|Musical Style: Metal||Produced By: Michael Phillips|
|Record Label: Roxx Productions||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2009||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 73:33|
Naming your favorite Deliverance guitarist can present quite the challenge. The bands initial offering, the self-titled debut from 1989, featured the muscular riffing and lightning-like leads of Glenn Rogers while his replacement, George Ochoa, brought similar qualities to the follow up efforts Weapons Of Our Warfare (1990) and What A Joke (1991). Stay Of Execution (1992) introduced Michael Phillips. While the album found Deliverance distancing itself from the thrash and speed metal of its earlier material, it highlighted the abundant licks and chops of Phillips, a talented player who did all the same things as Rogers and Ochoa only that much better.
Phillips left Deliverance after the release of Stay Of Execution only to resurface following the turn of the century in the hardcore/nu-metal group Fasedown. Joining forces with drummer Jim Chaffin (The Crucified), bassist John Hansen (The Blamed) and vocalist Devin Shaeffer, Phillips bestowed his playing to the group’s self-titled debut (2000) and sophomore outing Blitz Of Anguish (2005). Phillips proceeded to rejoin Deliverance two years later for the group’s excellent comeback album As Above – So Below.
The artist returns again in 2009 with his first solo album, The Roxx Productions and NePlus Ultra Music release Mirrors Within Mirrors. What we have in Mirrors Within Mirrors is an eccentric work in which Phillips takes a foundation of the progressive and mixes in acoustic leanings with the traditional metal and thrash of his past.
Specifically, Mirrors Within Mirrors is predominantly instrumental, it includes only three full length vocal pieces and two others with vocal portions, while focusing heavily on Phillips playing- both electric and acoustic. The album opens to a trilogy of songs in “All I Ever Wanted” and “Mirrors Within Mirrors” (parts one and two) that run the gamut from progressive metal, instrumental hard rock, jazz-fusion-jam band influences, thrash and speed metal to occasional acoustic moments. The end result is nearly thirty minutes of the most inspired and creative music you will experience.
At this point it must be reinforced the numerous guests Phillips has recruited, including Jim Chaffin and Devin Shaeffer (both Fasedown), Mark Solomon (Crucified), Jimmy Brown (Deliverance) and Scott Waters (Ultimatum).
Shaeffer and Solomon handle the two short verses on “Mirrors Within Mirrors” Part 1” while Brown makes an appearance during the final minutes to “Mirrors Within Mirrors Part 2”. Shaeffer takes center stage for the thrash masterpiece “Anthem” and Waters the Deliverance cover “It’s A Beat”.
Acoustic instrumentals make up much of the albums remaining material. Now, this is certainly not a bad thing – and highlights another facet to Phillips playing in the process – but I wish the artist had pursued the instrumental metal and hard rock direction at least one more time. It is on the albums first three songs, for instance, that Phillips exhibits the full depth to his playing and puts his creativity on full display.
That said, the acoustic material serves a purpose- and that is to support the albums theme of telling the artists life story in both music and words. Each song in the albums liner notes includes detailed commentary from Phillips that comes across biographical in nature as it depicts the story of his life’s journey. The few vocal pieces flow well with the storyline in question, particularly the praise and worship cover “I Will Praise Him Still”.
A weighty guitar barrage defines dark instrumental album opener “All I Ever Wanted”. A surprising element of melody is delivered despite the swarthy scene, reflected in Phillips deft touch and instinctive ability to exact a measure of force or lighten the mood at a moments notice.
The nine minute “Mirrors Within Mirrors Pt. 1” breaks down into four parts.
The first, “Outer Darkness”, proves a calm instrumental upheld by a quietly played guitar and stretches of melodic based riffing.
The heavy duty guitar that cuts in after two minutes leads the way to “Infinite Mirrors”, a more aggressive – almost thrash flavored – piece sustained by Devin Shaeffer’s heavy duty vocal delivery and assertive work of drummer Matt Davis.
At a moments notice the song delves into “Divisions”. Two and a half minutes of angst laden impetus, the song starts to a stretch of powerhouse riffing before Shaeffer returns for a final verse with his trademark courser sensibilities.
Closing things out is another instrumental, “Tempus Fugit”. Phillips really stretches here with his technical soloing abilities – and proves why he is one of the underrated forces in metal in the process – while descending into a stretch of melodic harmonizing as a punchy bass line decorates the backdrop.
“Mirrors Within Mirrors Pt. 2”, a mostly instrumental fifteen minute epic, divides into six parts.
“Without Form”, part one, flows to a joining of acoustic guitar and airy keyboards.
As “Without Form” fades out, “The Journey” begins to the substantial bass lines and ethereally played lead guitar that carries its distance.
Impetus abruptly picks up for “Secret Games”, a fast paced number carried by walls of driving guitars and aggressive drumming. An environs bordering on the neo-classical is conveyed in the process.
“The Darkest Hour” soon takes over with its fusion-like – almost jazzy - feel as an acoustic guitar and another predominant bass line lead the way.
“Passion” brings a return to a heavier direction with its slicing guitar riffs and Phillips intricate lead work. Power metal touches are reflected as a result of the dark and low key ambience.
Closing things out is “Nails And Tears”, a varied piece ranging from acoustic laced moments – featuring the melodic vocal presence of Jimmy Brown – and others driven by metal edged guitars as harsh (almost extreme) vocals decorate the background.
While the albums remaining moments are quite good, they almost come across anti-climatic in comparison to its brilliant first thirty minutes. Seven of the final tracks are acoustic instrumentals: “Prelude #3 From The Well Tempered Clavier”, “Always Remember”, “Omega”, “Seasons Of Life”, “One”, “Who Am I? (A Song For Christopher)” and a second version of “Omega”. “Omega”, in my opinion, is the standout of the group as a result of the Latin flair coming from the use of a Spanish guitar.
But as previously referenced, the acoustic material proves crucial in supporting the artists theme of telling his life story in both music and words.
This leaves us with three full length vocal pieces in “Anthem”, “It’s The Beat” and “I Will Praise Him Still”.
“Anthem” is a five minute thrash assault. Shaeffer makes a cameo appearance, adding to the boiling scene with his tough as nails vocal mindset while Phillips (not exactly a stranger to aggressive music) stirs the pot with his heavy as they get riffs. Evening things out – and helping the song to flow better overall – is the clean vocal presence of Scott Wallace in the background.
“It’s A Beat”, a Deliverance cover from What A Joke (1991), features the harsh vocal delivery of Scott Waters (Ultimatum). No, this one is not my cup of tea (a bit too extreme for my taste) but you cannot say the guys do not nails things perfectly. Phillips lets loose with some intense guitar work while Chaffin is all over the place with an all out assault on drums.
The acoustic rock cover of the praise and worship piece “I Will Praise Him Still” rounds things out perfectly. Featuring the female vocals of Heidi Webb, the song includes a big choir-like chorus (backed by a touch of rhythm guitar) and a complementary shred guitar solo.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “All I Ever Wanted” (3:18), “Mirrors Within Mirrors Part 1” (9:32), “Mirrors Within Mirrors Part 2” (15:40), “Prelude #3 From The Well Tempered Clavier” (1:31), “Always Remember” (5:02), “Anthem” (5:01), “Omega” (5:42), “Seasons Of Life” (5:09), “One Day” (6:18), “It's The Beat” (2:08), “Who Am I? Part 1 (A Song For Christopher)” (4:20), “I Will Praise Him Still” (4:08), “Omega” (guitars only) (5:38)
Michael Phillips – Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Devin Shaeffer – Lead Vocals
Mark Solomon – Lead Vocals
Jimmy Brown – Lead Vocals
Scott Waters – Lead Vocals
Scott Wallace – Lead Vocals
Heidi Webb – Lead Vocals
Tim Kronyak - Bass
Matt Davis – Drums
Jim Chaffin - Drums