Review by Rick Ossian
To be honest I haven’t been quite this excited about a band I’ve never heard of for quite some time. No insult intended, boys, but a lot of stuff just doesn’t come on my radar unless I get lucky. Well I got lucky this week! If you are a shredder on the guitar, bass or drums, then this band might just be right up your alley. Ever hear a song with a bass solo at the core before? Search no further, because this CD contains just that. On the track Czardas, which features a more somber intro with flamenco-style acoustics and violin, suddenly this unruly bassline from out of nowhere comes into play, and it is very exciting when the bass takes over the song at about a minute-and-a-half in. It is without a doubt the best bass song I’ve heard since Metallica’s The Call Of Ktulu on Ride The Lightning. If bass playing isn’t necessarily your bag, then stay tuned, because there is plenty of guitar, drum and vocal shredding as well.
Putting it bluntly, Chuck Williams, the quartet’s singer, has a voice somewhere left of heaven. His vocals are constantly of the sky high variety, with a natural vibrato that really steers the lion’s share of the tracks here when the instruments aren’t taking care of that job for him. Master bassist (careful! – Ed) mentioned above is a cat named Michael Milsap, and his extremely proficient cohorts are Mikey Lewis on the drums and guitarist extraordinaire Don La Fon (Krucible, Mystic Cross, Logan). I haven’t heard pure melodic shred of this calibre since Yngwie or Steve Vai‘s earlier solo outings. Absolutely incredible, and his presence is felt on every track save for the intro.
Speaking of the intro, it is the beginning, and , quite rightly so, where we should begin. For it is here that we see the first of the sound effects that linger throughout this brilliant piece of work. For lack of a better term, we shall deem them ‘ the news’, because that is what they bring to mind. This intro piece, dubbed 1900, carries into the first song proper, City of Hope. COH incorporates the sky vocals mentioned above, as well as slamming power metal riffing. A tasty guitar solo appears at 2:45, then all hell breaks loose, as we envision the apocalyptic breakdown of the unfortunate metropolis: ‘No way to have been warned/ A city left in ruins‘.
Just Remains begins proceedings with an elegiac keyboard intro, before slamming us into submission once again. There are techno beeps and bloops and robot riffing towards the end, which I thought was a bit bizarre, but then we are future-looking folks, are we not? Moving right along, then! The Killing Fields calls for everyone to kick into double-time again, and the resulting extremely uptempo intro settles into the main rocking riff shortly afterwards. There is a very fleet-fingered guitar solo at 3:45, and a crisp drum workout at the end.
Baptized In Flames features a lovely vocal and piano intro, more news, then slam! We are all of a sudden in Waco, Texas on April 19th, an infamous day in American history that most won’t soon forget. This is prog-metal at its semi-finest, and again incorporates a masterful bassline towards the finish. Paying Death’s Toll is another slamming, ripping double-time drum workout. Violin and bass, of course, play their parts again, plus more of the sky vocals and beautiful keys at the end.
Last Days In Paradise starts off with sirens, news and classic rock riffing. Needham’s Point brought to mind the phrase ‘necessary noodling’. Sometimes in prog rock there are solos for the sake of solos, shred for the sake of shred, etc. You get the picture. Sometimes we may think our heroes are showing off; hey, I say if you’ve got it, flaunt it! It is more of the classic prog metal that I’m coming to expect from this outfit. I really must discover their previous material (s). In Defining Moment, we are as a group, asked to ‘look for (one)‘ in our lives. A more introspective number, then. This incorporates a decided Maiden-esque intro, and majestic piano, then rock riffing! At the two-minute mark, they shift gears into guitar squealing and another shredding solo at 3:45. ’The trick‘, Chuck tells us, ‘is not to be mesmerized‘. Fair enough, Chuck!
Hell’s Gate is another classic two-step slam, and includes the obligatory sound effects (more news), along with the bass. This number is evidently about Bonnie and Clyde Barrow, the notorious American gangsters. The ‘news’ mentioned earlier also features Bonnie introducing herself to Clyde. Three minutes in we get another blurb from them, then, of course, another shredding guitar solo, followed by a bass AND guitar workout that will stun your ears! ’Beelzebub waits‘, we are told, ‘swinging from Hell’s Gate‘. Yikes!
Wasting Time, the title track and the final tune, is another drum and vocal workout. It also includes piano, and a very fine guitar solo at 4:30. Some incredible shredding from all members in this one, as it should be. Our hero finds a little time towards the end to reflect as well: Deja vu/Chapter Two is incomplete/Getting closer/Even I believe. What does he believe in? Who knows? Perhaps we shall see…on the next CD?