|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 41:27|
Guitarist and vocalist Bill Menchen has received acclaim over the years for his work with several well known bands in Final Axe, Rev Seven, Titanic and The Seventh Power. What most people do not know, however, is that Menchen actually got his start in the mid-eighties with a relatively obscure group out of Southern California by the name of Redeemer. Put together by the artist in 1984, Redeemer had a somewhat nondescript history, recording its first and only demo tape – a poorly produced work – in 1986 before disbanding three years later. While Menchen has gone on to bigger and better things musically over the years, he recently re-recorded all the old Redeemer material (consisting of the songs from the original demo and several lost and unrecorded tracks) and released them on two CD’s of eleven songs each, Double Edge Sword and Anno Domini, on Watergrave Records (a division of Retroactive Records).
What we have in Double Edge Sword, the first of the two, is an eighties influenced blend of metal and hard rock with occasional classic metal and doom-like touches. The albums better material, to put it bluntly, is outstanding. The up-tempo “King Of The Light”, for instance, stands out with its infectious chorus hook and radio friendly feel. “The Alpha The Omega” delivers a classic metal sound but proves no less able, while the doom influenced “Warning”, perhaps the finest song ever composed by Menchen, represents the albums heaviest piece. “Hard Rock Foundation” is a notable metal anthem and “Escape” a bottom heavy track that also features a catchy chorus. “Unite Believers”, “Eons Of Time”, “The Story Is Told” and “Under The Shadows” are all solid as well . There are, on the other hand, a couple of tracks here I tend to skip over in that the more commercial sounds of “Let The Light Shine On” and “Takin A Ride” do not always appeal to my tastes. (Both are well constructed so I can see how others might get into them.)
While Redeemer originally consisted of Menchen (guitar and vocals), Scott Buehl (guitars), Ralph Long (bass) and Brian White (drums), Menchen handles all the instrumentation on Double Edge Sword. What I find to really stand out about the project is the manner in which the artist cuts loose and showcases his abilities on lead guitar. As a matter of fact, I cannot think of any other project involving Menchen in which he places a greater emphasis on his instrumental sound. And that is to the benefit of all of us! “King Of The Light” stands out with a lengthy instrumental section and “The Alpha The Omega” a lead guitar and keyboard trade off. Others such as “Warning”, “Escape”, “Hard Rock Foundation” and “The Story Is Told” turn into nothing less than all out shred fests.
Production values are solid in showcasing an upfront rhythm guitar sound and plenty of fluidly mixed lead work.
From a lyrical standpoint, this proves an open and upfront Christian effort. Despite the fact lyrics were not included as part of the albums packaging, they are easy to discern in that Menchen – who brings his trademark smooth and mid-octave vocal style – puts forth a vocal performance that cleanly stands out above the mix.
In terms of the packaging, it is important to reinforce the mission of Watergrave Records: And that is to offer limited edition releases at a BUDGET price. Hence, the lack of lyrics and extensive liner notes. But that is okay because what we are offered in return is music that has not been publicly available – if at all – in literally decades.
“King Of The Light” immediately kicks in at an upbeat tempo, a plethora of determined impetus carrying it forward until the scene evens out for a catchy chorus with a hook of the radio friendly variety. A touch of keyboards highlights the mix as the song flows into its extensive instrumental section.
The same high quality is maintained on “The Alpha The Omega”, a slower number reflecting a classic metal feel. This one moves ahead at a mid-tempo pace from the start, gradually gaining momentum until slackening for a chorus delivered in tempered but smooth sounding fashion. A well executed lead guitar and keyboard trade off accents another sweeping instrumental section.
The six minute “Warning” stands out as not only the albums longest track but its heaviest as well. The song actually opens quietly before a surge of brazen guitar riffs takes over the mix. Driven ahead in a near doom-like manner, “Warning” puts in place a portent setting as it transitions to a chorus guaranteed to draw you in with its sublime appeal. I enjoy how the song stops dead in its tracks before moving on to an instrumental section shored up by Menchen’s fluid soloing abilities.
“Let The Light Shine On” moves the album in melodic rock territory. A commercial influence is showcased here, reflected in the songs laid back feel and abundant vocal harmonies standing in support of its refined chorus. As a matter of fact, the most accurate comparison I might make to “Let The Light Shine On” might be the Final Axe (Menchen’s post Redeemer group he formed with vocalist Keith Miles) composition “Don’t Run Away” (off Beyond Hell’s Gate).
The album returns to a driving metal direction on “Escape”. A biting track that also does a good job showcasing Menchen’s work on lead guitar, the song combines an authoritative chorus – another prevalent hook here – with a thick and resounding low end. It is also worth noting the authoritative guitar riff accentuating this one from front to back.
The melodic hard rock of “Unite Believers” begins to a short instrumental introduction before taking off at an upbeat tempo, slowing slightly as it transitions to its brief and fleeting but hook filled chorus. What we have here is another track that has eighties metal written all over it.
The metal anthem “Hard Rock Foundation” starts quietly to several seconds of blues flavored lead work. Maintaining the tranquil setting as it calmly flows through its first verse, the song picks up the pace as the rhythm guitar kicks in at the start of the second and leads the way to a chorus in which a resolute environment is put into place. A fiery stretch of lead guitar is nothing less than jaw dropping. Great, great song.
“Eons Of Time” is a straightforward hard rocker that brings to mind Menchen’s other bands Rev Seven and Final Axe. A mid-tempo setting is maintained by the song its entire length, a crunchy mix of rhythm guitar along with some bluesy guitar leads helping to put it over the top. No, nothing fancy or groundbreaking but good nonetheless.
“The Story Is Told” delivers a nice, aggressive guitar sound. The song plows its way forward in a determined manner, a powerful guitar riff pushing it ahead as the way is paved for a chorus standing out as a result of its too the point feel. An excess of searing lead work tops off another solid track.
“Takin A Ride” is an eighties influenced hard rocker that, despite repeated listening, I have never been able to grow into. Perhaps it is the songs lack of energy or the laid back fashion in which its chorus is delivered, but that “extra something special” the albums better material offers seems to be missing here.
Album closer “Under The Shadows” gets underway to a determined guitar riff that shores up its verse portions hard and heavy, the settled momentum upheld throughout the steadfastly delivered chorus that follows. As the song decelerates to a near standstill, it transitions to an instrumental section sustained by a run of bluesy lead guitar work.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “King Of The Light” (4:07), “The Alpha The Omega” (4:18), “Warning” (5:53), “Let The Light Shine On” (3:58), “Escape” (3:35), “Unite Believers” (3:03), “Hard Rock Foundation” (4:01), “Eons Of Time” (3:36) , “The Story Is Told” (2:55), “Taking A Ride” (2:57), “Under The Shadow” (3:04)
Bill Menchen – All Instrumentation
Also Reviewed: Final Axe – Beyond Hell’s Gate, Final Axe – The Axe Of The Apostles, Menchen - Red Rock, Redeemer - Anno Domini, Rev Seven – Heavy Laden Volume 1, Rev Seven - Heavy Laden Volume 2, The Seventh Power – The Seventh Power, Titanic – Screaming In Silence, Titanic – Full Steam Ahead