|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Watergrave||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 37:41|
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 for good three years later. While Menchen has gone on to bigger and better things musically throughout his career, 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).
Anno Domini, the second of the two, continues where Double Edge Sword leaves off in showcasing an eighties influenced blend of metal and hard rock. If I were to invite a comparison, nevertheless, the music on Anno Domini comes across slightly heavier and slower but not quite as catchy. But that might be an unfair supposition in that Double Edge Sword features several tracks that are nothing less than HUGE. (“King Of The Light”, “Warning” and “Hard Rock Foundation” all come to mind). On the other hand, Anno Domini is certainly not without its share of winners. “Contend For The Faith” and “King Of Glory” are two of the heaviest songs ever put together by Menchen, while “Daystar”, “Followers” and “One Way” hold up under their notable chorus hooks and guitar driven momentum. The laid back feel to “In Your Hands”, at the same time, stands in perfect contrast to the upbeat metal anthem “The Lord Lives”. “Eternal Power” and “Accept The Light” even reflect a commercial hard rock influence.
While Redeemer originally consisted of Menchen, guitarist Scott Buehl, bassist Ralph Long and drummer Brian White (with alumni including Bill’s brother Bruce on guitar, bassist Paul Brecht and drummer Mark Cloutier), Menchen handles all instrumentation on Anno Domini. In my review of Double Edge Sword I mention, word for word, “What I find to really stand out about the project is the manner in which he (Menchen) cuts loose and showcases his abilities on lead guitar.” And the artist continues that trend here. If anything, Menchen gives us a bluesier and more impassioned side to his playing in that the likes of “Contend For The Faith”, “Daystar”, “One Way” and others are decorated with his finely honed and knife edge riffs and chops.
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.
The album gets underway with two juggernaut-like metal tracks in “Contend For The Faith” and “King Of Glory”.
After “Contend For The Faith” opens to a muscular guitar riff, a surplus of determined momentum takes over and forcefully pushes it ahead to a pointed chorus that ends as the phrase “to live is Christ to die is gain” is repeated. Menchen steps forward with a lengthy run of passionately done lead guitar work.
The mid-tempo impetus is sustained on “King Of Glory”. The song pounds its way forward from the start, slowly grinding through its verse portions until gaining a hold of a worshipful chorus standing out as a result of its melodic based appeal. Menchen adds to the scene with his gritty soloing abilities. The lyrics here, once more, are very Christ centered. As a matter of fact, the song includes what is nothing less than a line for all the ages:
The Lord is strong in mighty metal!
The melodic hard rock of “Eternal Power” picks up the pace while backing off a bit on the rhythm guitar. A steadfast setting is established as the song progresses through its first verse, making a smooth transition as a chorus giving rise to a plethora of grand and stately ambience is obtained.
“Had To Choose” is the only number here I cannot get into. A particularly pedestrian sounding track, this one lacks a defined rhythm guitar sound and a gripping chorus hook that will keep you coming back again and again. Fortunately, what we have here is the albums only filler track.
“In Your Hands” is a laid back number with a stylish feel. By far the albums most blues influenced composition, the song flows ahead with a highlighting trace of keyboards decorating the background, reaching a pinnacle as it obtains a stalwart chorus backed by a crisp sounding rhythm guitar.
After two straight songs on the “lighter” side of things, what the album desperately needs is some guitar driven initiative. And that is exactly what is delivered on the heavy duty sounds of “Daystar”. The song kicks in to a satisfying wall of rhythm guitar, plunging ahead with a plethora of energy only to settle down for a chorus in which a near tranquil environment is put into place. More impassioned lead work helps make this one of the stronger tracks here.
“Hole In Your Heart” is another notable winner. The song proves quite the melodic piece, maintaining a pressing mid-tempo pace its entire length while combining a catchy chorus with a gritty run of lead work from Menchen that brings to mind Stevie Ray Vaughan. Emotional but ardent at the same time, I cannot help but think this is the finest soloing I have heard from the artist. The lyrics are bold and upfront as well.
Introduced to several seconds of open air rhythm guitar, “Accept The Light” forges ahead to a crunchy rhythm guitar prior to taking a firm grasp of a driving chorus with a simple but straightforward message:
Accept the Light of the Lamb and He will give you life
I enjoy how an even blend of rhythm guitar and keyboards holds sway over the song during its instrumental moments.
I might describe “The Lord Lives” as a metal worship anthem. The albums most up-tempo composition, “The Lord Lives” is based loosely – both musically and lyrically – around the well known praise song “I Will Call Upon The Lord”. And it works! With its compelling melody and edgy rhythm guitar sound, this one will have you singing along in no time.
“Followers” gets underway as the rhythm section hammers its way in and out of the mix. Propelled through its verse portions by a steadfast mix of rhythm guitar, the song evenly moves on to a smooth sounding chorus with a hook of the abundant variety. You will be challenged to keep this one out of your head!
“One Way” advances at an upbeat tempo from the get go, rushing ahead in animated fashion until procuring a swiftly moving chorus delivered with an excess of spirited momentum. One of the albums finest moments takes place as the song closes out its final minute to an instrumental section shored up by Menchen’s proficient soloing abilities. It is also worth noting the Christ focuses theme to the lyrics here.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Content For The Faith” (3:26), “King Of Glory” (3:39), “Eternal Power” (4:00), “Had To Choose” (2:59), “In Your Hands” (3:05), “Daystar” (4:15), “Hole In Your Heart” (3:09), “Accept The Light” (3:30), “The Lord Lives” (3:11), “Followers” (3:10), “One Way” (3:23)
Bill Menchen – All Instrumentation
Also Reviewed: Final Axe – Beyond Hell’s Gate, Final Axe – The Axe Of The Apostles, Menchen - Red Rock, Redeemer – Double Edge Sword, 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