|Musical Style: Hard Rock/Metal||Produced By: Robert Sweet|
|Record Label: Dbeality Music||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 25%|
|Running Time: 36:29|
I have been in a particularly bad mood as of late so that must mean it is time to write a negative review. And since the new Dbeality CD happens to be sitting on my desk at the moment, it gets to experience the pleasure of falling victim to my wrath. Ha! Seriously, what we have in Dbeality is average to good at best straightforward metal/hard rock with an occasional stoner or heavy groove flavored moment thrown in. The bands 2004 independently released self-titled debut kind of reminds me of Goliath’s The Gate at times, but it proves nowhere near as good due to the weakness of its songwriting. One of the major downfalls of the project, I find myself hitting the skip button a few too many times here.
Dbeality is actually the brainchild of David Benson. Getting started in the mid-nineties with his doom oriented hard rock and metal solo releases Holy Psychotherapy and Purpose Of The Cross, Benson is renowned for his Ozzy influenced lead vocal abilities. Yes, Benson’s voice does occasionally reflect an Ozzy-like vibe, but his delivery ends up falling short of the mark due to coming across in a manner that is way too scratchy and strained. Someone named Dale Greer handles all the albums bass and guitar duties. While Greer proves quite adept in laying down a mega-tight rhythm guitar sound, his inability to contribute little in the way of any type of relevant lead guitar work proves particularly disappointing. The majority of the tracks on Dbeality, for example, are held back by lead guitar work that is of the restrained variety or are missing instrumental sections altogether. Robert Sweet of Stryper fame fills in on drums. One of the albums strongest points, Robert puts in an absolute clinic with a precise but technical performance that best can be described as tight as a nail.
I really hate to be harsh, but Dbeality represents a lot of what I find wrong with the Christian hard music scene. First and foremost, the Ozzy influenced lead vocals can be very difficult to tolerate. It cannot help but bring back memories of the Christian metal scene in the eighties when we had bands such as Whitecross, Trytan and X-Sinner that featured frontmen with vocal styles very similar – intentional or otherwise – to the vocalists of several well known secular bands at the time. While Whitecross’ Scott Wenzel is a dead ringer for Stephen Pearcy of Ratt, Whitecross also happened to include a world class lead guitarist in Rex Carroll and could write a song with a good catchy hook. Likewise, Trytan lead vocalist Larry Dean brings to mind Geddy Lee (Rush), but, at the same time, Trytan could flat out play and proved in no uncertain terms its ability to also compose a great song. I always felt that X-Sinner was somewhat of a novelty act. The bands pedestrian debut Get It reinforced my opinion that the only reason it got signed was the fact the AC/DC-like lead vocals of Dave Robbins would sell a few extra records. If in doubt, then be sure to remember the number of more talented and deserving Christian metal bands at the time that were passed over in favor of X-Sinner: Solder, Apostle, Paradox, Straightway, Paragon and many others. Which leads us back to Dbeality. Let’s face facts, people are going to purchase the bands self-titled debut for the sole reason – and sole reason only – it features a vocalist who brings to mind Ozzy while not giving enough thought or regards to the quality of the music backing up the vocalist in question.
Second, I find the albums lack of lead guitar work to be a more than above average let down. Perhaps soloing is not a strong point of Dale Greer. While that is nothing to be ashamed of, I do have a problem with the mindset of Benson and company that they are not willing to go the extra mile in order to ensure that the project would reach its full potential. Take the secular band Avian, for instance. When Avian began the recording process of its very fine 2005 debut From The Depths Of Time, the initial plan was to have the bands rhythm guitarist/songwriter Yan Leviathan handle the albums lead guitar duties. Yet, since soloing is not an expertise of Leviathan, the decision was made to bring in a talented shredder in Roger Moore (Gemini) to lay down the lead guitar tracks. The end result was an all around stronger and much more well rounded effort. What is the lesson to be learned here? In order to put together the most professional sounding project possible, a band needs to stretch and, if necessary, bleed a little. For example, if the pockets of Dbeality are deep enough to recruit Robert Sweet, then I see no reason why they could not have also hired a talented lead guitarist along the lines of Tony Palacios (Guardian), Slav Simanic or Carl Johan Grimmark (Narnia).
Production values – capably handled by Robert Sweet – are excellent in allowing for a literal wall of crisp rhythm guitar to stand in perfect support of a cleanly mixed drum sound.
It is also worth pointing out the albums well written and bold and upfront lyrical stance.
In terms of the packaging, two mistakes were made. “Reedeemed Part 1”, the albums final track, is misspelled. It IS “redeemed” and NOT “reedeemed”. Got it? Finally, “Only God Know’s” includes a superfluous apostrophe. I have no doubt that God “knows” a lot of things, with a basic understanding of punctuation certainly being one of them. My advice? Any aspiring young bands out there would do themselves a big favor by first buying a dictionary and taking a class in English composition before entering the studio… All humor aside, these are the type of minor but sloppy errors that only serve to detract from an albums professional image.
Dbeality gets off to a great start with “We Won’t Bow”. Opening to a quietly played guitar line, the song takes off to a crunchy rhythm guitar that conveys it at a mid-tempo pace to a chorus with a huge catchy hook. By far the albums strongest track, “We Won’t Bow” presents a no compromise message:
The reality of sin both sold and bought
Was conquered upon a lonely cross
We’ve been freed from sin
We won’t give in
Set free by the blood of Christ
The instrumental section introducing “Victory” starts slowly before it builds to a furious crescendo of hard hitting riffs and pulsating drums, the vibrant atmosphere maintained as the song proceeds through its verse portions only to hit a wall upon attaining a chorus I might describe as nondescript at best. A bluesy guitar solo opens a nice extensive instrumental break. While Dbeality puts forth one of its strongest showings in terms of its instrumental sound, the chorus here lacks any type of relevant hook that would allow it to hold up under repeated play.
The excellent “Banner Of The Brave” moves ahead in groove heavy fashion to a bouncing guitar riff, an ardent setting put in place as the song attains a chorus with a catchy hook that will pull you in and refuse to let go. I wish the band had expanded upon an instrumental passage limited to a few seconds of rhythm guitar. “Banner Of The Brave” touches upon the issue of spiritual warfare:
We must fight for the good
Like we know that we should
And settle the score
We battle not flesh and blood
But a torid flood
It’s evil we deplore
Slowly advancing through its first and second verse to a quietly played guitar line, the doomy semi-ballad “Only God Know's” picks up in pace as the rhythm guitar steps forward to shore up a heavy and driving chorus with a good emotional feel. The only missing piece to the puzzle would be a nice extended blues flavored guitar solo. I find the lyrics to “Only God Knows” to be heartfelt in their capacity:
Living a life veiled in silence
Your all along again
Feeling that love has left you
Longing for a new found friend
With a life torn all apart
Feeling your heart wont’ mend
Only God knowns
The paint that you hide
Only God knowns
The tears that you cry
After “Great Deceiver” launches into an aggressively driving riff, it slows for its verse portions as the rhythm guitar bounces in and out of the mix. The rhythm guitar remains a strong and steady presence as the song transitions to a groove flavored chorus exposing the evil one:
Great deceiver, fallen angel
Your unholy works are bound
While “Great Deceiver” proves an above-average song from a musical standpoint, it is only held back by its lack of an instrumental section. In the end, “Great Deceiver” is aptly named”
Appearing in the garden so long ago
Setting the seed of sin evil was sown
Like a lion seeking to destroy
Vexing deception is your only ploy
“Children Of The Last Day” gets underway to a pounding guitar riff before tapering off upon arriving at its first verse. Picking up in pace, the song attains a chorus driven in a repetitive manner by overbearing background vocals that come across way too heavy handed. A few seconds of lead guitar work would have helped out immensely.
Beginning slowly and quietly, “Fall Upon Your Knees” moves through its first verse in haunting fashion before the rhythm guitar steps forward and underscores a plodding chorus that falls way short of the mark due to its pedestrian feel. A rhythm guitar driven instrumental passage also fails to make the grade. Next.
“C.O.S.” opens strongly as a blend of rhythm guitar and some of the albums best lead guitar work carries it forward from the start. Advancing through its verse portions at an energetic mid-tempo place, a redundant environment is created as the song hits a wall upon attaining a chorus in which its title is repeated four straight times in a monotonous manner.
“Questions” progresses through its first verse as Benson’s whispered vocal delivery is backed by a near perfect blend of edgy rhythm guitar and pounding drums. Gaining momentum, “Questions” culminates for a rhythm guitar driven chorus that, for a lack of better words, borders on the repetitious. An all to brief instrumental section carried by Greer’s restrained guitar playing fails to cut it. “Questions” asks exactly that:
Can I be that man?
That man God wants me to be
Can I be that man
Please God help me to be
The album closes with a short (1:42) acoustical based instrumental entitled “Reedeemed Part 1”.
In closing, I really hate to take such a harsh tone here, but I feel I bring up a number of valid points. From front to back, Dbeality is characterized by average and inconsistent songwriting. The lead vocal performance falls short of the mark, while the lack of any relevant lead guitar work is a further detracting factor. That being said, I like the albums production values and Robert Sweet puts in a very strong showing on drums. Better luck next time.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “We Won’t Bow” (4:43), “Victory” (4:16), “Banner Of The Brave” (3:22), “Only God Know’s” (4:34), “Great Deceiver” (2:45), “Children Of The Last Day” (3:02), “Fall Upon Your Knees” (4:22), “C.O.S.” (3:22), “Questions” (4:16), “Reedeemed Part 1” (1:42)
David Benson – Lead Vocals
Dale Greer – Guitars & Bass
Robert Sweet - Drums