Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Jacobs Dream - Sea Of Destiny
   
Musical Style: Power Metal Produced By:
Record Label: Independent Country Of Origin: USA
Year Released: 2017 Artist Website: Jacobs Dream
Tracks: 12 Rating: 85%
Running Time: 59:03

Jacobs Dream - Sea Of Destiny

The last we heard from Jacobs Dream was 2009 and the Retroactive Records release of its fifth full-length album Beneath The Shadows, a 95% Angelic Warlord graded work I described as ‘a magnum opus destined to become a classic’ and that is ‘nothing less than stellar in showcasing a musical journey of excellence and inspiration’.  It would be fair to suggest that BTS ranks with my favorite turn of the century albums, particularly in light of how it received an honorable mention in an article I wrote last year outlining what (in my opinion) are the top then albums released the past ten years (since launching Angelic Warlord in 2006).  I always felt a good measure of the success to BTS attributes to the sense of melody unique to vocalist Chaz Bond, whom lent a similar influence to the groups Metal Blade third full-length offering from 2005, Drama Of The Ages, and independent 2008 follow up effort Dominion Of Darkness.  Whereas the two albums were solid musically, albeit not quite reaching the heights of BTS, both also suffered from production on the thin side of things.     

Jacobs Dream actually got its start in 2000 with its Metal Blade self-titled debut full length, which features original vocalist David Taylor, whose high pitched and soaring styles contrasts with the deeper and lower register flavorings of Bond.  By 2001 Jacobs Dream started to hit its stride with its sophomore release Theater Of War by combining by far its best ever production with a strong group of songs only rivaled by those on BTS.  While Taylor departed Jacobs Dream following the release of TOW and Bond left subsequent to BTS, the groups independently released summer of 2017 sixth album, Sea Of Destiny, introduces new front man Kevin Wright.  If I were to invite comparison, Wright highlights a classic tenor style more akin to that of Taylor in that while not quite as high-pitched, places him within a similar type of high-end category.    

I always felt that Bond era Jacobs Dream, as good as it was, rooted itself in power metal with strong melodic sensibilities, albeit understating the progressive facets (at least as it pertains to BTS).  With newcomer Wright on board, however, Sea Of Destiny finds Jacobs Dream has returned to the power metal laced with progressive elements of its first two albums.  Now, when I am referring to Jacobs Dream as ‘power metal’, I am not necessarily referencing the European form with its greater keyboard emphasis or that of the melodic variety with its commercial leanings, rather I am alluding to the classic US variety with its overall heavier and more aggressive stance.  With Jacobs Dream, it also incorporates light progressive leanings found in sophisticated tempo changes and an overall instrumental emphasis not to mention drawing upon other hard music forms such as epic, symphonic, doom and traditional metal.

Opening track “Where Vultures Gather” finds Jacobs Dream putting it all together.  The song starts acoustically before charging forward as a big anthem metal feel carries its opening instrumental build until Wright soars in with a crystalline falsetto.  Prodigious bass proceeds to stand out in the low end to verses, while heavy-set backing vocals step in to prompt the elaborate refrain.  Upshot is one of the albums showcase tracks, or at the very least highlighting its most commercial hook.

With its epic metal lacings, “Cry The Viking” hints of old school Warlord.  The Gregorian vocals at the start of the song provide a fitting medieval effect, with the fragmenting guitars that soon step forward for the remaining distance settling over a bedrock of ominous low end.  Instrumental sound remains a Jacobs Dream strength, as the guitar team of John Noble and John Berry unleash a stretch of tight harmonies that give way to furious soloing.

“Independence” cuts in fierce from the get go and does not let up the hard charging mentality its length.  Buttressing the fractious setting are borderline extreme vocals in the backdrop, but allowing a contrasting smoother effect is the groups tight as a drum guitar harmonies.  I like to identify with “Independence” as a guitar harmony driven monster in similar fashion as Theater Of War cut “Traces Of Grace”. 

“Sea Of Destiny” touches upon symphonic metal (a new for Jacobs Dream) when factoring the classical keyboards at the start and that maintain a front to back presence.  Otherwise, albums title track mirrors the progressive side to the group with its variances, as found in quieter passages in which piano literally breathes, melodic moments that touch upon the grand and stately and others that take a more contentious turn.

Ensuring cut “Echoes Of Birmingham” is a bit out of place, although not musically but rather from a song title standpoint.  With previous song titles hinting of legends, lore, epic journeys and marauding barbarians, the group all of a sudden gives us “Echoes Of Birmingham”.  Where did they get this?  In all seriousness, the song is the albums lone instrumental and a good one at that in again highlighting the Jacobs Dream penchant for guitar harmonies but within an elevated tempo (and melodic) framework.

“Into The Night” finds Jacobs Dream drawing upon traditional metal to weave what amounts albums most straightforward and no-nonsense cut.  What you see is what you get: guitars that dominate; low end that churns; blistering guitar leads; and seething front to back momentum.  Melody, however, is not overlooked as found in another catchy refrain.  I can see Saint doing something like this.

Aptly entitled “Combustion” proves a speed metal mauler with a twist (sort of like “Black Souls”, another TOW cut).  The song sets out at breakneck speed from the start, storming through its tumultuous verses to Gary Holtzman’s heavy-footed drumming but also contrasting as it slows to a near doom like romp for a refrain that repeats the songs title in splintering fashion.  Instrumental passages follow a similar pattern in starting out uplifting only to taper at the end. 

Sea Of Destiny hits its stride with “Lady Of Sorrows”, a dark and ominous cut that skirts mid-tempo territory with its bottom heavy low end.  Also, ranking alongside the albums heavier material, the song trounces with its aggressive demeanor all the while allowing a lighter touch as wistful keyboards accent in the distance.  Elevating the creativity is James Evans’ grooving bass line. 

“Down” represents a return to the up-tempo with its pounding drum mindset and intense riffing.  Despite the single-minded heaviness, enough melody presents itself to circumvent any overriding repetitiveness (once more, refrain stands out with its melodic qualities).  In the end, what we have is the type of quality deep cut that makes an already very good album that much better.

Jacobs Dream wears its technical acumen on its sleeves on “Embers Of Torment”, what in my opinion is albums best track.  Wright gets things going with a fitting falsetto but otherwise sings his guts out on a cut that proves abundant emotion manifest, as melodies galore align with the eloquent if not moving scene, and heaviness elevates itself in the form of guitar that bind themselves to the front of the mix.

Album closes to two numbers in “Crucible” and “Truth” that while good I rate a notch below the albums better material.  Former is a thickly set plodder that reflects upon doom metal (with occasional leanings towards the forthright) and latter an upbeat work that mirrors a lighter and more melodic aspect (although still falling within power metal territory).

One of the main byproducts to the eight-year delay between albums is solving any production misgivings to the past in that Sea Of Destiny is the finest sounding Jacobs Dream album since TOW.  It also improves upon packaging (in comparison to other independent release Dominion Of Darkness) with its becoming cover art and mini booklet featuring band photos, liner notes, etc.  Lone complaint is that lyrics, printed in a thin white font over a black ground, are difficult to read without aid of a magnifying glass, which I do not possess.  That said, for those wondering Jacobs Dream does not necessarily fall under the Christian band heading, but rather most refer to them as a ‘band of Christians’ instead.   

I began my 85% review of Dominion Of Darkness by suggesting the history of Jacobs Dream can best be described as a ‘tale of two eras’, with the first featuring David Taylor and second Chaz Bond.  With Kevin Wright on board, however, one might suggest a third era exists, but alas Wright failed to develop a similar type legacy as his predecessors in that he departed the group in the wake of Sea Of Destiny, which left the door open for the return of Taylor.  Hence, how Jacobs Dream has gone full circle in terms of its vocalist history.

As for Sea Of Destiny, the group has created a work that while not quite on the same level as BTS (at least my opinion) proves a solid US power metal album all the same.  When placed alongside, the high end vocals to Wright better bring to mind the groups two David Taylor fronted albums as opposed to those that followed to feature the lower register Chaz Bond.  Either way, there is some very notable material here - albums title track, “Lady Of Sorrows” & “Embers Of Torment” ranking with my favorites - that proves the Jacobs Dream songwriting abilities remain in prime form.  Looking ahead, I anticipate only good things from the group with the return of David Taylor but lets also hope it is not another eight long years between albums!     

Review by Andrew Rockwell

Track Listing: “Where Vultures Gather” (6:17), “Cry The Viking” (5:02), “Independence” (5:32), “Sea Of Destiny” (5:37), “Echoes Of Birmingham” (3:11), “Into The Night” (5:19), “Combustion” (4:34), “Lady Of Sorrows” (5:12), “Down” (4:06), “Embers Of Torment” (6:25), “Crucible” (3:58), “Truth” (3:51)

Musicians
Kevin Wright - Lead Vocals
John Berry - Guitars
John Noble - Guitars
James Evans - Bass
Gary Holtzman - Drums

 

Reviews: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
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