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After giving their debut "Savage Land" the proper attention it required, I immediately jumped on this album, with expectations higher than normal even for a picky fellow like myself. And just like the 1st album "Temple of Two Suns" instantly captivates the prospective listener with it's beautiful cover art work, depicting a cloaked holy man sitting before an Aztec temple with 2 suns in the sky.
The production on this album is stellar to say the least. The guitars don't quite have the crunch that they did on the first album, but the stepped up keyboard work adds a new dimension which allows all the music to function on a completely different level. The addition of guest back-up singers has also made the dimensions of each individual song a great deal denser.
The story takes on a new dimension as the caravan that departed from Insurgeria have now found themselves in a green land of peace. Once there they find a great Aztec temple that comes to serve as inspiration as the people seek to build a new society. But as they delve deeper into the history of the religion that they are seeking to rediscover, things begin to turnout a little differently than most would have hoped. I will tell no more of the story beyond this, I've spoiled too much as it is.
Now for my review of each individual song:
Temple Fanfare (9/10) - Beginning with a distant sounding recap of "End of all Days" from the last album, functioning mainly to remind the people who have followed the story from Savage Land that the journey for a new home is being remembered, but is interrupted by a new theme, a triumphant hymn steeped with distorted guitars and thematic trumpet synth melodies. The vocals tell a brief accounting of the story in the usually amazing manner that Klaus Dirks is becoming known for. The prelude is quite short, clocking in at about 2 and 1/2 minutes, but it tells more than most songs twice its length.
Pilot of Earth (10/10) - Thorsten Plorin shines with a brilliant bass riff that kicks off a classic up-tempo Mob Rules classic. Klaus delivers a brilliant vocal performance, which brings out the brilliance of the lyrics, particularly the harmony switches when the tense of the character telling the story shifts. And the keyboard arpeggios that coat the outside of a brilliant chorus that gives me goose bumps every time.
Outer Space (9/10) - Very catchy vocal intro, phasing in a manner that literally sounds like it's coming from beyond the sky in a sci-fi movie. Good mid-tempo rocker that keeps the pace of the album, some interesting guitar work here also.
Celebration Day (9.5/10) - A low tempo song that highlights some more of Klaus' excellent vocal abilities. Time and time again Mob Rules has never ceased to amaze me with their memorable choruses, each one laid down perfectly without a single unnecessary word or note. All instrument parts are on cue, but I particularly enjoyed the haunting piano work.
Flag of Life (10/10) - A charming violin intro with a conversely hard-edged guitar punch coming in and out. Reminds me a tiny bit of the innovative flute work that was done at the intro of Secret Signs, which was track 5 on Savage Land. Excellent work all around to make a graphic picture of sounds. Klaus continues to dominate the songs when he sings, particularly during the choruses, he gets my vote for best vocalist of 2000.
Unknown Man (10/10) – Coming in with a classic Black Sabbath like intro, this song is one that will easily get stuck in your head. The tribal chants and the woman’s scream before the classic metal guitar riff comes in reminds me of the entrance sounds that Ronnie Dio has when he gets up on stage. This song in particular sees some excellent guitar riffs all around, and another classic Klaus Dirks chorus with the battery of back up vocalists. The guest solo spot towards the latter half of the song is quite good as well.
Hold On (10/10) – On Savage Land they had quasi-ballads that were steeped with distorted guitars at regular intervals, but here they’ve decided to go all the way and eliminate all the band instruments except a piano, some strings and Klaus’ dominant vocal presence. The Piano line is haunting and very basic, Klaus delivers a powerful vocal performance, and during the chorus the female back up singer provides a beautiful harmony line to complement the already powerful vocal force within the song.
Evolution Falling (10/10) – I’m sorry that I can’t give an 11 on any of these songs for fear of looking like an idiot, but this would be the song to surrender my viability as a good reviewer for if I ever heard one. A distant line of electric drums gives a sort of cosmic feel. The beginning guitar riff sounds like it could be right out of the Heaven and Hell album by Black Sabbath. What follows is a brilliant interplay of solid guitar riffs, haunting piano lines, and more of the great vocal deliveries by Klaus and his cohort singers that have become standard on this album.
Inside the Fire (8/10) – Standard classic metal fare in the 80s fashion, unfortunately every album has a weak link and this song was it for this album, but that is not to say that it is an excellent song. I rather enjoyed the guitar work on this one, as I did the good chorus section, but unlike the other songs every time I listen to this one I walk away wishing there was something more. It has nothing to do with its length, it may just be me, but it didn’t quite excite me as much as the others did.
Eyes of all Young (10/10) – The speed returns with a vengeance, paralleling the energy and frantic nature of Pilot of Earth. And just like with the second song on this album, this one sees an extremely active and pleasing saw-synthesizer line that flows like a river rapid through out much of the song. This song contains probably the most crazy synth solo I’ve ever heard, rivaling the likes of Jens Johannsen of Malmsteen and Alex Staropoli of Rhapsody. All instruments are on point, and Klaus delivers a dramatic chorus, high notes not withstanding. This would have been my pick for a single if I had anything to do with it.
Hold On “Reprise” (10/10) – The theme that graced my ears in track 7 returns, now with electric guitars and more development. The texture of the chorus is also different and the lyrics have been altered, truly a good attempt at making a recap. of a song that doesn’t merely serve as an exact replica. The guitars change the dimension of the song enough to make it a different song, and I regard it as such. And it serves well as a good closer to the album.
To sum up, this album just barely surpassed it’s predecessor, something that rarely happens when you have an impressive debut of the caliber that Mob Rules did with Savage Land. It is a must have for any fan of both classic metal in the Riot vane and newer power metal in the Gamma Ray vane. I would personally recommend that if you have the money, buy both, and listen to them in order. It will make for a very interesting listening experience, that much I guarantee.