A talented and very Maiden-esq band
The classic Maiden sound is there from song structure to Dave Murry-sounding guitar tones to the delivery of lion-haired lead singer Mark Arrington. His vocals leave me ambivalent at times, though. Sometimes it sounds like he's singing out of his range and at other times it feels like he's right on the mark. Part of my problem may be that the band's sound is so similar to Maiden that I almost expect to hear Bruce Dickinson himself wailing after a guitar intro. So close is their sound, that "Salem" could have been lifted from the same sessions as the 'Piece of Mind' album.
After a couple of songs, I stop hearing what I expect and allow Hard Echo to be what it is and the songs really start to click with title track "Traded Secrets" taking my vote as the best number. They may be derivative of Maiden, but Hard Echo has absorbed the lessons of their elders well. I can only think of one other band--Ravage, with their galloping Blaze-era sound, who does the Maiden sound so well. Note that Hard Echo doesn't play much of the triplet rides like in "The Trooper" though. They sound more like the experimental Maiden you get from songs like "Remember Tommorrow" or even the older "I've Got the Fire".
Bottom Line: A talented and very Maiden-esq band. The vocals have such unique character that they will be the selling point on whether you welcome Hard Echo to your collection or not. Killer cover from graphic artist Marc Sasso.