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The logical followup to 'The Dark'? - 83%

UltraBoris, August 21st, 2002

This album is a great thrashfest with some power-metal atmosphere, and nice speed metal moments as well. It can, interestingly enough, be put in between "The Dark" and "Blessing in Disguise" in the overall Metal Church evolution - it make sense chronologically, and the songs tend to be a combination of the overtly fast and furious style of "The Dark", the more restrained and progressive thrash constructions of the second half of "Blessing in Disguise", and the even more drawn out compositions with many movements and acoustic interludes of the first half of "Blessing".

It's really quite an album - it has variety and strength in songwriting, and also an insane shitload of riffs. We start out with a little acoustic intro which builds up stronger and stronger until it breaks into a pure headbanging furious speed-metal riff, that is "The Heretic". This pretty much is yet another song that has drinken heavily from the "Freewheel Burning" fountain. There are two verses, over the same blazing guitar riff that features VERY prominently in the mix, combining with Mike Howe's powerful vocals, and then a slight riff change and some incredibly fast soloing, and then the chorus again. Yes, folks, it's speed metal. Very competently executed - short and to the point. The particular riff choice is also really good - it's half a "Freewheel Burning" riff for the most part.

Then, we have a slower thrash song, "And Kingdoms Fall". It's almost power-metal in its construction, as it doesn't overtly rip your face out, and only has about 6 different riffs over the whole song. Also, the chorus features prominently, and a main feature of this song - as well as the whole album, really - is Mike Howe's vocals. Not particularly shrieky, but definitely powerful. "The Circle" and "Enemy Within" continue along the same vein as the last song, though the specifics are a bit different.

"Time Runs Short" starts off slowly, and then builds up, with some massive bludgeoning riffs forming the basis of the song. Very well executed, and comparable in general atmosphere to some of "Blessing in Disguise". After "Pale Shelter", which is a short acoustic interlude, we get into "Shifting Fire", which is an uptempo thrasher. Probably the catchiest song on here, especially with the way the riffs under the chorus work.

Next, "Let 'em Bleed" - the other all-out speed metal song on this album. This one is longer and more developed, especially in the area of the middle guitar solo. That right there is of course total Judas Priest worship - a guitar duel that would not look out of place in "Ram it Down" or anywhere else for that matter. Pure classic 80s speed metal.

Then, "Evil for Evil" is a bit slower, and has probably the best vocals out of any song on here. "Feel the blade, cut right through - through your heart!!!!" Also, the midpaced bludgeoning thrash riffs keep cropping up here - this album definitely makes excellent use of them, ranging from everything from slower acoustic parts to "efficient speed" riff monstrosities to total speed metal.

The final song, "The Search" is the epic balladic acoustically-interluded complex song to close off the album. It's about 7 minutes long, and works very well, also being very very reminiscent of "Anthem to the Estranged" at times.

So what do we have here? A classic thrash album, that's what. I have no idea how rare this is - fuck that, get it anyway!