I ain't no devil but I ain't no saint
So don't ever knock what you never will try
If you say your life is fulfilled, I tell you you lie"
One Word Review: Crushing
I'm currently awaiting the arrival of Death Dealer's debut album, so to make the time go by a bit faster, I pulled out this Cage album for a spin. Time did indeed seem to speed up.
The Science of Annihilation cover inlay states "American Power Metal Kings" and I am not one to argue, in fact I am more than inclined to agree after having experienced this full frontal assault on the senses. The evolution since Hell Destroyer is one that has made Cage become even more intense and uncompromising than before. This should not be humanly possible, but they have done it. Prepare for a musical thrill ride.
The first couple of listens may leave you with the feeling that the album is very one-note, charging ahead full throttle without ever catching a breath, but give the songs time to grow and they will show their many layers. I still remember the crushing feeling the first couple of listens left me with but after that, the album started opening up and it became clear that every song is a winner, each with knockout moments and filled to the brim with details on all levels. Guitar, vocals, drums, you name it, everything is of the highest class. The thing is that these songs are so jam-packed that they can be a lot to take in at once.
Lead vocalist Sean Peck is a chief weapon in the Cage arsenal. His voice is an incredible entity spliced from vocal gods like King Diamond, Jon Oliva and Rob Halford. Sean has the ability to shape his voice like King Diamond, the emotional edge and ability to go completely overboard like Jon Oliva and the high pitch power of Rob Halford. Though there is still a way to go before he surpasses any of the names mentioned, he has the potential to one day stand proudly at their side. He challenges his vocal chords through the album and makes it through in an impressive way. Holding back instead of letting it rip quite so often would give those rip-roaring high-pitch moments more impact and that is the only nit-picking point I can make, where I sense some possible way to improve in the future.
Guitarists David Garcia and Anthony Wayne McGinnis lay down a fierce performance as they trade solos and conjure riffs that are as intense as the vocals. These two guitarists are another highlight of the album.
One of my favorite drummers, Norm Leggio of Psychotic Waltz fame joined Cage prior to recording this album and he provides yet another edge to the band. Throughout the album his drumming feels like an entity in itself, constantly driving the music on.
The power that feeds Planet Crusher is born from a breakneck guitar riff and superfast, yet detailed drumming. The vocals seem to travel at light speed from another stratosphere. If you have a "Whoa, What just happened?" feeling after the first listen I would describe that as a normal reaction. As an opening song it delivers an effective blow to the system.
There is no holding back as Scarlet Witch opens mercilessly with aggressive guitar chords and powerful vocals. It is a brilliant song with many highlights. The bridge section leading to a blinding dual guitar solo, complete with galloping rhythm section, is spellbinding and the scream that returns the song to the last of its fast paced verse sections is memorable as well.
Sean's voice changes into an effective haunted wail, as it enters the chorus for a short breather. The song shows just how tight the band is. Guitar, drums and voice unite perfectly and support each other in various parts of the song. There are some very interesting King Diamond and Savatage inspirations in this song as it comes to life with a captivating vocal performance.
The King Diamond inspiration becomes clearer in the horrific Black River Falls. The way the song builds is completely amazing and the way the simple but effective chorus is sung delivers a spine tingling sensation. Another brilliant song jam-packed with detail and metallic entertainment.
Operation Overlord was an instant favorite. The opening speech followed by the most amazing dual guitar attack defies description; it really has to be felt. It is among my favorite ever openings to a song. The melody and atmosphere just suit the song so well. The singing is captivating and reaches new heights with the way the last word of every verse is screamed out just a bit higher and carried over to the bridge section; a perfect transition. The song captures feelings of pride and honor alongside chaos. This whole song is a state of total ... bliss.
Stranger in Black is another memorable highlight. Especially the chorus section flows very well.
If you still need convincing before you run out and purchase this album then take a listen to the way Sean sings the opening lines of Die Glocke and if you don't feel the chills then please notice the guitar sliding around in the background. Feel it now? Good. Over the years this song has become my favorite of the album and I hold a deeply profound love for the power it displays. The way Sean sings the opening lines of each verse is without doubt my favorite moment of the whole album. Both the lyrics and music draws me into the story and with a well executed middle section and a final verse that is out of this world, the song is a headbanging energy-filled triumph. This is one of those songs where everything works and you will notice little detail coming to life with each listen.
The final three-part title track puts a dark and fitting conclusion to the album. Throughout, the lyrics suit the music well and are an interesting read. The album has a depth that only grows with time.
The songs I haven't gone into detail with are treats as well and each have their own highlights.
With such incredible songs as I've described above, it is in the close vicinity of catastrophic that the production does not do the songs full justice. The sound suffers from a weird sense of distortion, resulting in noise being evident in several parts of most songs. Some specific examples of what I'm talking about can be found in the guitar solo of "Speed Kills" from 1:07 to 1:18, the first guitar solo of "Planet Crusher", the chorus section in "Scarlet Witch" 0:53 to 1:17, the guitar solo in "Operation Overlord" from 2:47 to 3:25 and many other places. My ears hurt in the non-literal sense when it is so obvious that my enjoyment of the album would have been even better if the loudness issue had been handled properly. The result is a sound that lacks dynamics and feels like it is constantly turned to the max. Perhaps that was the idea but the end result is not ideal and I am still hoping that one day the band will re-master the album with a more dynamic sound. Depending on whose ears are listening and the listening environment (yes, the better the stereo, the more clear this issue is), this may be a big deal or hold no relevance whatsoever. To me it matters.
That the album is still pure enjoyment and gets my highest recommendation says something about the song quality.
Summing up Science of Annihilation is tough but showing no compromise and cutting to the bone, Science of Annihilation is a supreme, at times even magical, mix of King Diamond and old Savatage on speed. As they say Speed Kills; Conclusion: Science of Annihilation is a killer album of galactic proportions.
God, I yearn to see this band live some day, playing these songs.
Written By Steen
Online: Thursday, May 23, 2013