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Christian metal. It gives people shivers. It's a strange dichotomy though when you think about it. Metal has always been about standing up for free thought, sticking it to the man and being a rebel. In a sense, aren't Christian metal bands simply epitomizing this tradition by simply existing within the genre that has so often espoused hatred and violence against their very religion? I give bands that have been doing the Christian metal thing a lot of credit. They are up against a wall in many respects. Rivera Bomma's Infinite Journey of Soul falls into the sub-sub-sub-genre of Christian progressive power metal like a pebble in an ocean; no one knew it happened, even though the project includes the original vocalist for Hades, John Bomma and the pasty skinned yet virtuoso bassist Mike Lepond of Symphony X fame. Personally, I enjoyed watching Lepond get sun-burned under the dim lights of St. Vitus bar in Brooklyn while filling in for Helstar a tad bit more than listening to the third album of these New Jersey gospelheads.
Perhaps outwardly, there would be little indication that Infinite Journey... is a Christian metal album without serious consideration of the album artwork or knowledge of the musical background of "Via Dolorosa," emphasized with an asterisk on the backside of the professional-yet minimal digipak. Knowing the deeper influences of the project though and there is no way to ignore the proselytizing nature of a track like "The Maker" or "In Blood." The disc could be a cool buy simply for the inner foldout picture. You've got John Bomma trying to recruit you for the army, Edward Faust trying to smooth-stare you into his bed and Rod Rivera was the only one told to wear makeup. Lepond... I don't even know what he's up to. He's staring at his bass like it just committed one of the seven deadly sins all over his face. In all seriousness though, it's easy to poke and prod but the disc looks fine and you can tell the band put effort into the details, with professionally photographed group photo, the huge list of additional musicians that helped out with the release and four separate pieces of artwork done for the album.
On first impression, the release runs pretty standard. Intro and outro's bookend an eight track release divided in two by a mid-track ballad, and then again into final quarters with another late snoozer. The album's first three tracks are all heavier expressions though, in the case of "In Blood," it's just sort of a false alarm heaviness. This track also suffers from a chorus/refrain section that borders on pop rock arm dragging weakness and some production flaws with panning and volume adjustment in the mix. The yelping of the song's title in the chorus is also grating. Its a shame the album plummets in quality after this track significantly because the first two tracks, especially my personal favorite, "Empty Desire," really implied that R/B might have something going here since both this track and the opening track - the album title track - both have great vocal melodies, interesting riffs in a modern metal framework and, most importantly, a real passionate delivery by vocalist Bomma. There just isn't much to latch onto in later tracks.
Via Dolorosa is a well performed ballad and it's inclusion was inadvertently fitting for the past week while the whole world celebrated Easter but I'm not sold on it being a fitting track for the CD which the band wanted to sound heavier then their previous two releases. "Angel and Demons," follows this with a pseudo-heavy chugging track which done properly would have been a well placed pick-up after "...Dolorosa," but it just seemed long and boring even though it wasn't one of the longer tracks. The song, like most others, has great leads but the backing riffs under the leads are just typical chord progressions. "Horizon's End," has a cool intro after some awkward child laughter sampled early but it too becomes repetitive. The album offers variety with "In My Dreams," another ballad, this one played on acoustic guitar ("...Dolorosa," is a piano piece).
The final track on the release is the worst track on Infinite Journey of Soul by a significant long shot. It's simply obnoxious. Thirty seconds in the listener is presented with a melody better suited to the Big Top or the radio in a clown car. It is used several times in the track, the now unambiguously titled "The Maker." The vocals are harsh too... the verses are semi-monotone bursts underscored with a deeper, possibly growled sub-dub. The repetition of the lyrics in the chorus, especially Bomma crooning The Maker! Your Maker! The Maker... as if he was inside a first responder vehicle siren and had to affect the clearing of traffic in front of him was the album's worst moment vocally. Maybe it would work if he was inside the Pope's car with Dennis Rodman but it does nothing to improve the disc.
This was a good effort from R/B but with some minor flaws in pacing and major flaws in being enjoyable to listeners that spend their Sundays drinking instead of going to church, I don't see this spreading outside small circles of die hard god-faring Heavy Metal fans. I don't know why so many Christian metal bands can't put out a really strong record. Faith Factor suffered the same problem and I expect we won't see the last of these kind of misdemeanor albums.
Originally written for Contaminated Tones