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Come on down to the schizophrenic rodeo, kids! - 74%

Empyreal, January 2nd, 2009

I once said in my review for Dezperadoz's latest album Eye for an Eye that this album was really good, but upon revisiting it, there are some serious flaws with this one, which is not something I'm proud to admit. Yes, this is still a proudly wailing, crunching exercise in Wild West wife-beatin', cattle-ranchin', gun-totin' Heavy Metal, aided by the powerful, clear voice of Alex Kraft and also his meaty guitar attacks, but the band doesn't seem to want to be that at all. Why is this? These guys had all the power and energy to make a real 5/5 modern Metal classic, so what happened?

I think the problem is that Dezperadoz seemed to think that they couldn't rule too much at a time, so they decided to pomp up this album with silly shit and atmospheric interludes to make sure they didn't overwhelm any listeners. Which doesn't make any sense at all, considering the genre of music these guys are playing. This sounds a lot like Dream Evil or Mystic Prophecy when it gets kicking, but the momentum is stopped too much for that to happen a lot. We start off with a really long intro piece that is kind of pleasant, but not really necessary - we just want the Metal! - and then "Dust of History" kicks off with its booming riffs, gritty, snarling guitar tone and screaming chorus. "First Blood" rocks out with a Maidenesque gallop and a glorious ending section, and "Dead Man Walking" is a huge ballad with a lot of charisma and heart, but then the album just sort of shits on itself after that, with another over-long atmospheric piece and two joke songs in the form of TV show theme "Rawhide" and the silly "Hellbilly Square," which aren't bad on their own, but they have no place in the middle of a concept album like this, just randomly stuck in the middle. What was the band thinking? "Hey, this album would be so much more awesome if we broke up the ass-kicking with a bunch of silly drivel and made it harder for the listeners to really enjoy it as a whole"? Ridiculous.

A lot of this album still really kills after that, though, like "March to Destiny," which is incredibly hooky and catchy beyond belief, with this upbeat, slightly country-influenced melody clashing with the pounding drums and rattling guitars to create a very cool song. It's followed up by "OK Corral," which is by far the song with the most obvious use of pinch harmonics; its squealing guitars make more noise than a pack of wild mice! "Shootout" is perhaps my favorite little interlude here, seamlessly morphing into the pummeling "Look Into the Barrel of My Gun," which serves as a precursor to what the band would be doing in 2008, with its more vicious and angry mood. "Earp's Vendetta" and "Friends 'till the End" are both straightforward, hard-hitting rockers with big choruses and fist-pumping riffs and a whole lot of attitude. That's another thing I like about this album, the raw, aggressive Metal attitude. Vocalist Alex Kraft has a charismatic voice that offers rock-solid vocal lines that accent the music wonderfully, and the good stuff on here is just killer to work out or take a walk to.

So, here we have an album of two halves. One half reminds me of Sergio Leone movies, serious, epic and engaging, but the other half reminds me of a kiddy rodeo show, rife with bright colors, funny clowns, slapstick humor and over-done Southern accents. If Dezperadoz wanted to make a funny, lighthearted Metal album, they should have done so, and if they wanted to make an epic, serious concept album, they should have done that. You can't just sit in the middle of the two. How would Queensryche's Operation Mindcrime sound if the band decided to put a polka interlude and a cover of the He Man theme song after "Suite Sister Mary"?

Dreadful thoughts, those.

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com