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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Holy Mother

Agoraphobia

Review by Mike Korn

Now here is proof positive that you cannot judge a CD by its cover. The cover on this one almost certainly seems to indicate that you will be hearing some cheezy European power metal from a band of Hammerfall wannabes. So imagine my suprise when I put this in and heard some very original, hard-to-define heavy metal with a firm American imprint on it. Holy Mother has been around for a few years but this is the first time I've heard them. The band is composed of veterans who really go for the jugular and don't compromise on heaviness one bit. Singer Mike Tirelli has been around the block and has always been good, but he delivers the performance of his career here. He puts every ounce of energy into each cut, sounding like a cross between Ronnie Dio and Sebastian Bach! It's an electric performance on vocals that ranks with the best I've heard this year. Tirelli is given solid accompaniment by Randy Coven on bass, Frank Gilchrist on drums and, in many cases, ex-Accept man Herman Frank (who also produced) on lead guitar.

The Holy Mother sound is hard to put a finger on, which is kind of refreshing. There's an influence from classic 80's power metal like Dio, Omen and Attacker, but the guitars are low-tuned and growling almost in a Korn or Tool type fashion. The lead soloing is not too showoffish but sizzles when needed. The tracks themselves are short and punchy, with none over the 5 minute mark, and there's a catchiness in the vocal department reminiscent of the better 80's glam bands like Ratt or Twisted Sister. But despite that catchiness, there's also an unpredictability to the song structure that can catch you off guard now and then. Overall, it's a most pleasing mixture that can appeal to hardcore thrashers, nu-metal kids or 80's mullet heads.

Yep, sometimes the cover doesn't reflect what's inside. "Agoraphobia" is a good example of that and I urge all true metalheads to pick up this surprising release.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2003 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Success
This simple but effective hard rocker is probably the most basic track on the record, with a chugging riff that is deceptively powerful. The track has a vague feeling of 80's hair metal but with more muscle. Mike Tirelli puts his stamp on the record right away with a stellar vocal attack.
Modern Day God
This is a bit more representative of the Holy Mother sound. It's a very punchy metal cut that doesn't stay in one place too long. The verse guitar hook is REALLY heavy and the bass of Randy Coven is definitely in command. It's a good, unpredictable number.
Heaven's Door
A muted drum roll and guitar tone leads into this fast and snappy metal track, which is brief and to the point. The lyrics are interesting, dealing with a morbid fear of death.
Agoraphobia
The title track is pretty much straight up power metal with a thrashy edge. Tirelli puts so much energy into his vocals, it makes your testicles hurt just listening to him. Despite the aggression, the song never loses its catchiness.
Hungry for Exxstasy
I wasn't sure if they were trying to be sarcastic with the over-the-top sex lyrics here or if they really meant it. Some of the spoken word narration about hanging out with porn stars is reminiscent of the ridiculous Hollywood glam rock of the late 80's. I'm thinking it might be tongue in cheek. The song is an OK hard rocker that wanders around a bit too much.
Society Anxiety
One of the best cuts, this is full of energy and speed. It really bears repeating what a strong unit Holy Mother is, as all members are firing on all cylinders here, especially drummer Frank Gilchrist who gives the skins a good slapping all over the CD. This is a different kind of power metal than the Maiden/Helloween stuff the Europeans throw at us.
Skitzo
This has a real crunchy, ominous sound to it, with a thudding riff that comes across like a mix of Black Sabbath and Tool. The nervousness of the narrative character comes across in the music as Tirelli whispers "I looked inside your diary...and what it said was...you're f@#$in' crazy!"
Nympho
With that title, I thought this was going to be some Crue-influenced rock like "Hungry for Exxstacy", but instead it develops into the heaviest song on the disc. The main guitar hook here is just crushing and instead of taking a narrow-minded view of nymphomania, it really looks at it as a mental disease and details its consequences. Very unpredictable, almost progressive guitar work marks the mid-portion of the tune.
Never Say Die
This is a fine cover of one of Black Sabbath's most underrated songs. Sure, it has more of a poppy, upbeat feeling than most Sabbath stuff, but it's still quite heavy and Holy Mother do it justice, especially Mike Tirelli, who puts his own stamp on the vocals.
Sheer Erotica
The record ends with this raging cut. It opens with some unusual guitar work and a double bass drum barrage before turning into a fast-paced metal number. The chorus is really unusual and kind of "slides" along. It's a good finisher that showcases many of Holy Mother's strengths.
 
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