|Musical Style: Progressive Rock||Produced By: Tony Massaro|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2007||Artist Website: Torman Maxt|
|Tracks: 13||Rating: 55%|
|Running Time: 42:01|
Southern California based Torman Maxt got its start in 1994 with the progressive rock of its full length debut Just Talking About the Universe…So Far before following up eight years later with another progressive based epic in The Foolishness Of God. The summer of 2007 finds Torman Maxt returning with The Problem Of Pain: Part 1, a conceptual effort based around the story of Job from the Old Testament with the ultimate theme revolving around why God allows evil and suffering on earth. The album breaks down into five different “chapters” as it paints a picture of Job’s early prosperity in life and the subsequent trials and tribulations which resulted in the loss of his material possessions, loved ones and eventually his health. The “behind the scenes story”, of course, is detailed as well: Satan makes an agreement with God to put Job through the trials and tribulations in question in order to prove that Job’s obedience is due to his good life and not trust in God.
On The Problem Of Pain: Part 1 Torman Maxt maintains the musical direction of its past efforts by taking a foundation of progressive rock and joining it with elements of metal and hard rock. Fans of Dream Theater, Symphony X, Rush and Queensryche will feel right at home here as will those into Kansas, Porcupine Tree, Yes and King Crimson. The influence of the previously referenced artists in question can be found in standout tracks such as the haunting “Satan’s First Song” – a piece which finds the band displaying its instrumental prowess – and the melodic based “Job’s Resolve”. “Job’s Wife” and “A Great Silence”, two examples of progressive rock at its finest, allow Torman Maxt to exhibit its first rate musicianship and ability to put together a composition with time changes of the unpredictable variety.
The remainder of the albums material, unfortunately, trends towards the disappointing side of things. Why? The quality of the songwriting, to be quite frank, drops off significantly. I find three major problems here:
1. The Problem Of Pain: Part 1 features too many average songs. The likes of the worshipful “The Angel’s Song” and “Job’s Song” along with the instrumentals “Overture” and “Job’s Contemplation”, for instance, fail to hold up as a direct result of their unremarkable and plain sounding feel. It’s almost as if the band decided to play it safe – or simply try too hard without letting things flow naturally – when putting the albums material together with the end result being an effort that sounds forced or on the conservative side of things. What gets lost in the process? The all out creativity Torman Maxt brings to the table. To understand my point – and realize what the band is capable of achieving when at its best – one must first compare The Problem Of Pain: Part 1 to the musically brilliant The Foolishness Of God. The differences are striking.
2. The Problem Of Pain: Part 1 features too many short songs. Out of the albums thirteen compositions only three come in at above four minutes. Three others remain in the two minute range while two more clock in at around three minutes. You will even find a minute long instrumental. To make matters worse, two of the albums better tracks in “Job’s Commitment” and “Job’s Initial Shock” end all too briefly at 2:25 and 1:56 respectively. At just the moment when both songs begins to define themselves – and gain your interest in the process – they inexplicably and inexcusably fade out. Why? Wouldn’t it make more sense to extend things out into the four or five minute range- or longer? This IS a progressive rock album, by the way.
3. The Problem Of Pain: Part 1 features too many reprise tracks. Reprise tracks? “The Angel’s Second Song”, “Satan’s Second Song” and “Job’s Second Response” represent reprises of songs that come before them. The problem is that the three combine to take up eight of the albums forty-two minutes. Now, I rarely mind if an artist chooses to close an album with a reprise; however, I am forced to draw the line when nearly a third of a recording consists of reprised material. It is almost as if the band is saying, “Sorry everyone, but we did not have enough songs ready when entering the studio so, instead, we decided to redo these three but in a slightly altered form”. Did Torman Maxt really think its listeners – and nitpicking reviewers such as your truly - would not notice?
The musical ability of Torman Maxt is without question. Lead vocalist Tony Massaro remains a solid talent with a clean sounding and melodic vocal style perfectly suited for the bands progressive style of hard rock. Tony also handles all guitar duties as well, best showcasing his abilities on instrumental heavy tracks “Satan’s First Song”, “Job’s Resolve”, “Job’s Wife” and “A Great Silence”. Once more, the band must be commended for the strength of its instrumental sound, something I actually wish it had emphasized a bit more throughout the project. Drummer Vincent Massaro, a very fine timekeeper with quite the technical style, rounds out the rhythm section with bassist Dominic Massaro.
I would place the albums production values, a step up when compared to The Foolishness Of God, in the above average to good category. A bit of big budget polish would have helped out here but, still, not a bad effort.
Instrumental album opener “Overture” begins to a keyboard solo prior to the rhythm guitar presiding over the mix. The song proceeds to move its distance to melodic sounding guitar harmony, only tapering off at its halfway point for a brief passage in which a tranquil setting is put into place.
“Job’s Song” commences at a guitar driven upbeat tempo only to slow to an acoustic guitar upon reaching its first verse. The rhythm guitar returns, nevertheless, as the song picks up in pace for the second, steadfastly leading the way as the bands trademark vocal harmonies play a forward but highlighting role. What we have here is a song of praise written from the standpoint of Job:
I raise my eyes to the heavens
And I see the sky and the sun above
With praise to God in the heavens
For an inner piece to which nothing can compare
An acoustic guitar holds sustains the worshipful “The Angels First Song” from front to back. The song slowly progresses through its first and second verse before obtaining an instrumental section fortified by a lush sounding acoustic guitar. Abruptly picking up in pace, “The Angels Song” traverses its third and final verse as a touch of rhythm guitar decorates the background. This one also takes a praise based approach:
Holy, holy, holy
Praise and honor
You are worthy
The acoustic based opening to the superlative “Satan’s First Song” exudes a portent feel. Maintaining the acoustic direction during its first and second verse, the song gains momentum as a crisp rhythm guitar imbues the haunting scene. “Satan’s First Song” explores instrumental territory its final three minutes, the rhythm guitar playing a forward role throughout the disordered moments that follow. With its unpredictable but creative flair, this track showcases Torman Maxt’s potential in no uncertain terms.
A drum solo gets the hard rocking “Job’s Initial Shock” underway. A particularly rollicking piece, a driving rhythm guitar carries the song to its conclusion as a surprisingly catchy melody is exuded. I might rate this with the albums better material if it had not come in at under two minutes. As previously noted, at just the point the song begins to hit its stride it mysteriously fades out. “Job’s Initial Shock” details Job’s faith based response to his tragedy:
I sing this suffering song
I see all that I have is gone
But cursing God is wrong
A rhythm guitar drives the instrumental based opening to “Job’s Resolve”. After tapering off to an acoustic guitar at the start of its first verse, the song increased in tempo as the rhythm guitar returns to shore up a chorus of a melody filled variety. A sweeping instrumental section ensues before “Job’s Resolve” closes out its final half in guitar driven fashion. Determination and faithfulness are the topics here:
Naked I came into the world from my mother’s womb
And when my life is over, in the same way I’ll return
I will not second guess your motives or your righteous ways
You are the potter and I am only the clay
“Job’s Commitment” advances its full length transitioning between passages underlined by a quietly played guitar and others in which the rhythm guitar plays a forward role in the mix. Similar to “Job’s Initial Shock”, however, this is a musically solid number that at just 2:25 comes in a bit short for my taste. If perhaps carried out an extra couple of minutes it might have done a better job maintaining my full attention.
A spacey stretch of keyboards cover the first minute and a half of “The Angel’s Second Song”. Stopping dead in its tracks, the song moves on to a drum solo before closing to a reprise of “The Angel’s First Song”.
“Satan’s Second Song”, for a lack of better words, is a shorter (2:05) version of “Satan’s First Song”. The only real difference between the two (with the exception of a few lyrical changes) is that the instrumental section closing out the former is shorter than the latter.
It does not help matters that a directionless acoustic based instrumental entitled “Job’s Contemplation” follows.
Speaking of reprises, “Job’s Second Response” is pretty much a longer, revamped version of “Job’s Initial Shock”. Over the songs final two minutes, however, a time change takes place as a crisp acoustic guitar takes things to their close in a collected manner. One has to admire the faith based massage to “Job’s Second Response”:
Oh, on this pensive day why integrity
We accept the good we had
Should we not the bad
Oh, on this mournful day what am I to say
You ask why I’m holding on
To a faith in God
“Job’s Wife” represents one of the albums finer moments. The song slowly drifts through its first and second verse to the bands lush backing vocals, not picking up in pace until the rhythm guitar kicks in to underscore the driving chorus that follows. I appreciate the time change made to the rollicking instrumental section covering the final two minutes here. What we have is a song echoing the words of Job’s wife who, in the midst of his affliction, uttered the following:
Why do you still give Him praise
In the midst of all your pain
Your faith in Him has been a lie
Why don’t you curse God and die
Curse God and die? Real nice wife, huh?
An acoustic guitar gently shores up the first and only verse to the wonderful “A Great Silence”. A blend of rhythm guitar and lead guitar soon steps forward as the song makes a very satisfying move to instrumental territory over its final four minutes. A transition soon takes place after two minutes to an eerie, space filled keyboard solo that sounds as if taken from the soundtrack to 2001: A Space Odyssey. “A Great Silence” deals with Job’s “friends”:
Amidst my suffering they come to me
With thoughts of sympathy and counseling
Yet they all shrink in fear at what they see
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Overture” (3:53), “Job’s Song” (3:36), “The Angel’s First Song” (3:43), “Satan’s First Song” (4:17), “Job’s Initial Shock” (1:56), “Job’s Resolve” (3:50), “Job’s Commitment” (2:25), “The Angel’s Second Song” (3:03), “Satan’s Second Song” (2:05), “Job’s Contemplation” (1:19), “Job’s Second Response” (2:57), “Job’s Wife” (4:17), “ A Great Silence” (4:47)
Tony Massaro – Lead Vocas & Guitars
Dominic Massaro – Bass
Vincent Massaro – Drums
Also Reviewed: Torman Maxt – The Foolishness Of God