|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2006||Artist Website: Septer|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
|Running Time: 48:04|
Septer came out of Illinois in 2003 with the power metal of its independently released full length debut Transgressor. After recruiting a new vocalist in the talented Dane McCartney, the band followed up three years later with a very well done sophomore effort entitled The God Key. Also independently released, the album finds Septer continuing to move in classic power metal territory, creating an energetic but memorable sound certain to appeal to fans of old Iron Maiden, Haven, Jacobs Dream, Barren Cross, Sacred Warrior, Saint, Judas Priest and Tykkus. What stands out most about The God Key is the depth to the bands songwriting skills, reflected in the catchy hooks found on standout mid-tempo numbers such as “Hillside Strangler”, “40 Days”, “Darkest Hallway” and “Devil’s Prey”. More up-tempo tracks along the lines of “Attack Of The Ibex”, “Post Mortem” and “Enlighten Me”, on the other hand, hold up every bit as well and stand in perfect complement to the guitar driven instrumental “Six-Six” and a well conceived semi-ballad in “Whatever Man”.
Dane McCartney proves quite the proficient vocalist who brings an even and smooth sounding delivery that borders on the mid-octave in terms of range. If I were to invite a comparison to his style it might be Kevin Ayers (Haven), Mike Lee (Barren Cross) or Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden)- very good company indeed! Septer bases its sound around the exciting guitar attack of Hawk and Paul Dailey. In addition to laying down a substantial amount of rhythm guitar, the two combine for an abundance of dual lead guitar work, best showcasing their abilities on “Hillside Strangler”, “Attack Of The Ibex”, “The Darkest Hallway” and “Devil’s Prey”. Jeff Kmiec, a hot drummer who puts forth quite the technical performance, displays a penchant for accentuating the environment with just the right amount of double bass without overdoing it. Matt Weaver rounds out the rhythm section on bass.
Production values come across somewhat raw but crisp and clean at the same time. All the instrumentation, particularly the lead guitar and drums, evenly stands out above the mix. Overall, the sound here is quite solid for an independent release but would have improved with a slight touch of big budget polish.
“Hillside Strangler” begins to a two minute introduction sustained by a slowly moving blend of keyboards, orchestration and narration in Latin. Transitioning to a few seconds of open air rhythm guitar, the song takes off to an abundance of angst laden momentum, fervidly pushing itself ahead to a brief but driving hook filled chorus. An extensive instrumental section opens to a minute of guitar harmony that gives way to a lead guitar trade off between Hawk (first solo) and Dailey (second). “Hillside Strangler” is about two serial killers from the 70’s, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono Jr. The song comes across in the form of a rant for their victims:
Hiding and stalking
Routines day by day
You’re wretched and evil
Be as it may
The souls that will haunt you
Will give no reprieve
Damn you for the lives that you waste
Fall on your knees
Your turn to beg and plead
For your wretched soul to be saved
“Attack Of The Ibex” kicks in fast and furious at an upbeat tempo, immediately launching into its sneering first verse before arriving at a catchy chorus backed by high end vocal harmonies. Hawk (first solo) and Dailey (second) carry the day with more dual lead guitar work. Energetic and aggressive, this one brings to mind the Jacobs Dream track “Black Souls” (Off Theater Of War). “Attack Of The Ibex” deals with how easily your mind can be manipulated by the evils around you:
Old world souls have seen their time
Plagues, misfortunes come and go
Only come to take your soul
No holds boundaries creates amiss
Save yourself from the abyss
Getting underway to a brief drum solo ensued by several seconds of tight dual guitar harmony, “40 Days” progresses in anthemic fashion until culminating for a gripping chorus reflecting a dramatic and epic-like resonance. Hawk delivers a nice stretch of fluid lead guitar work to bring out the best in one of the albums finer tracks. The meaning to “40 Days” revolves around conquering your addictions. Rather than a “30 day rehab”, it is using the Lord to strengthen your will power:
As I cry out to you
Am I wasted?
Tell me I’m insane?
(Yes you are, you’ve lost your mind)
Now here I am, this is me
I don’t need you, I am free
Now it’s time… I’m free
I’m sane (Don’t look back, no rewind)
“The Darkest Hallway” opens to several seconds of fast paced riffing before abruptly decelerating to an acoustic guitar for its first verse. Gently and gracefully moving forward, the song smoothly drifts through its second verse until the rhythm guitar returns in time to fortify the forcefully driven but hook-laden chorus that follows. A rollicking instrumental section finds Dailey (first solo) and Hawk (second) again trading off in an energetic manner. This one is dark and haunting but memorable at the same time. “The Darkest Hallway” talks about a man who goes through life not caring for anything but himself. After dying he is sentenced to live with his selfishness throughout eternity:
Live my life in the darkest hallway
Sweating, stumbling, my knees upon the floor
Crawling through these frozen airwaves
With time standin’ still, I’m here forevermore
A life of sins I now am paying for
Do you feel these frozen airwaves?
“Post Mortem” embarks slowly to a doom-like rhythm guitar before suddenly kicking into high gear and taking off in a quickly moving manner. Storming through its verse portions to a galloping riff, the song steadily charges ahead until suddenly tapering off for a melodic based passage shored up by a quietly played guitar. More fiery lead work helps put this one over the top. “Post Mortem” is a cry for people to pay attention to what’s going on in the world and to change their ways before it is too late:
Test your strength and iron faith
Run from Satan’s maze
Live your life right the first time
Don’t let yourself slip!
Live your life the right way
Don’t fall in his trap
At this point the album breaks for a track in “United At The Front” that, while certainly far from bad, is not quite on the same level as the better material here. The song proves another raucous hard rocker, jumping out of the gate with an abundance of high octane momentum that quickly pushes it to a spirited chorus carried at an ardent upbeat tempo. “United At The Front” is about sticking together in times of war:
Blood spills, is this the end?
We thought we pushed them back
Here they come with a vicious attack
How many will loose again
Will the madness never end
United at the front
Introduced to a few brief seconds of open air rhythm guitar, “Enlighten Me” grooves through its first verse to a snarling guitar riff before acquiring a sublime chorus touched up by a trace of vibrant vocal harmonies. The bass guitar solo at the start of a minute long instrumental section gives way to a rousing stretch of lead work from Hawk. The lyrics to “Enlighten Me” revolve around an individual who, after going through a near death experience, wakes to find his loved one praying for him. He receives a second chance to live his life but as a believer:
Kneeling right there just looking at me
When I opened my eyes today
It felt so good, took a walk in the clouds
Even though I didn’t know the way
I don’t understand the use of your hands
And the whispers to someone above
Has it changed life, has it changed death
Has it changed the one that you love?
Oh I’m alive, with the words you said for me
Or am I alive from the prayers you said for me
The instrumental “Six-Six”, an energetic track in which Hawk again displays his soloing abilities in no uncertain terms, is carried its extent by a blend of hard hitting riffs backed by pounding double bass and passages reflecting a more gritty vibe. This one proves equal parts torrid and equal parts melodic.
A driving riff reinforced by a piercing scream from McCartney initiates the edgy “Devil’s Prey”. The song proceeds to grind its way forward in assertive fashion, decelerating to an almost bluesy tempo upon seizing a sweeping chorus in which a melancholic setting is put into place. An awesome two and a half minute instrumental section is shored up by more dual lead work from Hawk (first solo) and Dailey (second). “Devil’s Prey” is a warning, focusing on people who do exactly what the devil wants them to:
Don’t run or hide
He’ll always find you
He will try to take on your soul to feed
Stand up! Trust God
He’s all around you
And then begin your soul to free
Cover yourself with the blanket of truth- or he’s coming to take you away
The God Key closes with a very fine power metal semi-ballad in “Whatever Man”. The song starts to a quietly played guitar line, calmly drifting through its verse portions until the rhythm guitar steps forward in time to reinforce an emotionally charged chorus with a catchy refuse to go away hook. Kmiec really puts on a clinic here with his technical work on drums. The meaning here revolves around not letting people change who you are:
I’m the whatever man
Doing what I can
To live my live without you here
I’m the whatever man
Taking my last stand
To spread my life in the air
To spread my wings and fly
It is without question that Septer put a great deal of time, thought and effort into this project. All the hard work, nevertheless, paid off with the end result being a very consistent piece in The God Key that highlights the bands creative songwriting skills and solid musicianship. In the end, those looking for a standout release in the power metal genre would do themselves a favor by checking out Septer.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Hillside Strangler” (8:07), “Attack Of The Ibex” (3:53), “40 Days” (4:19), “The Darkest Hallway” (4:33), “Post Mortem” (5:09), “United At The Front” (2:44), “Enlighten Me” (4:07), “Six-Six” (4:15), “Devil’s Prey” (5:44), “Whatever Man” (5:15)
Dane McCartney – Lead Vocals
Hawk – Guitars, Bass & Keyboards
Paul Dailey – Guitars
Matt Weaver – Bass
Jeff Kmiec - Drums