|Musical Style: Gothic Metal||Produced By: Sydney Allen Johnson|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Babylon Mystery Orchestra|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 58:14|
Babylon Mystery Orchestra is a one man project under the guidance of a vocalist, guitarist and composer by the name of Sydney Allen Johnson. Getting started in 2003 with the full length debut Divine Right Of Kings, a concept album dealing with America’s role in Biblical prophecy as the doomed “Mystery Babylon The Great”, BMO returned one year later with On Earth As It Is In Heaven, another conceptual effort that traced the 4000 year history of rock n’ roll along with the diabolic origins of music. The Great Apostasy: A Conspiracy Of Satanic Christianity, the latest endeavor from BMO, is also a concept album but this time revolving around the theme that the church, from its inception, has been attacked and manipulated by Satan and his principalities and angelic followers. It is the contention of the artist that the church has been the place where Satan has expended most of his power and influence over the centuries, getting the church as organized and centralized as possible for his purposes. In the words of Johnson, “His (Satan) prime directive is to lead as many people away from God as possible. The churches are where the people seeking God go.....and so does he!” He further summarizes, “It is the intention of the record to show that the church is not a sanctuary from evil but, in fact, its primary target.”
The best way to describe The Great Apostasy would be a hybrid of gothic and doom metal with some classic hard rock elements thrown in. The album, for example, is built upon a foundation of dark and atmospheric mid-tempo plodders such as “Holy Ghost”, “Prey For Me”, “Church Of State” and “King Of The Earth”, a powerful of a track as you will ever find. The presence of acoustic guitar, at the same time, helps lend to the bands classic rock influence, a trend showcased on “One Way, One Truth, One Life” and the stunning ballad “Who Mourns For Philadelphia”. “Pentecost” and the hook driven “Wolf In The Fold”, on the other hand, deliver a faster and more up-tempo sound while ten minute album closer “Antichrist Superczar” gives rise to an almost progressive feel.
At this point it must be mentioned that the material on The Great Apostasy, for the most part, does not feature a great deal of melody and, as a result, takes a certain amount of time in order to grow on you. Do not get me wrong, there is melody here but it is of a very subtle nature. With that in mind, it is equally important to consider that music of such a dark and moody capacity might not require an overabundance of melody in the first place. That being said, and keeping the two previous points in mind, am I out of line to suggest that the album at times can be somewhat of a trite listen? No, not overbearing or even heavy handed, but the overall feeling I get is that to fully appreciate BMO it is necessary to first have a certain amount of inclination towards the gothic and doom metal genres. If you are not familiar with either style or listen primarily to melodic/power/progressive metal – and by no means is that a bad thing! – then I would still advise that you approach but to do so with an open mind.
Please note that BMO is a one man project in that Johnson handles all aspects of the recording here, including vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, bass and keyboards. His deep and low key vocal delivery fits the gothic/doom metal that BMO brings to the table like a glove. Similar to the music, nonetheless, it takes a certain amount of time to get adjusted to his vocal style but in the end I grew to appreciate his solemn and mood filled sensibilities. As a guitarist, he buried the album in layer upon layer of heavy duty and plodding riffs while occasionally mixing in just the right amount of acoustic guitar for added touch. His lead playing, reflecting an almost seventies influence at times, is a very well done, coming across bluesy on “One Way, One Truth, One Life” and fierily on “Pentecost” and “Prey For Me”. The only complaint worth offering here is that I wish he would have chosen to cut loose just a tad bit more. Keyboards are effectively done in helping to paint the dark and portent picture characteristic to the music here.
Production values prove quite solid in highlighting the needed amount of crisp sounding polish.
Johnson, who often has been referred to as the “heavy metal prophet of wrath”, lives up to his moniker in the lyrical direction taken here. Subject matters touched upon – in line with the albums theme of the Satanic infiltration of the church – include, for example, charlatan preachers, pedophile priests and the pre-tribulation rapture. All in all, I cannot help but get the feeling that the artists was successful in building the music of BMO around the lyrics in order to enhance them. Along that line, you may not always agree with Johnson but at least his prose makes you think. And that is what really counts.
I would also like to note the high quality of the albums packaging, ranking amount the finest this reviewer has seen on an independent release. A colorful ten page mini-booklet combines easy to read lyrics with an abundance of scripture references and relevant quotes from such notable figures in history as George Washington, Mark Twain, Thomas Jefferson and many others
“Holy Ghost” plods its way forward from the start, decelerating to a near crawl upon reaching its first verse as the rhythm guitar drops from the mix. Once the rhythm guitar returns in full force, however, it soon leads the way to a chorus in which the songs title is repeated four straight times in portent fashion. “Holy Ghost” talks about Christ’s promise to send a Comforter after He is gone:
If you love me keep my commandments
And I will pray to the Father,
And He shall give you another Comforter,
That He may abide with you forever
The blowing wind at the start of “Pentecost” gives way to a quickly moving riff backed by eerie sounding keyboards. Maintaining the determined impetus throughout its verse portions, a forceful setting is put in place as the song evenly advances to its hard hitting chorus. A caustic stretch of lead guitar work shores up a minute long instrumental section. The focus of “Pentecost” is on the Comforter in question:
Rise my brothers one to another
Holy Ghost is at your door
Fear no flame for it bears the name
The new kings ambassador
Drunks! Confused! Are we full of new wine?
No there’s a message hidden in these signs
For whom Jerusalem crucified
Lives still… He didn’t die
Spirit comes down at Pentecost
Holy Spirit comes down at Pentecost
The acoustic based instrumental “I, Lucifer” proves quite the aesthetic piece, reflecting a variety of styles ranging from gothic, metal, flamenco and even jazz. The main purpose of the song, however, is to serve as a barrier between “Holy Ghost” and “Pentecost” – two hope filled numbers that portray the church as powerful, essential and rewarding – and those that follow in which the “intelligently designed” conspiracy to hijack the church and its purposes are revealed.
“Prey For Me” begins in a foreboding manner as a driving guitar riff is carried over pounding drums. A level transition is made as the song acquires its first verse, the rhythm guitar crashing in and out of the mix until a chorus of the austere variety is achieved. “Prey For Me” deals with how Satan made the decision to nurture the church for his own purposes:
Satan called his angels, a problem must be solved
This menace will lead to ruin of us all
A church is what they’re building
So church is where we’ll go
From the inside we’ll run this show
This one is not for the feint of heart.
And neither is “One Way, One Truth, One Life”. Getting started to a quietly played guitar line, an ominous blend of acoustic guitar and keyboards holds sway over the songs first verse until a robust rhythm guitar steps forward and reinforces a melodic based chorus that asks several relevant questions:
If there’s one way, one truth, only one life
Why do so many live for lies?
If there’s one way, one truth, only one life
In whose voice does the truth reside?
The lead guitar work here reflects a bluesy feel.
“Church Of State” slowly grinds through its verse portions at a biting mid-tempo pace, the inauspicious environment upheld throughout the astringently delivered chorus that follows. A brief bass guitar solo opens an instrumental section buttressed by several seconds of gritty lead guitar work. The theme to “Church Of State” is how in the absence of religion the state becomes the higher institution:
Render unto Caesar that which is first
Render unto Jesus a secular’s curse
Separate the Holy
Render unto Caesar... your soul
The acoustic based opening to “Eye Of The Needle” is sustained throughout its verse portions, the rhythm guitar not kicking in until the song procures a chorus giving rise to a firm but heavy handed resonance. A crisp blend of acoustic and lead guitar holds sway over a well timed instrumental section. The song, in portraying two different church leaders and their takes on homosexuality, delivers a two fold meaning: First, the acceptance of homosexuality is not compatible with Christianity:
Father Gene got his way
Made his church obscene today
Second, no one has the right to persecute people who choose to behave in such a way:
Reverend Fred is not much better
Follows the law to the letter
“Wolf In The Fold” stands out as one of the albums more up-tempo and catchier numbers. The song immediately takes off in quickly moving fashion, a near groove flavored setting established as the song cruises its way to a deep and dark sounding chorus that will pull you in as a result of its infectious allure. My overall feeling is that I wish there were a few more numbers along this line here. “Wolf In The Fold” is written from the standpoint of a pedophile priest:
School, a place for the golden rule
Do unto others as they have done unto you
Chaste and pious is the reputation of my soul
Suffer little children to the world that I control
A shepherd of the flock of God, You can trust a priest!
On their feet or on their knees, they’ll be safe with me
You can trust me
The ballad “Who Mourns For Philadelphia?”, a particularly haunting track, slowly moves forward to a forlorn amalgamation of acoustic guitar and keyboards until an epic-like rhythm guitar kicks in. A disconsolate guitar solo follows before the acoustic guitar returns to carry the song to its close. All in all, as a result of its creativity and time changes, I would have to rate this as one of the albums better tracks. “Who Mourns For Philadelphia” bemoans the fate of the true and faithful church:
Those who love their life will lose it for sure
For life is death, without a cure
Overcome your tears you have to endure
A symphonic mood is established as “King Of The Earth” commences to a grandiose riff backed by a trace of keyboards. Tapering off as a pronounced bass line holds sway over its first verse, a crunchy rhythm guitar forces its way into the mix as the song arrives at a driving chorus highlighted by Johnson’s guttural vocal delivery. A minute long instrumental section is shored up by a blend of hard hitting rhythm guitar and pounding drums. On “King Of The Earth” Satan claims what is his:
Heaven deprives you of your strength from above
Because you betray your first love
Paving the way for Perdition’s own son
The work of the devil is done
The mercy of Jesus or the cravings of power
You choose the poison and the faithful devoured
What you are seeking is a greater reward
We have seen your kind in here before
“Antichrist Superczar” is a ten minute, three part epic closing the album in progressive doom metal fashion.
“Pretribulation Rapture?”, part one, features narration from Johnson that, as its title implies, confronts the issue of the pre-tribulation rapture, a concept he does not agree with.
The second part, “Antichrist Superczar”, opens to a drum solo that is soon joined by a crashing torrent of rhythm guitar. Surging through its verse portions with the rhythm guitar recoiling in and out of the mix, the song evens out for a fleeting chorus accentuated by a sublime touch of keyboards. “Antichrist Superczar” goes into detail in regards to the beast (antichrist)”
Fierce messiah behind a mask of peace… I Am, I Am
Or just a liar to bring you to your knees… I Am, I Am
I’ll pay one half of the poor to kill the other half
Enthusiastic hatred feeds the working class
Purify the earth with all the violence I do
Submit yourself to me or I’ll come for you
The ambient instrumental “Coronation Of The Abomination Of Desolation” takes “Antichrist Superczar” through its final five minutes. A mournful blend of acoustic guitar, piano and keyboards sustains the song until it is imbued with just the right amount of edgy rhythm guitar.
The best way to sum up would be to state that if you are into happy “kill the dragon at the fjord” style power metal then BMO might not be your cup of tea. If, at the same time, you are a child of the eighties who requires a great deal of radio friendly hooks then BMO might not be for you either. If you also happen to be a progressive connoisseur that revels in intricate time changes and sweeping instrumental sections then, likewise, BMO might not appeal to your tastes. On the other hand, if you are into a mid-tempo paced gothic and doom metal sound reflecting a dark and atmospheric feel then I cannot help but give BMO the highest recommendation.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Holy Ghost” (6:03), “Pentecost” (4:26), “I, Lucifer” (2:46), “Prey For Me” (5:50), “One Way, One Truth, One Life” (5:01), “Church Of State” (5:28), “Eye Of The Needle” (3:32), “Wolf In The Fold” (4:21), “Who Mourns For Philadelphia?” (3:43), “King Of The Earth” (6:16), “Antichrist Superczar” (10:43)
Sidney Allen Johnson – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards and Programming
Also Reviewed: Babylon Mystery Orchestra - Axis Of Evil