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VANIK - II Dark Season

Released October 26/18 (Shadow Kingdom Records)

This is the second release by these Americans. The brainchild of guitarist/vocalist/leader Vanik, who is, if the lyrics are any guide, a fan of horror movies. Together with drummer Al Biddle, bassist Ed Stephens and guitarist Vic Stown, Vanik has put together a pretty impressive metal offering. The 11 tracks are only about 30 minutes running time in total, but there isn't a bad one in the bunch. The weakest track is "Beyond the Closet Door", and even that is pretty good.

Vanik play traditional heavy metal with hints of thrash and speed metal thrown in occasionally. As a band they inhabit the same space as Hallows Eve...and that isn't a bad place to be. Vanik's vocals sound like a cross between Sheep Dog from Razor and Jeff Becerra from Possessed, so they fit the mood of the songs perfectly.

The production is clear, the instruments are all played with competence and enthusiasm, but the main strength of this album is the song writing. When it comes to writing heavy metal, bands usually either try to go catchy with "anthems" for crowd rousing sing-alongs or they go heavy for the sake of heaviness. It is a difficult task to write catchy heavy metal songs that are still heavy, but Vanik have achieved that here.

Best tracks: "Jack's Lantern", "We Like to be Frightened", and "Werewolf". [7.5]

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