LAMB OF GOD: THE DUKE

(EPIC RECORDS/NUCLEAR BLAST ENTERTAINMENT; 2016)

theduke

I don’t know if you are a fan of Lamb of God or if you know anything about their passionate, compassionate singer, Randy Blythe. I don’t really care but, you should know about this incredible new EP from the aggressively progressive boys from Richmond, Virginia; you see, Randy and his bandmates care and they are more than willing to go the extra mile for their fans and put their money where their mouths are. I’m just gonna let Mister Blythe speak for himself about this record’s title track: “A little while ago, I became friends with a fan named Wayne Ford – he was terminal – leukemia. I talked with him often, even video chatted him into the studio. He was very calm about his impending death, and we discussed it very openly. I learned a lot from him. This song is for him.”

Lamb of God (Randy Blythe with Wayne Ford, 2012) (uncredited photo)

Lamb of God (Randy Blythe with Wayne Ford, 2012) (uncredited photo)

Randy was made aware of Wayne’s illness in October 2012, when one of Wayne’s buddies asked him if he could give his sick friend a shout-out from the stage; Randy met Wayne and his wife after the show, giving him a much needed shot of positive energy. A little over two years later, in January 2015, Randy received an e-mail telling him that Wayne was losing his fight with cancer; Randy contacted Wayne and they stayed in touch for the next few weeks, as Lamb of God worked on their next album (VII: STURM UND DRANG), with Blythe even allowing Wayne to video conference with him during recording of his vocal tracks (something that even his LoG brethren aren’t allowed to experience). On February 3, 2015 Randy learned that Wayne had succumbed to the disease. His immediate response was to write a song for Wayne Ford, called, perhaps with a bit of divine intervention, “The Duke,” as Wayne’s father later told Randy that he was a huge John Wayne fan and that he had named his son after the legendary actor known as the Duke. The band has also set up a charity campaign for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society online, at propeller.la/lambofgod.

Lamb of God (John Campbell, Chris Adler, Randy Blythe, Willie Adler, Mark Morton) (photo credit: TRAVIS SHINN)

Lamb of God (John Campbell, Chris Adler, Randy Blythe, Willie Adler, Mark Morton) (photo credit: TRAVIS SHINN)

Now that you know what kind of men… no, make that Men… the guys from Lamb of God are, here’s why you should check out the music they make. “The Duke” is a progressive metal tour de force. The track features pounding drums (should it be otherwise?) from Chris Adler, a John Campbell bass line that thrums ominously along the bottom and inventive, pulsating guitars from the tandem of Willie Adler and Mark Morton, topped off with a stunning solo; Blythe’s vocals are mostly clean, only hitting on that well-known throaty growl on the chorus. I always considered Lamb of God to be a very technically proficient group, but this song really blows me away! The other new tune is “Culling,” which is more of the same, while not quite as inventive; this one is all abut the groove. There’s a Zakk Wylde style stun guitar running throughout, with a fleet-fingered, trebley solo punctuating the affect. Randy’s vocals revert to the norm here: Intense, guttural screams, which ain’t a bad thing.

Lamb of God (Randy Blythe, 2005 SOUNDS OF THE UNDERGROUND TOUR) (photo credit: DARREN TRACY)

Lamb of God (Randy Blythe, 2005 SOUNDS OF THE UNDERGROUND TOUR) (photo credit: DARREN TRACY)

The remaining three cuts are live versions of three numbers from VII: STURM UND DRANG. The first, “Still Echoes,” recorded at Germany’s Rock am Ring festival in 2015, features quick, precision strikes from the four musicians while still delivering a vicious, pummeling riff. The last two, “512” and “Engage the Fear Machine,” are from the 2016 edition of the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival. The autobiographical “512” is particularly moving, as it recalls Blythe’s plight, being locked away in a Czechoslovakian prison awaiting trial on charges of manslaughter; the music, especially the snaking, circular guitar figure gives the song a suitably claustrophobic feel. By the way, the full story of Randy’s ordeal is told with brutal honesty in his memoir, DARK DAYS is available from Da Capo Press and all major book outlets, both online and brick and mortar varieties… or, you could check out a copy at your local public library. If the above story about his interaction with one terminally ill fan hasn’t given you proof of the man’s character, this book surely will!


NIGHT DEMON/VISIGOTH/DOOM AND DISCO/BANGARANG

(May 9, 2016; FUBAR, Saint Louis MO)

DSCN8563

I’m gonna let you guys in on what may be one of the worst kept secrets in the universe: I love heavy metal… all kinds of heavy metal. However, if I were staked to the ground in close proximity to a colony of fire ants and the only possible salvation was telling my captors what type of metal was my favorite, I would have to say the classic, hard rocking stuff… you know, Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, Deep Purple, Iron Maiden, Demon. So, even though I thoroughly enjoyed recent shows by Nile and Coal Chamber (and am looking forward to the return of Dez’s other band, DevilDriver), I gotta say that this night was Nirvana (the mystical happy place, not the band) to this old-school rocker. By the way, this was my first foray to the Lounge, a smaller room with impressive, clear sound, located to the left of the venue’s entry. What a great decision it was to put this show here and the other, more punk oriented bill in the main room.

Bangarang (John Loness; Cory Crowell; Ruben Guerrios) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Bangarang (John Loness; Cory Crowell; Ruben Guerrios) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Local three-piece Bangarang is the modern approximation of early-to-mid ’70s Mountain-ous (you know, Leslie West… Felix Pappalardi… Corky Laing) hard rock, filtered through ’80s SoCal punk. The group’s eight song set featured the five tracks from their recently released EP, SNACK TIME, including a raging jungle beast called “Jumanji,” which featured a cool breakdown, with Cory Crowell pounding out a brutal tribal beat. Other highlights were the thudding behemoth that is “Monsoon Tune” and the atmospheric “Egan’s Rats,” which put me in mind of those psychedelic freaks, NIL8. Guitarist John Loness holds an odd place within the musical structure of the band, as he – more often than not – adds chittering effects and weird little strands of rhythm rather than any kind of boisterous, balls-out lead or solo (even though he proved himself more than capable of those types of guitar heroics); when he does step out, it is always tasty and very much holding to the vibe of the song and the suitably heavy groove laid down by his bandmates, drummer Crowell and the lucidor-masked bassist Rubin Guerrios, who manages to be crushingly heavy and uncompromisingly funky at the same time. Loness, who is also the trio’s lead singer (the others provide some well-placed backing), has the perfect voice for the style of rock played by Bangarang and, though the final three songs were works-in-progress, presented as instrumentals waiting for lyrics, he still shied away from filling the lyrical void with over-the-top guitar parts… it just wouldn’t have made sense within the arrangements and would have been a distraction to what the band is attempting with their music; in fact, the first of the three instrumentals, called “Bangarang,” was more of an extended drum solo with minimal accompaniment from Guerrios and Loness. The three numbers, voiceless though they were, seemed to fit in well with what has come before and definitely bodes well for the next phase of Bangarang’s evolution; I, for one, can’t wait.

Doom and Disco (Fu Thorax; Henry Savage; Fu Thorax) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Doom and Disco (Fu Thorax; Henry Savage; Fu Thorax) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Doom and Disco, the second Saint Louis band of the evening, rather like their name, is somewhat of a paradoxical venture. The group performed as a duo, with a third member wandering the floor, unprepared to play. The band play classic riff-heavy metal at ear-bleeding volume; you know… the good stuff. Despite a count-in on virtually every song, everything sounded like it started in the middle and was over at least fifteen seconds before it ended. (Before continuing, I should point out here that the names listed are somewhat in dispute, as my best investigative efforts could only uncover one name associated with Doom and Disco, a guitarist/vocalist named Shalom Friss, the same person who gave me the band info for this review… plus, his Facebook profile looks suspiciously like the dude onstage.) Guitarist Henry Savage featured a beefy, bassy sound, while his vocals somehow reminded me of the legendary Lemmy Kilmister; skin-pounder Fu Thorax was merciless in his approach, reminding me of that wild-eyed family member who always looks like he just farted in the dip bowl while holding an internal running commentary on the social relevance of DUMB AND DUMBER TO. Doom and Disco’s musical selections included such blistering fare as “666 Death,” “Spaghetti Western,” “Savage Journey” and set closer, “Vengeance and Oblivion.” As a duo, the sound was heavy, oppressive and surprisingly full; I can only imagine what we would have heard if that third player HAD been on stage (I’m assuming that he would have played bass, which would have given their sound an even heavier vibe). Bottom line: Doom and Disco… whoever you are and however many of you there are, I hope to have the chance to see you again soon.

Visigoth (Leeland Campana; Jake Rogers; Jamison Palmer) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Visigoth (Leeland Campana; Jake Rogers; Jamison Palmer) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

So… what does Salt Lake City’s Visigoth have in common with long standing bands like Iron Maiden, Raven, Diamond Head, Tygers of Pan Tang, Witchfynde and Samson? Well, they may not hail from the United Kingdom, but they do hold the torch of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal high. The group has an epic sound, with lyrics retelling tales of legendary lore of castles and dragons and knights; vocally, Jake Rogers can wail like an earlier Briton, Rob Halford, while guitarists Leeland Campana and Jamison Palmer deliver majestic dual leads, ala classic Maiden or Judas Priest. In short, Visigoth is the best kind of throwback band… with a studious knowledge of (and respect for) those who have gone before, paving the way for a new generation of head-banging musicians, yet talented enough to add their own metallic twists to the mix. Much of their set draws upon the group’s latest release, THE REVENANT KING, including the epic, Arthurian title track; “Dungeon Master,” the new Gamer Nerds National Anthem; “Mammoth Rider,” a mystical retelling of Hannibal’s legendary march into Italy astride elephants; and “Necropolis,” a killer Manila Road cover. The rhythm section of Mikey T on drums and Matt Brotherton on bass were rock solid throughout, laying down a massive foundation, allowing the guitars and vocals to weave their magical spells and minstrel tales of adventure. For me, one of the ultimate highlights of the brilliantly well-paced set was another cover, as the band reached back into their NWOBHM ancestry to offer “The Spell,” from Demon’s 1982 album, THE UNEXPECTED GUEST… a song, a band and a record virtually unknown in these here United States. With a new release on the horizon, Visigoth can only continue their upward trajectory. If you have the chance, do not sleep on the opportunity to see these guys live. Oh, yeah… I gotta give bonus points to Jamison Palmer for his Tank tee. Plus, additional bonus points to me for not using the words “sacked” or “sacking” anywhere in this review.

Night Demon (Dusty Squires; Armand John Anthony; Jarvis Leatherby) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Night Demon (Dusty Squires; Armand John Anthony; Jarvis Leatherby) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

As much as I liked the under card, I was absolutely stoked for the main event. The Ventura, California trio, Night Demon, plays that classic Deep Purple brand of heavy rock, with more than just a dose of sinister Misfits style punk. They opened their set with a blistering “Screams In the Night,” the lead track of the band’s debut full-length, CURSE OF THE DAMNED, with solid vocals from their sole original member, bassist Jarvis Leatherby; in fact, Leatherby’s vocals were on-point and – thankfully – upfront throughout the night. Along with his battery mate, drummer Dusty Squires, Jarvis also laid down a monstrously heavy bottom end… on a Flying V, no less. New(ish) guy Armand John Anthony more than held his own on guitar, with amazingly tight leads and smoking solos. The set was enhanced by oddly effective lighting, more so because they were supplied by the band’s merch guy from the front of the stage.

Night Demon (Jarvis Leatherby; Armand John Anthony; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Night Demon (Jarvis Leatherby; Armand John Anthony; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

The guys tore through a solid song list that included tales of fast cars, ages-old evils, modern day madmen and religious rites, both sacred and profane: “Road Racin’,” “Ancient Evil,” “Killer” and the centerpiece of the band’s live performances and their raison d’etre, “Chalice.” With an intensity rivaling the original Blue Cheer or the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Night Demon took their place among the great power trios of hard rock and heavy metal, updating the model to represent, not only current musical trends, but also the grimmer, grimier aspects of our modern world. If I had to compare Armand’s six-string assault to a predecessor, I hear definite influences from Gillan-era Bernie Torme, the late, lamented Paul Samson and the guys from Maiden, particularly Adrian Smith… classic metal riffs laced with a speed and fluidity that few possess, all amply displayed on “Full Speed Ahead,” among others; it’s hard to pinpoint any one style in Leatherby’s vocals… his is a strong, forceful rock and roll voice that seems to be manufactured for exactly this style of heavy music; Squires is a rock-solid Ian Paice type of drummer, a brilliant timekeeper with the occasional flash of reckless abandonment. As the show built to its climax, from “Killer” into “Road Racin’” and into the moody, sombre “Chalice,” the trio was joined onstage by Rocky, the looming, leering personification of Poe’s THE MASQUE OF THE RED DEATH, who bade all to “Drink from the chalice.” This theatrical cameo brought wild cheers from the (unfortunately) modest crowd, much like the Iron’s lumbering Eddie or the Misfits’ Fiend/Crimson Ghost used to back in the day. Rocky’s departure from the stage conjured the ultimate evil, as the band charged into the final number, “Satan.” Jarvis asked for the stage lights to be lowered and, upon learning that they were actually controlled by a wall switch by the stage, Visigoth’s Leeland jumped to the rescue, turning the lights off and on, creating a type of rhythmic lightning effect… a rather silly but somehow appropriate ending to a fun evening of live music.

Night Demon (Armand John Anthony and Jarvis Leatherby with Rocky; Rocky offers the Chalice; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Night Demon (Armand John Anthony and Jarvis Leatherby with Rocky; Rocky offers the Chalice; Dusty Squires) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

I was impressed by the professionalism of all of the bands (and their meager crews), as each went out of their way to ensure that I (and the entire room, really) had a great time. I had a brief interlude with Jarvis after the show and mentioned, rather offhandedly, that I wished the record companies would send out vinyl copies of their releases for review; he asked if I had a copy of CURSE OF THE DAMNED and, receiving my negative reply, walked over to the merch table and handed me a vinyl copy, saying, “Now you do, my friend.” I certainly wasn’t expecting that but, the gesture put me in mind of the way artists generally handled their business when I first got into this game more than twenty years ago. If I hadn’t been a fan before, I definitely was when I walked out of the venue with my brand new slab of orange vinyl!


FEAR FACTORY/SOILWORK/SPADES AND BLADES/SYSTEM SLAVE

(April 22, 2016; POP’S NIGHTCLUB, Sauget IL)

low-804x1024

Hello, fellow rockers… Dustin Gabel here to bring you my first concert review since my college days. A little background on my start: After graduating from Belleville Township High School East, I moved on to college at Belleville Area College (now known as Southwestern Illinois College or, SWIC) and secured a spot for a new section in the college paper, STUDENT OUTLOOK, doing concert reviews. That landed me next to some of the period’s most influential bands, like Nine Inch Nails, Metallica, Rob Zombie, Queensryche… once in awhile getting lucky enough to be given backstage passes. After college, I decided to go into the military which kept me occupied for 12 years, but I wanted to keep my foot in the door for doing concert reviews, live concert photography, and interviews; so, after a long wait, and some sorely missed opportunities to get back into the music scene… I am back! I do see that a lot has changed in the way public relations and publicity for bands is handled, but being in the photo pit for concerts still has that flavor I missed… being inches away from your favorite singers and band members, taking pictures. So without further ado, I bring you… THE DEMANUFACTURE TOUR starring Fear Factory, Soilwork, Spades and Blades and System Slave! Enjoy!

System Slave (Cody Golden, Chuck Guzman; Mike Messex, Stephen Harris) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

System Slave (Cody Golden, Chuck Guzman; Mike Messex, Stephen Harris) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

Opening the show was System Slave from Sullivan, Missouri. Barely on the music scene for a year since their start in January 2015, the five members came together to share a common goal: Writing music and, someday, taking their music to the world stage. To start building their fanbase, three songs were released on reverbnation.com while they worked on their album. Shortly after the release of the three songs, titled “Loaded,” “Last In Line” and “Lights In Seattle,” the track “Loaded” went on to win the best rock song in the Academia Awards. This will definately be a band that’s going to excel with it’s edgy, powerful, melodic style and with their first full length album due out later in 2016. When asked about what genre their music should be placed in, the answer was “REAL,” which is definately the truth! For being a relatively new band, I saw no signs of that at all. The members work really well together, with several different musical styles falling into place, delivering a live show that could easily be compared to bands that have been on the scene for much longer. System Slave definitely has that fluidity that you just don’t see in new bands who haven’t even recorded their first album!

Spades and Blades (Jason Todd; Tommy Jean Stiles) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

Spades and Blades (Jason Todd; Tommy Jean Stiles) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

Next up was California act Spades And Blades. Formed in 2006, the founding members have actually been on the music scene since 2001, as a hardcore punk band named the Havoc; but, it was decided that they wanted to form something different, a heavier project with a new life. They definitely delivered that with style, with their mashup of metal, hardcore, and hard rock leading to a more melodic metalcore sound in 2013, with the release of their EP, PROUD TO BE LOUD. After completing a successful tour in 2015, the band played several local shows in Southern California to support the release of the album THE END IS NEAR in February, 2016. After ten years as a band, the music industry is finally taking notice of Spades and Blades and their progressive metalcore style as a force to be reckoned with. My first thought after they started their set, without knowing much of the band history prior to 2006, I saw a lot of Henry Rollins influence in the singer, and now, knowing more about their hardcore roots, it all fits in. Either way, if you are able to catch them out on tour, Spades and Blades is a band you won’t regret showing up early or staying late for!

Soilwork (Bjorn Strid, Dirk Verbeuren; Sylvain Coudret) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

Soilwork (Bjorn Strid, Dirk Verbeuren; Sylvain Coudret) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

The third band to take the stage was Soilwork from Sweden. Having arrived early, for a scheduled 3:00 PM interview with Bjorn “Speed” Strid, the group’s frontman, I was pumped up for the show and the chance to learn more about their music, methods of inspiration for their songs, influences, and Bjorn’s personal side. Unfortunately, due to a tour bus incident, Soilwork and Fear Factory were running a few hours late. Having formed in 1995, under the name Inferior Breed, they changed their name in 1996 to Soilwork, which means working from the ground up… which is what they have done despite the lineup changing several times, with Bjorn being the longest standing (and only original) member. As the singer stated, Soilwork is sounding better than ever and I can’t agree more! After their set, I was able to pull Bjorn aside for a few minutes to talk about the tour to support the new release, THE RIDE MAJESTIC. He stated they will be back in the area in the fall; hopefully, there are no incidents to make them run late again and I can deliver a solid, information-filled interview for you all to enjoy!

Fear Factory (Burton C Bell; Dino Cazares) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

Fear Factory (Burton C Bell; Dino Cazares) (photo credits: DUSTIN GABEL)

Finally, the long awaited part of the show for many. Despite the tour bus mishap (a  broken engine belt), putting them late for arrival at the venue but keeping in contact with the tour manager via text message, vocalist Burton C Bell had a direct quote for the anxious, waiting fans… “Sorry it’s gonna be a throw and go, but we’ll give ‘em one hell of a show”. Having seen Fear Factory several times in the past with Sepultura, that promise was lived up to… just like I expected from Fear Factory! They never disappoint. While the stage hands were setting up their equipment, we were graced with the PURPLE RAIN soundtrack being played – as requested by the band - to honor the late musician, Prince. To hear every single person in Pop’s singing “Purple Rain” was a very emotional, respectful tribute as he has had a phenomonal impact on many musicians in across all genres. The music slowly faded out, lights dimmed, and here, finally, was the much awaited moment with Fear Factory taking the stage to support the twentieth anniversary of the release of DEMANUFACTURE, opening with the title track, tearing straight into “Self Bias Resistor,” followed by “Zero Signal,” “Replica,” “New Breed,” “Dog Day Sunrise,” “Body Hammer,” “H-K (Hunter-Killer),” “Pisschrist” and “A Therapy For Pain.” As the house lights came back on, fearing that was all of their set, the crowd started chanting for more. It paid off, as the house lights went back down and Fear Factory returned to belt out four more tracks, “Shock, “Soul Hacker,” “Regenerate,” finally ending the night with “Edgecrucher.” Burton stated he would deliver one hell of a show and that promise was lived up to with kickass double-bass, insane riffs, heavy bass lines, and lyrical slaughter as only Fear Factory can deliver!


EPICA/MOONSPELL/STARKILL

(January 30, 2016; READY ROOM, Saint Louis MO)

Epica-Tour

I gotta admit, I wasn’t real sure what to expect out of Epica… I just knew that I really wanted to see legendary Portuguese Goth metallers, Moonspell, again. Serious doubts entered my mind about the whole night when it seemed as though this was going to be another one of those sparsely attended Saint Louis shows; with about 30 minutes to go before start time, the room was less than half full. However, to my utter surprise (and delight), each check over my shoulder saw the head count rise to the point that, by the time Starkill took the stage, the floor was packed. And, what a great evening of rock and roll was on hand for one and all, beginning with…

Starkill (Tony Keathley; Parker Jameson, Shaun Andruchuk; Shaun Andruchuk) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Starkill (Tony Keathley; Parker Jameson, Shaun Andruchuk; Shaun Andruchuk) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Chicago progressive speed merchants, Starkill. The band’s prime mover, Parker Jameson, showed himself adept at both dirty and clean vocal styles, as well as impressive lead and solo guitar… he was even responsible for the prerecorded keyboard parts featured throughout the six-song set. The show highlighted Starkill’s most recent release, VIRUS OF THE MIND with three songs, including their opening salvo, “Be Dead or Die.” Odd title aside, the tune featured an intense orchestral intro from Jameson and a massive drum sound. Surprisingly, the strongest material has yet to be officially released, “Burn Your World” and “Cloudless,” from an upcoming third album (after two albums with Century Media, the band is self-releasing this one with fan funding from Indiegogo); maybe the strength of these new songs comes from the fact that guitarist Tony Keathley and bassist Shaun Andruchuk are now firmly ensconced in the fold (VIRUS OF THE MIND was pretty much finished when they were brought on board). Andruchuk is an absolute beast, prowling the stage and giving the guitars and vocals ample underpinning alongside the borderline maniacal drum-bashing of Spencer Weidner. As impressive as the rhythm section is, this group’s strength lies in the vocals (with Keathley supporting Jameson with clean counter-vocals and, in some instances, nice harmonies) and the twin lead work from the fleet-fingered guitarists, put to particularly good use on “Virus of the Mind.” What could have been a fairly unextraordinary set of Death Metal was continually lifted to unexpected heights by the clean vocals of both Parker and Tony, Spencer’s percussive expertise and the use of Parker’s keyboard and orchestral embellishments. These guys can only get better.

Moonspell (Fernando Ribeiro; Mike Gaspar; Aires Pereira) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Moonspell (Fernando Ribeiro; Mike Gaspar; Aires Pereira) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Moonspell have always tended toward the dark, Gothic edges of metal. More recently, they have gone full-tilt into the Gothic sound and lyrical imagery of such bands as the Damned, True Sounds of Liberty (TSOL), Danzig (both the metal band and their punk Misfit leader) and the lugubrious funeral dirges of Type-O Negative. The band were ushered to the stage with the atmospheric, near-operatic (as in THE PHAMTOM OF… ) “La Baphomette,” the final track from their latest record, EXTINCT; as vocalist Fernando Ribeiro took to the boards, the recorded intro faded, replaced by the ponderous beats of Mike Gaspar’s drums and the massive sound of Pedro Paixao’s pipe organ for the haunting “Breathe (Until We Are No More),” the opening cut from the same album. Guitarist Ricardo Amorim and bassist Aires Pereira initially seemed to be completely buried in the mix with the nearly overwhelming volume of the pipe organ. However, the problem was soon rectified and, to paraphrase the dearly departed Lemmy, everything was louder than everything else, with Pereira’s bass adding to the rhythmic din laid down by Gaspar and Amorim’s tasty licks leading the way on Moonspell’s musical moonlight drive through the cemetery. The band seemed to kick into high gear with the title track from EXTINCT, particularly Ricardo, who delivered the first of many killer solos; they really hit their stride, however, on older tunes like the slow grind of “Awake” (from 1998’s IRRELIGIOUS album) and a pair of late set favorites from their 1995 debut, WOLFHEART (the eerie fist-pumper “Vampiria” and “Alma Mater,” which featured a very nice old-school rock solo from Amorim). Ribeiro hung around the lower registers, occasionally approximating the bone-rattling baritone of the sorely missed Peter Steele or, alternately, delivering the gutteral death-rattle of the genre – moving effortlessly between the two at the drop of a coffin lid… plus, his accent kinda reminded me of Bela Lugosi. As good as Starkill was, this was definitely the highlight of the evening for me; could the headliner hope to match or exceed what Moonspell brought to the stage?

Epica (Simone SImons; Mark Jansen; Arien van Weesenbeek) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Epica (Simone SImons; Mark Jansen; Arien van Weesenbeek) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Kicking their set off with a couple of tracks from their latest release (THE QUANTUM ENIGMA from 2014), from the get-go, it was obvious that the name of these Nederlanders’ game was speed and precision; guitarists Isaac Delahaye (the lone Belgian in the group) and Mark Jansen proved to be fleet-of-finger, while bassist Rob van der Loo and drummer Arien van Weesenbeek matched them with a wicked ferocity and keyboardist Coen Janssen added a touch of the symphonic. Of course, above all was the unbelievable mezzo-soprano voice of the lovely Simone Simons. “The Second Stone” and “The Essence of Silence” were formidable blasts of Wagnerian bombast, with mystical/metaphysical lyrics, alternating between Simons’ operatic vocals and Jansen’s harsh, throaty growl. Amidst a flurry of hair-whipping, it was obvious – much like Moonspell before them – that the band (and an appreciative audience) really started to have fun with the introduction of some fan-favorite older material, beginning with “Sensorium,” from the group’s debut release, THE PHANTOM AGONY. With “Martyr of the Free World,” Coen Janssen emerged from the shadows (and fog) engulfing stage-right’s back corner with a unique bowed keyboard, soloing and mugging for the crowd (and I still couldn’t get a decent shot of the third original member of the group, along with Simone and band founder, Mark Jansen); toward the end of the song, after basking in the much-deserved accolades of the packed room, Janssen returned to his omni-directional keyboard as Delahaye killed a lightning-quick solo.

Epica (Rob van der Loo; Mark Jansen; Simone SImons) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Epica (Rob van der Loo; Mark Jansen; Simone SImons) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

As you may well guess, any band with the type of near-virtuosity that each member possesses is going to solo and solo often. On “Cry For the Moon,” it was Weesenbeek’s turn, as the hard-pounding drummer delivered a powerful, tastefully short exhibit of his abilities. The song itself, another track from THE PHANTOM AGONY, built from a basic, martial rhythm to an anthemic slow-simmer to a full-blown operatic tour de force, with a Teutonic-sounding choir (via a sample or backing tape) adding a new dimension to the already forceful vocals of Simone Simons. Though Epica has been called a “Gothic Metal” band, it really isn’t until “Storm the Sorrow” that I caught anything (other than certain lyrical content) remotely Gothic in their music, with the heavy, near-industrial riffage and doom-laden piano flourishes; the fact that the upbeat vocal performance belies the nightmarish lyrics only adds to the Goth feel… a real highlight. The brutally dark vibe continued, with Mark delivering more of his intense, harsh vocals throughout the next few songs,” including “The Obsessive Devotion” and, from THE QUANTUM ENIGMA, “Victims of Contengiency.” This darker sound also gave van der Loo a chance to shine with more complex bass lines, rather than sticking fairly close to the rhythmic patterns laid down by the drums and guitars; this complexity was best displayed on the title track to 2009’s DESIGN YOUR UNIVERSE, the closing number of the main set, which also featured some very nice multi-textured keyboard work from Coen.

Epica (Isaac Delahaye; Simone SImons; Mark Jansen) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Epica (Isaac Delahaye; Simone SImons; Mark Jansen) (photo credits: DARREN TRACY)

Unsated, the appreciative crowd refused to leave without hearing more; Epica was more than willing to oblige. With Janssen exhorting the rabid fans, he was soon joined by Weesenbeek, Delahaye and van der Loo, teasing the encore before Simons and Jansen returned for a stirring “Sancta Terra.” The band wasn’t messing around with a “one-and-done” trip back to the stage; they followed that tune with a great version of one of the stronger songs from THE QUANTUM ENIGMA, “Unchain Utopia.” If that wasn’t enough, refusing to go gentle into that good night, the sextet finished with a thundering version of the bombastic, anthemic epic, “Consign To Oblivion.” Like last November’s Amaranthe show at Pop’s, Epica eschewed the use of any visible, onstage amplification or monitors; however, where the sound was, at best, spotty for that earlier show, here, it was near perfect. The lighting, also, was some of the best I’ve seen in recent memory. So, earlier in this review, I asked the question, “Could Epica hope to match or exceed what Moonspell brought to the stage?” The answer, my friends, is an unequivocal, “Yes!” A great night of metal, from top to bottom.


JOHNNY WORE BLACK: WALKING UNDERWATER, PART 2

(DEAD CHERRY RECORDS; 2014)

Johnny Wore Black

Johnny Wore Black is the musical alter-ego of a stuntman who prefers to be called simply, “Jay” (his most recent stunt work is currently on display in FURY, with Brad Pitt). Considering his day job, is it any wonder that the music Jay creates is adventurous, risky and maybe even a little bit scary? WALKING UNDERWATER, PART 2 (PART 1 was released earlier this year) is a balancing act of hard rock, progressive metal and pop sheen, all laced with a dollop of blues and soul. Jay’s backing band are on point throughout the ten tracks on the album, maybe kicking things up a notch with the presence of bassist (and co-writer on several tracks) Dave Ellefson of metal giants, Megadeth. So, without further ado, let’s get into some of the specifics that make this record so cool.

Johnny Wore Black (Dave Ellefson and Jonathan Cohen) (uncredited photo)

Johnny Wore Black (Dave Ellefson and Jay) (uncredited photo)

The album kicks off with “Firefly,” a progressively melodic blast of hard rock. The track features great guitar work from Pete Mathers and James Coppolaro (a theme we’ll see repeated throughout the album) and a very “progressive” rhythm (it sounds like synthesizer, but there are no synths or keyboards credited). “A Cut Above” has a heftier guitar and vocal sound, as Ellefson’s bass drives the tune along quite nicely. There’s a certain groove that kinda reminds me of mid-era solo Alice Cooper and a stinging, dark progressivity that gives it the feel of a Floydian outtake from THE WALL. With a brighter, somewhat jangly guitar, “Comfy Slippers” features an overall more high-end – bordering on shrill – sound. The song is highlighted by the melodic, slightly jazzy drumming of Simon Hutchby.

Even though the lyrics on this record are, as the second song’s title implies, a cut above, “Fallen Angel” features some of the best: “Like a fallen angel/You spread your wings and cry.” The scope of the lyrics and the music are very theatrical, giving it a definite prog rock concept album feel. “Gift of Desperation,” the final co-write from Ellefson (he also co-wrote the record’s first two tracks), is a heartfelt prayer for forgiveness, wrapped in a very dark, nearly Gothic musical soundscape. Ellefson’s bass has a sort of bubbling quality beneath the atmospheric stabs of guitar doomary. Probably my favorite song on the whole album. The title and ambiguous lyrics of “I Do Dissolve” reminds me of my fave dark romanticist, Gary Numan (an utterly fantastic use of the words “dissolve,” “absolve” and “evolve”). The funky, skittering guitars and bass line also have a quality reminiscent of SHORT BUS era Filter (the one with “Hey, Man, Nice Shot”). “Noise” is, overall, a creepy sounding punk pop thing with some exceptionally eerie guitar. It’s kinda like the Damned’s Dave Vanian or Rob Zombie fronting Good Charlotte or Fall Out Boy (but with better music… so, I guess it ain’t like that at all).

Johnny Wore Black (Jonathan Cohen) (photo credit: MATT BROWN)

Johnny Wore Black (Jay) (photo credit: MATT BROWN)

Shine On” is a spooky, horror movie power ballad. It’s a truly beautiful number with a stirring, charging second half. Sara Renar, a talented Croatian singer of great depth and feeling, guests on the song. “Whose Children” is all about the groove, with evocative guitar, pulsating bass effects-drenched vocals. The sole cover on the album was originally recorded in 1990 by a dance band called Bomb the Bass, with vocals by the song’s co-writer, Loretta Heywood. The band adds heft to “Winter In July,” which, in its original version was a rather lightweight quasi-disco affair. Johnny Wore Black’s heavier, more rocking take still manages to maintain the basic groove of the track. As an added bonus, Ms Heywood supplies her voice to the proceedings. You may have noticed that all through this review, I’ve managed to speak about the excellent musicianship from the band and the guest vocalists, but haven’t really mentioned Jay’s voice. Why? Well, this review features enough redundancies without adding more by talking about what a talented and emotionally adept singer he actually is. Coming in to this thing, I wasn’t sure what to expect; I certainly wasn’t expecting to be blown away, as I was, from the very first note to the final fade.


PHILM: FIRE FROM THE EVENING SUN

(UDR MUSIC; 2014)

p18u2h0i5g1s2i1f0avjd16ppamk4

Slayer fans, rejoice. The band’s former master of all things percussive, Dave Lomabardo, is back with his trio, Philm, and their second full-length, FIRE FROM THE EVENING SUN. The album features touches of that old Slayer venom and the speed of their early thrashing metal and, of course, the thunderous sound of Dave’s muscular, yet tasty drumming. The album is, while not a complete departure, certainly diverse enough to satisfy both Slayer and non-Slayer fans alike.

Philm (Dave Lombardo, Gerry Nestlet, Poncho Tomaselli) (uncredited photo)

Philm (Dave Lombardo, Gerry Nestlet, Poncho Tomaselli) (uncredited photo)

The album starts with “Train,” a chugging, pounding blues number with a memorable riff and suitably dark, menacing vocals. The song has a classic, threatening rock groove and, what else would you expect from Dave Lombardo? The thunderous “Fire From the Evening Sun” is next, with a swinging, near nursery rhyme sing-song vocal from guitarist Gerry Nestler, who also offers a super-fast solo, augmented by Poncho Tomaselli’s swooping bass line and a near-martial drum beat. There’s also a great hardcore breakdown toward the end of the tune. “Lady of the Lake” is an ARABIAN NIGHTS horror dream with awesome descending bass and guitar parts. Nestler offers another exemplary, stinging solo; Lomabardo’s drumming is a bit more subdued than his usual stormtrooper attack. A doom-laden “Lion’s Pit” is a Sabbathy bone crusher with vocals that somehow reminds me of “This Jesus Must Die” from JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR. It’s creepy and heavy and altogether cool.

Silver Queen” is a heavy blues, evoking Leslie West’s Mountain. It features an unforgettable, thudding riff and a cool, sloppy Nestler solo. The next track, “We Sail At Dawn,” has a kinda restrained groove with a creepy, snaky guitar riff and an equally creepy vocal. “Omnisience” is sort of a heavier version of very early Killing Joke… at least until the fleet-fingered fretting that comes in at the end of the song. At less then two minutes, “Fanboy” is over almost before it gets started. The track is a twangy surf kinda thing that turns into a lightning fast thrash kinda thing. Woulda been cool if it lasted a bit longer and came back around to the beginning.

Philm's Dave Lombardo at work (uncredited photo)

Philm’s Dave Lombardo at work (uncredited photo)

Luxhaven” has an odd Devo meets Dead Kennedys syncopation going on. With a spongy bass sound from Tomaselli and Nestler’s sore throat inducing vocals, the tune is very weird and very listenable. Up next, “Blue Dragon” is another – by now, patented – quirky stab at heavy. Again, the vocals are just a bit unsettling. I like that! “Turn In the Sky” sounds almost orchestral, with minimalist guitar washes and dexterous bass playing. The track features some of the album’s most powerful drumming from Lombardo. The final cut, “Corner Girl,” is a strange Hawaiian-cum-Vaudvillian thing featuring a slightly out-of-tune piano part and a nice nylon string acoustic bass figure. The song eventually turns into an even stranger calypso number, complete with a trumpet solo (by guest Sal Cracchiolo) before returning to its original languid feel. As mentioned above, FIRE FROM THE EVENING STAR has enough of the heavy, thrash stuff to keep the Slayer fans happy and enough quirkiness to intrigue everybody else.


DEAD TO A DYING WORLD: DEAD TO A DYING WORLD

(TOFU CARNAGE; 2011) A REVIEW FROM THE VAULT (UPDATE BELOW)

Dead To a Dying World cover

Oh, these crazy kids today with their harbinger of doom and such. This atmospheric album totally transcends everything you thought you knew about the doom metal genre. It is at once suffocatingly harsh and hauntingly beautiful. This record gets me a little teary-eyed because if I had a son, I know that he would look just like Dead To a Dying World. The self-titled slab features two longish tunes with one short little ditty sandwiched between (14:30, 7:00 and 22:20, respectively). Most such epic productions of this ilk would get very boring, very quickly. Not so with DEAD TO A DYING WORLD. The music is nuanced and full of little moments that set it apart; it never lags or drags. I was engaged from the very first droning wails of that cello. Yep… you heard right… cello.

Dead To a Dying World on stage, 2011 (photo credit: RACHEL PRICE)

Dead To a Dying World on stage, 2011 (photo credit: RACHEL PRICE)

I’m not exactly sure how a song (especially one that’s over fourteen-and-a-half-minutes long) can be so breathlessly atmospheric and relentlessly claustrophobic at the same time, but “Concrete and Steel” is those things and more. This band’s technical acumen is akin to the precision cuts of a surgeon; the guitars and drums are crisp and progressive, subversively drawing you into the maelstrom. The lyrics offer nothing but doom and abject misery, as mankind’s seeming need to self-destruct and take everything else along for the ride is the focal point: “Searing effigies of our hope/Stand mocking our pain/And I see you screaming/I see you, but I can’t hear a thing.” Those lyrics are even more evocative and – dare I say – creepy as offered up by Mike Yeager and cellist Sam Pruitt. “Stagnation” is more oppressive and ominous than the first number, and in less then half the time. The unrelentingly dismal strains of the cello bores into your soul as the lyrics rip away at the edges of the hole it opens. Some may hope for redemption with the final offering; there is none. “We Enter the Circle At Night… and Are Consumed By Fire” is, indeed, about the after effects of countless millennia of selfish waste and man’s inhumanity to man, but there is only retribution. The ebb and surge of acoustic instrumentation counterbalanced by progressive, doom-laden metal rushing to an apocalyptic end sees hope lifted up in one instance, only to be crushed on the twisted and broken remnants of a world destroyed. DEAD TO A DYING WORLD is one of those records that gets into your brain, threatening the cerebral cortex with a sensory overload that will leave you drooling and babbling like a lunatic. And, yet… you must listen; you can’t turn away or turn it down or tune it out. Such a production, my friends, is all anyone can ask from a group of musicians like Dead To a Dying World.

A download of the album is available here: tofucarnagerecords.bandcamp.com; the two record vinyl version is available here: tofucarnage.com.

UPDATE: The band recently completed work on their second album. The vinyl release of LITANY is imminent. 


UNCONSCIOUS COLLECTIVE: PLEISTOCENE MOON

(TOFU CARNAGE; 2014)

12 Jacket (Gatefold - Two Pocket) [GD30OB2-N]

The avant metal/doom jazz experimental trio Unconscious Collective is back with their second full-length, the impossibly retro-progressive PLEISTOCENE MOON, putting the best parts of Sun Ra, the Mothers, Mile Davis, Crawling Chaos and Captain Beefheart in a bag, shaking them up and dumping them out onto two slabs of 12 inch vinyl (wax, actually, but… you know what I’m talking about) that are uniquely their own. This is some seriously brain-damaged stuff! I like it… I like it a lot!

Unconscious Collective (Aaron Gonzalez, Gregg Prickett, Stefan Gonzalez) photo credit: GINGER BERRY)

Unconscious Collective (Aaron Gonzalez, Gregg Prickett, Stefan Gonzalez) photo credit: GINGER BERRY)

The first three minutes of the title track is every camper’s nightmare, with various animal and… uh… other noises (I’m thinking RACE WITH THE DEVIL… look it up). It leads into an even creepier Gothic fever dream, featuring ominous bass and drum parts (courtesy of Aaron Gonzalez and Stefan Gonzalez, respectively), a scratchy, atmospheric guitar (provided by Gregg Prickett) and other deeply disturbing noises and effects. Simply stated, “Pleistocene Moon” is the soundtrack to the scariest horror movie never made. “Tribe Apini” is fueled by a deep, sonorous bass, some jazzy drumwork and some avant guitar noodling with subtle flamenco undertones. Frank Zappa woulda been proud! There’s a jazzy vibe to “Requiem For Biodiversity.” The first section is a plaintive, emotive tenor sax thing by Mike Forbes. Aaron chimes in with a great bass line and a cool bowed acoustic bass (like a cello, no?) part. The track is very much in the free-form jazz vein that eventually turns into manic Motorhead Sherwood skronks. Prickett’s feedback and echo drenched guitar during the first 150 seconds of “Kotsoteka” comes off like soundtrack music for a spaghetti western starring face-eating demons. From that point, it’s a fairly straight forward rocker with a light jazz glaze.

Is the Spine the Dividing Line?” has an odd, but appealing jazz time signature, with requisite great work from the rhythm section and minimally intrusive guitar and horn noodling to carry the melody, which is quite reminiscent of Flesh Eaters’ magnificent “Satan’s Stomp.” The final few minutes turn rather ominous, reiterating the haunted foreboding of the first half of the record. A squalling stun guitar and solid bass/sax interplay informs “Methane Rising,” the shortest track on the album. The tune is a wicked, violent improv of noise and an unlikely groove that slowly falls apart in a deconstructive heap with Aaron plucking single notes to the fade. “The Transformation of Matter” is an almost normal sounding jazz tune with plenty of soloing and adventurous swerves and bumps along the way. The final track, “Greedy Tongue” is a percussion piece – not a drum solo – with Stefan incorporating a coil spring and other, more standard percussive instruments and running them through a blender for an other-worldly sound. Guitar and bass scratch and claw just below the surface as the disembodied voices from the first tune reappear, adding to the luncay. With the track clocking in at over eight minutes, you may think that it will get really stale fairly quickly; far from it, Stefan engages from the get-go and keeps it interesting ’til the end. The same can be said for the whole record, as five of the tracks come in at ten minutes or more. If you miss the adventurous improvisational aspects of yesterday’s musical innovators, PLEISTOCENE MOON should put that shiver back in your spine.The album is available in a downlaodable form or as a two record set from tofucarnage.com.


GREY SKIES FALLEN: THE MANY SIDES OF TRUTH

(Xanthros Music; 2014)

TMSoT Blue

THE MANY SIDES OF TRUTH is the sixth release by New York’s Grey Skies Fallen (the previous five are offered as free downloads at the band’s website, www.greyskiesfallen.com). The album, clocking in at less than 40 minutes, is as varied as the region from which the band hails. The overall feel is epic metal, but there are also brilliant swatches of doom, progressive and folk – elements that push to the fore in totally unexpected ways and at unexpected times throughout the course of the seven tunes. Whether this adventurous envelope-pushing is due to the maturity that comes from nearly 20 years as a band or from the two new members (Joe Sanci and Tom Anderer, guitar/vocals and bass, respectively) is a subject that I’ll leave to be debated by others; the salient point here is this: Is the record any good? Well…

The opening track, “Ritual of the Exiter,” is close to ten minutes of virtually perfect progressive folk metal. It starts in a slow, hypnotic fashion, with kinda creepy, mantric-like vocals buried low in the mix. Nearly half way through, the song proper is introduced, featuring two voices: One clean, the other harsh with a weird, robotic quality. Stun-gun guitars – the type popularized by Zak Wylde and other like-minded players – are on open display before breaking off into a quiet interlude. The respite, sweet though it is, is short, as a powerful Maidenesque instrumental section – complete with keyboards and full-throated chants – charges to its terminus. The drums and guitars are top-notch throughout, making for a fine opening salvo.

Grey Skies Fallen (publicity photo)

Grey Skies Fallen (publicity photo)

The next track encompasses the next three tunes. Acting as a prelude, “Unroot Transparent Being” reminds me of the opening guitar passages of Metallica’s ”One.” The instrumental features some very nice keyboard work, as well, but nothing more – no bass, no drums. Staying in a Classic Rock frame of mind, the guitar and the groove of “The Flame” brings to mind “Right Now” from Van Halen’s FOR UNLAWFUL CARNAL KNOWLEDGE album, while the vocals are more reminscent of Conrad Lant (Cronos of the English metal horde, Venom). In an odd (but very much appreciated) move for a band like Grey Skies Fallen, this portion of the triumvirate of mayhem is very keyboard heavy. Naturally, that leads into an atmospheric piano intro – rather like the score of an old Gothic movie – to “Of the Ancients,” a majestically evil sounding power metal piece with a well placed clean vocal performance.

A gentle, pastoral guitar piece, “Isolation Point” is full of echo and sustain and awash in feedback that somehow shimmers as it morphs into the main body of track three, a song called “End of My Rope.” This part of the suite careens forward in a bestial manner, with great, gutteral vocals before retreating slightly with a more epic sounding second half featuring clean vocals. “Winter Hand” is a more frenzied and disjointed refrain of the intro piece. This record works on so many levels that checking the “metalhead” box on your resume is not a prerequisite to total enjoyment. The technical efficiency of the players alone is worth the investment; the incredible music is simply a bonus.


SCYTHIA: …OF CONQUEST

(SELF-RELEASED; 2014)

Of Conquest Art

Canadian metal-merchants Scythia’s third full-length album (and fifth release overall, including a Christmas single called – what else? – …OF SANTA) is an impressive display of power, melding progressive metal with ancient folk balladry and a medieval Dio-like mysticism in an hour-long conceptual piece, recalling the nomadic Scythians, a people who, through the second century, inhabited what is now Central Asia. The breadth and scope of this epic piece (the twelve tracks flow seamlessly together) lays out like a latter-day heavy metal primer, touching on everyone from fellow Canuckians Rush to Iron Maiden to Kamelot to Lamb of God and everything from power metal to pagan folk metal to orchestral metal. In other words, if you’re a metal-head, this is the album for you!

Scythia (Dave Khan,Celine Derval, Jeff Black, Terry Savage) (photo credit: CRYSTAL LEE/VANDALA CONCEPTS)

Scythia (Dave Khan,Celine Derval, Jeff Black, Terry Savage) (photo credit: CRYSTAL LEE/VANDALA CONCEPTS)

Fanfare 1516” opens, offering an epic Maiden sound. Dave Khan’s vocals, in particular, brings to mind the powerful voice of Bruce Dickinson. As the first song melds into “Merchant of Sin,” the comparison momentarily shifts to late ’80s/early ’90s Alice Cooper (TRASH and HEY STOOPID) before the progressive power metal evokes the mighty Maiden. Lyrically, a nod to the legendary Ronnie James Dio, as “Bear Claw Tavern” blends a Saga-like pomp rock sound with a cool Irish reel vibe. Bassist Terry Savage adds his harsh vocal delivery to the track, sounding very much like Conrad Lant (better known as the leather-throated Cronos) of famed black thrash metal icons, Venom. There’s a wickedly funny video of the song available at the band’s web-site (www.scythia.ca), proving that, while the music is seriously good, the band doesn’t take themselves too seriously. Later, “Reflections,” again ramps up the pomposity – in a kinda Rush overload – and introduces a female voice to the mix (drummer Celine Derval perhaps, or a guest vocalist?). “The Kraken,” amazingly enough, is heavier than anything yet heard on …OF CONQUEST, with an abundance of power chords and drums that relentlessly pummel your brainpan ’til you’re fairly certain that you can feel gray matter oozing out of your ears. “Into the Storm” follows suit before the folky, Maidenesque “Land of Scythia” brings you back to the ancient, legendary feel of the album. There’s plenty of guitar shredding, harmony work (everything overdubbed by Khan, the only guitarist in Scythia), nice acoustic playing and rhythm work on this record, but for me, the solo on “Land of Scythia” stands out as one of the best. “Wrath of the Ancients” is yet another progressive piece, with definite Kamelot overtones and an acoustic part that reminds me of Ritchie Blackmore’s work with his band, Blackmore’s Night. “Path Through the Labyrinth” is a 13 minute tour-de-force, incorporating every style and genre previously mentioned in this review (and a few others, to boot!), with layers of textured guitars and keyboards (by musical wunderkind, Jeff Black). It may not be the centerpiece of the album (as most longer tunes are), but for pure pomposity, it does have everything that you could possibly want in a metal record. …OF CONQUEST is the kind of record that you can listen to over and over again and evoke a different emotion each time. And, that, good friends, is a good thing!