|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Crown Of Mercy|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 69:31|
Several talented new bands have come out of the growing Christian progressive rock scene in recent years. America Gomorrah, Revelation Project and Pursuit are the first that come to mind as a result of the hard rocking approach they take to the genre. Vertical Alignment, Torman Maxt and 7th Overture, on the other hand, deserve credit for their symphonic and technical expertise while Flagship combines elements of both the classic and the progressive. Neal Morse has also gained renown for his high quality solo releases One (2004), ? (2005) and Sola Scriptura (2007). Crown Of Mercy is another group worth mentioning. A Scottsburg, Indiana based group that came together in 2005, Crown Of Mercy takes a foundation of progressive rock and joins it with equal amounts of upfront rhythm guitar and lush acoustic guitar on its 2007 debut New Beginnings.
New Beginnings finds Crown Of Mercy reflecting the influence of the previously referenced artists in question. The band, for instance, is at its best on “Mercy” and “The Word”, two exemplary examples of subdued progressive rock, in addition to the bluesy “Day Of Completion” and metal laced “There And Back Again”. “Realization Of Truth” and “Touching The Nothing” both bring a tasteful acoustic laced sound and the catchy “The Fall” and guitar driven “The Gift” a straightforward hard rocking vibe heavily rooted in the eighties. All in all, the album proves quite consistent in that out of its eleven tracks, only two – the worshipful “Holy” and “God Is Real” – I find myself skipping over.
So how does Crown Of Mercy measure up when compared to the competition? While not consistently heavy as Revelation Project or Pursuit, Crown Of Mercy proves more proficient than America Gomorrah at writing a song that holds up under repeated play (better lead vocals as well). Still, Crown Of Mercy lacks the over the top progressiveness of Neal Morse or Vertical Alignment (no ten minute plus epics here!) but that is not necessarily a bad thing in that the group takes a more “song orientated” approach than Flagship or even Torman Maxt. In terms of its instrumental sound, Crown Of Mercy equals if not exceeds Pursuit and 7th Overture in the crucial areas of confidence and musicianship.
Rick Johnson contributes a clean, melodic based vocal style that at times hints of Geoff Tate (Queensryche) and Lance King (Avian). No, nowhere near the same level of talent and abundant range but still good, nonetheless. Guitarist Dirk Werner, a shredder in the truest sense of the word, invites comparison to Pete Jennens (Stairway) with his brazen and at times bluesy style of playing. Just check out his soloing on “Follow The Light”, “Realization Of Truth” and “Touching The Nothing”. The fact the acoustic guitar plays a role in the majority of the albums material is testament to Werner’s versatility.
Production values prove competent in combining just the right amount of crisp rhythm guitar with forwardly placed bass lines and a solid drum sound.
The melodic metal of “The Fall” represents one of the albums more up-tempo pieces. A stalwart riff powers the song forward from the start, the pace not picking up until a chorus giving rise to a plethora of hook driven impetus is achieved. Werner steps forward with a stretch of stylishly played lead guitar.
Tempered progressive rock would be the best way to describe “Mercy”. The song plods through its first two and a half minutes to a quietly played guitar backed by a pronounced bass line. Picking up in pace as a crisp rhythm guitar kicks in, “Mercy” transitions to an instrumental section carried by an emotionally played guitar solo. The song continues to move ahead in guitar driven fashion until giving way to the instrumental section closing out its final two minutes. Very classy composition that ranks with the albums best. The message here is based around the need for God’s mercy:
What have I done? You have had a fall
I am so alone, I can hear Your call
Who are you? I am father mercy
Where are you from? I have always been there for you
I will not ignore Your voice, I choose to hear You
Show me Your holy plan, I now receive Your mercy
“The Word” begins as a rhythm guitar stands in support of narration asking several relevant questions:
I’m now being introduced to the Word of God?
What is this? What does it mean to me?
The song proceeds to drift through its first and second verse to an ethereal blend of acoustic and rhythm guitar, gaining momentum upon reaching a protracted instrumental section showcasing an ardently contested dual of riffs and lead work. “The Word” returns to an acoustic and rhythm guitar based amalgamation for its final two verses before an acoustic guitar closes things out. This one is aptly named:
There shall be these truths to follow
They shall be word to the wise
I have felt the pain and sorrow
I don’t know if I can compromise
I have never seen the sunshine
Maybe one day I will see the word
Maybe one day I can see the sunshine
Maybe one day I will walk in the Son
I’ve never shared the reason that He gave me
And I will reason with my mind. I sense the word
A joining of acoustic guitar and bass propels “Follow The Light” through its first verse. Sustaining the laid back impetus during the bridge that follows, the song gains initiative as the rhythm guitar cuts in to underscore a chorus talking about victory in the life of a Christian:
Follow the Light, stare into the sun
Follow the Light, your freedom I have won
Follow the Light, we have overcome
Because of You we’ve won
A bass heavy instrumental section finds Werner again cutting loose on lead guitar (real fluid feel to his playing).
“The Gift” stands out as one of the albums heavier pieces. The song starts to a hard hitting guitar riff prior to tapering off to a rumbling bass line prior to its first verse. After inching ahead with the rhythm guitar hammering in and out of the mix, “The Gift” moves on to a flowing chorus fortified by a touch of shouted backing vocals. God’s gift to mankind is the subject matter here:
And now I give this gift to you
Receive or deny
It is up to you
Spread your wings and fly
How can I turn away from the Great I Am?
How can I deny the Gift before me?
“Realization Of Truth” opens to a blend of resounding bass lines and screaming guitar feedback. Driving through its first verse to an upfront rhythm guitar, the song does not taper off until transitioning to a passage underlined by a tasteful acoustic guitar. The rhythm guitar returns to its forward place in the mix before “Realization Of Truth” reaches an instrumental section in which a razor sharp lead guitar interweaves with more acoustic guitar. As its title implies, “Realization Of Truth” talks about finding the truth:
The Truth will set you free, the Living Sacrifice
The Lord has paid my fee from darkness into Light
The Truth will set you free, joy and pain are one
The Truth will set you free, never alone
The intricate progressiveness of “Touching The Nothing” gets underway acoustically before immediately launching into its first verse. The song builds impetus as the rhythm guitar gradually makes its presence felt, decelerating for an acoustically driven passage but picking up in pace for a steadfast chorus delivered in poignantly charged fashion. Werner highlights an extensive rhythm section with another blazing run of his soloing abilities. “Touching The Nothing” focuses on Romans 7:
I am now led by my human desires, and I’m falling so far from home
Darkness surrounds me, I am so cold, now I am
Nothing, so I am told
Where can I find You? Where have You gone?
I should have known that you’ve been there all along
What was I thinking? I’ve been lead astray
Your Word is the Truth and the Way
The worship metal of “Holy” comes across a bit flat. While the song delivers an abundance of up-tempo initiative, the lack of an eye catching chorus in the end holds things back. All around, this one fails to deliver that extra once of energy and inspiration the albums better material brings to the table. Good lyrical direction, though:
There is no condemnation, for those who believe
Living in computation for those who receive
Walk away from regulations, holding on to the love
That has been freely given, form the Holy One above
“God Is Real” is another number I have been unable to grow into. The song actually opens to an interesting blend of chanted vocal harmonies and rhythm guitar and really grooves through its verse portions. But, similar to “Holy”, a chorus I might describe as colorless forces me to hit the skip button.
New Beginning closes to two top of the line progressive hard rockers in “Day Of Completion” and “There And Back Again”.
The bluesy “Day Of Completion”, the albums longest track at 8:40, proves quite the technical piece. The acoustic guitar makes its presence felt throughout the songs earliest moments, underlining its first two verses and the minute long instrumental section that follows (again, Werner really shines with his stylish work on lead guitar). Once the rhythm guitar takes over, however, “Day Of Completion” moves ahead in a grittier manner until – just prior to its six minute mark – it gains a hold of a sweeping chorus pointing to the purpose of Christ:
It’s the day of completion, He has given Him so we
Can feel His perfection deep within our hearts
It’s the day of completion, He has given Him so
We can feel His perfection deep within our hearts
“There And Back Again” commences as an acoustic guitar shores up narration from the first chapter of Genesis. Maintaining the acoustic heading for its first verse, the song picks up in pace as a metal-laced rhythm guitar steps forward and bolsters the second hard and heavy. The rhythm guitar continues to play a prevailing role during the ensuing instrumental section. After a commanding voice states “Now there is a new beginning”, “There And Back Again” takes on a more melodic tone as it drifts through its final verse portions as the purpose of Christ is again revealed:
There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus
For through Christ Jesus the Law of the spirit of
Life set me free from the law of sin and death
Great song and a great way to end the album- I hope the bands future material is in this vein.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Fall” (5:34), “Mercy” (6:25), “The Word” (6:50), “Follow The Light” (6:31), “The Gift” (5:23), “Realization Of Truth” (5:44), “Touching The Nothing” (5:54), “Holy” (6:37), “God Is Real” (3:46), “Day Of Completion” (8:40), “There And Back Again” (8:04)
Rick Johnson – Lead Vocals & Rhythm Guitar
Dirk Werner – Lead Guitar
Michael Reed – Bass
Jeremy Richardson - Percussion