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After a very solid debut with Silicon Messiah, B L A Z E put out what is still my favorite album of theirs, by far. This concept album is extremely consistent throughout, with song quality ranging from decent to killer and not a single low point. Also, the quality of all the tracks on their own aside, they all work together so well that the album as a whole manages to be greater than its parts.
Throughout the course of the album, we get to several highlights, and yet it all works best when played as one from beginning to end, so I'll give more of a direct run-through than comments on the songs in and of themselves
The Intro "Forgotten Future" does not feature any real music, just strange noises that have a very futuristic sound, setting up the atmosphere. It then goes on into the first highlight "Kill and Destroy", very heavy speedy number that is borderline thrash metal, pure aggression, over into the decent "End Dream", which is rather slow and dark, a little doomier. "Tenth Dimension" is one of the longest tracks here and also one of the best, it speeding things up a bit more while retaining the heaviness and offering some really good songwriting ideas, from short bass-only riffing and atmospheric intro verses over the verses with their crushing riffage underneith, and another slow atmospheric middle passage - their second best epic number, behind only Stare at the Sun. "Nothing Will Stop Me" starts out slow and soft, much like a ballad, but then picks up over time and grows into a heavy, mid-paced anthem - and when it ends - bang! "Leap of Faith", one of the fastest songs on the album and one of the best anthems the band has written to date, almost on a par with "The Launch". Another definite highlight on this album. It then fades into "The Truth Revealed", a brief intro that is undivisibly connected to the ballad of the album, the very well-done "Meant to Be" - very emotional and yet powerful at the same time, something that not many a vocalist can pull off.
After that, we move on to to Land of the Blind, where the heaviness suddenly resumes. A crushing, dark mid-paced number which, apart from all other quality, rules simply by virtue of that one line in the chorus: "You think you got freedom now, that's how they hold you down!" Fucking class! We move on to the even better "Stealing Time", which manages to combine several well-thought changes in tempo and riffage, another very heavy number, overall midpaced although slightly faster than the one before. "Speed of Light" is the second up-beat track on the album, and the last highlight - the fastest song along with "Kill and Destroy" and "Leap of Faith", this one's basically screaming Speed Metal, only instead of the screaming, you have Bayley's trademark powerful mid-range vocals Finally we move on the the closer, "Stranger to the Light", probably the bands doomiest song ever, yet this one manages to work better than "The Hunger" did in spite of being about as long, offering sufficiant changes in melody and the crushing riffage to keep your attention - and towards the end, it resumes to the chorus of "The Tenth Dimension".
The Theme of the album - about the abuse of science by powerful authorities - is never pushed forward all that strongly, and unlike on Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime ( or many another concept album), is almost never portrayed through spoken passages, but solely through the songs themselves ( with roughly two exceptions in mid-track). It's all through the perspective of the involved scientist - to follow it, it is important to read the lyrics from the Booklet. By the way, a HUGE compliment for that one - both for the design (made out to look like a scientist's journal, featuring additional notes along the lyrics to go along) and for the content, in particular the notes by Blaze himself on the last page on both the making of the album and the story.
The bonus disk of the limited edition is also genius. It features four live tracks ( the excellent "The Launch", the good "Steel" and "Futureal", and the not so great "Evolution" which still has its moments), a good bonus Studio Track (Living Someone Else's Life), two mp3s from the previous album (also playable through Flash player), a video to the brilliant "Ghost in the Machine" from the previous album, and (probably the best of all), "Inside the Tenth Dimension", a making of of the album with interviews of the Band members, live footage in between and what have you. Classy.
Musically, it's the trademark BLAZE style as pioneered on the debut, but executed far better. Heavy guitars, plenty of quality riffs and solos, solid drumming and basswork, and Blaze's excellent, extremely powerful and atmospheric vocals ( bitch about his range for all you want, but when it comes to emotions, there is no vocalist as versatile as Blaze Bayley ). As said before, there are also several tracks that stand very well on their own live.
This is definitely one of the best concept albums out there, and by far the best album B L A Z E have come up with - a true must-have for all fans of modern Heavy Metal.
Rewritten because of having been rather sucky.