Scanner – Hypertrace (1988)
Scanner is one of those ’80s metal bands from Germany. Specifically, they are the types to play speed/power metal, similar to Kiske-era Helloween or Rage. The main difference, though, is that the members of Scanner read Foundation instead of Lord of the Rings, so their lyrical content is understandably a little different. It doesn’t really carry over that heavily into the instrumentation, outside of a particularly shiny guitar tone and a few sound effects, so what the band ended up with was again, basically comparable to the rest of the 1980s European power metal scene.
This, of course, was released before someone decided power metal had to be especially fast and flowery. As a result, Hypertrace, like many of its contemporaries, wears its influences from older metal on its sleeves – this not only includes things like Judas Priest and Iron Maiden (the big, obvious two), but perhaps some actual NWOBHM and early thrash metal bands as well, even if the former compose a greater amount of the mix. The emphasis is essentially split between speed/thrash flavored riffing and high pitched, scream flavored vocals. The thing about this early power metal is that it keeps one foot firmly in the pop camp, so most songs work towards an “epic” chorus, and extremity is essentially limited to levels most associated with Helloween’s debut, which codified much of the songwriting formulas for later forms of power metal.
Hypertrace has a moderately high concept factor, in that each track forms part of an overarching story. For some reason, these pieces aren’t arranged in chronological order, so that one has to skip to the sixth track (“The Grapes of Fear”) in order to hear the beginning. With this in mind, the album doesn’t really form a sense of inter-track continuity beyond what basic arrangement decisions gives it – the fast intro, the hit single, the miniature epic, and so forth. This is probably a mistake on the part of the band, and I honestly don’t know why they decided to arrange the tracks in this fashion. Either way, the storyline is somewhat incidental – much is said on the topics of war and peace, in somewhat broken, Westphalianized English (more coherent than contemporary work by Destruction, though), but I highly doubt the average listener seeks out Scanner primarily for their lyrical content.
In the end, it’s the poppy, accessible elements that save this album and that have given it at least some notoriety in amongst ’80s power metal fans, although the contract with Noise Records might’ve helped sell a few copies. The riffing is not particularly strong, but the vocalist is able to provide the “epic” choruses Scanner’s style calls for. In addition, the leads have a distinctive style of dancing around the riffs that makes said sections particularly memorable, but I would still claim that the vocal side of this album is the strongest, and that it along with the uncommon science fiction aesthetic put this on a few metalheads’ record shelves.
Highlights: “Warp 7”, “Locked Out”, “R.M.U”, “The Grapes of Fear”