Sunday, April 22, 2012

Reaper-Fairies Return

Karthago Records

It never ceases to amaze me what heavy metal collectors will covet. With this 2012 re-release the fine folks over at Karthago Records are offering the obsessive heavy metal public another chance at owning 1986's "Fairies Return". This 4-track EP was a private pressing and as such is almost impossible to find. It is another one of those long sought after collector's items that seems to be valuable due more to it's scarcity than to the actually quality of the music itself. This isn't to say it's all bad. Rather it's hit or miss to these ears. Two rather good tracks of old school German heavy metal are paired with (and subsequently ruined by) two inept tracks that rely far too much on American hard rock as an influence. Thankfully for this act (that incidentally was formed in 1984 in Kassel) the bulk of material on this 13 track collection more than makes up for it. Teutonic metal band Reaper was formed when Matthias Kraft (bass/vocals) and Daniel Zimmermann (guitar, vocals since 1995-please note that this is not the same Daniel Zimmermann of Gamma Ray, Freedom Call, Iron Savior and Lanzer fame) decided to form a heavy metal act of their own. After a demo release in 1985 (which also featured vocalist Benny Bennecke, guitarist Andreas Maus and drummer Peter Fickert) the band went on to release "Fairies Return" in 1986. Since that fateful moment the band has gone on to release music on a semi-regular basis with the group's latest album being 2009's "Gardens Of Seth". This 13-track album not only has the whole "Fairies Return" EP, but also it collects the best material from other demo releases. From the 1988 "Metal Or What?" demo you get "Invader" and "In the Middle of the Night". From the self-titled 1985 demo there is "Don't Take It Away", "Breakin' Out My Fear", "You Cannot Stop Me" and "I Love You". The last three songs are from a '"91 'pre-production" and appear to be unreleased tracks. Sorry I can't be more clear on them. The original promo material is in German so I've done my best (even the translation software leaves a bit to be desired and those two years of high school German seem to be of little to no help) but even so I could be far and away off on some of the information. Regardless these 13 tracks were remastered by Sasch Menschl of Mighty Monster Records so the sound quality is never an issue. In fact everything sounds good so it is obvious that quite a bit of care was taken to smooth out the rough edges of Reaper. Comparisons (promo wise) are made to both Steeler and Stormwitch as well as Carrie and for the most part that seems fair. The comparison to fellow German band Atlain may also be fair, but as I'm not familiar with their work I can't say for sure. Metal of the highest caliber is on display on tracks like "Invader" and "In The Middle of the Night". Stormwitch would be a good reference point although so would Accept, Fact and Gravestone. However on a slower cut like "Ruling The Earth" Benny Bennecke strains his voice too much trying to sound like an American pop metal singer. The results are needless to say not pleasant. Meanwhile the rolling drum parts on said song are obviously borrowed from Twisted Sister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" making for a distracting listen. Thankfully the album is more thunder than rain so the balance between heavy metal/speed metal numbers and the weaker hard rock cuts is not evenly stacked. The three cuts from 91' are superb and if I knew for sure who played what on these numbers I would give some serious props to them. I'm going to just assume it is the usual culprits in Reaper. This is how German metal should sound and these guys do it as well as anyone. Lest I forget the band's first demo is also worthy of mention. This to is some solid in unspectacular heavy metal. The material is nothing fancy. The guitar-sound is fairly typically of the time period. And vocalist Benny Bennecke sounds as raw as the guitars do. And yet there is something charming about the band's early sound. "Fairies Return" (the re-release) is a hit or miss collection, but thankfully it's more hits than misses so I can definitely recommend it. Fans of Teutonic metal will want to check it out.

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