The quality of songs is just astounding
Thank God for suggestions. Legion was brought to us by a reader, claiming that an American band called Legion was creating 80s metal with a vocalist that sang in the style of Robert Plant, Ian Gillan, and Ronnie James Dio, and that the band had released a demo . Your hard working, head banging, extremely handsome journalist crew here at the Maximum Metal headquarters hit the trail, requesting a copy of the Legion demo so we can bring the goods directly to you, our beloved reader. After spending a week with the disc, I must say I am extremely pleased that this little nugget landed in my lap.
It's difficult to find good, new talent here in the states. This year we have been blessed with killer releases from the old folks. Overlorde managed to release one of the best albums of recent memory in "Return Of The Snow Giant", while Attacker released their third record, a masterpiece called "Soul Taker". Of note is the fact that both of those bands hail from New Jersey, the birthplace of another soon to be legend, a little known band called Legion. Created in 1999 by guitarists Frank and Joe Adamo, with long time friend and drummer Collin Bianchi, Legion set out a game plan to write and record powerful and melodic metal that was heavily influenced by 70s and early 80s hard rock and heavy metal. The group went out in search of a vocalist, and stumbled on a nearby resident in Mike Bunk, who happened to be within minutes of the band's rehearsal space. Another friend of the group, Nick Marinov, joined on bass a short time later. The lineup was complete and the band recorded their first material, the stellar four track EP that I hold in my hands.
Demos are a really odd thing. While you always hope for the best, you know that a majority of the discs you see in the mailbox are just unprofessional, lackluster efforts. In this day and age, EVERY garage band alive is cutting their own albums. Computers and CD burners have made it a cost effective way for anyone holding a musical instrument to get their music out on the streets. While this sort of thing really over populates and stagnates an already tough metal market, it can be a great way for talented bands to open up some new doors and get their feet wet. With that being said, I didn't know what to expect after opening this envelope. Luckily, this wasn't the unprofessional garage band that I was dreading, in fact, Legion come across as a fine group of professional musicians who have set clear goals. Obviously their first goal was to write and record music that they enjoy, that being the hard rockin' metal scene of the 70s and 80s. While doing that, and doing it well, the band has managed to create a good listen with this demo, obviously self produced, self financed, and self created without the huge wallet of a suit and tie guy. This really isn't your normal garage demo, with these four cuts being solid, crafty metal that really breaks the restraints currently laid out by MTV, Hit Parader, and the evil Clear Channel. With a limited production budget, the band have created an enjoyable listening session here, never just going through the motions, but stopping to create mood and character with these selections.
Frank and Joe Adamo construct their riffs around the 80s way of thought, with plenty of tight, melodic hooks that lead to soaring leads. The riffs are never really doom inspired in my opinion, something I was hoping for, but fall more in line with the post-Dio era of Sabbath, which works extremely well. Perhaps albums like "TYR", "Headless Cross", or "Born Again" were influential in the band's decision to create British flavored metal. Deep Purple, Rainbow, and even Badlands comes to mind as well. Bianchi's drum sound is very patient, allowing plenty of time for the riffs to settle in. His playing could be compared to a looser Bobby Rondinelli, but perhaps with a bigger budget his drumming could become more polished and tighter. Unfortunately Marinov's bass is low in the mix, making it hard for me to judge his skills. Mike Bunk is exactly what I like in a metal vocalist, with his voice really diverse, taking on a certain mood within the songs. At times he is much in the style of Ian Gillan, but I also hear Tony Martin, Jeff Scott Soto, and even Biff Byford. Quite a range of styles, but Bunk pulls it off, while adding a few keyboard sounds to the band's output.
Opener "Medicine Man" comes on like a really straightforward Dokken riff, recalling the fine moments of George Lynch. This song really has the 80s feel, easily compared to groups like Dokken, mid-era Whitesnake, and White Lion (Fight To Survive). "Heart Of Stone" has a real 70s vibe, almost bearing down on what made Styx so damn good. The Biff Byford comparison is made from this track, with Bunk sounding bluesy and raspy all the way to the chorus before shifting more into the Gillan range. I love Bianchi's drum sound here, with this track being the loudest of the album. A ripping lead is brought in here, courtesy of the Adamo connection. "The Watcher" follows, emphasizing more of the British metal sound, recalling the finer moments of "Headless Cross" and "TYR", but also could be compared to a less progressive Empire album. The way Bunk's voice is layered over the groovy guitar crunch and haunting keyboards reminds me of Jeff Scott Soto's work with Axel Rudi Pell, mainly "Magic" and "Black Moon Pyramid". Closer "Illusion" goes back to the big 80s sound, but keeps the same Axel Rudi Pell feel from before.
If you had played this for me and told me it was from New Jersey, I would have simply said wishful thinking. But as an American, I am proud to say that this material is made in the USA. It really is shocking to discover a new band this good right here on American soil. It does prove that metal has no boundaries, it truly is a worldwide force that can go beyond the trends and commercialism. Legion are well on their way to becoming a big time player in the world of melodic metal. This is just a demo folks, but the quality of songs is just astounding. The guys are hard at work right now recording their full length record, hopefully to be released next year.
For now they have a great head start...
1. Medicine Man
2. Heart Of Stone
3. The Watcher