Area 54 - No Visible Scars Dreamcatcher Records - 2000 In a musical climate dominated by so called nu-metal, unremarkable rap/rock crossovers and reunited supergroups desperate to cash in on their former glories, it is rare to find a new band who are still interested in melodic song structures, guitar solos and intelligible vocals. Area 54 could easily have jumped on the bandwagon led by the Korns and Limp Bizkits of this world, but they have too much respect for themselves and their genre to do anything of the sort. Instead they play the kind of music that interests them, and deserve credit for it. No Visible Scars, their first release, opens with 'You See The Light', a song that would have been right at home on The Cults Electric album. This is not to say that Area 54 are determined to relive the past, for while the majority of this disc features singalong choruses and riffs that make us all want to pick up our air guitars and jump on the coffee table, the lyrics (most of which are penned by main songwriter Lakis Kyriacou) address some rather confronting themes. An album full of macho war epics or odes to the glories of growing ones hair long and wearing studded leather would have been ridiculous and irrelevant in this day and age. Instead Kyriacou looks inside himself to find inspiration, and encourages us to do likewise. Both the albums title and the cover art (a portrait of a young boy shielding his face from further blows), suggest that this wont be easy, but No Visible Scars is one of those rare albums that asks us to think while banging our heads. Self-exploration continues on such tracks as 'Futile Dream' and 'Time Takes No Pain', with Adrian Longley putting away his guitar long enough to add some moody, atmospheric keyboard parts which enhance the material and expand it beyond the usual four-piece format. The last three songs are perhaps the most surprising. The instrumental 'Missing Time' shows off some fascinating interplay between Kyriacou and Longleys guitars. Things take a bit more of a left turn on 'The Face of All Your Fears', with its death-metal style vocal interludes. These are the last thing you expect to hear on an album such as this, but they suit the tone of the track well. The closing number, 'And the Last Embrace', covers a lot of ground in its seven-plus minutes. It opens with a riff of the sort Steve Harris wishes he could still write, ventures into more introspective territory during the verses and builds to a powerful, affirming chorus. Following this, bassist Laura Salmon supplies the kind of spooky voice-over narration that Sara Jezebel would be proud of. No Visible Scars is a solid, cohesive debut from a band with a lot to offer, yet it is also diverse enough to showcase each members individual talents and influences. If Area 54 can maintain or surpass the standards they set on this disc, then they are destined for great things. Buy yourself a copy now, if not sooner.