|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Sons Of Thunder|
|Record Label: Rivel||Country Of Origin: Sweden|
|Year Released: 2003||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 12||Rating: 55%|
|Running Time: 48:59|
I always thought that Sons Of Thunder would make a great name for a heavy metal band. But, as the old saying goes, a great name does not necessarily make for a great band. And such is the case with Sweden's Sons Of Thunder. Following up its solid 2000 full length debut Load, Aim, Fire, the bands 2003 Rivel Records sophomore effort Circus Of Power is an erratic and unpredictable combination of hard rock, power metal, funk metal and rap metal backed by an occasional thrash influence. In other words, a lot of variety. And while variety is not necessarily a bad thing, in this reviewer’s opinion a bit more continuity would have resulted in the more well rounded and tighter sounding project.
Michael Hero (previously known as Michael Hjelte) brings a clean mid-octave ranged voice to the project, but, as a result of singing in a lower key, his vocal performance is pretty much hit and miss. A Lance King-type is needed here. Hero's talent best stands out, however, as a guitarist. His incredible tight Jimmy Brown-like rhythm guitar playing stands alongside a plethora of blistering and fast paced lead guitar work. Drummer Daniel Mouton and bassist Klas Pettersson provide solid support as the bands rhythm section.
The production values to Circus Of Power are quite strong in reflecting crisp and refined sounding sonics. The lead guitar stands out perfectly above an excellent mix of crunchy rhythm guitar. While a bit of muddiness in the low end prevents the bass from always being discerned, the drums come across in a tight and sharp sounding manner.
The albums upbeat title track gets things going in a strong manner to a chorus with a good catchy hook. The sound of a circus going on in the background, appropriately, introduces "Circus Of Power", an upfront mix of rhythm guitar underscored by double bass the driving force behind a song moving in a power metal direction. Sons Of Thunder displays the strength of its musicianship during an instrumental passage featuring a flashy guitar solo carried over a pounding riff.
Despite its stupid title, "Jesus For President" is a pretty good song. Introduced to what sounds like a dentists drill followed by a hard hitting rhythm guitar, "Jesus For President" proceeds immediately to a melodic flavored chorus that repeats its title at the end. Hero's fiery guitar solo is followed by more "dentist drill" type sounds. I could have done without the cheesy background vocals at the end of the song repeatedly chanting "Vote! Vote! "Vote! Vote!". Good grief...
"Rescue Me" ranks among the albums strongest tracks. After beginning to a crunchy rhythm guitar underlined by a piano, the piano drops from the mix as "Rescue Me" reaches its first verse. Double bass accentuates the song as it picks up in pace and moves on to a good emotionally charged chorus. If Sons Of Thunder could put together ten songs of this quality they would have a great album.
Rap music is annoying. And when you combine elements of rap with heavy metal you end up an annoying metal song. Simple as that. And that would be the best way to describe "Flames Of Fire", the rap laden vocals during its verse portions adding nothing to and ultimately ruining what otherwise is musically not that bad of a song. "Flames Of Fire" gets an "F". (When I first looked at the track listing on the back of the CD cover and saw a song entitled "Flames Of Fire", I immediately became excited thinking the band was covering the great Leviticus song of the same name. Boy was I in for a rude awakening!)
I might categorize "Superstar" as funk metal. And very good funk metal at that! As a matter of fact, of all the albums material, the groove flavored "Superstar" best suits Hero's low key vocal style (maybe this is the musical direction Sons Of Thunder should pursue in the future). A prominently mixed bass line shores up "Superstar" during its first and second verse until the song picks up in pace for a very fine hook-laden chorus. I really like the groovy lead guitar work closing out the songs last thirty seconds.
While "Jesus My Saviour" conveys a terrific upfront message, it lacks music of a high enough quality to back up that message. Plodding along at pedestrian mid-tempo pace, the song fails to stand up under a chorus I might describe as marginal at best. Just under a minute of driving rhythm guitar carries an instrumental passage ending to an acoustic guitar solo and more rhythm guitar.
The brief (:47) instrumental "777" begins to the voice of a preacher in the background supported by keyboards while a mega-huge guitar riff bounces in and out of the mix.
Opening to a quietly played guitar line, "Destroyers" takes off to a thrashy near doom-like riff that impels it to a chorus that might come across repetitious if it were not for the all out energy generated by the bands performance. One of the albums strongest instrumental passages begins to a driving riff that transitions to a fast paced guitar solo reinforced by double bass. The thrash influenced riff carrying the song over its last minute and a half would not sound out of place on Deliverance's self-titled debut.
The upbeat "Fighting" proves quite the contrast to "Destroyers". Quickly jumping out of the gate to the albums best produced drum sound, "Fighting" slows during its first verse as Hero steps forward with a distorted feel to his voice. The song gains momentum in a double bass driven manner prior to reaching a superb energy-laden chorus. I absolutely love Hero's all out intense guitar solo carried over a heavy duty bass line.
"God Rulez" represents one of the albums lower points. Slowly advancing at a directionless mid-tempo clip, "God Rulez" reaches a chorus backed by an annoying voice repeating the songs title as vocal harmonies continually chant "forever and ever". It does not help matters that the song stops dead in its tracks for a bizarre keyboard solo totally out of sync with the songs pace and feel.
"Powerlord" is a great title for a power metal song. Now let's see if Sons Of Thunder can back it with music of the same quality... After the song gets underway fast and heavy to an aggressively delivered riff, it falls flat on its face upon arriving at an uninspired chorus that comes nowhere near making the grade. I am sure God has a sense of humor, and, as a result, I cannot help but think He must be laughing at the lyrics during the chorus to "Powerlord":
We love you Lord
You're awesome Lord
C'mon guys! Without a doubt the band is communicating a measure of truth here, but who is going to listen when the mode in which it is delivered comes across laughable?
"Stockholm City" is another track with a fine message that fails to hold up musically. The song slowly moves ahead until it reaches a pedestrian sounding chorus that, for a lack of better words, prevents the song from holding up under repeated play. The songs upfront lyrics, however, deserve to be taken seriously:
God will lead you and make you shine
God said Stockholm I'll make you mine
He died on a cross to set you free
He died for your city, for you and for me
An overall grade of 55/100 might seem a bit harsh, particularly in light of the albums strong production values and the bands capable musicianship. Nevertheless, a great deal of improvement is needed here. To be perfectly blunt, much of the songwriting on Circus Of Power is average at best. It is not uncommon, for example, to skip over close to half the albums compositions. With a few notable exceptions such as "Rescue Me" and "Fighting", Sons Of Thunder needs to come up with better material highlighting catchier choruses and stronger melodies. It is as simple as that. Matt Smith (Theocracy) sums it up best:
When you're dealing with the most powerful and serious subject matter in existence, you can't back it up with weak music- it just doesn't work
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "Circus Of Power" (6:26), "Jesus For President" (3:39), "Rescue Me" (3:29), "Flames Of Fire" (4:51), "Superstar" (3:31), "Jesus My Saviour" (4:07), "777" (:49), "Destroyer" (4:48), "Fighting" (3:45), "God Rulez" (4:34), "Powerlord" (3:03), "Stockholm City" (5:53)
Michael Hero – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Klas Pettersson – Bass
Daniel Mouton - Drums
Also Reviewed: Hero - Bless This Nation