|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Jacob Hansen & Pyramaze|
|Record Label: Nightmare||Country Of Origin: Denmkar & USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Pyramaze|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 95%|
|Running Time: 47:56|
The musical journey of vocalist Lance King got its start in the mid-eighties when he fronted Gemini, a melodic metal outfit that played up to 300 shows annually and released two albums- the bands self-titled debut came out in 1990, while a sophomore effort entitled Out For Blood hit the shelves two years later. After parting ways with Gemini, King proceeded to put together his own band, appropriately named The King’s Machine, that in 1995 recorded its debut A State Of Mind. Joining the UK progressive melodic metal outfit Balance Of Power in 1997, King had some of the finest moments of his career with the group on albums such as Book Of Secrets (1998), Ten More Tales Of Grand Illusion (2000) and Perfect Balance (2001). Departing Balance Of Power in 2003, King went on to participate on albums by Mattson (Power Games), Empire (Hypnotica), Defyance (Transitional Forms) and Shining Star (Enter Eternity) over the next several years before he was contacted by Intromental Management seeking a vocalist for a project by the Danish power metal band Pyramaze. King was initially hired as a studio musician but eventually became a permanent member of the group after completing the vocal tracks to its 2004 debut Melancholy Beast in his studio in Minnesota.
Returning in 2006 with a concept album entitled Legend Of The Bone Carver, Pyramaze moves in a musical direction that, as explained in the albums packaging, is “epic, melodic power metal with symphonic and progressive touches, all supporting a fantastic epic tale.” And while that description is a mouth full, it is not far from the mark either. I might describe Legend Of The Bone Carver as a musical progression from Melancholy Beast in that the albums material comes across in an even more mature sounding manner while reflecting an all around heavier and more epic and orchestral feel. From front to back all its compositions showcase melodies that, with repeated listening, easily hold up under repeated play.
The key words here, however, are “repeated listening” in that it took a certain amount of time in order for the album to grown on me. For example, the first time I heard Bone Carver its material almost came across non-descript. Upon second listen, however, several songs – most notably “What Lies Beyond” and “Ancient Words Within” – began to stand out with their catchy choruses. By the fifth time I heard the disc all its tracks had begun to sink in and by the sixth and seventh spin I was hooked! Once again, the key here is to give the album the time it deserves and you will be richly rewarded.
I cannot help but think Legend Of The Bone Carver represents the best project Lance King has been associated with since Balance Of Power’s Perfect Balance. His high end voice really shines as he helps convey the epic tale of the Bone Carver and his heroic deeds. Founding member Michael Kammeyer returns on rhythm and lead guitar and is joined on lead guitar by newcomer Toke Skjonnemand. Initially starting out as a second guitarist for Pyramaze’s first live shows in 2004 only to eventually become a permanent member of the band, Toke showcases his technical abilities best on tracks such as “What Lies Beyond” and “The Bone Carver”. Jonah Weingarten continues to add just the right amount of touch with his layered work on keyboards. Morten Sorensen proves quite the talented timekeeper and is joined by bassist Niels Kvist to form an unwavering rhythm section.
Production values come across full and rich in combining an edgy rhythm guitar with a crystal clear blend of lead guitar and keyboards. The drums, at the same time, are allowed to stand out evenly above the mix.
As previously stated, Legend Of The Bone Carver is a concept album with a storyline taking place in a medieval setting in which good is slowly being exterminated by evil. Without giving away the details to the story, the album follows the life of a child, The Bone Carver, who grows up to be a heroic figure that confronts the evil in question. Fans of Tolkien or Shannara will feel right at home here. As a matter of fact, Pyramaze proves in no uncertain terms that epic metal is the perfect vehicle to “tell a tale” based around a legendary high fantasy theme. If you enjoy Blind Guardian’s excellent Tolkien influenced concept album Nightfall In Middle Earth then Legend Of The Bone Carver comes with the highest recommendation.
Album opener “Era Of Chaos” slowly moves forward as orchestration stands in support of the narration that introduces the albums storyline.
“The Birth” gets underway slowly before pounding drums kick in and shore up the crunchy rhythm guitar that carries its first verse at a mid-tempo pace. Breaking out in an emotionally charged manner, “The Birth” gains momentum for a sweeping chorus giving rise to an enchanting melody that, with repeated listening, will refuse to leave your head. The instrumental passage taking the song through its final minute showcases a very well done fluid guitar solo.
Introduced to an epic flavored blend of choppy rhythm guitar and keyboards, “What Lies Beyond” picks up in pace to just the right amount of double bass before transitioning to a pre-chorus interwoven with layered vocal harmonies. The galloping chorus that follows showcases a great catchy hook that almost comes across commercial in feel. Following each chorus I love how the song breaks for a passage in which rapid double bass is exquisitely blended with a piano.
Subsequent to slowing to the voice of The Bone Carver child (played by Lance’s son Tomy), the song gains impetus until it gives way to several seconds of furious lead guitar work.
“Ancient Words Within” immediately launches into a fast paced double bass driven riff interlaced with a piano. After the piano continues to accentuate the song throughout its first verse, the rhythm guitar moves to the front of the mix and drives its pre-chorus hard and heavy. An infectious chorus that is near mesmerizing in its capacity ranks among the albums best. Several seconds of emotional lead guitar work aligns itself with the songs pace and feel.
The dramatic “Souls In Pain” also begins to a frenetic guitar riff backed by rapid double bass. Switching over to an abundance of muscular rhythm guitar for its first verse, a more melodic tone is taken by the song when a splash of keyboards highlights the mix. After briefly pausing, “Souls In Pain” picks up in pace for a moving chorus resonating a plethora of sublime class and emotion.
“She Who Has Summoned Me” is a haunting ballad featuring a duet between King and Christina Oberg. Subsequent to the song slowly advancing through its first and second verse as an atmospheric blend of piano and keyboards stand in support of King, the rhythm guitar steps forward and leads the way to a flowing chorus complemented by Oberg’s crystal clear vocal delivery.
“The Bone Carver” opens at an upbeat tempo only to pause before slowing upon reaching its first verse as a touch of keyboards highlight the epic atmosphere. Gaining impetus during its pre-chorus, the albums signature track picks up in pace as it transitions to a catchy chorus in which keyboards play a prominent but perfectly supportive role. An extensive instrumental passage is carried by a very tastefully done lead guitar trade off between Skjonnemand and Kammeyer.
A strong and steady blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards initiates “Bring Back Life” before the keyboards drop from the mix at the start of its first verse. Building and gaining momentum in a guitar driven fashion, “Bring Back Life” makes a time change to an anthem-like chorus delivered with just the right amount of infectious grandeur. Definitely one of the albums standout tracks.
“Blood Red Skies” is the albums second and final track to include narration. The song commences as pounding drums underscore the narrators voice until, after stopping dead in its tracks, it slows to the sound of keyboards that give way to a crunchy rhythm guitar. At this point, instead of having the track fade out to the words “Let the war begin…”, a more dramatic impact would have been made if things had ended to the sound of a medieval battle that segues into the albums closing track “Tears Of Hate”. Listen to the introduction to “At The Gates” from Jacobs Dream very fine 2005 release Drama Of The Ages to get an idea how this could have been done.
Set in motion by ominous sounding keyboards, a choppy guitar riff takes “Tears Of Hate” through its first verse before layered vocal harmonies carry its pre-chorus in a melodic flavored manner. Abruptly picking up in pace, the song moves on to a quickly moving double bass driven chorus delivered at a powerful upbeat tempo. “Tears Of Hate” slows for several seconds of narration before an instrumental passage closes out the albums final minute.
In closing, I have not been this excited about a group of songs since Destra’s excellent 2004 effort Joe’s Rhapsody and Shadow Gallery’s 2005 epic Room V. And similar to those previously mentioned masterpieces, Legend Of The Bone Carver is a concept album that brings all the right elements to the table: catchy songwriting, first rate musicianship and vocals and a polished production job. Destined to be one of the highlights to what is starting out to be a very good year.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Era Of Chaos” (1:17), “The Birth” (5:52), “What Lies Beyond” (4:26), “Ancient Words Within” (5:37), “Souls In Pain” (5:16), “She Who Summoned Me” (5:53), “The Bone Carver” (5:06), “Bring Back Life” (4:55), “Blood Red Skies” (3:30), “Tears Of Hate” (5:59)
Lance King – Lead Vocals
Michael Kammeyer – Rhythm & Lead Guitars
Toke Skjonnemand – Lead Guitars
Jonah Weingarten – Keyboards
Niels Kvist – Bass
Morten Sorensen - Drums
Christina Oberg – Lead Vocals
Tomy King – Voice of the Bone Carver child