|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Wrenchen Menchen||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2011||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 75%|
|Running Time: 41:46|
Guitarist Bill Menchen deserves some serious credit, if only for bringing such longevity to the Christian hard music scene. Consider that the artist got his start in the eighties, hit his stride during the nineties and remains productive to this day! One of his first groups was Final Axe, which released a custom taped entitled Beyond Hell’s Gate in the late eigthies, while Rev Seven and Titanic followed in the nineties, with the former putting out four albums (The Unveiling, Hell And Back, Seven Years Of Good Luck and 747) and latter two more (Maiden Voyage and Screaming In Silence). The turn of the century found Bill Menchen continuing to stay busy with two albums from his new project The Seventh Power (The Seventh Power and Dominion & Power) in addition to a third Titanic release (Full Steam Ahead) and solo album under the appropriate moniker Menchen (Red Rock).
What many do not know is that the artist can actually trace his beginnings to the mid-eighties and Redeemer, a relatively obscure group that put out a single demo tape in 1986 prior to disbanding several years later. Obscure from the standpoint that not much is known about Redeemer (the group pretty much fell beneath the radar) and that said demo received so little distribution as to make it virtually impossible to find. Bill Menchen, to his credit, put out a 2 CD set (11 songs each) in 2007, Double Edge Sword and Anno Domini, made up of Redeemer songs that either appeared on the original demo or were never previously recorded.
A third Redeemer CD, One Way from the fall of 2011, finds Bill Menchen re-recording 12 of the 22 songs from the two 2007 releases but this time as a full band effort in that he is joined by cousin Bruce Menchen on bass and Robert Sweet (Stryper) on drums. Bill Menchen handled all instrumentation on Double Edge Sword and Anno Domini. One Way came into being when Janice Sweet, mother of Robert & Michael, took over the artist’s management and decided to put together a new demo CD to shop to various labels. She subsequently reviewed the various projects to feature Bill Menchen on vocals and decided that Redeemer was the best and, as a result, constructed the One Way track listing from the Double Edge Sword and Anno Domini material.
Musically, Redeemer stays true to its eighties metal roots. Now, by “eighties metal” I am not referring to the fluffy hair/glam/pop metal that was so prevalent at the time but rather a sound heavily rooted in classic and traditional metal but with some straightforward hard rock and doom metal touches. Solid decision making, for the most part (and more on this later), was made in terms of the material that was re-recorded. The album breaks down into three categories: Great songs, good songs and those that are skip button worthy.
You will find seven great songs here (at least my opinion). Many of my favorite One Way tracks are the fastest, including the spirited mentalities to “One Way” and “The Story Is Old” and speed metal lacings of “Flying”. The vibrant leanings are maintained on “King Of The Light”, with its near commercial chorus hook, and “Daystar”, playing up some technical time changes. Slower pieces such as the low-end heaviness to “King Of Glory” and intricate sensibilities of “Escape” hold up equally well.
Good songs consist of the calmer direction taken on the melodic semi-ballad “In Your Hands” (in which some fitting keyboards and organ are introduced) and straightforward hard rock of “Eternal Power” and “Unite”, two tracks that might not make your extended playlist but are album worthy nonetheless. I only hit the skip button twice: “Let The Light Shine On” falls flat due to its uninspired chorus while “The Lord Lives” suffers from the many contrived trappings inherit to worship rock.
This leads to the main complaint I have here: And that, as already noted, the track listing is pretty good (at least when factoring in the better material), but I might have made some different decisions in terms of songs that were re-recorded. I revisited Double Edge Sword and Anno Domini and found four excellent tracks that “ended up on the cutting room floor”: “The Alpha The Omega”, “Warning”, “Hard Rock Foundation” and “Contend For The Faith”. No need to go into too much detail, but “Warning” is a doom influenced piece that ranks with the finest ever from the artist (no excuse for not including it). My overall feeling is that if these four had been recorded (instead of the five good to skip worthy tracks) then we would be potentially talking about a great album as opposed to one that falls within the good to very good categories (just my opinion).
And for those who wish to get technical about things, “Flying” is actually not an original Redeemer song but rather can be attributed to Rev Seven (it is the opening track to Heavy Laden Volume 2).
Production proves a step up over the thinner sounds to Double Edge Sword and Anno Domini. Guitars now come across crisper and more upfront while drums are also improved upon. Attribute this, of course, to Robert Sweet, whose creativity - in terms of technical drum rolls and fills - cannot help but take the material here to the next level.
It does not hurt that Bill Menchen remains a top performer. He returns with a vocal style that in past reviews I have described as “even sounding” and “mid-octave” ranged. The same holds true on One Way. Yes, some say his delivery can come across monotone; I say he is a perfect fit for the music at hand- keeping in mind there are better vocalists out there. Lead guitar is where he truly shines in that One Way features some of the finest soloing we have heard from him, whether it is the blues influenced leads to “One Way” and “King Of Glory”, fiery shredding on “King Of The Light” and angst laden feel to “Escape”.
Bill Menchen is known for his upfront and forthright lyrics and One Way proves no exception. This is best reflected in the albums title track - He is Son of God. He is Son of David. He is God in the Flesh. He is Lamb of God. He is Good Shepherd. He is High Priest. One Way, One Savior, One Lord - in addition to “Eternal Power”: When the Lamb was slain He rose. He is the Holy One. He is the Creator of everything. His Eternal Power is clearly scene. The heavens declare the glory Of God. “King Of Glory” asks several questions during its verses - Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in the Holy Place? Who is the King of Glory – only to offer answers in its chorus: Jesus is the One. The only begotten Son. “The Lord Lives”, of course, is a worship rocker: Oh, magnify the Lord for He is worthy to be praised. The Lord Lives. Blessed be the Rock. Let the God of my salvation be exalted.
One Way presents with a varied collection of songs that can leave your jaw dropping one moment but disappointed and let down the next. Yes, a bit inconsistent and uneven, but the albums better tracks, which are of 85% to 90% quality, are performed at such a high level as to make One Way a solid recommendation. It also cannot be understated the improved production and positive impact of Robert Sweet, both of which allow the Redeemer material to be presented in such a highly upgraded format.
Track By Track
The albums title track proves high energy all the way, decisive and unrelenting in focus with a charged chorus and frenetic low end contributing to the breakneck scene. Adding an element of contrast are Bill Menchen’s bluesy licks and chops in abundance.
“King Of Glory” slows things to a mid-paced romp. This one hits like a ton of bricks, as an in your face guitar mix and Robert Sweet’s relentless drumming help make this one of the albums heaviest. The guitar work here again takes on a bluesy feel.
The semi-ballad “In Your Hands” introduces some lighter guitar touches but merged with keyboards and occasional traces of organ. The end result is one of the albums more melodic pieces, with some radio friendly elements rising to the surface as a result.
“Let The Light Shine On” fails to inspire despite repeated listen. The song actually flows quite well during its verses (heavy hitting and quite forceful) but falls flat upon obtaining its chorus (lackluster and awkwardly done). Additional bluesy guitar can be found but not enough to put things over the top.
“King Of The Light”, in contrast, is a hook driven monster. Capturing the same type of tempo that allows “One Way” to stand out, the song takes an assaulting guitar mix and joins it with a hook driven chorus guaranteed to have you singing along in no time. I would love to hear Stryper cover this.
Quite the furious pace is set on “Flying”. This one borders on speed metal with its mercurial (and very catchy) riff action, playing up technical drumming and some lead guitar work that has brazen written all over it. The last couple minutes slow to a near standstill as some keyboards are introduced.
“Escape” gives prominence to a staunch and mid-paced sound. The song proves driving as it gets, with some bluesy underpinnings and technical milieu to reinforce some of the albums more intricate moments. I am somewhat reminded of Titanic here.
The quality continues with “Daystar”. You will find quite the assertive mentality on this one as fast and hard hitting passages alternate with those taking the slower and more hulking (almost doom-ish) approach. The upshot is a song that is not only resoundingly heavy but also melodic.
“Eternal Power” is a straight on rocker standing out with its staunch proclivity and no-nonsense focus. In other words, the song might not blow you away but still proves solid nonetheless. Setting things apart is a lengthy stretch of soloing.
“The Story Is Old” steamrolls from the get go, roaring front to back to snarling guitars and a brash tempo that has headlong written all over it. Another extended stretch of lead guitar. The lone complaint is that this one is a bit short in just under three minutes (it ends a bit too abruptly).
“Unite” is somewhat similar to “Eternal Power” as a straightforward mid-paced piece I might describe as quite good albeit not ranking with the albums best. Chorus is curt and too the point and initiative commanding.
“The Lord Lives” represents the albums second skip button. As many of you know, I find worship rock somewhat predictable and such is the case here. Yes, others might embrace it, but in my opinion there are much better Redeemer songs that could have been recorded in its place.
Reviewer by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “One Way” (3:24), “King Of Glory” (3:41), “In Your Hands” (3:05), “Let The Light Shine On” (3:58), “King Of The Light” (4:11), “Flying” (2:59), “Escape” (3:36), “Daystar” (3:38), “Eternal Power” (4:01), “The Story Is Old” (2:55), “Unite” (3:02), “The Lord Lives” (3:11)
Bill Menchen - Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards & Trombone
Bruce Menchen - Bass
Robert Sweet - Drums