|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Andy Freeman|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2016||Artist Website: Oblivion Myth|
|Tracks: 17||Rating: 95%|
|Running Time: 65:59|
There are plenty of reasons you might like the idea of making Inside The Mirror, the summer of 2016 sophomore release of Nashville, Tennessee based Oblivion Myth, a priority purchase. Whether or not you like the foundation of traditional metal mixed with strong leanings towards power metal and straightforward hard rock in which the album resides, devotees of the hard music scene are certain to see the appeal to the compelling songwriting, accomplished lead vocals, proficient musicianship and professional production. Inside The Mirror comes out on the heals of the groups independently released 2008 debut Between Light & Shadow, an album (that as taken from the 80% Angelic Warlord review) “stands out with its darker, more instrumentally expansive and progressive based take on the (American power metal genre)”. Whereas Between Light & Shadow was quite good in its own right, Inside The Mirror takes things to the next level and does everything that much better in reflecting a group starting to hit its prime stride from a musical standpoint.
Oblivion Myth, a group of Christians whose motto is ‘Eternity is real, Oblivion is just a Myth’, for the most part revamped its line up for Inside The Mirror. With founding member and guitarist Keith Smith remaining the lone holdover, vocalist Andy Freeman, guitarist Chris Selby, bassist Patrick White and drummer Patrick Nickell have been supplanted by newcomers drummer Bob Schultz, bassist Kevin Butler and vocalist Tim McDonald. True star of the show is McDonald, whom brings a decidedly mid-ranged style that walks a fine line between operatic Dickenson influenced wails and rumbles and snarls of a Halford-like capacity. In between, he can soar for an upper end stratosphere falsetto or reach down for some lower register grit and angst. I cannot help but be reminded of other multidimensional performers such as Luke Richard Weber (Razorigami), Al Caiulo (Deth Enemy) and Mike Vance (Armageddon USA). Yes, very good company indeed!
When listening to Inside The Mirror alongside Between Light & Shadow, I hear a more accessible and song orientated Oblivion Myth in comparison. The group, for instance, has backed away from some of the overt progressive and jam based tendencies to its earlier material and adopted a songwriting stance founded in stronger and more immediately recognizable melodies. Specifically, I identify with Between Light & Shadows as taking a riff driven approach with material that requires several listens to grow on you, while Inside The Mirror draws you in that much quicker due to giving prominence to meatier hooks and more proficient songwriting overall. In no way do I intend to denigrate Between Light & Shadow, but the maturity garnered by Oblivion Myth leading up to Inside The Mirror brings to mind Sweden’s Darkwater, whom made similar musical steps and strides between its 2007 debut Calling The Earth To Witness and sophomore effort Where Stories End from 2010.
It starts with opener “Blinding The Darkness”, which best manifests that new found musical growth and seasoning garnered by Oblivion Myth over the years. The song maneuvers its length to bruising riff action lightened by airy keyboards, upholding a distant but palatial melody and technical acumen that has a manifold joining of the power and progressive written all over it. Keith Smith sets the stark tone with his fleet soloing.
“Sea Of Tranquility” represents a quintessential classic metal anthem. Hitting like a literal ton of bricks, the song reverberates its length to a wrecking ball guitar sound and fanciful “the sea of tranquility is where you’ll meet your destiny” refrain. McDonald shines in exhibiting the versatility to his vocal abilities, hitting high-end falsettos at will but also descending for some heartfelt lower register rumbling.
Guitar harmonies galore characterize the smooth, unyielding feel to “Between Light & Shadow”. This one might temper the momentum (even if just slightly) but fails to back from the guitar driven leanings, with verses swarthy from upholding an unwavering flair and refrain over the top in terms of its incendiary bombast. Timekeeper extraordinaire Bob Schulz aptly demonstrates with his complex abilities he can compete with anyone within the classic to power metal genres.
“Battle Angels” rates with my albums favorites from how it delivers a European power metal sound (sort of like Theocracy). The song proves mercurial in form - not quite speed metal but setting a galloping tempo all the same - while emphasizing guitars on the lighter side of things, at least in comparison to some tracks here. The effect touches upon the flattering, with plenty of double kick drum action and victorious and uplifting semblance throughout.
Albums title track begins to broken glass and a curt drum solo only to take off to heavy-set riffing. “Inside The Mirror” delivers the classic metal goods in powering ahead, snarling with its pulsating bass line (courtesy of Kevin Butler) but occasionally evening out as refined guitar harmonies hold sway. A slight progressiveness reveals itself for passages that point towards the near-doom like.
“Hallowed Oath” rates with the heaviest of the heavies. The song proves reverberant and bottom heavy, almost bluesy with raw as it gets guitar riffs that point towards straight on hard rock and McDonald adding some roughly hewn lower register grit to his delivery. Faint vocal melodies lighten the catchy but succinct refrain. Smith again shreds with his fluid soloing.
“Everlasting Fire” also ranks alongside my favorites. Distinguished and classic melodic metal, the song reflects a more delicate side to Oblivion Myth in aligning overriding emotion with a poignant refrain accented by stately keyboards. Delicate, however, means no less heavy from how guitars continue to make a decisive statement. Of particular note is how guest female co-lead vocalist Cat Fritchman lends to the moving scene with her at times gravelly and others melodic vocal abilities.
“Beyond This Home” delivers a heavy set blow, paralyzing with its bass heavy disposition that has no-nonsense written all over it. Impetus calms for the smoothly flowing refrain in which reticent keyboards play a buttressing role. I like to think of this one as joining the best elements of traditional and classic US power metal.
Album closes to three of its best cuts starting with the hulking “Absence Of Malevolence”. The song plays up a commanding anthem like quality, crossing the threshold of speed metal with its hyperactive low end and vengeful hit with the force of a sledgehammer riff action. Playing an underscoring role are some darker power metal tinctures that hint of Sacred Warrior. Inside The Mirror reaches its apex as McDonald lets loose with a high end “Riiiiise!” falsetto.
I detect on “War Child” some sublime progressive sentiments not unlike Symphony X. This one proves hard charging from the get go, as Schultz puts forth another commanding drum performance and ominous backing vocals stand in support of the haunting refrain. The shred based feel to the soloing fits the keyed up energy at hand.
I enjoy how “Venom Of Vices” opens its first minute and a half instrumentally to trenchant (almost doom-ish) riffs and chaotic soloing. The song presents with a tenacious mentality moving ahead, plowing with its bruising guitar walls and imperious front to back mid-paced momentum. Some of those doom metal facets rear their head as things again slow form an instrumental standpoint.
Inside the Mirror took roughly 80 hours to record (courtesy of Curtis Erdek) and 200 hours to mix and master (by Andy Freeman). All the hard work paid off in that the album features near perfect production with a full on guitars the centerpiece to the mix, while enough clarity allows room for leads and drums to cleanly stand out. Oblivion Myth sets the standard as far as production to independent releases is concerned (each member of Jacobs Dream should be forced to listen to Inside The Mirror non-stop the next several months to gain understanding how this is the way thing are done in the studio by an independent band).
Lone complaint regarding the album is the cluttered feel to the track listing due to including a half dozen shorter ‘interlude’ pieces. My experience has been that most albums with a preponderance of interludes are telling a story or involve a concept. However, such is not the case in that according to the group, “we've been asking people what kind of concept do you think it's telling you, all the while (we are) trying to think of what the album is telling us as a whole (in terms of) an overall concept”.
In terms of lyrical direction, the Oblivion Myth press material provides further detail: “(Our) music offers a positive contrast to the typical doom-and-gloom angst found in some heavy metal. It questions, it looks for answers, and it appeals to Divine Providence for guidance. The songs will speak to you, will make you think and give you strength”. That would be the best way to describe “Blinding The Darkness” with its focus on attacking evil:
Bless the night, fear in sight
Hear the roar of the crowd
The earth will shake, and in its wake
Forces cry out loud
A blinding light will pierce the void
Hail Thy Holy Name
An ancient curse to be destroyed
Be Thy mighty flame!
Likewise, “Battle Angels” talks of victory over evil:
Ten thousand demons will go down in flame
The battle is won in Jesus’ name
The Lion will defeat the beast
The tribe of Judah will lead us to peace
Flying though the storm, fighting to defeat all evil
So do you hear the trumpet cry?
Do you feel the urge to fly?
You’ll one day wield a sword for the Lord
“Absence Of Malevolence” plays up a similar theme:
Fate has come to take their souls
And the ones who have died
So Rise Up, you Childen of God
Heaven Above Awaits
There is a new life, within your reach
As we enter Heaven’s gate
An Absene of Malevolence will be a blessing on us all
Come and join me my friend, we will stand and never fall
“Venom Of Vices” delivers a warning about letting evil win in your life:
World’s torn apart by the meek and wise
Don’t be a victim of your own demise
Forces try to fight us inside
And drown us in a see full of lies
I can’t imagine if evil takes our way
A venom of vices that enters our hearts today
Lift the curse, and rise to the call
The venom of vices will take over all
Inside The Mirror is not so much the best album I have heard in 2016 (at least up to this point), but perhaps the best album I have heard the past several years. Lone potential challenges to it (in my opinion) include Harmony’s Theatre Of Redemption (from 2014) and LEAH’s King’s & Queen’s or Stryper’s Fallen (both 2015). Earlier this summer I published to Angelic Warlord an article in which I outline (again, my opinion) the ten best albums released the past ten years. I esteem Inside The Mirror to such an extent that if I had delayed writing the article by several months I would easily have included it- and changed the title to The ELEVEN Best Albums Of The Past Ten Years in the process!
Fact is, Inside The Mirror presents with great song after great song, with “Sea Of Tranquility”, “Battle Angels”, “Hallowed Oath”, “Everlasting Fire”, “Absence Of Malevolence”, “War Child” and “Venom Of Vices” ranking among my favorites. There are no bad tracks; all are very good to great. Production is top notch, while the group puts forth strong performances throughout. In the end, Inside The Mirror holds the pole position to be recognized as album of the year for 2016, keeping in mind the new Theocracy, Ghost Ship, might potentially challenge that!
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Blinding The Darkness”, “Interlude: The Eagle Has Landed”, “Sea Of Tranquility”, “Interlude: We’ve Had A Problem”, “Between Light & Shadow”, “Battle Angels”, “Inside The Mirror”, “Interlude: Daybreak”, “Hallowed Oath”, “Everlasting Fire”, “Interlude: “Revelation 21:4”, “Beyond This Home”, “Interlude: Enter The Unknown”, “Absence Of Malevolence”, “War Child”, “Interlude: Ecclesiastes 7:25” & “Venom Of Vices”
Tim McDonald - Lead Vocals
Keith Smith - Guitars
Kevin Butler - Bass
Bob Schultz – Drums
Cat Fritchman - Lead Vocals
Eric Smith - Lead Vocals
Curtis Erdek - Guitars
Patrick White - Bass
Andy Freeman - Keyboards & Orchestration