Scanner - Mental Reservation (Massacre) 1995
1. "Break the Seal"
"Mental Reservation" was the band's first new album in over five years and features new vocalist Haridon Lee (real name Leszek Szpigiel (ex-Crow)). Released during the great heavy metal depression years in the mid-1990's, "Mental Reservation" is a strong power metal album. Unfortunately the tag "power metal" now is associated with dungeons & dragons, keyboard heavy, overly progressive bands. This is not the case with Scanner. Rather think of bands like Rage, Metal Church, Grave Digger, etc. Some might even label tis band as speed metal with it's upbeat metal numbers and smooth vocals. "20th Century Crusade" even pushes the boundaries of thrash metal with a slightly more aggressive vocal performance and quick downbeats. The band offers plenty of diversity from song to song, although the majority of this album is quite heavy. The exception would be the beautiful ballad "Your Infallible Smile". The rest of the tracks feature tight riffing, speedy guitar solos, and everything else you would want to hear in a quality metal band. Having not heard the band's earlier material upon writing this, I can't really compare the new vocals and line-up to the former however, I have read that many people felt the old line-up was better. Still, I find it hard to believe any fan of speed or power metal would not have enjoyed this album in 1995 when good power metal was limited to Gamma Ray and a select few others.
Scanner - Ball of the Damned (Massacre) 1997
1. "Puppet On A String"
"Ball of the Damned" is progressive, melodic, power metal. Unfortunately for many metal fans that description is going to bring up thoughts of dungeons, dragons, keyboards and pompous guitar wankery. This is far from what Scanner are. Some may remember an awesome, somewhat obscure, progressive metal band called Watchtower. Their style of progressive metal was far removed from, and much heavier than bands like Dream Theater or Rhapsody. Scanner fall somewhere between these bands. They are heavier and more metallic than most modern prog metal bands, not as flowery as a lot of power metal band, yet they don't really employ any thrash metal into their sound like Watchtower. "Ball of the Damned" features melodic and technical music, but also employs hooks and memorable choruses. Scanner weave a tapestry with heavy riffs, but also some more melodic, clean sections. "Silenced" features heavy, guitars but also some acoustic parts that blend into the song perfectly. The song also has a superb solo break. The title track features a similar mixture of clean guitars and heavy riffs. The opening track, "Puppet on a String" has a hook that will have most metal fans signing along by the second chorus. This song actually reminds me slightly of Helloween, or Gamma Ray. This is partially due to the fact that Ralf Scheepers (Primal Fear/ex-Gamma Ray) performs vocals on "Puppet On A String". Ralf is one of the hardest working, most under appreciated vocalists in metal history. However, the rest of the songs are just as catchy. There is little chance of the songs running together and sounding all the same. Much of this is because of the excellent vocals of Leszek "Haridon Lee" Szpigiel, whose smooth, clean voice works perfectly with the guitar tag team of Axel "A. J." Julius and Stefan Nicolai . "Ball of the Damned" finishes off with a killer Queen cover from one of Queen's most under appreciated albums.
It's also worth mentioning that "Ball of the Damned" is Scanner's third album. Only guitarist Axel Julius remains from the original line-up. Apparently many fans prefer the band's earlier material to this album. Since this was the first album I ever heard by them, I cannot really compare this album to their early albums. However, if those albums are as good, or better than this, I will need to also invest in those.