|Musical Style: Melodic Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Watergrave||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 20||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 68:49|
One of the first bands to feature guitarist/vocalist Bill Menchen was Redeemer, a little known melodic metal outfit that got its start in the mid-eighties and recorded a cassette only demo prior to disbanding in 1989. Menchen later joined forces with vocalist Keith Miles and formed Final Axe. Releasing the heavy metal of the bands full length debut Beyond Hell’s Gate, the two began work on a follow up effort, Burn In Hell, but went their separate ways before it could be completed. In the early nineties Menchen put together Rev Seven, a group drawing upon the best elements of Redeemer and Final Axe in the four albums it recorded between 1991 and 1999: “The Unveiling”, “Hell And Back”, “Seven Years Of Good Luck” and “747”. Out of print and hard to find collectors items for years, all four have been recently re-recorded by Menchen and released in two volumes on Watergrave Records (a division of Retroactive Records). Heavy Laden Volume 1 includes all the songs from “The Unveiling” and “Hell And Back”, while Heavy Laden Volume 2 is made up of the material off “Seven Years Of Good Luck” and “747”.
While Heavy Laden Volume 1 moved mostly in a stripped down and straightforward metal/hard rock direction, Heavy Laden Volume 2 includes highlighting traces of keyboards to create the more melodic sound drawing as much from traditional metal as it does commercial hard rock. The end result is a work coming across with added polish that, at the same time, backs away from the rhythm guitar just a touch. But there is no need for concern because the trade off is the abundance of catchy hooks that imbue the project from front to back. “Machines”, “Desert”, “Tell”, “Born A Sinner” and “The King Of Rock And Roll”, for example, all combine an underlining vestige of keyboards with chorus lines of a gripping capacity. “The Day He Died” even reflects a seventies influence as a result of the organ that accentuates its length. Menchen, nevertheless, is not afraid to flex his muscles in that the likes of “Flying”, “Brain”, “John” and “Drinkin Wine” all deliver a guitar driven sound that hearkens back to HLV1. Two instrumental numbers, “Serpiente” and “Halo”, only add to the albums versatility. All in all, what we have in HLV2 is a consistent effort that does not force me to hit the skip button until track fifteen. (The notorious “Sweet And Sour” ends up being the culprit. More on this later.)
Over the years Rev Seven featured a revolving line up that included Menchen (guitars and vocals), his brother Bruce (guitars), bassists Ray Kilsdonk and Rod Reasner and drummers Tim Palmatier and Tommy Lagamina. Similar to HLV1, however, Menchen also handles all the instrumentation here. One of the standout features to the project is the skillful lead work contributed by the artist, the likes of “Flying”, “He Made Me”, “The Day That He Died”, “Tell”, “Shotgun Blast” and, of course, the two instrumental pieces all serving to spotlight his adept soloing abilities.
Production values come across crisp and solid in betraying no overriding elements of muddiness.
From a lyrical standpoint, Heavy Laden Volume 2 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 sounding 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 in literally years.
Things get underway with three guitar based metal tracks in “Flying”, “Brain” and “He Made Me” that would not sound out of place on HLV1.
“Flying” immediately kicks in with Menchen’s voice part of the mix, quickly charging ahead until slowing for a grinding chorus shored up by a substantial wall of rhythm guitar. A fluid guitar solo brings out the best in the ardent scene.
“Brain” moves forward to a brazen guitar riff from the start, not evening out until obtaining a striking chorus standing out with its abundance of hook driven energy. Catchy but heavy at the same time, what we have here is one of several tracks guaranteed to keep your full and undivided attention.
And catchy would also be the best way to describe “He Made Me”. An aptly titled piece that goes into detail in regards to the creation, the song joins a chorus that almost comes across commercial in capacity with a stretch of distorted sounding lead work. Great melody line here.
Keyboards make their initial appearance of the album on “Machines”. Another melodic based track, an even blend of piano and rhythm guitar compels the song ahead until it crests for a bountiful chorus in which an infectious setting is put into place.
“Desert” moves through its verse portions to a forward mix of keyboards, the rhythm guitar not stepping forward until a choppy chorus of an exalted nature is procured. The lead work here is delivered in a more blues based manner.
The heavy dose of organ found throughout “The Day That He Died” helps give the song its seventies influence. A catchy chorus giving rise to a deep and resounding feel is amalgamated with a run of ardently played lead guitar work.
After three straight numbers in which keyboards play a highlighting role, the album returns to a more metal based direction on “Drinkin Wine”. A song of defined contrasts, “Drinkin Wine” stands out with its aggressive sounding verse portions and a chorus of a pull you in and melody filled variety.
The intense and driving sounds of “John”, another track standing out with a notable chorus hook and adeptly performed guitar solo, gives way to “Know Compromise”. A straightforward hard rocker advancing at an upbeat tempo, the song is memorable for an instrumental section in which keyboards and a blues based lead guitar trade off.
King’s X is the first band that comes to mind when listening to “Love”. Perhaps it is the big, swirling backing vocals found throughout the song or its all around aesthetic feel, but I find the similarity here to be nothing less than striking. This one would sound right at home on “Faith, Hope, Love”.
Keyboards make a return appearance on the showy “Tell”. An immaculate atmosphere is established as a near perfect blend of keyboards and rhythm guitar sustains the song during its verse portions, a hard hitting riff taking over in time to hold sway over the strapping chorus that follows.
“Born A Sinner” begins quietly to a tranquil blend of piano and keyboards, moving calmly ahead until breaking out in resounding fashion as the rhythm guitar kicks in to underscore its powerfully delivered chorus. Similar to “Drinkin Wine”, what we have here is another song of striking contrasts.
The no-nonsense hard rock of “Shotgun Blast” is put over the top with its edgy rhythm guitar sound and a chorus reinforced by clanging cowbells. More fiery lead work is contributed by Menchen as well.
“Harms Way” maintains the mid-tempo initiative with its mix of in your face rhythm guitar and authoritatively delivered chorus. No, nothing special or groundbreaking but still solid nonetheless.
Following in the footsteps of fourteen straight quality tracks, “Sweet And Sour” breaks the albums winning streak. A particularly uninspired piece, this one features a non-descript chorus hook along with a title that brings about a point of contention: “Sweet And Sour”. Am I ordering Chinese or listening to a metal album? You tell me.
“The King Of Rock And Roll” returns HLV2 to its winning ways. The song slowly fades in to a keyboard based introduction only to abruptly pick up the pace as the rhythm guitar cuts in. Gradually building initiative, the song briefly tapers off for another keyboard bases passage before the rhythm guitar returns to drive a chorus holding up under its bottom heavy feel.
“Tomorrow” is another piece I cannot get into. With its lack of a notable melody and non-descript tempo, more often than not I end up skipping over this one. It is worth pointing out, nevertheless, the albums consistency in that it presents only two filler tracks.
Getting underway to a brief keyboard solo, “2025” slowly moves through its verse portions in a robust manner prior to picking up in pace for a chorus in which spacey keyboards play a prominent role. All around, this one brings a nice science fiction-like feel.
The album closes with two very well done instrumentals in “Serpiente” and “Halo”. “Serpiente” transitions between heavy duty passages in which the rhythm guitar plays a forward role and others that move at a more upbeat tempo. An unconventional sounding keyboard solo adds a nice effect. “Halo”, on the other hand, is a catchy song carried its distance by a tasteful guitar riff and fluidly mixed solo from Menchen.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Flying” (2:51), Brain” (2:39), “He Made Me” (2:30), “Machines” (2:48), “Desert” (2:55), “The Day That He Died” (2:52), “Drinkin Wine” (2:39), “John” (3:00), “Know Compromise” (3:15), “Love” (2:47), “Tell” (4:14), “Born A Sinner” (3:12), “Shotgun Blast” (2:25), “Harms Way” (2:45), “Sweet And Sour” (3:06), “The King Of Rock And Roll” (3:43), “Tomorrow” (3:00), “2025” (2:51), “Serpiente” (3:43) and “Halo” (3:36).
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, 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