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The multinational troupe Devil's Train, featuring onetime members of Stratovarius, Saxon, Evergrey and Running Wild, plus current Mystic Prophecy personnel, are back with album number two... simply titled 'II'. Can't argue with that titular truism, I guess! And they're back with a bigger, better, and harder-hitting sound than on their eponymously titled debut. Once again, their stylistic path converges where bluesy hard rock traits meet trad-metal sonics, with a sporadicity of stoner grooves thrown into the mix. It's a potent fusion that's delivered with a predominantly up tempo passion and energy, as catchy hook after catchy hook drives the album forward with each new track. As per their debut album, the ex-Stratovarius pairing of drummer Jörg Michael and bassist Jari Kainulainen provide a solid rhythmic backbone to the songs although, once again, the standout performances for me are guitarist Lakis Ragazas and vocalist R.D.Lipiakis. The former exercises his chops with adeptly captivating immediacy, be it through riff, lick, or full-on solo fury. And the latter's gruff vocal delivery is so appositely suited to the music. While not having the most impressive of vocal ranges, he sings with emotionally fuelled vigour throughout. Collectively, the four musicians gel perfectly; there's something so congruously impressive about their union. Aside from their original compositions, a couple of covers appear during the second half of the album. Their groove-infused take on Steppenwolf's 'Born to be Wild' is one of the better versions I've heard of this oft-covered classic. And a heavied-up version of Led Zeppelin's 'Immigrant Song' is more than welcome. Both tracks don't sound in any small way out of place within the context of their own music, so I guess the phrase "making it their own" is more than appropriate here. Generally, 'II' is chock-full of retro pastiche, although delivered with a profoundly audible reverence for the music of yore that's evidently propelled them to make another album. Produced by Lipiakis himself, and mixed by prolific metal producer (and less prolific musician) Fredrik Nordström, it sounds fantastic too. Overall, despite its unashamedly retro underpinnings and lack of forward-thinking compositions, when music grooves away as good as it does here, then originality matters little, for I presume Devil's Train aren't trying to reinvent the wheel.
Review by Mark Holmes
2nd February 2015
1) Down on You; 2) Hollywood Girl
3) Gimme Love; 4) Mr Jones
5) Can You Feel
6) Rock Forever
7) Let's Shake It
8) Girl Like You
9) Born to be Wild
10) You and Me
11) Thunderstorm
12) Suffocated
13) Immigrant Song
"...chock-full of retro pastiche, although delivered with a profoundly audible reverence for the music of yore that's evidently propelled them to make another album."