|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Jacobs Dream|
|Record Label: Metal Blade||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2005||Artist Website: Jacobs Dream|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 70:55|
"People of faith have contributed so much to the world of art over the centuries. It is that example that we have tried to emulate."
It has been a rocky four years for the Ohio based power metal band Jacobs Dream since the release of its 2001 sophomore effort Theater Of War. First, the bands long term lead vocalist David Taylor departed which resulted in a protracted search for a replacement, but when a new vocalist was finally found, he was tragically killed in an auto accident. Jacobs Dream eventually settled on the talented Chaz Bond (Biogenesis) to fill Taylor's shoes. Second, additional turnover saw guitarist Derek Eddleblute leave only to be succeeded by John Noble (who was with the band between its first and second albums). Greg Holtzman, who left the group after playing guitar on its self-titled debut, returns to the fold but now on drums (supplanting Billy Queen) and performs very capably, adding a nice aggressive touch on double bass whenever needed. The two mainstays include bassist James Evans and guitarist John Berry. Berry proves a particularly talented musician, stealing the show with his precise and fluid but lightning like abilities on lead guitar.
While I will always remain a big David Taylor fan, I wholeheartedly accept Chaz Bond with open arms. Singing in a lower key when compared to Taylor, Chaz brings a doom-like Geoff Tate (Queensryche) meets David Bowie vocal style comparable to Jimmy Brown (Deliverance), while occasionally adding an aggressive element to his delivery not-unlike Ty Cook (Antithesis). With a new vocalist, nevertheless, Jacobs Dream gets a near complete makeover in its sound. Gone are the direct comparisons to the likes of old Queensryche, Sacred Warrior and Fates Warning that Taylor's high pitched vocal style lended. And while you can still hear the influence of those previously mentioned bands, on its third full length effort Drama Of The Ages Jacobs Dream now takes a heavier and more aggressive approach to the power metal genre. Heavier, however, does not mean any less listenable. If anything, the band displays significant growth in its songwriting skills in that the album features some of its most mature and memorable compositions to date.
The production values to Drama Of The Ages, disappointingly, are on the thin side. The rhythm guitar tones often sound muddy and the drums distant and transparent. The bass is not placed prominently enough in the mix. Only the lead guitar rises above the instrumentation as it should. While certainly not a major detraction, there is room for improvement here.
It is worth noting that no band photos are included with the albums packaging.
The keyboards introducing the albums title track give way to a double bass driven riff before it slows upon arriving at its first verse. Gaining momentum as Holtzman returns with more double bass, "Drama Of The Ages" attains a chorus with a huge catchy hook. Berry polishes things off with several seconds of refined lead guitar work.
Taking off to a driving riff and an ear piercing scream from Chaz, "Keeper Of The Crown" moves forward in a guitar driven manner until it picks up in pace for a stately chorus accentuated by keyboards. A sweeping instrumental passage again allows Berry to show off his fiery abilities on lead guitar.
The catchy hard rock of "Spinning Leaf", penned by Chaz Bond, would sound right at home on Deliverance's 2001 effort Assimilation. A piano slowly carries "Spinning Leaf" through its first verse until the rhythm guitar kicks in, an anthem-like atmosphere created as the song smoothly progresses to one of the albums stronger choruses. Chaz' deep sounding vocal delivery really shines on this track.
The open air rhythm guitar at the start of "Stand Or Fall" is accentuated after several seconds by a touch of quietly played guitar that fades in and out of the mix. Proceeding through its verse portions at a stylish mid-tempo pace, "Stand Or Fall" picks up in pace for a chorus asking several relevant questions:
Tell me what's worth fighting for
Will you stand or fall?
Tell me what's worth living for
Can you hear the battle call?
Berry once again comes through with several seconds of fast paced lead guitar work.
A touch of double bass backs the driving riff initiating "Tempest", a catchy melody resonated as the song continues through its verse portions hard and heavy. The double bass returns, however, as "Tempest" peaks for an emotionally charged chorus coming across in the form of a soul crying out to God:
Where, art thee?
Don't hide from me!"
"Tempest" slows as Chaz reaches down low for a near death metal-like growl as he imitates the voice of the serpent who attempts to instill thoughts of doubt:
"God is not there
He cannot here you!
Don't waste your time
He never speaks!"
After the trade off between the two continues ("Lying drained too. Tired for sleep. Father take. My soul to keep"..."Where is your God?. What are you thinking. Call to him louder. Perhaps he's asleep"), Berry cuts loose with just under a minute of fast paced lead guitar work. Chaz again cries out during the verse that follows -
Where's the voice of peace
that comforts me
Touch me with your fire
and heal me
- only to find God answering his prayers in question following the songs third chorus:
"Here I stand
In the midst of your pain
I still the storm
and trials within."
"Third Way" opens slowly as the rhythm guitar bounces in and out of the mix over a quietly played guitar line. Stopping dead in its tracks, the song moves through its first and second verse in a near thrash influenced fashion. After slowing for its third and fourth verse, "Third Way' arrives at a chorus highlighted by Chaz' deep sounding vocal delivery. The songs thrash-like feel returns as it picks up in pace for an instrumental passage in which a fast paced riff is carried over rapid double bass.
While Drama Of The Ages gets off to a very good start, the albums does not hit its stride until reaching its brilliant second half.
The first three minutes of "Forever Winter" are instrumental as a catchy guitar riff and Berry's first rate lead guitar work are underscored by an ample amount of tight sounding double bass. After three and a half minutes, a trace of keyboards enters the mix as the song evenly flows to its first verse before moving on to a melodic based chorus reinforced by more double bass.
An acoustic guitar slowly propels "Drowning Man" through its first and second verse until a crunchy rhythm guitar enters the mix and exquisitely interweaves with the acoustic guitar. Moving forward at a hard hitting guitar driven pace, "Drowning Man" culminates upon attaining a sweeping chorus with an epic feel. Chaz cuts loose with a death-metal-like growl before Berry nails several seconds of fluid lead guitar work.
The awesome "Deceiver Of The Nations" commences to just over a minute of catchy double bass and tight sounding lead guitar. Advancing through its first and second verse in an emotionally charged manner, Chaz adds an aggressive element to his vocal delivery to imitate the voice of Satan:
"I'll exalt my throne
Above the stars of God
And I will ascend
Above the highest clouds
The superlative double bass driven chorus that follows exposes the "deceiver of the nations":
Before the dawn of time
You lost your place on high
The shining one
Filled with pride
as lightning from the sky
I like how "Deceiver Of The Nations" goes on to describe the millennial Kingdom:
Ruling with a rod of iron
Eternal his empire...
There is no want no jealousy
Within the Kingdom walls
and Lucifer's conspiracy
as prophesied will fail
In addition to Satan being releases after the thousand years are over:
Released from the abyss
Ablaze with vengeful lust
Free from heavens chains
To charge Jerusalem
And his final doom:
Faithful you once were
Rebelling still you served
with the beast
The prophet in fire
Will Jehovah be defied
Getting underway to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar bouncing in and out of the mix, "Cutting Words" launches into an energy-laden fast paced guitar riff. The song slows to a near crawl for its first verse only to pick up in pace for the second. Repeating the same pattern during its third and fourth verse, "Cutting Words" reaches an infectious chorus focusing on the damage reckless words can cause:
With cutting words
I run you through
Stroke the coals
till we're consumed
The blistering lead guitar work that ensues transitions to a slowly moving quietly played guitar line. The songs message could not be summed up any better as it tapers off for its final verse.
Hatred is our enemy
We must learn to let it go
Forgiveness will free the soul
We must leave the past behind
After the catchy power metal of "Victory" slowly progresses through its first and second verse, an abundance of double bass takes over and underlines Chaz as he details victory in the life of a Christian:
Lift your hands
Receive from on high
The spirit of life
Speak His name
Shout for the power
and feel the fire
Maintaining its energetic double bass driven pace, "Victory" peaks upon arriving at a chorus with a catchy refuse to go away hook. Berry follows with several seconds of blazing lead guitar work.
"At The Gates" begins to the sound of a medieval battle underscored by a touch of open air rhythm guitar. Picking up in pace to just the right amount of a double bass, the song advances at an upbeat tempo before a sublime atmosphere is created for a strong epic flavored chorus. A minute long instrumental passage is carried by Berry's fast paced riffing backed by pounding double bass.
Please note that hidden at the end of the album is a very well done but unnamed fusion based guitar driven instrumental coming in at just under five minutes.
From a musical standpoint, Drama Of The Ages is nothing less than a great, great album. I cannot help but think that the four year wait between releases proved a blessing in disguise in that it gave the band the opportunity to polish and perfect its material. As previously stated, an element of thinness characterizes the albums sonics, but I find that it in no way does proves a major detracting factor. Buy Drama Of The Ages now.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Drama Of The Ages" (4:45), "Keeper Of The Crown" (4:57), "Spinning Leaf" (4:51), "Stand Or Fall" (5:09), "Tempest" (5:13), "Third Way" (4:44), "Forever Winter" (6:11), "Drowning Man" (4:59), "Deceiver Of The Nations" (6:32), "Cutting Words" (5:53), "Victory" (4:55), "At The Gates" (6:47)
Chaz Bond – Lead Vocals
John Berry – Guitars & Synthesizers
Jon Noble – Guitars
James Evans – Bass
Gary Holtzman - Drums
Also Reviewed: Jacobs Dream - Dominion Of Darkness