LORD - Set in Stone
For years now I've been a huge fan of the work of Tim Grose, from Dungeon to his new band, Lord. I consider Tim to have one of the best track-records in the world, and is close to being one of the only musicians I consider capable of "doing no wrong". Needless to say, a new Lord album was something I was really, really looking forward to.
First, I will say that I think Tim's analysis of this record was a tad inaccurate. He said it was to Lord what "A Rise to Power" was to Dungeon, which I think is a bit untrue. If I had to pick one Dungeon album to compare this to, I would go with "One Step Beyond", as this album sees the band stretching their sound out over a much wider range of styles rather than finding one or two formulas and taking them to their furthest extremes possible. There's a bit of everything here. Some of the more catchy mid-tempo songs, some of the all-out power/speed metal tunes, some more thrash-oriented stuff with some harsher vocals, and even some ballady stuff, which is a bit of a strange territory for a band of this particular style.
Following the relatively unnecessary intro track "[B]Spectres of the Ascendant[/B]", "[B]Redemption[/B]" kicks in with a bang, and it's pretty much exactly what you'd expect, in a good way - true power/speed metal with a really catchy chorus. It's pretty clear that much like Dungeon, Lord intend to also uphold my award for the most guitar-driven band out there. There's just guitar tracks EVERYWHERE here, which is generally a great thing, but from time to time you get a bit lost in all the harmonized weedly-weedly bits. All in all it's a fine opening track and among the CD's overall highlights. It's kind of hard to imagine a band like Lord failing with a track like this - it certainly delivers. As I mentioned, this CD dips a bit into the mid-tempo catchy stuff, and track #3, "[B]100 Reasons[/B]" is probably the biggest example. The closest comparison I can make is Dungeon's "Against the Wind", but this song has a much more infectious chorus, which is among the most memorable bits on the whole album. A relatively short solo section on this song, and the soloing definitely takes on a more bluesy, feel-oriented catchy vibe rather than the typical melodic-shred style this band is known for. The final chorus has some really cool changes to make the song seem a bit more epic on the whole, and a classy fade-out to boot. Truth be told, this actually may be my favorite on the disc, but that's probably just my inner melodic-metal fan talking.
"[B]Eternal Storm[/B]" gets right to the point with some of the most ferocious harmonized guitar on the whole album, and the track really lives up to its name. There's a really groovy riff which dominates the verses, the pre-chorus is a bit melodic, and the chorus is your expected faster power metal bit, though not quite as catchy as the two tracks which proceeded it. What this song may lack in the overall writing department, it certainly makes up for with some killer solos, and a really brilliant outro section. The fact that this song isn't one of this album's better tracks is a pretty strong testament to the overall quality of the album, which is what fans of this band should expect by now. After this we are treated to "[B]Set in Stone[/B]", which bigger fans of the band should recognize from the band's "Hear No Evil" EP. It's a much more rockin'-oriented song, as opposed to the power/speed vibe of a lot of this disc, with some relatively simple but infectious riffing. Maybe it's just because I've heard this song extra times through the aforementioned EP, but something about it just sticks with me a bit between listens. Again, really cool solos and instrumental section on the whole, but that's pretty much par for the course for a band like this. Something which is not par for the course is "lead keyboards", which lead us into the next track, "[B]Someone Else's Dream[/B]". I can't say I'm complaining, I listen to a lot of keyboard-driven music, it's just a tad abnormal for a band who are so dominated by guitars. Another thing which is a bit abnormal is that far a song as melodic by nature as this track is, the entire verses are sung in a very harsh, growly nature. Tim's no stranger to this sort of vocal performance, you just tend to get them on more all-out thrashy tracks, and not intertwined with catchy melodies. The ending result is one that is surprisingly pleasing to my ears, as I am not generally a fan of harsh vocals. I just feel like they "work", no matter how odd the concept of using them here is. This is definitely one of my favorite tunes on the disc.
"[B]Forever[/B]" gives us something new for this disc, and honestly for the band as a whole. I'd describe this song as an epic ballad, with more sentimental lyrics and a slow, 6/8 sort of vibe. Don't be fooled though, even in a song that is dominantly considered a ballad, the band find a way to squeeze in some cool riffs, solos, and leads. There's a really cool bass interlude and some spoken word before launching into a totally ass-kicking heavy bit with all sorts of dissonance and aggression, taking the listener on a wild musical ride filled with many arpeggios and harmonies, eventually leading us back to the originally vibe for another verse and chorus. This is one of a couple of longer, more experimental tunes on the album, and doesn't stand all that well between listens but is an incredibly rewarding musical mini-journey. Next up, we have "[B]Beyond the Light[/B]", the final shorter song on the record, which delivers us the catchiest chorus next to "100 Reasons". The vocal harmonies on this record are pretty well assembled, definitely far more intricate than most bands dare to make them. The guys have my regards for trying to pull some of these off live. Even though this is a fantastic track in and of itself, it is sandwiched between the album's two most ambitious tracks, and thus it's just kind of "there". "[B]The End of Days[/B]" starts off with some light orchestral strings and the sound of an audience applauding before kicking in with a really grand sounding build-up, complete with an audible countdown, no doubt to the explosion of speed and heaviness which occurs afterward. The first vocals heard here are of the harsh variety, complete with the intricate thrashy riffing, before leading us to a great chorus complete with some weaving guitar lines. This is the heaviest thing the band have done to date, and to be blunt it's not incredibly "up my alley", but for what it is it's pretty sweet. Post-second chorus we get into a big riff breakdown before being launched head-long into the solo assault which follows, complete with some really infectious harmonized leads, the complexity of which is seldom attempted. There's a pretty nifty middle section with some bits of news audio which breaks up the instrumental section nicely. Following more melodic leads, we are tossed back into the riff-driven thrashy vibe of the verses before meeting up with the melodic chorus again. This song's musical vibe does nicely to compliment its title, as at times this truly feels like the earth is coming to an end, in a good way of course.
Nearing the end, we have the most pun-tastic bit of the album, the 8-minute instrumental comprised mostly of guest solos from a ton of musicians, cleverly entitled - "[B]Be My Guest[/B]". There's a few notable names here, from Glen Drover (Megadeth), to Craig Goldy (Dio), Olof Morck (Dragonland), and Chris Porcianko from unsung Australian prog-metal gods Vanishing Point. All in all, it's about what you'd expect from an 8-minute instrumental, there's enough key changes to keep things interesting, but it no doubt may come off as tedious to some listeners. It's pretty solid for what it is though. An 8-minute instrumental could have been a lot worse, see every shred-guitar solo album for proof. Eventually we make our way to "[B]New Horizons[/B]", which closes the record. This is much more of a traditional ballad that "Forever", lyrically summarizing the troubles which a musician faces - the sacrifices one makes dedicating yourself to completely to your craft. The topic has been done to death over the years, but there's a special poignancy to this track. As with any good ballad, this one allows for some really great soloing, the likes of which are seldom displayed elsewhere on the album. All in all, this track brings a really good sense of closure to the album and the band's career-to-date, complete with a nod to the chorus of "Reborn" from the "Ascendance" album.
So, what we have here is basically what I was expecting. On paper, this album is amazing, and through the speakers it's not far from it. The problem with anything Tim does is that it is bound to come off better to the new listener than the experienced one. The constant level of quality that this band upholds is amazing, but there's not really any surprises. This album delivered exactly as I expected it to - nothing more, but certainly nothing less. It's pretty much on par with the last record, and most all Dungeon records which proceed it. If you've heard them all, this album isn't going to blow you out of your shoes, but it's definitely gonna make you happy. And if you haven't heard much of the older stuff... shame on you. Now, get to listening.
I still need to give this album a listen. Based on what you're saying it seems very good.
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