|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Sardonyx|
|Record Label: Retroactive||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Sardonyx|
|Tracks: 15||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 77:13|
Sardonyx is a ministry minded Christian power metal band that came out of Mount Joy, Pennsylvania in the late eighties. Debuting in 1990 with a four song demo entitled Rebel Of Reason, Sardonyx followed up two years later by independently releasing the full length outing Majestic Serenity on its own label, Lightshine Music Group. While Sardonyx disbanded in 1994, Majestic Serenity – an out of print and hard to find collectors item for years – was re-issued by Retroactive Records in the fall of 2007 with the material from the Rebel Of Reason demo as bonus tracks.
Sardonyx delivers a tight and technical US power metal sound inviting comparison to Metal Church, Sacred Warrior, Meliah Rage, Haven, Vicious Rumors and Jacobs Dream. An occasional thrash tendency, at the same time, cannot help but bring to mind Antithesis, Boarders or even old school Bride. Irregardless of musical affinity, it must be noted that a great deal of melody is not inherit to the material here. It was my experience, for example, that Majestic Serenity does not immediately grab your attention and requires several listens in order for it to grow on your. However, in giving the album the time and attention it deserves, I discovered several gems. The first to come to mind are lengthier, progressive based tracks such as the catchy “Puppet Of Beauty, stunning “Corridor To Light” and Recon-ish “Holy Avenger”. The power metal influenced “Paracletos”, “Royal Honor”, “Heavenly Throne” and “Liar”, at the same time, must be also mentioned with their faster tempo and notable chorus hooks. Majestic Serenity, on the other hand, does not come without its shaky moments. “Call Upon The Master” can best be described as flat and uninspiring hard rock and “Voice Of The Prodigal” seven minutes of thrash-laden repetition.
Tom Denlinger puts forth a strong and confident performance with his clean and mid-octave ranged vocal style. “Puppet Of Beauty” finds him adding a Mike Lee-like snarl to his delivery while on “Liar” he reaches down low for an element of grit and gravel (similar to former Antithesis frontman Ty Cook). Guitarist Rod Feltman also proves a worthwhile talent, best exhibiting his soloing abilities on “Royal Honor”, “Heavenly Throne” and “Holy Avenger” in addition to providing for the needed crunch on rhythm guitar. Michael Anthony joins his technical style of drumming with bassist Chuck Turner to round out the rhythm section. Jeff King (Fountain Of Tears) handles all keyboard duties.
The production values to the original version of Majestic Serenity were solid but non-descript in trending towards the bass heavy side of things. The digitally re-mastered Retroactive re-issue, however, showcases the crisper sound better allowing the instrumentation to stand out in the mix, which makes purchasing a copy a necessity if you already own the original.
Packaging is another area of improvement worth noting. You will find better album artwork along with a ten page booklet including the original liner notes, song explanations and lyrics (with corresponding scripture references).
The technical “Puppet Of Beauty” combines elements of power and progressive metal. The song starts to a two minute instrumental section that opens slowly to a bass guitar solo. Once the rhythm guitar fades into the mix, initiative builds until the scene explodes for a crescendo of hard hitting riffs and pounding drums. “Puppet Of Beauty” proceeds to grind through its verse portions in no-nonsense fashion, peaking as it obtains a catchy chorus in which a steadfast setting is put into place. Resisting sexual temptation is the subject matter here:
Imagine… lips of honey
Her hair running through your fingers
No one will know man… take her now
She’ll give you anything you want
You’re not getting any younger
Words will lead you
Seductive words to destruction
Follow her and you will die like a beast
He will bring you down
Wisdom calls out
It cries out across the land
To you, oh man, it call out
Heed the Lord’s command
A quietly played guitar shores up the first minute of “Paracletos”. The rhythm guitar kicks in as the song reaches its first verse, slowly leading the way until the pace picks up for an instrumental section carried by some riffs that come across near thrash-like in intensity. Upholding the all out raw energy, “Paracletos” pummels through its second and final verse in the same determined and resolute manner. “Paracletos”, which means “comforter” in Greek”, talks about the Holy Spirit:
The wind rushes through our souls
The Oil flows deep within our bones
Tongues of fire, descending Dove
Holy Spirit, Paracletos come!
The instrumental based opening to “Corridor To Light” merges a pronounced bass line with screaming guitar feedback. The ethereal setting is maintained as the song plods through its first verse, impetus abruptly picking up as the rhythm guitar steps forward to drive a fleeting chorus of a powerful but hook filled variety. As “Corridor To Light” reaches its halfway point, it tapers off for a dramatic passage intertwining narration spoken from the standpoint of God with a jazz-fusion flavored lead guitar. “Corridor To Light” deals with the promise of eternal life for the believer:
You have overcome the world
And now you’re dressed in white
Never will I blot out your name from the book of life
Come now, my blessed one
My Kingdom is yours
Taste and see!
Never will you know pain again
For all eternity
A classical guitar carries the distance of the instrumental “Short But Suite: Opus In D Flat”.
“Royal Honor” stands out as one of the albums more upbeat compositions. Introduced to an acoustic guitar that soon melds with a forwardly placed rhythm guitar, the song builds momentum until it immediately launches into a chorus that comes across worshipful in feel:
My soul finds rest in God alone
My salvation comes from Him
He alone is my Rock, my salvation
He’s my fortress, I will never be shaken
A sweeping instrumental section trades off between an acoustic and rhythm guitar until Feltman adds a riveting stretch of lead guitar. Again, what we have here is a metal-worship anthem:
Father, I love you Father
I want to do Your will
You saved me from the hands of Satan
My life is Yours to fill
The Sacred Warrior influenced metal of “Heavenly Throne” commences at once to a driving guitar riff. A sturdy bass line adds to the swarthy environs as the song reaches its first verse, solidifying the backdrop until a chorus giving rise to an excess of fixed ambience is obtained. An extensive instrumental section starts to a quickly moving rhythm guitar that gives way to another ardently played solo from Feltman. “Heavenly Throne” focuses on the awesome power of God:
Stand up O man of God
Get off your face and see
Tell the people everywhere
What you’ve found in me
I am the First, I am the Last
I AM that I AM
I was dead but now I live
It is you I send
“Fort Drum”, the albums second instrumental, advances at an upbeat tempo to a catchy guitar riff before slowing to an airy keyboard solo over its final thirty seconds.
The keyboards at the end of “Fort Drum” continue to make their presence felt as the majestic “Holy Avenger” gets underway. Maintaining the slower tempo, the song moves through its first verse to a softly played guitar until the rhythm guitar crashes into the mix hard and heavy. The exalted chorus that follows begins to a storm of assertive riffs prior to calmly tapering off at its end. Decelerating to a near crawl, “Holy Avenger” puts in place a portent mood as a piano eerily highlights the backdrop. Several seconds of the albums best lead guitar brings out the best in a song substantiating the authority of the Word of God:
Holy God, Holy Avenger
O Lord our God shine forth
Overwhelm us with Your Glory
Show them now and let them
Praise Your name
After the technical expertise of the material preceding it, the straightforward hard rock of “Call Upon The Master” comes with a bit of a let down. While far from bad, the song fails to distinguish itself in the crucial areas of inspiration and energy, with the end result being that it does not quite make the cut in terms of continuous play. Good lyrical direction, however:
If you want to put away your sorrow
If you want to put away your pain
Time has come for you to make your mind up
Don’t let it go again
You just call upon the Master
Call upon His name
He will send His fighting angels
To the game
Another piece I have been unable to grow into is “Voice Of The Prodigal”. Despite repeated listening, the melody to this one fails to stand out. Perhaps it is the thrash-heavy feel to the song, but to my ears it comes across on the repetitious side of things. Fans of the thrash genre, on the other hand, might take a different point of view. “Voice Of The Prodigal” centers around dealing with anger and bitterness:
Stop and look at yourself
What good does your anger bring?
It brings poison
Bondage to the object of your anger
You’re hurt and tired
Christ is willing to heal your pain
Reach out to Him! Reach out to Him!
Poison in your soul
There is poison, down deep
Real poison in your soul
Cry out to Him! Cry out to Him!
“Liar” brings a classic metal sound certain to appeal to fans of Saint. The open air rhythm guitar at the start of the song is soon backed by a prodigious mix of drums and bass. Driven ahead at a resolved mid-tempo clip, “Liar” trudges through its first verse before acquiring a punchy chorus standing out as a result of the overriding feel to its delivery. The song slackens further for an instrumental section shored up by a biting run of lead guitar. “Liar” challenges the musician to be responsible to his/her audience:
They cheer when I appear
They cry when walk the stage
They buy my cool philosophies
The crowd shouts forth with rage
When white rock sings so pure
The contrast is too great
Returning, they dance and chant to me
Again they take the bait
The tracks from Rebel Of Reason lack some of the depth and polish of the better Majestic Serenity material but still serve to showcase the bands potential. If anything, the four give rise to a rawer and more energetic sound, heading in a power/classic metal direction without much of the technical progressiveness found throughout Majestic Serenity.
This is best showcased on “Scandal”, a faster thrash heavy number with some aggressive riffs that bring to mind early Deliverance. As a matter of fact, with its immediately catchy chorus and upbeat tempo, the song has little if anything in common with Majestic Serenity (if you told me this was a completely different band I would believe you- which demonstrates how far Sardonyx progressed musically over the years).
“Don’t Chase The Rainbow”, conversely, slows things down with its anthem-like verse portions and near ponderous chorus backed by a vestige of harsh sounding vocal harmonies. Deep, dark and heavy, this one reminds me more of the classic metal of Saint – sort of like “Liar” – than the trademark technical expertise the band is known for. Nevertheless, the effect works in that the hook here serves to pull you in while the bands energy proves contagious.
Sardonxy puts its instrumental prowess on display throughout the two minute introduction to “Bloodshed”. After militant style drums with keyboards racing in and out of the mix gets the song going, a weighty rhythm guitar makes its presence felt as the energy level increases exponentially. “Bloodshed” pulls no punches over its final three minutes as a fury of thrash flavored riffs and pounding drums lead the way. The only complaint is that the backing vocals in its chorus are way overdone, creating an effect that borders on the heavy handed. The lyrics here are a bit trite as well:
One Man came to die
Bloodshed so you won’t fry
A placid blend of acoustic and lead guitar covers the first minute to “Rebel Of Reason”. After the rhythm guitar cuts in, the pace abruptly picks up as a hammering guitar riff takes over and founds a commanding presence during its verse portions. A forthright chorus hints at the spirit and power of prime Barren Cross. All in all, with its dogged feel and intense delivery, this stands out as the better of the Rebel Of Reason tracks.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing (Majestic Serenity): “Puppet Of Beauty” (7:32), “Paracletos” (3:59), “Corridor To Light” (8:15), “Short But Suite: Opus In D Flat” (1:12), “Royal Honor” (5:24), “Heavenly Throne” (4:50), “Fort Drum” (2:34), “Holy Avenger” (7:11), “Call Upon The Master” (3:47), “Voice Of The Prodigal” (7:07), “Liar” (5:16)
Track Listing (Rebel Of Reason): “Scandal” (4:00), “Don’t Chase The Rainbow” (4:38), “Bloodshed” (5:21), “Rebel Of Reason” (5:45)
Tom Denlinger – Lead Vocals
Rob Feltman – Guitars
Chuck Turner – Bass
Michael Anthony – Drums
Jeff King - Keyboard