|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: InnerSiege & Colt Capperrune|
|Record Label: Roxx Records||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website: InnerSiege|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 47:42|
The power metal designation has been blurred by music critics and fans alike, often stereotyped (unfairly I might add) as exclusive to monotonous double bass, high pitched lead vocals and lyrics centered around dragons and other high fantasy themes. Those who are connoisseurs of the genre, however, understand there are greater variables at hand - do you want your power metal European, epic, progressive, symphonic, classic or melodic? - that suggest of more depth and substance than meets the eye.
The “greater variables” part of this perception holds true of Peoria, Illinois based InnerSiege and its fall of 2012 Roxx Records debut Kingdom Of Shadows. The album finds InnerSiege staying true to the European power metal classification - the groups press material lists Firewind, Kamelot, Dream Evil and Iron Maiden as influences - but mixed with hints of classic US power metal along the lines of Jacobs Dream, Faith Factor and The Sacrificed. Further factor in occasional melodic based proclivities not unlike Rob Rock and some Gothic, doom-like and thrash based moments and the upshot is the variable InnerSiege sound.
Kingdom Of Shadows breaks down into nine full length songs and one short instrumental. The first six rate with the albums best, including opening tracks “Warrior”, with its epic and riff driven mentality, and “Fight On”, merging technical fortitude with stunning guitar harmonies. “Dragon Rider” hints of a thrash based sound (I am somewhat reminded of early Deliverance) and “Children Of Winter” Theater Of War era Jacobs Dream as a result of its emotional presence. The darker “Control” runs the gamut from the Gothic to the doom-like, while “Abuser” brings an every bit as haunting and reflective milieu. InnerSiege saves perhaps its best for last with the inspirational feel (both musically and lyrically) of closer “Ultimate Sacrifice”.
A notch below but still good are straightforward and no frills hard rocker “Excuses” and up-tempo metal feel to “Free”. Also notable is blues driven acoustic instrumental “What Kind Of Love’, albeit a bit short at not quite two minutes.
Helping define the InnerSiege sound is vocalist Jeremy Ray, who brings a powerful, expansive and high end (not high pitched) style that I can see fans of Tate, Prinsen, Parra, Ski, Roberts, etc embracing. I hesitate to invite direct comparison to the aforementioned (influenced might be the more accurate term) in that Ray takes his own unique approach to things. He can, for example, cut loose in emotional fashion and bring to mind former Jacobs Dream vocalist David Taylor (as he does on “Children Of Winter”) or even things out on “Ultimate Sacrifice” and hint of Lance King.
Equally standing out is the talented guitar team of Kevin Grose and J.L. Prater. What I appreciate about the two is how they lend some tight as it gets harmonies, best exhibited on “Fight On” and “Children Of Winter”, or delve into all out heavy duty riffs on “Dragon Rider”. Soloing shines as well, such as on “Control” and “Excuses” (assertive feel to both) and “Fight On” (bluesy disposition).
Production represents a strong point, as it should when factoring that the album was mixed and mastered by Fredrik Nordstrom, who has worked with the likes of In Flames, Opeth, Dimmu Borgir and others. Give Credit to InnerSiege for sparing no expense in this area and delivering a professional product in the process.
Constructive comments are few and far between. The groups press material suggests Kingdom Of Shadows as being a concept album; yet I can see no underlining theme running throughout the lyrics. Lyrics are actually quite good in addressing topics including spiritual warfare, leaving the past behind, the accuser, child abuse and paralleling the sacrifice of our soldier’s post 9/11 with the sacrifice of Christ.
The opening to “Fight On” also features a few seconds of voice over narration in the form of some guy shouting in a language I do not understand followed by a battle cry. It is not that the effect comes across cheesy (which it does) but rather I have no idea what is being said or within what context.
On Kingdom Of Shadows InnerSiege does a good job of being America’s answer to the European power metal scene, but as already noted there is much more to the groups sound at the same time. What immediately stands out is how hard InnerSiege worked on its material to create a cohesive group of songs that all lend to repeat play. You will also find the total package in terms of vocals, musicianship and production. I am looking forward to hearing more from InnerSiege in the future.
Track By Track
With pounding drums and crisp rhythm guitars leading the way, “Warrior” opens things with a technical fortitude that has every bit as bludgeoning as it is coercing written all over it. Frantic outbursts of double bass will be found along with piercing riffs and vocal melodies of an engaging quality. Everything about top notch power metal is exuded by this one. Lyric snippet:
You ride across the earth where ever evil reigns
To thrust your righteous sword and spill their evil bane
Where the battle ends, hell is opened
The enemy burns that day and forevermore
A white horse you ride, sword and shield held high
You’ve come to save the day
Warrior, you come against them all, wherever evil falls
You stay their every move
“Fight On” allows InnerSiege to showcase its instrumental prowess. Opening to a minute and a half instrumental stretch that transitions between heavy set riffs to guitar harmonies, the song powers its way through staunchly delivered verses on the way to a catchy chorus in which Ray exhibits the full range to his voice. A second instrumental interlude starts slow and bluesy before moving on to more flowing melodies and harmonies.
“Dragon Rider” stands out with its thrash-like mentality. The song takes the chugging riffs of early Deliverance and marries it with the more melodic proclivity of Sacred Warrior to create a setting that is dark and caustic but melodic at the same time. Almost discordant, “Dragon Rider” pushes the aggression to the limit, as can be found in the brief but effective use of “extreme” vocals at the end. The best way to describe this one might be “power thrash”. Lyric snippet:
The dragon rider
Stalking you in the still of the night
The dragon rider
Eyes of passion and full of desire
He won’t stop pursuing you, till he takes you to
The gates of his eternal hell
Beware of the rider, the dragon rider
You’ll never know till it’s too late
It’s too late when it’s over
It’s too late when you feel his breath on you
A more emotional direction is taken on “Children Of Winter”, a scintillating and moving piece as a result of its soaring vocal performance and traces of distant keyboards. Again, stunning guitar harmonies lead the way throughout while a stretch of melodic soloing adds to the gracious scene. Chorus is climactic and overall milieu all encompassing.
Gothic and doom territory is traversed on “Control”. The swarthy opening brings to mind Album Of Labour era Veni Domine with its low-key and ambient feel (this is where the Gothic aspect comes in). After just as suddenly fading out, the song kicks in as a driving hard rocker with doom influenced riffs interspersed throughout and an aggressively played guitar solo. Interestingly, impetus picks up at a near speed based romp at the end while almost hinting of the progressive.
“Abuser”, a haunting discourse on child abuse, represents the albums most touching. The song takes off at once at a high energy tempo, with rapid fire double bass and another poignant vocal performance from Ray putting things over the top. Initiative only lets up briefly for a quieter passage at the halfway point that gives way to a bluesy guitar solo. Melody is enchanting in matching the moving feel at hand. Lyric snippet:
My mind holds all the memories
There’s no way to erase
A chemical sleep tries to get me through
I hate that I am beautiful, I never asked to be
There’s nothing said, the mirror is dead to me
I cry before you God. Why are you so far?
It seems you have forgotten me
I don’t know where You are
Why does a little girl, grow up to get this far
To wish she was not beautiful
“Excuses” heads in straightforward and no-frills hard rock territory. This one rates with “Dragon Rider” as the as the albums heaviest, with a guitar sound of the powering capacity and slogging low-end reflective of the forceful initiative at hand. You will also find some underpinning blues elements, reflected in more jagged edge lead work. In the end not the best or catchiest number but solid all the same.
“Free” showcases an up-tempo milieu. Polished and uplifting, this one places greater emphasis on melody (chorus highlights some engaging qualities) while failing to back away from the guitar driven focus at hand. The upshot being a decidedly melodic metal driven environs as opposed to classic power metal- by no means a bad thing! Lyric snippet:
A lonely heart, I walked alone
Then You rescued me
There I am, there I stand in my sorrow
But then You came to me
You were just what I needed
How did You ever know?
Now with You right by my side
Alone I am no more
Free, You set me free
Because of You I am free
“What Kind Of Love”, an acoustic and blues driven instrumental played with a great deal of feeling, segues to album closer “Ultimate Sacrifice”.
Carrying over the emotion from “What Kind Of Love”, “Ultimate Sacrifice” proves a moving piece with its message of paralleling the sacrifice of our soldier’s post 9/11 with that of Christ for all. Poignantly driven vocals and a time change to a slower direction for the instrumental moments help align with the striking focus that holds sway. More mid-paced metal, this one specializes in crunch heavy riffs and almost militant feel to the low end, with the outcome a potential challenge for song of the year. Lyric snippet:
A man full of honor
Heeds the call of his country
And he is no doubt a hero
All deserving of all the praise
Let us always remember their names
Let me tell you of one
One who gave it all, while others gave some
He gave his life away
Never before in our time
The price had been so high
The Ultimate Sacrifice for you
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Warrior” (4:02), “Fight On” (5:14), “Dragon Rider” (4:37), “Children Of Winter” (5:09), “Control” (5:55), “Abuser” (4:45), “Excuses” (4:48), “Free” (4:54), “What Kind Of Love” (1:53), “Ultimate Sacrifice” (6:20)
Jeremy Ray - Lead Vocals
Kevin Grose - Guitars
J.L. Prater - Guitars
Ravn Furfjord - Bass
Wade Helm – Drums