|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website:|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 80%|
|Running Time: 41:04|
Whenever guitarist Bill Menchen is the subject of discussion, The Seventh Power usually comes up, and rightfully so. Widely regarded as the artist’s signature group, The Seventh Power brought more consistent production and songwriting than his eighties and nineties projects Redeemer and Rev Seven in addition to the Keith Miles fronted Final Axe and Titanic. His turn of the century solo work under the Menchen moniker, in which Ken Redding fronted, and the final Titanic release Full Steam Ahead with new vocalist David St. Andrew received high acclaim, although both have failed to match The Seventh Power in terms of output and assortment.
Helping to separate The Seventh Power is how it draws upon the traditional metal of Bill Menchen’s past while mixing in occasional doom-like moments, commercial and symphonic touches and all out heaviness for added creativity. The self-titled The Seventh Power debut from 2006, for instance, stood out with its accessibility and underlining keyboards, while the 2008 sophomore effort Dominion And Power reinforced a weightier guitar presence in approaching doom influenced territory. Eternal Power from early 2012 took a more stripped down and back to basics metal and hard rock approach.
Power And Glory, a late 2012 release and the third The Seventh Power project from the year (the artist also put out a revamped version of the self-titled debut under the title The Power), highlights a sound more akin to Dominion And Power with its focus on heavy set guitars and doom-ish overtones. I hesitate to go out on a limb, but a legitimate case can be made that Power And Glory is the heaviest Bill Menchen release to date regardless of project, genre or moniker.
It also features seven of the best songs ever from the artist. “After The Image” takes a technical metal heading with its enticing tempo changes, while “Doom Has Come” maintains the technical aspect with a more spirited and riff driven mentality. “In The Kingdom Come”, also up-tempo, stands out with its mirthful melody and “Look Into My Eyes” and “Valley Of Shadows”, both mid-paced, a catchy and bluesy influenced proclivity and doom-based interpretation of Psalm 23, respectively. Bringing all out energy is “God Is Love”, touching upon the accessibility of the debut (bass trombone and all!), and the albums title track, a shorter but frenetic experimental metal piece.
The remaining three might rate a notch below the better Power And Glory material but are still good. The powerful “Blessed Is The Man” reinforces the doom-like but borders on the repetitive due to its six minute length and lack of catchy chorus. “No Other Name”, my least favorite here, comes across a bit plain with its straightforward hard rock trending (good militant riff, though). “Wings Of Eagles” runs the creative gamut from mellow to heavier and back again but proves anti climactic due to its short (2:40) length.
In putting out three full length albums the same calendar year, Bill Menchen brings an unheard of level of productivity, at least as far as current times are concerned where it is not uncommon for an artist to go several years between releases. This might not be entirely fair in that Power And Glory can trace its beginnings to early 2011 when it was released as a 5 song EP. Five additional songs were later added to round it into full length territory, with the track “In The Prison House” re-titled “In Thy Kingdom Come”.
I might describe The Seventh Power as more a project in that it includes Menchen on vocals and all instrumentation except drums, which are capably handled by Robert Sweet (Stryper).
Menchen delivers another masterful performance on guitar. If anything, Power And Glory features some of his most inspired playing ever. He lays down some monstrous riffs throughout, such as on “Doom Has Come”, trending towards the decisive and focused, and “Look Into My Eyes”, catchy and forthright in feel. Soloing he shines as well in lending some shredding leads to “In Thy Kingdom Come”, while cutting loose with a bluesy feel on “Look Into My Eyes”. The extended instrumental portion of “Valley Of Shadows” features one of those special moments where a talented musician literally becomes one with his instrument.
Vocally, what I have said about Menchen’s abilities in past reviews still holds true: He showcases a smooth and mid-ranged style that hints of Ozzy. While other reviewers have described his style as “monotone” or “processed”, I say that he is a good singer that complements the music at hand, keeping in mind there are better vocalists are there.
Robert Sweet has been a mainstay on the four The Seventh Power albums with his enticing drum flair. I appreciate how Menchen, for a lack of better words, “turns him lose” - am I out of line to suggest that Robert has been held in check as a member of Stryper? - and allows him to be himself and have fun in the process. The results are dramatic. Consider the crazy drum rolls and fills he adds to the albums title track or the boundless energy he applies to “Valley Of Shadows” to understand my point. Either way most people would need to grow an extra set of arms in order to achieve the same effect.
Production is on the same high level of past Bill Menchen releases. The results are “dry” and “stripped down” (there are almost no keyboards here) in lending to the albums all around heaviness. Lyrics maintain the same forthright and upfront direction consistent to past Menchen releases. Most songs come with at least one accompanying scripture verse as reference.
Power And Glory finds Bill Menchen returning in fine form. I might have been a bit harsh in my review of Eternal Power, an album (my opinion only) not quite up to the artist’s standards, but Power And Glory allows Menchen to stretch from a songwriting standpoint and deliver some of his best songs in years. One cannot help but appreciate how he pushed the musical boundaries and takes the more varied approach, all the while remaining true to the traditional, classic and doom metal genres. A recommended work for fans of the artist’s prior endeavors and those into the styles represented at hand.
Track By Track
Opener “After The Image” stands out with its technical fortitude, slugging and mauling its way while avoiding the trappings of predictability in the process. The key is how the song upholds an understated catchiness and merges it with nothing less than an in your face guitar mix. The upshot is classic Bill Menchen all the way. Lyric snippet:
If you then be rise with Christ
Seek those things
Which are above where Christ
Sits on the right hand of God
Set your affection on things above
Not on the earth
For ye are dead and your life
Is hid with Christ in God
The six and a half minute “Blessed Is The Man” ranks with the lengthiest in the artist’s repertoire. What we have is a staunchly driven piece heavily rooted in the doom aesthetic, not giving rise to the most melody - and bordering on the repetitive as a result - but holding up all the same with the prevailing power of its focus. Somehow I am reminded of Deliverance’s “Flesh And Blood”, albeit without the thrash overtones.
“Doom Has Come”, in contrast, represents the albums most up-tempo. Not necessarily staying true to its namesake, this one stands out with its furious riff action - blunt, angst-laden and catchy all the same - while playing up the same technical elements that make “After The Image” so special. Interestingly, the song spends its final minute instrumentally by descending into a murky passage that has doom-ish written all over it. Lyric snippet:
Doom has come
To you who dwell in the land
Time has come, day of trouble is near
None rejoice in the mountain
My fury, my anger on you will come down
My eye will not spare, nor will have pity
I repay to your way
Then you shall know I am
“God Is Love”, the albums most accessible, is a straight on metal piece that stands out with its catchy chorus. The key being the bass trombone that makes its presence felt throughout and a quieter passage at the halfway point that gives way to some ripping guitar leads. Yes, this one might throw us some curve balls but exemplary nonetheless.
“In Thy Kingdom Come” starts to some ominous riffs but soon turns into an upbeat rocker not unlike “Doom Has Come”. With avalanches of penetrative guitars leading the way, the song builds up an energetically driven mentality that would not have it sound out of place on the second Titanic release Screaming In Silence. Same type of melody to boot all the while it delivers a wallop at the same time.
Hallowed be thy name and thy will be done
Forever the same in the Kingdom come
Thy will be done
And ye shall be unto me
Thy will be done
A kingdom of priests
Thy will be done
And an holy nation
Thy will be done
“Look Into My Eyes” descends into driving and mid-paced territory. With Menchen singing in a complementary lower register, the song plows to front to back churning momentum while playing up what amounts a commanding but stately presence. Again, the riff action is memorable while lead work approaches the bluesy.
A straightforward and no-frills hard rocker, “No Other Name” establishes a weighty, mid-paced milieu and joins it with militant riffs in abundance and another scorching solo. No, not the best and certainly not the catchiest but it still brings quality in helping add to the albums consistency. Lyric snippet:
In the beginning was the Word
And the Word was with God
And the Word was God
The same was with God
All things made by Him
Without Him nothing was made
In Him was life
And the life was the light of men
No other name to call upon
He is the Christ and He is God
Experiments would be the best way to describe the albums title track. The song exudes a disjointed feel but in a positive sense in failing to follow any type of script or formula while still finding a way to work. Robert Sweet, for instance, goes totally nuts behind the drum kit, while a heavy set voice provides narration, although not in a cheesy sense. Tempo, at the same time, borders on the frenzied in matching the disordered (if not creative) scene.
Psalm 23 cover “Valley Of The Shadows” rates with this reviewers favorites. What we have here is five and a half minutes of no-nonsense traditional doom, with more hyperactive drumming from Robert Sweet and front to back riffs of a powering capacity. The only let down in momentum is a protracted instrumental section that starts dark and swarthy before settling into some riveting soloing. Lyric snippet:
The Lord is my shepherd
I shall not want
He makes me to lie down
In green pastures
He leads me beside still waters
Yea though I walk through
The valley of the shadow of death
I will fear no evil
For You are with me
And Your rod and your staff
They comfort me
What we have in “Wings Of Eagles” is a varied piece that starts calmly to bluesy guitar that gives way to metal edged riffs. Initiative picks up from this point forward, with furious guitar walls impelling things forward until impetus abruptly settles at once to a quietly played guitar at the end.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “After The Image” (4:16), “Blessed Is The Man” (6:24), “Doom Has Come” (4:07), “God Is Love” (3:40), “In Thy Kingdom Come” (3:39), “Look Into My Eyes” (4:02), “No Other Name” (3:33), “Power And Glory” (3:03), “Wings Of Eagles” (2:40)
Bill Menchen - Vocals and Instrumentation
Robert Sweet - Drums