Album Review: Mob Rules - 'Timekeeper'.
Can it really be twenty years since Germany’s Mob Rules first arrived onto the metal scene? Apparently so, and fittingly, arriving with grandeur comes ‘Timekeeper’ a celebratory collection that looks back over a bombastic two decades. Featuring three CDs comprising of; a best of, a batch of recordings featuring a host of guest contributors, and a new single, as well as a DVD featuring live footage, promo videos and extras, housed within a box that also contains a forty-four page booklet, it’s a set that is a real treat for fans.
Subtlety and meekness are not words that you would associate with Mob Rules. For a band proud of their power/euro metal heritage, theirs is a world of melodic, macho, primal metal in the self-same style as fellow countrymen Helloween and Gamma Ray. It’s serious without being po-faced, and on the whole, it’s a wholly enjoyable set.
Disc one comprises of arguably the band’s most popular material. The opening grandiloquently regal ‘Temple Fanfare’, from 2000’s ‘Temple Of Two Suns’ appropriately, as it did then, sets out Mob Rules’ agenda from the off. Trumpeting keyboards bolstered by booming drums, rumbling bass lines and hard driving guitars, over which soaring vocals are added, signpost what’s to follow. Where follow-up ‘Pilot Of Earth’ adds speed to the mix, as well as dual harmonising guitar solos, the restrained (by comparison) ‘Black Rain’ is catchy and melodic. This formula does not deviate much over the next dozen or more tracks. ‘Astral Hand’ is epic and expansive, and just the right side of over the top, while ‘Close My Eyes’ contains some exceptional and warm soloing. The grandiose ‘Among The Gods’ meanwhile, highlights the band’s progressive leanings. The real highlight of disc one however, is the darkly brooding ‘Dead Man’s Face’. A sci-fi landscape conjured from the spectacular musicianship of guitarists Matthias Mineur and Sven Lüdke and keyboardist Jan Christian, really highlights just what extraordinary sounds the five-piece are capable of.
Fans of the band however will be more interested in the contents of disc two, which includes mostly new recordings, including a fantastic and faithful cover of UFO’s ‘Light’s Out’. Titled ‘Friends’, the disc features guest appearances from some well-known (in Germany, in the specific genre of power metal, at least) names. The most notable of these is former Accept frontman, and bona fide metal elder statesman, Udo Dirkschneider, who lends his distinctive tones to the storming ‘Insurgeria’. The song also features Marco Wriedt, guitarist from the excellent 21 Octayne, a band who have released one of the strongest debuts this year. Elsewhere, Dirkschneider’s former Accept bandmate, guitarist Herman Frank, shows up on ‘All Above The Atmosphere’ contributing a blistering solo, while various members of Rhapsody Of Fire, Axxis and others of their ilk, bolster the likes of the sombre ‘End Of Days’, and a scarily accurate take on Rainbow’s ‘Run With The Wolf’. Ably holding his own meanwhile, Mob’s front man Klaus Dirks makes a particularly convincing Ronnie James Dio on the later.
The single ‘My Kingdom Come’ meanwhile, which constitutes the third disc, simply adds bells and whistles to the package (along with the DVD and extras, which are sadly unavailable with this advanced review copy), however as a track, it’s faithful to the legacy of the band. An orchestral version is also present on disc two, for those of a more baroque disposition.
Ultimately, there’s plenty here for both newcomers and long-time followers. As for celebration twenty years, this is one of those collections that gets it right. Listen to fools: the mob rules.
First published on uberrock.co.uk, 10 November 2014.