|Musical Style: Power/Progressive Metal||Produced By:|
|Record Label: Nightmare||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2013||Artist Website: Six Minute Century|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 90%|
Excellence manifests itself in all the varying forms of metal, but when Time Capsules, the 2008 full-length debut of Houston, Texas based Six Minute Century, came out, it set the standard in the power/progressive metal segment. Yes, a genre widely duplicated (and often underappreciated), but also not always up to the quality standards one might expect either (at least based upon my experience). Six Minute Century, obviously, proves the exception. Enter the group’s fall of 2013 sophomore release Wasting Time, which builds upon the strengths of Time Capsules and takes things to the next level and then some. In other words, everything that Time Capsules hinted at, Wasting Time delivers in no uncertain terms.
Musically, Wasting Time sticks to the power and progressive metal game plan of Time Capsules but further emphasizing the latter in exhibiting that much more complexity and technical acumen from a songwriting standpoint. This is best exemplified on lengthier pieces “The Killing Fields”, seven minutes of time signatures ranging from all out speed metal to the more even and tempered, and “Baptized In Flames”, over eight minutes in walking the gamut from ballad-like piano driven moments to those taking an aggressive stance with guitars churning at the front of the mix. The albums title track also strains towards the progressive, a keyed up and assertive as it gets seven minutes but also with a near commercial melody as its basis.
The Wasting Time material of a power and progressive nature stands out equally. “Just Remains” presents with a dark and ominous sound from its use of church organ, while “Needham Point” proves equally swarthy in combining heavy set riffing with classical instrumentation. “Paying Deaths Toll” kicks up the tempo fast and furious but with occasional passages decelerating for some tough low-end groove.
Quality fails to diminish when Wasting Time takes a power metal heading. A straightforward and uplifting demeanor defines “City Of Hope” and guitar sound that approaches the unremitting “Last Days Of Paradise” (bottom heavy as it gets) and “Hell’s Gate” (from its dramatic overtones). “That Defining Moment” represents the albums lightest with its use of piano, keyboards and organ (and falls within the melodic power metal category as a result).
Overall heaviness helps to set Wasting Time further apart from Time Capsules. Credit goes to guitarist Don Lafon for literally burying the album in layer upon layer of rhythm guitar in addition to providing harmonies of an every bit staunch nature. Shorter pieces “Last Days In Paradise” and “Hell’s Gate” crush with authority, while more progressive counterparts such as “Just Remains” and “Needham Point” are not for the faint of heart either.
LaFon shines every bit as much from a soloing standpoint- to say that he is one of the underrated virtuoso shredders would be an understatement. You will find at times a classical element to his playing (“City Of Hope” and “Paying Deaths Toll”), but he can also cut loose in intense fashion (“The Killing Fields”) or even lend a bluesy touch (“Needham Point”). Along similar lines, Six Minute Century deserves credit for the strength of its instrumental sound, which it aptly displays on “Baptized In Flames” and “Wasting Time” with their lengthy instrumental arrangements. Fusion instrumental “Czardas” also deserves mention from how it allows bassist Michael Millsap to stand out with his at times jazzy and at others classical mode of play.
Of equal importance are the versatile vocals of Chuck Williams: Clean and somber but at times soaring for the high-end and at others reaching for a lower register. Yes, such versatility makes direct comparison problematic, but if vocalists along the lines of Ray Alder (Fates Warning) and Steve Walsh (Kansas) are of interest, I can see his style appealing to your tastes.
Production lends a raw but clean edge in aligning with the heavier nature to the material here. Keyboards, in particular, highlight without coming across overbearing, while bass maintains a high presence in the mix.
While Six Minute Century is not a Christian band, lyricist Chuck Williams is a believer. Similar to Time Capsules, his lyrics are inspired by current events and historical figures, including Bonnie & Clyde (“Hell’s Gate”), the 1990 Galveston hurricane (“City of Hope”), raid on the Waco, Texas cult compound (“Baptized In Flames”) and incident at the “Jonestown” cult temple that led to the deaths of over 900 people (“Last Days In Paradise”). Yes, some tough subjects, but the group addresses them tastefully but without beating around the bush either.
Lone constructive comment revolves around how the radio clips, sound bytes and narration on several tracks can unnecessarily clutter things. No, not distracting or cheesy but it is noticeable all the same.
Reviewers that have invited comparison to anything from Dream Theater and Fates Warning to Savatage and Kamelot had the right idea. My impression is that it makes for the more varied listen from how Six Minute Century are not afraid to mix its progressive foundation with aspects on the straightforward power metal side of things. Further factor the group’s new found heaviness in addition to solid vocals, musicianship and lyrics and Wasting Time adds up to a legitimate top 10 release from 2013.
Track By Track
“City Of Hope” represents a straightforward and classic power metal outburst. Fast paced and upbeat, the song plays up double kick drum action and keyboards tinctures in maneuvering its bruising verses and climactic chorus. LaFon adds to the histrionic scene with his classical influenced playing. In the end a good opener that sets the tone for what is to follow. Lyric snippet:
Rising tides, there’s an approaching storm
The waves crash harder against the docks
Family and friends you must brace for the worst
From the dark clouds that loom on the horizon
The winds scream a horrendous song
As natures fury moves ashore
Water begins to consume everything
The walls are ripped away
“Just Remains” gives rise to the heavier sound with its delectable power and progressive focus. The church organ used throughout lends a darker feel, intertwining with pulverizing riffs to establish a stalwart mid-paced heading- and generate some of the albums heavier moments in the process. An almost Gothic - do I dare say doom-like? - feel arises as a result. Lyric snippet:
If you could halt times advance
What’s the first thing you’d change?
Whatever’s left is just remains
Beacons that flicker then fade
Is there not resolution?
Vultures perched ready to feast
Chalk lines left to erase
Toe tags for the deceased
Oh Lord! Please send a Savior
“The Killing Fields” moves the album in a progressive direction. Tasteful time changes characterize the song, embodying expeditious moments carried by rapid double bass and those taking a quieter heading in which keyboards play defining roles. Despite the technical environs, the group does not forsake melody, as can be found in the emotional edge of the hook-driven chorus. Lyric snippet:
Is there anyone who cares?
Is there anyone to shed a tear?
And for all those tears they’ve cried
We’ll avenge their lives
Is this place not far from home
The killing fields they grow
Repulsed by their actions, the wicked shall fall
The killing fields will cease to grow
“Baptized In Flames” upholds the progressive slant. The song moves its first two and a half minutes in the form of a ballad with piano and breathing bass interweaving with occasional rhythm guitar outbursts. “Baptized In Blood” turns into a full bore rocker moving forward, mid-paced but with steadfast guitars and good range from Williams playing defining roles. Piano returns to carry an extensive instrumental section backed by moving lead guitar prior to the classical instrumentation that takes things to their close. Lyric snippet:
Congregation raise your voices
As foretold the prophecy
Together we will make a stand
Let our blood be on our hands
Raged hell’s inferno
Forgive them, they know not what they’ve done
What have they done?
Burnt Bibles in clenching hands
Smoking ash for pages
“Paying Deaths Toll” continues the focus on the progressive but in the shorter and more succinct package. Keyboards and rolling bass get the song going before things pick up to a flurry of spirited momentum. Decelerating to the weighty groove that are its verses, “Paying Deaths Toll” picks up pace for a tightly woven but rollicking chorus highlighted by moody vocal melodies. Lyric snippet:
A misfortune, only frustration
Leading you to only eternal damnation
Is there no solution?
Through the flames we abide
Weary we march on
With no fear in our eyes
We’re paying deaths toll
Let faith guide us
Carry us on broken wings
Relieving life’s pressures
“Last Days In Paradise” returns things to a no-nonsense power metal heading. The song slowly fades in to wailing sirens and screaming guitars, gaining added initiative as it plows up a lively storm for its verses and animated flair that is its scintillating chorus. The low-end heaviness on this one delivers quite the wallop. Lyric snippet:
Soon we’ll be taking a journey
Into the land of milk and honey
Together we’ll build a kingdom
And flee those who oppose us
And there we’ll live out our…
Last days in paradise
I’ll never deceive you, no I would never lie
Last days in paradise
We’ll live forever and ever
A swarthy and more ominous edge stands out on “Needham Point”. The song features walls of snarling guitars with classical keyboards, biting in almost caustic fashion in presenting with abundant heaviness but also lighter traces of melody. Instrumental moments feature added classical overtones and soloing ranging from the bluesy to the atmospheric. Lyric snippet:
Bathed in neon light
He emerges from the shadows
So easily enticed
The dealer of deaths hand
On his way to Needham Point
A puppet pulled by strings that are broke
Relaxed and more reserved in form, “That Defining Moment” backs off somewhat from the guitar-based proclivity in infusing things with piano, keyboards and church organ. The song, as a result, reaches for a melodic power metal based sound in being slower in form and lighter when compared to others here. Fittingly, some symphonic elements stand out in the backing vocals. Lead guitar takes a stately form. Lyric snippet:
Time doesn’t always heal
Some wounds are left unclean
Look for that defining moment to change
If the ground beneath begins to crumble
Just remember even the righteous stumble
The trick is not to be mesmerized
Fooled or deceived by the glamorized
“Hell’s Gate” returns the guitar heaviness with its straight on metal lacings. The bass guitar and eerie keyboards at the start give way to churning guitars, a towering mid-paced basis established as the song romps its distance in featuring narration based upon the Bonnie & Clyde storyline. No, this might not be the most melodic but also upholding the needed heaviness all the same. Lyric snippet:
A legend spoken of since I was a child
Of two young lovers destined for the gun
How they robbed and murdered
Wanted dead or alive
When the smoke cleared
They laid side by side
Death for Bonnie and Clyde
Bloodhounds at their feet
Lawmen pursued them to hell’s gate
The progressiveness of the albums title track closes things out. “Wasting Time” presents with a keyed up mentality, resolute as airy keyboards stand alongside gutsy guitars but also accessible in presenting with one of the albums stronger melodies (chorus engages with its reflective aura). Beautifully interwoven guitar harmonies carry an extensive instrumental excursion- and continue to prove Six Minute Century is right at home showcasing its deft musicianship. Lyric snippet:
Blinding searching for walls without hands
The end of ages, it knows no pardon
Conceding to all life’s torments
Seeking shelter in ruin
Trapped forever a grain of sand
Caught in between hope and despair
Rounding each corner, never turning away
With no assurance only a reckoning
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “1900” (2:09), “City Of Hope” (4:12), “Just Remains” (6:35), “The Killing Fields” (7:13), “Baptized In Flames” (8:30), “Paying Deaths Toll” (5:38), “Czardas” (3:48), “Last Days In Paradise” (5:07), “Needham Point” (6:36), “That Defining Moment” (5:28), “Hells Gate” (5:38), “Wasting Time” (6:50)
Chuck Williams - Lead Vocals
Don LaFon - Guitars, Keyboards & Sequencing
Michael Millsap - Bass & NS Stick
Mikey Lewis - Drums