|Musical Style: Gothic/Doom Metal||Produced By: Sidney Allen Johnson|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website: Babylon Mystery Orchestra|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 55:54|
Give Sidney Allen Johnson his due. The Babylon Mystery Orchestra founder has stuck with the same tried-and-true musical method his six album career, but he also knows not to fix something that isn’t broken. This much is obvious from how the artist understands what he does best and plays to those strengths in the process, which is taking a mixture of Gothic and doom metal and joining it with aspects of straightforward hard rock and classic metal. It is also a formula that works, particularly in light of the musical steps and strides made by BMO starting with its 2003 debut album Divine Right Of Kings and continuing through its fifth from 2010, The Godless, the Godforsaken and the God Damned.
On Poinium Cherem, its sixth album released in the summer of 2012, BMO maintains the momentum. While staying true to the Gothic and doom metal BMO penchant, Poinium Cherem also finds the artist changing things up musically and delivering perhaps his most varied work as a result. In other words, diversity defines the album with the upshot being BMO sidestepping the dreaded pitfall of predictability- an all too often occurrence in the Gothic and doom genres.
As with past BMO releases, Poinium Cherem presents with its share of straight on metal slugfests in that “Devilution” (with its up-tempo energy and hooks), “Destroyer” (plastering riffs & churning bass lines in abundance) and “The Affliction” (contentious mid-paced onslaught) brawl with the best of them.
From a doom-ish standpoint “Apollyon” delivers the needed riff based bluesy edge and “We Write The Words” a plodding mentality that has inauspicious written all over it. Lightening the mood - if only somewhat! - is the bass guitar driven groove to plodder “I Am An Artist” (slight touch of accessibility here) and acoustic drifts of “Another Path” (almost touching upon semi-ballad territory).
Helping Poinium Cherem earn its multiplicity stripes is its lengthy material, a particular carried over from The Godless, the Godforsaken and the God Damned. Seven and a half minute “A Prophets Song” brings a progressive edge with its calmer to heavier and back again time signatures, while the albums nine and a half minute title track also delves into the progressive with its doom-like tinctures interspersed with atmospheric elements and narration.
The defining constant to the Poinium Cherum material is its heaviness. The artist, in other words, puts the metal in the Gothic (as opposed to rock) in no uncertain terms. It begins and ends with his adept riff action, ranging from the ploddingly trenchant and doom-like to the more assertive with added edge and bite. Either way, if you insist that your metal deliver a certain element of crunch then BMO will not disappoint.
It also must be noted that Poinium Cherum, similar to past BMO releases, is a one man project in that Johnson handles all instrumentation (including guitars, bass, drums and keyboards) and vocals. This might be the projects potential weak link in that often I wonder how much better many of the so called “one man projects” (first Theocracy, FG, early ReinXeed) might be if they had included other musicians. Not that BMO needs to be a full piece band, but perhaps if a guest musician or too had been brought in it might lend an extra element of creativity or inspiration.
Regardless, the instrumentation here is ably performed, as the subtle but persuasive bass lines throughout and distinct keyboards work can attest. The artist, at the same time, remains an underrated force with lead guitar abilities that walk a fine line between blues based and classic rock influenced.
One of the signature aspects to BMO is Johnson’s deep, low-key and menacing vocal style. Menacing being the key word in that the brusqueness to the artist’s delivery proves the perfect fit for the earnest nature of both the music and message (more on this later) at hand. It also must be noted that Johnson does not bring the greatest range and there are vocalists with more ability (some say his vocals are monotone; I say they are an acquired taste). I often wonder, as a result, how BMO might sound with a different vocalist, but that would not be realistic in that a vocalist with added range might not bring the artists same complementary qualities. So I guess it is a matter of style providing a better fit than substance.
Johnson maintains his penchant for politically incorrect and controversial lyrical themes. Subject matters covered include evolution, music and art, homosexuality, quantum physics and artists that speak an alternative to truth. While the album is not concept related, its title revolves (from the artists press material) around the “final words for a doomed civilization that tries every day to bring back all the worst attributes of Rome....in the name of progress”. The overall feeling is that you many not always agree with Johnson but his prose at least makes you think- and perhaps that is what really counts in the first place.
Track By Track
“Destroyer” grinds its three and a half minutes, with underpinning bass lines and reverberating guitars adding to what amounts a dour scene. Chorus delivers a wallop and accenting keyboards an ominous touch. I am somewhat reminded of “Catspaw” off The Godless, the Godforsaken and the God Damned.
“The Affliction” takes the more hulkingly mid-paced approach. The song supports the same caustic sensibilities while beefing up everything in the process, including guitars (battering away at the forefront of the mix) and keyboards (almost adding a symphonic touch). Instrumentally, things slow to a crawl as wind whispers in the backdrop. “Affliction” talks about Christian who understand that trials and tribulations are necessary and expected:
Morality has faded before our very eyes
Truth is not a virtue when it contradicts your rights
Just as it was told two thousand years ago
Wrongs have been made right… has God been overthrown?
This is just a test for your eternal life
Be very sure you see whose hand is on the knife
Duplicitous words have sliced you to your core
When evil greets you face to face… dare you ask for more?
“Apollyon” reflects a bluesy doom-ish groove. Appropriately, an unflagging low-end establishes the trenchant backbone but it is the catchy riff action that puts things over the top- laid-back and purposeful but engaging at the same time. The harsh delivery to the chorus aligns with the astringent scene. Albums best song. “Apollyon” deals with the direct attack on Christianity (the name Apollyon is taken from the book of Revelation):
I’m your power, You are my subject
All that you own is mine
Say I’m God and say I’m perfect
Or yours shall surely die
If you know what’s best, you won’t protest
I can eat the likes of you
All that you love I hold in my hands
And I’ll take it all from you
You should consider when your blood is cold
Who will deliver thee?
An aesthetic flair defines “I Am An Artist”. A calmer approach is taken here, with accompanying piano adding a distant touch and clamorous bass line playing an expansive role. Guitars step forward to shoulder a forcefully defined chorus. The laid back feel helps add a slight touch of accessibility.
“Devilution” revisits the up-tempo hard rock of “Destroyer”. Relentless but motivated at the same time, the song breathes of hooks - chorus is quite striking as drums batter away in the background - while guitars provide the needed razor edged crunch. Blistering is the overall feel at hand. “Devilution” deals with evolution:
Big bang and it was done
Born from oblivion?
No Divine, no design
No sign of a mastermind
From the trees you escaped
A descendent of the apes
Full of hate… reprobate
Just a random chance of fate
It’s the lie to end all lies… which itself is a lie!
A tasteful merging of the acoustic and electric can be found on “Another Path”. Acoustic guitars maintain a direct presence throughout but at a moments notice a demanding rhythm guitar cuts in to take over the ethereal scene. Otherwise, a semi-ballad feel prevails with a complementary touch of emotionally played lead guitar. The focus of “Another Path” is on the false assumption that there are many paths to God and many truths and all of them are equal:
What makes a liar, don’t make a lie
Another piece of fortune left to pass you by
I’ll make you certain there’s another side
There are so many faces the gods have defied
Take you to Heaven
Just do the math
Take you to Heaven
Let me show you another path
As aptly entitled track as you will find, “Seething” literally does that its distance in playing up a straightforward hard rock mentality but mixed with boiling emotion and full on energy in equal parts. The song descends into some bluesy soloing for its instrumental moments.
“A Prophets Song”, the first of the two longer tracks, hints of a slight progressiveness. The song opens its first two minutes calmly to piano before a driving guitar kicks in and increases the tempo exponentially. Similar time changes prevail the remaining distance as things continue to drift between piano and guitars with the periodic instrumental moment added for variety. “A Prophets Song” was written from the standpoint as though a prophet (such as Jonah) were sent here to us in our time:
Some thing precious is cast aside because you’re insatiable
Deception turns to lies and yes… you’re susceptible
Bit it lust, fortune or fame.
You’ll find it irresistible
In truth, they’re all the same
Your death is equitable
Arrogance! You question God… call Him disposable
In your mirror you’ll find the fraud
And yes… you’re accountable
A thief is ashamed when he’s found, his guilt unquestionable
A liar lies when he’s brought down for he’s abominable
In your pursuit to conquer life, you grasp the unreachable
Your godless thirst is drowned in strife, yet remains unquenchable
“We Write The Words” proves every bit as creative. Trademark BMO doom metal, the song sustains a slow and deliberate pace throughout as biting guitars combine with more wintry keyboards. Chorus proves engaging but portent and overall emotion on the caustic side of things. “We Write The Words” is about the arrogance of a society that rewrites its truths and imposes a new moral code:
In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was God
His words were true, His world was good, the angels stood in awe
Iniquity has come to light and lawlessness fills our hearts
We will not follow your Holy God, we’ll tear His world apart!
When we write the words, we make the world
We make the world with our words
When we write the words, we make the world
Remake the world with our words
The albums title track is the second epic. Also a varied piece, the song puts in place a progressive doom tincture with its slogging mindset and penetrative bass lines. A changeover is made after three minutes to atmospheric keyboards before impetus returns full force to narration from Hebrews 10:26-27, a similar pattern repeating itself in addition to several instrumental excursions rounding out the nine and a half minutes.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Chorale… What Should Not Be” (:55), “Destroyer” (3:23), “The Affliction” (4:23), “Apollyon” (5:35), “I Am An Artist” (4:20), “Devilution” (3:41), “Another Path” (3:51), “Seething” (4:24), “A Prophets Song” (7:41), “We Write The Words” (5:58), “Poinium Cherem” ((9:28), “Finale… What Could Not Be” (2:09)
Sidney Allen Johnson - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Bass & Drums