With a two-decade history that includes Celtic Frost, Helloween, Kreator and other influential metal acts, Noise Records has inarguably been a huge force in the European heavy music scene. Yet somehow the recent wave of revived interest in metal seems to have left the label a bit flummoxed. With a current roster that, at best, can count bands like Gamma Ray and Stratovarius as its most forward-thinking, it could be said the label isn't exactly at the cutting edge of the next (or last) wave of metal.

Apparently, Noise figured this out for themselves, so with the help of some friends in the European metal press, the label embarked upon a search for the "Young Metal Gods." The average age of the band members had to be under 23, they had to be metal and they had to have their shit together enough to qualify for a contract with the estimable Noise. Needless to say, scores of bands thought they were good enough, but only three bands made the final cut, all of whom released their debuts within the last couple of months on Noise.

Of the three, Dyecrest is definitely the best. Hailing from a small town in Finland, the sextet's sound is steeped in classic power metal, all epic choruses and crushing riffs. Nothing new, but "The Way of Pain" is easily a couple of notches above most contemporary (read: generic) power metal, with a sound that's complex and engaging. Sadly, Sweden's Persuader is exactly the opposite, with an anonymous, synth-anchored thrash sound that's tired, tired, tired. Their "Evolution Purgatory" album is a depressing mélange of modern mediocrity that proves youth sometimes just equals inexperience. Beyond Surface, from Germany, split the difference; the double-guitar heaviness and soaring structures are undercut somewhat by some forced melodicism, but the instrumentation is exceptional and the band has an extraordinarily promising sound. So yeah, it's a mixed bag that may not paint the best picture of the current state of the young metal underground, but taken together, these three bands provide enough of a metal thrill to prove there's still some hope for this once-unstoppable label.