I've been an obsessed hard rock & heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.
Rocka Rollas, "Metal Strikes Back: Definitive Edition"
Genre: Power/Speed Metal
Release: Stormspell Records, 2020
It looks like we can add Swedish multi-instrumentalist and all-around metal dude about town Cederick "Ced" Forsberg to the list of musicians who put their COVID-19 lockdown time to good use. Ced officially disbanded the Rocka Rollas after 2018's Celtic Kings album, in order to focus his energies on his new gig as the drummer for Crystal Viper... but then came the pandemic. Stuck in his home studio with plenty of time on his hands, Ced started going through his extensive back catalog and decided that some of his golden oldies could use a fresh coat of paint.
Apparently Ced was never fully satisfied with the performances or the production quality on the Rocka Rollas' second album, 2013's Metal Strikes Back. So like George Lucas sprucing up his original Star Wars trilogy with new special effects and re-releasing them as "Special Editions," Ced completely rebuilt Metal Strikes Back, re-recording everything except for Joe Liszt's lead vocal tracks, which were retained from the original sessions. Dubbed the "Definitive Edition," this new and improved version of Metal Strikes Back also includes the songs from 2012's Conquer EP and features striking new cover artwork. This special collector's item is a limited edition of only 500 copies on CD.
Cederick's "Definitive Edition" Preview Video
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Though I own several other Rocka Rollas discs, I had never heard the original version of Metal Strikes Back ... so I decided to treat this Definitive Edition as if it were a new release, since I didn't have the "old" one to compare it to. In a nutshell, if you're a fan of early '80s European speed/power metal like early Helloween, Grave Digger, Blind Guardian or Accept, you need some Rocka Rollas in your life.
The lightning-fast guitar and drum work of "Blazing Wings" gets the album off to a blazing start indeed; it was interesting to hear Joe Liszt, who I'm familiar with as the vocalist for Ancient Empire, lending his pipes to something this frenzied. "Heavy Metal Strikes Back" keeps the heaviness quotient high, followed up by the awesomely-titled one-two punch of "Raging Cyborg" and "Warmachine From Hell," an excellent pair of speed metal cuts.
"Night of the Living Steel" starts off with some soothing guitar noodling but don't get too relaxed, because when the song truly kicks in you're in for a fast-n-furious, four on the floor thrash fest that is one of the album's highlights, followed up by the melodic but forceful "Metalive" and the bad-ass "Weaponizer."
The classy "Conquer" is my favorite reworked track from the Conquer EP, which is perched at the disc's halfway point, with the crunchy "Bloodbath" and the speedy instrumental "Steelwheeler" bringing up the rear.
All in all, the twelve tracks on Metal Strikes Back: The Definitive Edition are solidly performed and packed with the classic Eighties metal feel that old school headbangers (like me) crave. Even if you already own the original pressing CDs of Metal Strikes Back and/or Conquer, these power metal jewels have been polished up impressively enough to make this Definitive Edition worth the re-buy.
"Metal Strikes Back!"
But Wait, There's More...
Collectors be advised, Metal Strikes Back was not the only one of Cederick's projects to get the re-recording treatment during lockdown—he also refurbished Return to Port Royal, the 2013 debut by his Running Wild-inspired pirate metal act, Blazon Stone. Like the Metal Strikes Back re-do, the Return to Port Royal Definitive Edition features completely re-recorded instrumental parts, re-tracked lead vocals, and updated artwork, and is strictly limited to 500 copies.
If you're interested in learning more about Metal Strikes Back: Definitive Edition, you can check out Stormspell's Bandcamp page, or the official Facebook page for all things Cederick Forsberg, including Blazon Stone, Rocka Rollas, and more. Support old-school speed metal!
© 2020 Keith Abt