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Hail to the king, baby!!! - 91%

hells_unicorn, February 26th, 2012

Lance King is no mere vocalist, nor can he really be pigeonholed as a simple entrepreneur with a passion for his craft, but is rather a purveyor of some rather impressive note. His entrance into the metal world in the early 90s might seem ironic to someone who has a basic understanding of the decline going on at that point and time in the metal scene, but when considering the ongoing progressive metal upsurge taking place and King’s own independent tendencies (he turned down an impressive contract in his early days in order to form his own label), it was the perfect time for his quest to keep the old ways pure and also fresh. But despite the long run as a lone wolf operation, Lance didn’t quite have the heart to coin a project after himself, until just recently.

Dispensing now with the history lesson, the fruits of King’s first solo venture could be summed up as an impressive mixture of past efforts, playing the conservative side of the progressive coin and maintaining a clear cut song set in a conceptual format. The plotline is a bit more introspective than the outward fantasy and sci-fi trappings of King’s work with Pyramaze and Avian, the latest of his former projects, but the music itself is not too far off from the grooving, down tempo power metal with a heavy dose of keyboard driven atmosphere that dominated both. Some may liken this to an equivalent to Ayreon due to the heavy roster of guest spots, but musically the contents reveal something quite similar to Pagan’s Mind, as is hinted by the similar shade of blue dominating the album art.

The principle focus of this album, as tends to be the case with most projects King has helmed, is the voice leading the charge. Anyone not familiar with it will all but instantly note a rather poignant reinterpretation of James Labrie and Geoff Tate, not to mention that his voice has aged far better than either of them as evidenced by this little gem of an album. Even at its most simplistic, notably the catchy anthems in “Dance For Power” and “Manifest Destiny” that heavily resemble King’s work with Balance Of Power, his voice meshes perfectly with the predictable harmonic structure and makes for a transcendental experience. Competency in the instrumental department has never really been a problem for anyone involved in King’s projects, but here technique is showcased, but not quite flaunted in an overt fashion typical to other bands of this persuasion.

There are a handful of ebbs within this otherwise consistent flow, mostly manifesting in slow developing ballad material that intermingles with the more enticing groove and up tempo metallic elements. “Kibou” is the only noticeable weak link in the otherwise enduring chain, resting in a relatively elaborate yet subdued piano line that reminds of a Styx song, and even Lance’s voice can’t help but occasionally sound like Dennis DeYoung, but rambling about some abstract socio-political ponderings rather than a rudimentary declaration of love to some unnamed woman. Other songs like “Infinity Divine” (I told you the Pagan’s Mind influences were obvious) and the epic title song “A Moment In Chiros” have ballad elements, but use them more sparingly and in a more animated fashion to bolster the impending fist of destiny that is about to pop the listener square in the chin.

While some might miss the days when King helmed Pyramaze, this is a suitable substitute to reliving the majesty of “Legend Of The Bone Carver”, not to mention one that is likely to win over a few non-power metal fans itching for something a tad bit closer to Dream Theater. It’s a bit more reserved and easier to follow than the wandering stylistic ventures of “Images And Words”, but it gets dangerously close to emulating the same quality level, and also rivals the auspicious return to form that is “Heavenly Ecstasy” out of Pagan’s Mind. In spite of Lance’s blatant “love them and leave them” attitude towards his various projects, my hope is that he gets around to at least one more album with this current flock he’s assembled, if only since it allows him truly unchain his voice from the confines of another melodic architect and that his lyrical abilities are a cut above the rest.

Later submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on April 23, 2012.

Music coming from an angel? - 87%

Octavarium64, December 30th, 2011

As the owner of progressive/power metal record label Nightmare Records and former vocalist of underground classic bands such as Balance of Power and Pyramaze, Lance King’s pedigree, experience and success in the metal scene far exceed what many metal musicians will ever hope to attain, or even dream of. It was not until 2011, however, that he attempted to create an Ayreon-style solo album, with himself as the singer-lyricist (the only singer, unlike Mr. Lucassen’s projects) and many of his labelmates, business associates and musical contemporaries lending instrumental talents. The result of this collective effort is an hour of progressive, heavy power metal with extensive, thought-provoking lyrical depth, written, recorded, and produced in mere weeks. If this task sounds too incredible to be attained, it usually is, and King’s only slightly imperfect attempt is the only flaw worth mentioning, but the vast majority of A Moment in Chiros is a top-shelf example of its genre and a perfect introduction to the legendary singer’s career.

The biggest pitfall of solo projects is becoming a one-person performance at the expense of the individual musicians involved, and while this grants A Moment in Chiros high marks in the coherence front, it also feels slightly more homogeneous than expected from a combination of progressive, power and heavy metal musicians. Anubis Gate guitarist Kim Olesen holds the most instrumental credit, playing guitar, bass and keyboards across the album and something on every track, plus writing the music on track 5 and jointly on track 6, and a significant degree of the music is sonically similar to the Danish melodic prog metal group. The ethereal piano intro to Infinity Divine, though actually written by Harmony/7days/Darkwater mastermind Markus Sigfridsson, sounds almost like the introduction of Anubis Gate’s self-titled CD; also like the Danes, the songs are built off chunky, chugging riffs and rollicking, dramatic chords, but King’s approach is slightly heavier and less progressive. The disadvantage of such methods is that most of the metal parts sound similar to everyone else’s, somewhat decreasing the potential for diversity this album could have had; wisely, he works at otherwise differentiating the compositions to minimize this problem, adding ambient, classical and various ethnic influences throughout the album’s duration. The dreamy title track numbers at 7:33, progressing from an exotic acoustic/spoken word introduction into misty keyboards, a dark riff sequence, the most noticeable and distinct bass work on the album, and an immediately attractive, memorable chorus line; the prominent orchestral flavor of Infinity Divine (with violins performed by the young Tomy King, an occasional performer alongside his father) and island percussion accompaniment to the syncopated verses of Sacred Systems are intelligently handled, assist the songwriting, and sustain the album until its finish.

A Moment in Chiros can be an aural adventure indeed, but also vital to unlocking its secrets is the lyrics booklet. King underwent comprehensive research before writing the album, with his principal interest the 11:11 time phenomenon; its gist is that many observers around the world noticed unusually frequent occurrences of this time when off-handedly viewing clocks, cultivating beliefs that the number has a spiritual meaning or is a signal from unseen supernatural forces of their presence, an upcoming major event on 11/11/11 11:11:11 or various reductions, or a clue in a greater puzzle. The album was initially intended to be released on that date (but came out four days earlier instead), and I appropriately listened front to back on 11/11/11. Numbers, such as three and eight, are one of the many running conceptual themes, including philosophy, politics and world issues, corruption, discovery of the soul, and the occasional drop into personal Christianity. Of special note is the title track, about the timeless dimension called “Kairos Time” in which God is held to operate, allowing for perfect timing in any circumstances. Mr. King is renowned for his stunning adaptability to many different musical adaptations and 4.5-octave range; the dominant key of A Moment in Chiros is low B, allowing for more exploration of lower registers. The overall result is a well-rounded vocal performance that does the lyrical material justice.

The ominous, blistering Dance of Power criticizes the power structure and deception of the U.S. government, where King’s more incendiary metal vocals and acerbic delivery of lines like “Ethics are hard to find in Washington’s deaf, dumb and blind” join with high-range wails in a rally for change. Equally heavy is A Given Choice, combining aggression with mysterious symphonic melodies as the album’s narrator realizes he cannot run away from his destiny; the concise, punchy drumming of Morten Gade Sørensen (also of Pyramaze) fills out the song with a double bass groove. On the lighter end, Kibou is a piano ballad dedicated to the 2011 disasters in Japan, carrying an inspiring statement of hope and how it is always brought out of great tragedy; this is an unusual environment for the prolific singer, but he handles it equally adeptly. Towards the end of the album, the varied styles meld to create overall more progressive and stronger musical statements: Sacred Systems is written by eclectic composer/guitarist Michael Harris (Darkology, Thought Chamber), and its exotic flavor ranges from the spacey introduction to a beguiling arabesque main theme, ethnic percussion and an epic unison interlude of bass, acoustic guitars and echoing bells. The first half of the album is more typical of slightly progressive power metal and comes closer to the ordinary; Awakening has some excellent ideas, including the riff interlude at 3:09 and the tale of searching for an afterlife in the wake of tragedy, and is rock-solid overall, but better things are yet to come.

Perhaps, though, this progression into more sophisticated, experimental territories is a statement about the journey of A Moment in Chiros: from doubt to certainty, from apprehension to honest expression, and from delusion to perfect faith. Its musical and lyrical execution, passion and professionalism betray the immense integrity of its leader, and in closing, I shall testify to this. I have been in contact with Lance for months before the release of this album, and he has been one of the most knowledgeable, gracious and trustworthy figures in the metal scene, with an extensive library of metal albums. Additionally, he is willing to stand up for what he believes in; proceeds from each sale of A Moment in Chiros will be donated to anti-human trafficking organization Not For Sale. I have ordered many CDs from Nightmare Records, and several of them (special shout-out to Utah prog metal band Hourglass) have played an integral role in rescuing my life and faith in God from a dead end. The concept of “Kairos Time” on this CD has been a lesson on patience and waiting for that perfect moment when my actions will have the greatest impact on the world. King’s arrival in my life did that for me, and recent events have convinced me it was always meant to happen. Do not let A Moment in Chiros pass your ears unnoticed, because the same could be true for you.

"An awakening has come, your destiny reborn.
It's time to make a choice, power your true voice.
The hope that has drawn near, infinity you hear..."


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