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Silver Mountain: Breakin’ Chains (Arctic/Avalon, 2001) reviewed by: Vinaya Saksena

Track Listing
1. Prophet Of Doom
2. Before The Storm
3. Felo De Se
4. Man Of No Present Existence
5. Scarlet Pimpernel
6. Maniac
7. Axeman And The Virgin
8. Breakin' Chains
9. Rider Of The Night
10. A.S.W.A.S.T
11. The Butterfly
12. Dance Around The Fire
13. Millattack
14. Resurrection
Although they aren’t exactly a household name here in the States, this long-forgotten bunch of Swedish metal alchemists has really piqued my interest recently, and judging by the recent re-release of this not-very-old album, maybe I’m not the only one. Breakin’ Chains is actually a “reunion” album of sorts (although the band members were apparently on separate continents during much of the album’s production process), with the former band mates collaborating to rerecord these fourteen selections from their late-’70’s and early-’80’e heyday.

As far as I can ascertain, Silver Mountain formed some time in the late 1970’s, taking their name from Rainbow’s “Man On The Silver Mountain”, a favorite of guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Jonas Hansson. The band underwent several lineup changes before their 1984 Roadrunner Records debut “Shakin’ Brains,” with more occurring before the subsequent Universe and Roses and Champaign releases (only Hansson and bassist Per Stadin seem to have remained in the band for a substantial amount of time). Apparently Yngwie Malmsteen was involved sometime before Hansson entered the picture, eventually taking brothers Jens (keyboards) and Anders Johansson (drums) with him for his Rising Force project.

The band’s sound was, and still is, ambitious, vaguely Baroque-tinged melodic metal, with deft guitar and keyboard interplay much like that of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, and of course the aforementioned Rainbow. As musicians, the band were ambition and perfectionism personified, yet their albums (particularly the cult classic Shakin’ Brains) exhibited a certain sonic rawness that, while perhaps unintentional, also kept their glory-bound music from coming off as cliched or overwrought.

This is where Breakin’ Chains comes in. Originally appearing on various self-produced demos from the early days, these tunes, in the band’s view, never got their full due in terms of both recording and distribution. So what this album does is present spiffy new recordings of the songs, taking advantage of modern recording technology, but leaving a certain amount of raw edge for that distinct Silver Mountain vibe. And despite being recorded in different hemispheres, the various instrumental and vocal parts gel quite nicely into a cohesive whole.

Musically, Breakin’ Chains is a classy and effortlessly enjoyable affair, sticking true to the band’s unique form of Scandinavian melodic metal while managing to avoid most of the cliche-infested pitfalls that others attempting this sort of sound often encounter. Though the songs exhibit considerable sonic and stylistic consistency, there is enough variety to keep it from getting boring, due in no small part to the band’s impressive musicianship. Right off the bat, “Prophet Of Doom” sets things off a frantic, exhilarating pace, before giving way to the mysterious melodic shuffle of “Before The Storm” (my favorite track on the album).

From here on in, it’s a glorious collection of classically-inspired riffs, chord progressions, vocal melodies, guitar solos, organ solos, clever harmonies, Hendrixian wah-wah licks and who knows what else, over intricate but steady drum and bass accompaniment. In other words, if heroic but disciplined Euro Metal is your cup of lager, consider this a generous helping with a twist (I know, I know: twists and lager generally don’t go together, but you get the point!). And for Neoclassical guitar geeks, Hansson’s intricate but tasteful soloing in songs like “A.s.w.a.s.t,” “Axeman And The Virgin” and the beautiful closing instrumental “Resurrection” are a lesson in class musicianship worth the price of the CD and then some.

In short, Breakin’ Chains is a very worthwhile listen, the only drawback being Hansson’s somewhat strained vocals. But then again, you might not care all that much, given the uncommon class with which all other musical duties are handled on this album.

Note: The edition I own contains the Hansson-directed music video for “Prophet Of Doom” as a bonus feature.

Rating: 8.5


--Vinaya Saksena 05.06.04
About this Writer:
Vinaya Saksena // Vinaya is either a writer who dabbles in guitar playing, or a guitar player who dabbles in writing. A Maximum Metal staffer since 2004, he has also served as a reporter for several newspapers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Although his obsession with music is such that it does not allow time for much else by way of hobbies, he also enjoys traveling, trivia, photography, British comedy and the occasional A-Team re-run.

Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: SILVER MOUNTAIN
CD
TITLE BAND
DOR
REVIEWER DATE
Breakin’ ChainsSilver Mountain
2001
Vinaya Saksena5/6/2004


ALL SUMMARY REVIEWS FOR: SILVER MOUNTAIN

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