|Musical Style: Gothic Metal||Produced By: Sidney Allen Johnson|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2010||Artist Website: Babylon Mystery Orchestra|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 59:57|
Babylon Mystery Orchestra has become a mainstay in the Gothic metal scene. More of a project than a band in that founding member Sidney Allen Johnson handles all aspects of the recording process, BMO debuted in 2003 with the concept album Divine Right Of Kings (America’s role in Biblical prophecy as the doomed “Mystery Babylon The Great”) before putting out another conceptual effort a year later, On Earth As It Is In Heaven (the 4000 year history of rock n’ roll along with the diabolic origins of music). Two more concept albums followed in 2006 and 2008 respectively: The Great Apostasy (Satanic infiltration of the church) and Axis Of Evil (how violence is not a part of Islam but is essential to Islam).
BMO returns with its fifth full length album in early 2010, The Godless, The Godforsaken & the God Damned. No, not another concept release, but the album does reflect the artist’s penchant for political incorrectness and controversial lyrical themes. Subject matters covered, for instance, include abortion, hate crime legislation, collectivist politics, Ernesto Che Guevara and the Islamic "Antichrist Superczar”. Now, while you may not always agree with the artists prose, you will not go away saying that you were not challenged or forced to think, which perhaps is what really matters in the first place.
Musically, BMO continues to traverse Goth metal territory on GGFGD. As with past BMO albums, a dark and moody vibe prevails throughout; that said, I hesitate to “pigeonhole” the project in that you will also encounter elements of doom metal, classic hard rock and eighties metal. If anything, BMO sustains the trend established on Axis Of Evil by building upon a dominant low end and bone crushing heaviness with greater accessibility- and the stronger chorus hooks and melodies that go along with it. In other words, this is heavy music that, at the same time, is not heavy handed or repetitious.
My overall feeling is that GGFGD features some of the finest material presented by BMO. “Twelfth Imam” is nothing less than a doom-metal masterpiece while the mournfully melodic “Benai Elohim” proves every bit as laudable. The melodic tendencies continue on “Apollo” and “Ruin” (great riff on this one) in addition to acoustic laced tracks “Hate Crime” and the semi-ballad “You’re On Your Own… This Time”. Energetic numbers “Catspaw” and “We Is Killing Me” contrast with trademark BMO mid-paced crunchers “Jesus Save…” (a haunting anti-abortion song), “Viva Cristo Rey” (effective use of keyboards on this one) and “Godless”.
As with past BMO releases, GGFGD remains a one man project in that Sidney Allen Johnson is involved in all aspects of the recording process, including lead vocals, rhythm and lead guitar, bass and keyboards.
Vocally, I stand by the statements I made in the Axis Of Evil review from two years ago regarding the artists abilities:
“Johnson continues to bring his trademark deep, low-key and menacing vocal style. Menacing is the key word in that to convey a message as strong as is found on Axis Of Evil (or any BMO release for that matter- including this one) one needs to impart it with a certain amount of force and brusqueness. And that is where the artist succeeds in that his guttural delivery proves the perfect fit for the project- in terms of both its musical and lyrical direction.”
Now, it must be noted that the artist does not bring the greatest range – it takes some time to adjust to his low-key sensibilities (some describe his style as monotone; I say his vocals are an acquired taste) – and there are vocalists with more ability. With that in mind, I have at times pondered how BMO might sound in the hands of a different vocalist, with the conclusion being a vocalist with added range might not bring the same complementary qualities the artist does. My point being it might not be possible to convey the often controversial but always forthright BMO message when going for a high note.
GGFGD finds BMO expanding upon its instrumental sound- at least in comparison to The Great Apostasy and to a lesser extent Axis Of Evil. “Benai Elohim” (killer instrumental opening), “Jesus Save...” and “The Twelfth Imam” all feature extended instrumental moments allowing the artist to showcase his at times bluesy and at others classic rock driven lead guitar abilities. If anything, the album proves that Johnson has now joined the ranks of other underrated players within the metal and hard rock genres.
You will also find rhythm guitar in abundance, reflected in the multi-layers of plodding and doom-ish riffs (with the occasional transition to a faster direction) the artist buries the project. Acoustic guitar is done tastefully to highlight while periodic use of keyboards and piano help lighten what at times can be a mood filled environs.
Production and packaging rank with the same high standards of past BMO releases. It must be noted the multi-page mini booklet with detailed liner notes including numerous quotes from various figures throughout history.
The album opens to “Catspaw”, an up-tempo cruncher set apart by its hook driven mentality and ominous disposition. Curt and too the point, the song highlights atmospheric keyboards in the backdrop and lyrical direction dealing with celebrities and politicians that use their fame as a platform to project the viewpoint of their benefactors:
By what right do you lecture me?
We’re more than well aware
Your words are bought and sold
You just repeat your lines and do as you are told
You think you’re special?
You’re just a foil for the devil
“Apollo” takes the more melodic heading. The song proves low-key and swarthy with its mid-paced leaning while hinting at the commercialism – do I dare say that? – the artist introduced on Axis Of Evil (as can be found on the track “Islam”). But what ultimately stands out about “Apollo” are its mega-tight guitar harmonies, particularly during its sweeping instrumental moments. Lyrically, the focus is on a conspiracy by NASA to hide their discovery of remains of previous extraterrestrial travelers in our solar system (In the artists own words, “Of course, these travelers originated from Earth and not outer space”):
Lost in the sands of a lunar sea
Mysteries of God are awaiting me
A treasure trove of ancient technology
Strewn in broken glass
Castles that climb high in the moon sky
Of a future that passed
Apollo is holding the fortunes of man
The penchant for melody is maintained on “Benai Elohim (Semjaza’s Return)”. The song starts to a rumbling instrumental introduction carried by crashing guitars and swirling keyboards. A near doom-like environs prevails as a forwardly placed bass line proceeds to push things ahead, the rhythm guitar making its presence felt as a haunting chorus – very catchy and bordering on the mesmerizing – is approached. ”Benai Elohim (Semjaza’s Return)” reinforces the artist’s contention that extraterrestrials are real (the Bible speaks of them) but they do not come from outer space:
Search your heart and I am there
Your father’s fathers were ill prepared
I stretched my hand and the earth did tremble
You called us gods… You were scared!
Your places await you
And there is much to tell
Oh, you will follow
I’m your ticket to hell
I’m the reason they teach you in Sunday School
Test the spirits lest you be fooled…
What follows is a two song “suite” dealing with the issue of abortion.
“A Constitutional Right”, the shorter (1:35) of the two, is carried by spoken word delivery backed by portent keyboards, eerie sound effects and driving guitars.
“Jesus Save…” is heavy as it gets. A full six and a half minutes, the song slowly moves its distance to massive walls of guitars interwoven with periodic piano based passages. At just past the halfway point a brilliant interlude is obtained as the pace tapers to a near crawl for a unique interpretation of the hymn “Jesus Loves Me”:
Jesus loves the embryos, for the Bible tells us so…
The ensuing instrumental section almost comes across bluesy as a result of its emotionally charged lead work. Again, the subject at hand is abortion:
Hail promiscuity, embrace its lie of love
Cast aside tradition as pretension from above
Marriage, Chastity, nothing you should know
The shackles of a dead religion bent on your control
Send to me your weakest, your precious, your youth
I’ll desecrate your mothers and put death inside their wombs
Freedom, Deception, it all goes hand in hand
The heart that spills an innocent’s blood is under my command!
At Calvary the innocent died to set your spirit free…
…now the innocent die for me
The mood lightens somewhat with “Hate Crime”. Slow, driving and portent, the song showcases acoustic laced moment and others in which the rhythm guitar moves to the forefront of the mix. A driven and too the point chorus aligns with more lead guitar of a bluesy variety. “Hate Crime” centers around hate crime legislation:
Always he’s managed to find
Allies of a simple mind
No, they don’t realize
They’re just used to spread his lies
Set upon each other’s throats
Full of rage and hate
To kill and maim for a cause in which they have no stake!
Is a hate crime
“Ruin” begins to a spoken word introduction prior to moving forward to a melodic eighties style guitar riff. Quite catchy, the song proves one of the albums more upbeat as it accents tinctures of keyboards (during its staunch verses) and ominous backing vocals (for its unyielding chorus). It all adds up to one of the albums more creative outputs. On “Ruin” the focus is on collectivist politics and how strength is not found in numbers:
Conquer the street and you’ll conquer the state
Gorge the masses with deception
Till they suffocate
Ours is the path that leads you to ruin
The lie is all
In the lie you trust
Everything you do must assure that the truth is crushed
Ours is the path that leads you to ruin
A mid-paced heading is taken on “Viva Cristo Rey!”, a portent work featuring ethereal keyboards and rhythm guitars hammering in and out of the mix. The chorus reached at the four minute mark almost comes across symphonic as a result of the echoing and booming feel to its delivery. What we have here is a song about Ernesto Che Guevara:
Sell your labor and you’re not free
It’s the exploitation of man by man
Labor is your social duty
Communism will save this land
You can’t lead with a good example
Reform is a bitter pill to swallow
The use of terror is essential
Then where we lead, you will follow
We are not a liberator
Liberators don’t exist
We come as exterminators
Yours is a problem we can fix
“We Is Killin’ Me” is the albums shortest (3:10) and fastest. Angst laden in capacity, the song drives its distance to bristling guitar riffs and pulsating bass lines complemented by Johnson’s snarling vocal presence. This is another anti-collectivism song about how, in the artist’s opinion, the "wes" are destroying individual liberty:
Show me the need of many
I’ll show you the power of a few
Show me strength in numbers
I see you haven’t got a clue
Show me a socialist
I’ll show you a childish demagogue
Show me social justice
I’ll show you a vicious, lawless mob
Robbin’ from the one just to pacify the other
We is killin’ me
A man can’t be free if he’s chained to his brother
We is killin’ me
“Godless” delivers a wallop. Forthright and unyielding during its verses, the song smoothes out for its chorus (upheld by portent backing vocals) while delving into more tight guitar harmonizing for its instrumental moments. Lyrically, “Godless” finds the artist “calling it as he sees it” (in relation to the subject matter):
Godless teacher of a godless lie
Learn to destroy, live to defy
Godless fighter for a godless right
Freedom to choose, choose to divide
Godless conscript from a godless war
Fear is the spawn of a coward’s spore
Godless banker for a godless gain
Invest distortion, withdraw hate
Deception dominates your soul
Like a fool, you think you’re in control
“You’re On Your Own… This Time” is the closest any of the albums material comes to ballad territory. The song flows to a joining of piano, keyboards and acoustic guitar from the start, calmly maneuvering its verses on the way to a solemn chorus in which the rhythm guitar establishes itself fixed and firm. A lengthy instrumental section begins to a piano solo that transitions to a run of quietly played guitar. “You’re On Your Own… This Time” was written in response to President Obama’s foolish statement (artists own words) about being God’s partner in matters of life and death:
Save your prayers, you’ve earned your fate
God doesn’t hear you this day
Sacrifice your freedom on the altar of your lies
You’re on your own this time
Now you strive in bitterness, victims of your own cleverness
Obsessed with worldliness and drunk on your own arrogance
You crossed the line you can’t go back
You sold your souls to maniacs
Partners with God in life and death?
Let that be your last breath
“The Twelfth Imam” brings a doom metal vibe. By far the albums most bone chilling, the song revels in its low key swarthiness in putting in place an environs bordering on the foreboding. Prodigious bass lines lead the way while the equally inauspicious riffs add to the impetuous milieu. I like how the song closes its final minute and a half instrumentally to more gritty lead guitar. The focus of “The Twelfth Imam” is on the Islamic "Antichrist Superczar”:
Conceived inside a slave and full grown by six
He could speak from the womb and disappear as he wished
Hidden from prying eyes, the destroyer of mankind
Al Mahadi waits in patience for Allah’s perfect sign
He leads to your demise
He will make your fears come true
Look deep in his eyes, He will bring the worst out of you
Iman curse the spirit
Iman curse the soul
Iman curse the spirit
Imam summoned from below
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Catspaw” (4:03), “Apollo” (4:35), “Benai Ehohim” (5:05), “A Constitutional Right?” (1:35), “Jesus Save…” (6:32), “Hate Crime” (4:02), “Ruin” (5:44), “Viva Cristo Rey!” (5:35), “We Is Killin’ Me” (3:11), “Godless” (5:32), “You’re On Your Own... This Time” (6:46), “The Twelfth Imam” (7:10)
Sidney Allen Johnson – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Bass, Keyboards and Programming