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Still as yet no harbinger to the band's doom - 87%

Gutterscream, August 5th, 2006

“…from the teeth of the hydra come the children of the damned…”

My favorite post-heyday Maiden, dragon-spearing quartet keep the Euro-flame crackling with their third in as many years, still warmly produced and performed by the four original axemen who by now have shed their studded leather armor for t-shirts and denim, cranking out a message more for the times than when indoor plumbing was all the rage.

With The Curse, Kenny Powell (mainman and only member with a former band history) and Omen stick to their pre-thrash IQ so reverently engraved on Battle Cry and Warning of Danger, fighting the fight against classic metal extinction like some gladiator in one of their stories, though this time around are less concerned about tales of arena sorcery, swaying more toward topics relative to a world a tad more sophisticated and, well, worldly without forward-pedaling near the hi-tech save the final red button-fearing “Destiny”. Despite the fact that I’ve always found the band’s medieval words of wonderment enjoyable, I realize that times change, interests dissolve, and really, how many battlefield exploits can you write or expect people to care about? Yeah, they saw the ‘ol spray paint on the wall, but they kept a close ear on what was working for them.

Courageously communicated and traditionally hook-laden as usual, the warnings of danger ring falsely on the snake’s forked tongue as the band offer up tunes heady and ancestral, feet cemented firmly in time-honored direction that leads great “Kill on Sight”, smooth and epically chorused “Holy Martyr”, two-toned velocity of “Bounty Hunter”, and lycanthropic title tune in from the early ‘80s. J.D. Kimball, a baron’s call of regal spirit and soul, maintains the atmosphere the band has been soaring with since day one, embroiled in closed-eye ardor, woefully beckoning the start of “Holy Martyr” like the debut’s “Last Rites”, single-handedly bringing the simmering “Teeth of the Hydra”, a song that hardly ever deviates from a methodical, semi-slow taskmaster’s beat, to a fiery pyre of emotive resolve. Rhythmically, the band sails its ships to new lands of inspiration as “Eye of the Storm” draws from a melancholic and distressed source, more b-side Queensryche than Maiden, meanwhile the band’s second instrumental, “S.R.B.”, a dedication to the Space Shuttle Challenger, is a volley of moods with acoustical misery a sizable part of it, unwittingly hinting at doomy, nearly pre-Candlemass-like heartache, and on top of that some yet unborn Dream Theater theatrics, aurally actualizing the tale of those who flew up and went boom. And for good measure, infectious metal anthem “Kill on Sight” pulses with a lifeforce not unlike Warning of Danger’s “March On”.

Oddly enough, this was recorded in portions at four different studios with four engineers. Oddly enough, you’d never know it.

As strong as the second and a fine wingman for the debut, The Curse fails to thwart my adoration for this band, catapulting “Teeth of the Hydra” and “Holy Martyr” into my own personal Omen best-of that will grow with the act’s short-on-originals, forthcoming ep Nightmares.