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Great - 89%

ThySentinel, August 2nd, 2004

Well, this is one excellent side-project, that except in couple of places does not sound at all like the parent band. I can even go as far as saying that this album in places does not sound like itself, depending on who is playing the main violin (I mean it as an expression, there are no violins here). Some songs are written and mainly carried by Savatage's Chris Caffery, and these songs sound like simplified Savatage ("Soul Of The Beast," "Love Is Pain"). Some songs are written and mainly carried by Chlasciak and they sound just like Halford's material ("Sleep Of The Dead," "Life"). One song, "When Worlds Collide," features guest performances by keyboarders extraordinaire, Vitalij Kuprij of Artension and Andre Andersen of Royal Hunt, so, needless to say, that song is an absolutely marvelous key fest, in vein of both of these bands. Finally, some songs are written by John West himself with the album's producer and main keyboard operator, Lonnie Park.

What makes this album rather unique are the songs, where heavy and crunchy guitars somehow sound totally Indian! Oh yes, this album is a rock opera, based on West's strange ideas about reincarnations of a certain Native American Chief, Shanandoah. And the music manages to "reincarnate" Indian beats into a heavy metal crunchy riff- and shred-work. Both guitarists are undisputed masters of the fretboard, and the drummer is none other than Bobby Jarzombek, of Riot and Halford fame, so it's inconceivable how the cd case just doesn't burst from all this talent packed inside. And let's not forget West himself: this is one of the year's best performances! The songwriting is crafty and strong, catchy, energetic, and even intelligent (although I must notice that the introduction to the album, on the first page of the booklet could be written by a middle-school student without too much of a strain). "Soul Of The Beast" and "Life" are wonderful neo-Indian (read: "metallized Indian") anthems, and "When Worlds Collide," as previously stated, would easily be the highlight of any RH album. But this album has the song that propels it straight into the year's Top 5. I don't love "Stand, Sentinel" simply because any song with the word "SENTINEL" is dear to my heart. This is an emotional power ballad, telling the tale of a tree that is about to be cut down, sacrificed on the altar of "progress." And it is a marvelous in its bitterness tribute to the old of the world, doomed to be destroyed, simply because they stand on the way of the new. When West releases his final "NEVER FAAAAAAAALLL!" at the end, it feels like the ear-piercing Gods of the Old, Halford, Midnight, and Kiske have all come alive and delivered this amazing scream! I have not heard a high-pitcher this good since 1995 Conception's "Solar Serpent." Unbelievable! So, yes, it's a very good album, and you definitely need to hunt it down.