|Musical Style: Power Metal||Produced By: Michael Phillips & Eli Prinsen|
|Record Label: Roxx Productions||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 11||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 43:14|
Where have we heard this before? Every hard music fan since - at least - the eighties is almost certain to be aware of the various power/progressive metal bands with high pitched vocalists that have hit the scene over the years. Queensryche is one of the most well known, having released commercially successful albums Operation Mindcrime (1988) and Empire (1990) in addition to including vocalist Geoff Tate, who sets the standard as far as the genre is concerned. Fates Warning and Helloween are no less acclaimed, with the former putting out Awaken The Guardian (1986) and Parallels (1991), two highly regarded releases featuring vocalists John Arch and Ray Alder respectively, and latter popular companion albums Keeper Of The Seven Keys Part 1 (1987) and Part 2 (1988) fronted by Michael Kiske.
The Christian metal scene has not been immune to the phenomena either. Consider Sacred Warrior, whose vocalist Rey Parra lent an operatic presence to the four albums the group put out between 1988 and 1991, and Recon, showcasing the high end vocal style of Vett Roberts on its first and only release Behind Enemy Lines (1990). The turn of the century found Jacobs Dream and David Taylor recording a pair of very fine albums, Jacobs Dream (2000) and Theater Of War (2001), while Faith Factor featured former Deadly Blessing vocalist Norm "Ski" Kiersznowski on its debut Against A Darkened Sky (2008).
Lakeland, Florida based The Sacrificed are the most recent act within the genre to report on. The group hit the scene in 2007 by independently releasing its full length debut The DaVinci Hoax prior to following up three years later on Roxx Production with the critically acclaimed (90% Angelic Warlord review) sophomore effort 2012. The third full length offering from the group, appropriately entitled III and also on Roxx Productions, came out in January of 2012.
Each of the groups referenced in the first two paragraphs features an amazing vocalist as its centerpiece and The Sacrificed proves no exception. Fronting The Sacrificed is Eli Prinsen, a classically trained vocalist with a powerful style combining equal parts operatic flavorings and a penchant to go for a high note with ease. Yes, some high end vocalists can overdo it, but not Prinsen, who proves instinctive in his ability to complement the music at hand without getting in the way in the process.
There are some changes to report in The Sacrificed line-up, most notably the departure of guitarist Johnny Bowden and his replacement Michael Phillips. Those familiar with Phillips’ past work, whether on Deliverance albums Stay Of Execution (1992) and As Above – So Below (2007) in addition to his solo release Mirrors Within Mirrors (2009), are aware of his vast abilities. Recruiting the guy, in other words, was nothing less than a coup for The Sacrificed (sort of like the Denver Broncos acquiring Peyton Manning).
Standing out are his soloing abilities, which come across like a hybrid of Chris Impellitteri and Dee Harrington but with some Roy Z influences thrown in. Not surprisingly, III even features a guest lead guitar appearance from Roy Z (on “Ark Of The Covenant”). Yes, you will find shredding in abundance, but it is done fittingly to complete each track in that The Sacrificed are not afraid to expound on its instrumental sound but do not descend into any distracting “wankery” either.
Equally notable is how his rhythm guitar playing lends a heavier element to The Sacrificed sound. That heaviness in questions manifested itself on the closing track to 2012, a cover of the Deliverance classic “Slay The Wicked”, and carries over here. The overall feeling is that III bases itself upon a foundation of power metal (and reflects the influence of many of the previously bands) while maintaining the melody driven focus of 2012.
Quintessential pieces “The Nephilim Agenda”, “Time’s Up” and “Ark Of The Covenant”, for instance, hit like a ton of bricks but hold up under melodies every bit as profound. The same holds true of the classy Queensryche cover “Before The Storm”. But what sets The Sacrificed apart is its penchant for branching out and delivering an element of variety. This can be found in progressive based pieces “Falling” and “24” and the thrash heavy “Behold The Power Of God”, three tracks that are every bit as intricate as they are accessible. Maintaining the trend is “Regeneration”, with its modern guitar tones (albeit not to a fault), and the calmer, acoustic lacings to “Words On The Gin”.
Please note that it is not all Prinsen and Phillips in that Jay Williams provides solid support with his heavy footed drumming (always on top of things with his well timed double bass) and Daniel Cordova (Vengeance Rising) the needed presence of bass. When factoring in the talent at hand, The Sacrificed has all the makings of an all star project.
Production emphasizes the new found heaviness to The Sacrificed. Drums (which kick like a mule) and rhythm guitar (polished but in your face at the same time) are done to perfection. The lone complain is that with guitars placed so forward, vocals end up pushed back a bit (lyrics can be difficult to understand). Which is the reason I waited so long to do the review: I wanted the hard copy (not released until late February) in order to have access to the lyrics.
The impression left by III is that it more than equals 2012 in terms of quality. That quality is found in not just songwriting but also in Prinsen and Phillips, who are certain to rank with other top vocalist-guitarist duos such as Rob Rock and Chris Impelletteri. Let’s hope the partnership between the two remains productive for years to come.
Track By Track
The pounding riff at the start of “Falling” signifies The Sacrificed mean business. The song takes off at a militant tempo after several seconds, heavy hitting as all get out until a flurry of double bass kicks in prior to a soaring chorus in which Prinsen exhibits the full range to his voice. Things briefly calm to an acoustic guitar until initiative picks up for an instrumental section carried by stunning guitar harmonies and blistering leads.
“Ark Of The Covenant” is another barn burner. Fast and furious at just over three minutes, the song maintains a scorching momentum throughout with shouted backing vocals, a relentless low end and mercurial soloing adding to the tempestuous scene. Recon almost comes to mind here. “Ark Of The Covenant” proves aptly entitled:
40 days and 40 nights
Moses spent with God on Mount Sinai
The Ten Commandments given to him
And instructions to build what to carry them in
From acacia wood covered in the purest gold
Ark of the Covenant
Earthly throne – voice of God
Above and through Cherubim wings
Some feel it’s a matter of faith
The Ark’s gone so without seeing we shall believe
And now we have a new covenant
The Blood of Jesus and the New Testament
“The Nephilim Agenda” opens to narration from Genesis 6:4. The song proves quintessential power metal the rest of the way, taking a mid-tempo heading but with a proclivity for the melodic and epic as its focus. Chorus is masterful as a result of its rollicking but sweeping feel. This one represents top of the line The Sacrificed. “The Nephilim Agenda” draws its lyrics from the book of Genesis:
There were giants in the earth
In those days and also after
And they’ll surely try again
To destroy God’s plan
As in the days of Noah
So will the days of the coming of the Son of Man be
Will the fallen ones return from the sky to deceive?
A melodic based heading can be found on “Time’s Up”. What we have here is a smoothly flowing piece, standing out with its even guitar harmonies and abundant energy in almost giving rise to a Sacred Warrior like feeling. A lengthy stretch of fluid lead guitar takes up a good percentage of the songs three minutes.
“Words On The Gin” represents the albums calmest and most tranquil. The song approaches ballad territory with its lush acoustic guitars and bluesy guitar flavorings while also acting as an “interlude” piece dividing the albums first and second halves. The only drawback is that of the four shorter (three minute range) tracks here this is the only one in which you get the feeling it would benefit from being carried out an extra minute or two (it ends too abruptly).
“Behold The Power Of God” introduces some thrash elements, reflected in a hard charging guitar riff that brings to mind Phillips’ alma mater Deliverance or the old Final Axe song “Close To Deliverance” (off Beyond Hell’s Gate). But it is not all aggression in that you will encounter some melodic based moments (chorus is quite catchy), which prove The Sacrificed can hit hard but refrain from coming across repetitious in the process. It also must be noted the pulsating bass work of Cordova. “Behold The Power Of God” maintains the albums penchant for Old Testament themes:
God sent Moses and Aaron to Egypt
To ask The Pharaoh to release the Israelites
So they may hold a fest to Him in the wilderness
For He’d heard their cries- and remembered His covenant with them
Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, who’s voice I should obey?
I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go”
Pharaoh- let my people go!
Out of Egypt to the land- promised to Abraham
His hardened heat brought forth the 10 calamities
To show the impotence of Egyptian deities
And to show the world the power of God
“Regeneration” returns things to mid-paced territory. The song actually introduces some modern guitar tones but not to a fault in that they accent without unnecessarily dominating. The Sacrificed prove as a result they are not afraid to branch out but possess the musical maturity to pull it off in the end. In the end “Regeneration” is metal but modern at the same time.
Starting to a brief drum solo, “Offended” sets a staunch tone with its heavy duty riff emphasis and churning low end to put forth a straightforward metal environs. A soaring chorus (with quite the notable hook) and more tantalizing leads have old school metal written all over them. “Offended” is a song about pride:
Action and reaction time and time again
Responses resulting in one another being offended
Human nature – stubborn and headstrong – we’ve all got our pride
The number one weapon of the devil – fueling these fires inside
Way too many times in life- we act before we think
In an instant creating years filled with regret and pain
Opinions, offences and the pride of getting our way
Like puppets robbed of all logic acting foolishly
What we have in “Before The Storm” is a very ably done Queensryche cover. The song gives rise to a dramatic feel with its darker overtones in aligning with the albums accent on heaviness and melody in equal parts. I particularly enjoy the baritone refrain which continually repeats the “before the storm” title in climactic fashion. Wish Queensryche still sounded this good.
Things close to progressive metal masterpiece “24” (by far the best from the band). The song starts its first minute instrumentally to some tight guitar harmonies before descending into the raging maelstrom that are its verses. Once initiative picks up, it is for a swirling chorus in which Williams’ trademark double kick drum makes its presence felt. The instrumental emphasis continues with another stretch of guitar harmonies that give way to an adeptly done guitar solo. The Second Coming is the subject at hand:
Lightning strikes down from east to west so shall it be
The King’s return, dust in the urn
Vultures circling the rotting flesh
The sun will be dark as the moon turns
To blood and the stars fall from the sky
And then the Son of Man will appear on high
Gathering His chosen from His hand on one can pry
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “The Falling” (5:44), “Ark Of The Covenant” (3:12), “The Nephilim Agenda” (4:01), “Time’s Up” (3:10), “Words On The Gin” (3:10), “Behold The Power Of God” (4:08), “Regeneration” (4:28), “Offended” (3:18), “Before The Storm” (4:33), “24” (6:25)
Eli Prinsen - Lead Vocals
Michael Phillips - Guitars & Keyboards
Daniel Cordova - Bass
Jay Williams – Drums
Roy Z - Guitars