|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 65%|
|Running Time: 34:58|
After much anticipation and speculation, guitarist Bill Menchen returns in early 2012 with his third album under The Seventh Power moniker, Eternal Power. Considering that this is his first album of original material since 2008, when he put out the sophomore effort of The Seventh Power, Dominion & Power, and his Menchen solo release Red Rock, expectations are high. As a result, Eternal Power proves somewhat of a letdown in that I was hoping for more musically from the artist when factoring in (a) the high quality of his recent material, and (b) it has been four long years since we have heard anything new from him.
Perhaps a burn out factor might be playing a role in that Bill Menchen was VERY busy between 2006 and 2008, not only releasing Dominion & Power and Red Rock but also the self-titled debut from The Seventh Power and a new Titanic album, Full Steam Ahead. He also re-recorded forty songs from his Rev Seven project, as part of the two CD set Heavy Laden Volume 1 and Volume 2, in addition to two more CD’s of material from his older group Redeemer, Double Edge Sword and Anno Domini. Talk about a hectic schedule. When did the guy find time to eat and sleep?
So I am sure it comes as no surprise that Bill Menchen would take a much needed break from writing and recording by sitting on the sidelines until late 2011 when he put out two new CD’s: One Way, a compilation of 12 re-recorded Redeemer songs, and In The Light, his second Menchen solo release made up mostly of Rev Seven songs written in the early nineties. With momentum of the two behind him, he returned to the studio to record Eternal Power only to fall a bit short- at least when, again, considering the quality of what he has produced in the past.
To understand my point one must first take a close look at the first two The Seventh Power albums. The Seventh Power stayed true to the artists straight on metal leanings while mixing in keyboards with some symphonic and power metal touches (90% Angelic Warlord review). Dominion & Power took things to the next level with a sound on the heavier, weightier and more doom influenced side of things (85% review). Both albums, in addition to finding Bill Menchen expanding instrumentally, succeeded with their attention to detail songwriting wise, with the end result some accessible elements not always present in his earlier material.
Eternal Power, in contrast, takes the more stripped down songwriting approach by backing away from some of the keyboards and symphonic and doom-ish aspects present of the first two releases. The upshot is a work that comes across with a more “basic” sound akin to that of Redeemer, Rev Seven and Titanic. But is that a bad thing? By all means no in that I am always ready to support an artist willing to traverse new musical territory and/or explore their past.
So perhaps what it comes down to is not necessarily musical direction but rather quality of the music. Consider my review of The Seventh Power, in which I describe how the artist “(stretched) in the songwriting department and (pushed) the creativity levels to the limit.” Not so with Eternal Power in that I fail to get the same focused feel- almost as if the artist did not take a similar amount of time to polish and ultimately perfect his material. The end result is the loss of some of that previously referenced accessibility.
Do not get me wrong in that the album is not without its moments, as can be found in the creative time signatures to “Peace I Leave With You” and catchy hooks of “Bow Down”. Maintaining the quality is the albums keyboard laced title track and industrial underpinnings distinguishing “Godbleed”. The driving “In The Beginning” stands out with the technical prowess of guest timekeeper Robert Sweet (Stryper).
“Majesty On High”, highlighting some doom metal touches, and “New Creation”, with its straightforward and no frills sound, can best be described as merely good. And therein lies the problem in that the artists recent past has rarely been “merely good” but rather very good to great. Further muddying the picture are three songs I skip over in “Set Free”, “Telelestai” and “We Sail”. When was the last time we encountered a skip button worthy track from Bill Menchen?
Another problem is that Bill Menchen fails to explore his instrumental sound in that missing are the fantastic lead guitar runs in which he is known. Much of the soloing here, unfortunately, comes across restrained or fades out just when it gets going. With a few notable exceptions, such as “Majesty On High” and “New Creation”, the artist rarely cuts loose and exhibits his potential in this area.
Eternal Power might not be on quite the same level as what we have come to expect from Bill Menchen, but does that mean there is a cause for concern? No, particularly in light of the fact other artists within the Christian hard music scene have put out albums not up to their potential only to later rebound in prime form. Bride, for example, released the “rap metal” of Fist Full Of Bees but responded with three consistent albums in This Is It, Skin For Skin and Tsar Bomba. Likewise, Saint recorded the watered down The Perfect Life but followed up with In The Battle, The Mark and Hell Blade. With this as a reference point, I can see Bill Menchen returning with a new The Seventh Power album reflecting his true abilities- the creativity and artistry are present, as can be found in the better material here. At this point the challenge is for the artist to first establish consistency and his instrumental sound as a basis prior to recording any future project.
Track By Track
Mid-paced cruncher “Bow Down” brings a hulking and bottom heavy mentality. The song stands out with its stalwart momentum, not letting up front to back in playing up a muscular guitar presence and choppy feel to its chorus. Classic Bill Menchen all the way. Lyric snippet:
Born of woman, made of flesh, was a man
From above, God of Love, Son of Man
I confess with my mouth He is Lord
I believe in my heart He was raised
Bow down, way down, lay down
I bow, you bow, we bow
The symphonic keyboards on the albums title track hearken back to The Seventh Power’s self-titled debut. The song, otherwise, maintains the mid-paced leanings but in a more melodic based and not quite as heavy package. The lone complaint is that I wish the soloing had been extended a few more seconds. Lyric snippet:
Seven spirits of fire burning before the throne
Jesus is heaven’s King
He’s the Lamb, He is the Holy One
The Creator of everything
Seven stars in His right hand with eyes of fire
Can’t you see He’s the rise One?
Initiative picks up with “Godbleed”. This one finds the overriding guitar walls returning in upholding a staunch impetus along with a machine-like chorus that has industrial written all over it. Adding to the tempestuous scene is a harsh voice in the backdrop continually stating “Yeah!” Lyric snippet:
He died for sins, new life begins
With out evil deeds, we made God bleed
Nailed up on the tree, That’s the way it had to be
Now He makes the blind to see, Now He sets captives free
He’s Da Vine, He’s Divine
“In The Beginning” proves as powerful a track as you will find. The song is sustained front to back by perseverant riff action, which contrasts with the occasional slower passage interwoven with a quietly played guitar. All the while Robert Sweet literally goes nuts behind the drum kit with his creative aggression aligning with the fierce scene. Lyric snippet:
In the beginning God created
The heavens and the earth
And the earth was without form and void
And darkness was upon the face of the deep
Let there be light, and there was light
God saw the light, divided the light
Monstrous doom metal of “Majesty On High” stands out with its toilsome flavorings. Slogging and plodding, the song brings almost a thrash-like feel to its guitar sound while featuring an instrumental section in which some cool lead guitar bounces between the left and right channel. No, not the catchiest piece but solid all the same. Lyric snippet:
You are complete in Him
Rooted built up in Him
And risen with Him
So walk in Him
Won His victory the finest hour
Cloud received Him out of sight
“New Creation” brings a straightforward mentality. What we have here is a heavy hitting bruiser - as no-nonsense a piece as you will find - standing out with its groove heavy chorus and blues driven soloing in which the artist touches upon his shredding capabilities. Lyric snippet:
Any one who is in Christ
Is a new creation
Old things have passed away
All things have become new
That is that God was in Christ
Reconciling the world
Committed to us the Word
By far the albums best is “Peace I Leave With You”. I enjoy the songs time signatures, which find it starting quietly before taking off to some stormy rhythm guitar but also encompassing quite the extensive instrumental excursion and mercurially driven chorus. But what puts things over the top is the melodic heavy refrain over the final minute hinting of the radio friendly. Lyric snippet:
Peace I leave to you
Peace I give to you
Not as the world gives
Do I give to you
The words that I speak to
You I do not speak on
My own authority
But the Father who dwells in
“Set Free” might take a heavy as all get out approach but is structured in too basic a manner- to the extent any type of notable melody that would allow it to hold up is missing. In a similar manner “Tetelestai” does not yield long term results. What we have here is another plodder failing to bring the big chorus hook that might draw you in. “We Sail” takes the more up-tempo heading but also settles into a receptiveness that detracts from longer term play.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Bow Down” (3:34), “Eternal Power” (3:28), “Godbleed” (3:09), “In The Beginning” (3:12), “Majesty On High” (3:32), “New Creation” (3:52), “Peace I Leave With You” (4:07), “Set Free” (3:19), “Tetelestai” (3:05), “We Sail”
Robert Sweet - Drums
Bill Menchen - Everything Else