative flurry of notes pasted onto the nearest available bridge. A song of this integrity would have faired better with a more expressive, creative solo; but fear not, it is one of very few black marks on "Shipwrecked with the Wicked."