Game Over

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In spite of its ill-advised choice of a title, Vanadium's third long-player, Game Over, only solidified the group's status as leaders of Italy's still modest but quickly expanding domestic heavy metal scene -- as much because of their own talents, as the more extreme, less accessible nature of primary competitors like Bulldozer and Death SS. And even though it was a little less urgent and therefore not quite as exciting as its sonically irrepressible predecessor, A Race with the Devil, Game Over was, by turns, more mature and eclectic overall, with the band stretching their songwriting in several new directions while retaining most of their core, recognizable qualities. Impressive opener "Streets of Danger," for one, was easily among the group's most well-rounded numbers yet, and together with hook-conscious heavy rockers such as "I'm Leaving at Last" and "Pretty Heartbreaker," continued to expand Vanadium's melodic range with an emphasis on singalong choruses. Also quite telling was the distinct modernization of the group's sound, as exemplified by the album's dramatic power ballad "War Trains" and the none-more-metal (if lyrically confounding) "Don't Let Your Master Down" -- both of which saw keyboard player Ruggero Zanolini frequently turning his attention to synthesizer textures instead of competing directly with guitarist Steve Tessarin's riffs and solos via Hammond Organ workouts reminiscent of '70s Deep Purple. The chief exceptions to this trend, curiously enough, tended to include the band's now minority faster cuts, like "Too Young to Die" and the title track, as well as the stand-out instrumental scorcher, "The Hunter," which found the pair letting it rip, unhindered, for one of their greatest ever guitar/keyboard duels. All in all, Game Over's blend of old and new was heartily embraced by the Italian heavy metal faithful, and with the recent launch of Italy's own, MTV-type cable channel (imaginatively named Video Music), Vanadium became the natural poster boys adopted by its metal-dedicated weekly show, Heavy con Kleever, further accelerating them towards the apex of their popularity.