Holy Hell

Rob Rock

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Holy Hell Review

by Alex Henderson

Originality can be a beautiful thing. It's hard not to feel excited when you remember the first time you heard someone as fresh-sounding and boldly original as Radiohead, De La Soul, Nirvana, John Coltrane, or Nellie McKay. That said, anyone who insists on originality and innovation from every artist who comes along -- a highly unrealistic expectation -- is cutting himself off from a lot of worthwhile albums. There are some releases that aren't the least bit original but still deserve credit for quality, inspiration, and craftsmanship. A case in point is Holy Hell, which merits a favorable response regardless of the fact that Rob Rock is totally derivative. The main focus of this album is '70s/'80s-style power metal, an approach that -- like hair band pop-metal -- has sounded very dated since the Nirvana/Pearl Jam/grunge upheaval of the early '90s. But even though power metal has been flying under the radar for a long time, it has maintained an enthusiastic cult following. Although released in 2005, this solo effort from singer Rob Rock (formerly of Impellitteri) sounds like it could have been recorded 20 or 25 years earlier. There isn't a trace of alternative metal, death metal/black metal, or metalcore to be found on Holy Hell; this hard-driving yet melodic effort is firmly planted in the old-school aesthetic of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Ronnie James Dio, and Queensr├┐che -- at least musically. One thing that separates Rock from those artists is the fact that "Lion of Judah," "Calling Angels," and other songs on Holy Hell are coming from a Christian perspective. But Rock isn't preachy or annoying about his religion, and many of the metal websites that reviewed Holy Hell didn't seem to pick up on the Christian leanings of this album -- which underscores the fact that metal doesn't have to be groundbreaking to be worthwhile and enjoyable.

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