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Just once in a while, the first minute of an album tells you roughly all you need to know about a band. I'm not saying that it happens often, and I've been misled more than I'd care to comment, but when a band called Savage Messiah greets your ears with a pensive build-up, unleashes a modern thrash tumult, a glass-shattering wail, and a blazing solo, you have a good idea where this album is headed. Apparently, I wasn't privy to the hype circles that had been ranting about Savage Messiah so much before they really took off (I'm not really in any circles regarding heavy metal), so I had no idea what to expect and thus no right to be disappointed. In fact, any sign of quality was a bonus for me, since I got the whole album from Earache's website, where I believe it is still available for free download. As such, nothing to lose, everything to gain.
What I gained was some surprisingly intelligent and shred-happy modern metal that takes its cues from the shred-happy classic bands of yesteryear, such as Megadeth and Gamma Ray. I say shred-happy, because there's a certain exuberance to the leads here, that generally come screaming out of nowhere with a perfect tone that makes Joff Bailey sound incredible and makes you wonder if maybe Joff Bailey actually could be the name of a rockstar. If I didn't currently have a neck problem, I would be saying something like "this album could be the one to wreck your neck", but I'm a little sensitive to that kind of thing right now, so I'll say that there are also some great footstomping riffs to go with the fast ones. A few of the thrashier parts sound similar to me, but at mid-pace the attention to detail is superb, as evidenced by the wonderful note progression in 'Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt' that doesn't need to be heavy to be cool. On the other hand, the leads are really distinctive and provide that sometimes dry modern rhythm tone with a soothing splash of juice and colour.
The rhythm players aren't doing anything nearly as special, and are actually responsible for muddying the distinction between some of the sections, especially the drummer, who could be from any band from Devildriver to Killswitch Engage. The bassist has his moments, playing through the guitar sound occasionally and helping the atmosphere, as required on 'In Thought Alone'. The other heavy presence, and by far the most classic thing about the album, is Dave Silver on vocals. He doesn't really sound like any thrash metal singers I know, and this is where Savage Messiah's power metal leanings come into play. Sometimes, SIlver sings in falsetto style, during which moments he loses a little power, but gains a lot from the pitch and the notes that he always manages to hit. There are many occasions on this album when he does something that Kai Hansen has used on most of Gamma Ray's albums: double-tracking vocals, with one very high-pitched track in the background and the regular, more powerful vocals in the foreground, resulting in a union that combines the excitement of the falsetto with the more solid and flexible mid-range. His regular vocals are reminiscent of Hansen, but also other singers from more straightforward metal styles, perhaps M Shadows from Avenged Sevenfold or David Draiman from Disturbed, though with much greater variety than both of them.
The basic sound of the songs thus ends up as modern thrash with a lot of detailing that comes from trad and power metal. At least half of the songs are quick, though none are smoking fast or have speed as the sole mission, often changing up between thrash breaks and chugging sections, both of which contain plenty of power. 'Shadowbound' probably gets the award for pure savagery, but even that has a classic "Woah-oh" going on behind the chorus. The standout for me is 'Beyond a Shadow of a Doubt', which shows the band have the confidence and the individuality to slow down and present hooks that I've been caught humming in most rooms in my house. The lengthy closer also manages to do something a little different without moving out of the band's comfort zone. The guitar hooks are numerous, the vocal hooks less so, though there are some smart lyrics to sing along with if you're that kind of person. None of the songs are weak per se, but a few are interchangeable, which is the same thing - not enough ideas to produce diversity.
There's a lot to like about Savage Messiah for both classic and modern metalheads, and especially for those who favour some aspects of both. The band are good at what they do, even if sometimes they need to do a little more to ensure that they are always interesting. Certainly get the free download; probably watch them closely.
Recently there's been a lot fuss among my friends concerning a great power/thrash metal band called Savage Messiah. At first I thought "Oh please, not another 'random-let's-put-together-some-awesome-sounding-words-and-call-ourselves-like-that' band", and I was completely right. THIS BY ALL MEANS IS NOT A GREAT BAND. How the hell could anyone be amazed by this? You have already-heard riffage, drumming that's just a stocked up pile of filler beats and rhythm patterns that are not as nearly as thought through as it should be, the bass line goes along with the drumming, the vocals are just yet another high-pitched "I try to sound like Joacim Cans, but I can't because I'm gay and can't think of anything else but to copy a great vocalist" with nothing to them, and the lyrics are also just random. They're not epic, nor are they badass as thrash or power metal should be, but just plain stupid. This sounds more like pop new age speed rock rather than metal. IT HAS ABSOLUTELY NO HEADBANG DRIVE IN IT. NO BALLS, IT'S NOT EPIC, AND IT'S NOT POWERFUL!
Let's go back to the beginning once again and go thoroughly through each piece of this shit puzzle. Everything about the riffage is just plain...well, overbuffed would be the word for it. Whenever I hear new age bands like this it always sounds like they don't know the meaning of the word "sufficient". The guitarist always tries to copy the technicality and melodic patterns of Dragonforce or Symphony X and try to mix it with Helloween's and Manowar's somewhat thrashy heavy metal style...and they FAIL! In the end it just sounds like a bunch of stocked up melodies and harmonics and here-and-there open string, catchy heavy metal fillers. I'll best explain it like this...a pretty woman is pretty when she had applied just enough make-up...have too much make-up on woman and she'll end up looking more like a clown than a woman. You get my point? So all in all, the riffage is overly exaggerated and it makes it annoying and just lukewarm, and of course in my ranking system is worth 2% of the whole grade for this album (and, in this case, the whole band).
The rhythm section, drums, and bass line are just a "well" played bunch of rhythm patterns that any decent drummer and bassist should know how to play. I say 2% for both drums and bass line. Just because you have a double bass pedal doesn't mean you should blast kick it throughout the whole song. Yes, the song is fast, but come on, really? Blast bass kick is all you got?
The vocals I already explained in the first paragraph and I have nothing more to say about that. I don't say Dave Silver hasn't got a good voice, it's just that he could come up with something more unique to himself rather than sounding like yet another clone of Joacim Cans or any other power metal god. And the lyrics are well...come on..."Six Feet Under the Gun" sounds more like something that Gwar would come up with, not a band that's trying to be serious. There is no sense in the lyrics and no metaphor, but just tries to sound philosophical, but fails miserably. So in the end both vocals and lyrics get a whole 4% for trying.
So all in all, this album wasn't worth my time, but hey, maybe someone out there likes cheesy power metal bands and actually will appreciate this piece of crap. I don't know. I'll just recommend this album to anyone who is curious enough to learn what the word "bad" means. See you in the next review.
A heavy metal four-piece based out of London, Savage Messiah has a bit of a reputation preceding it. Those familiar with the scene of heavy and thrash metal should be familiar with Savage Messiah, as their past efforts established them as quite the powerful contenders in their genre. As the fans are fond of saying, however, the past is the past - it's our music, and we want it now! So, with that in mind, how does Plague of Conscience stack up to the likes of their first full-length?
Continuing in a trend of well-established structural technique, Savage Messiah's instrumental job aims high and hits its mark. More than meeting my expectations as a logical step up from Insurrection Rising, the opening title track is mysterious, dark, and oozing technically-proficient guitar-work. There's no doubt that these guys know how to handle their share of frets, as each song often features more than one solo and very rarely do you hear an unimaginative or repetitive riff. The band also changes focus from riff to riff -- one moment, the guitars will be catching your ear, and the next moment will go to the vocals. It's something indicative of an intelligent mixing and immaculate song structure, both of which are a welcome sense in this day and age. The second track, "Six Feet Under the Gun", is a great indicator of what the rest of the album sounds like because it shows off Savage Messiah's songwriting abilities as well as their skills in making the instrumental job mesh seamlessly with the vocals.
Hey, I just mentioned vocals. Speaking of vocals, these will be what really tears up support for the band's sound. A lot of people don't really enjoy Dave Silver's vocal style, and with most of their complaints, I can see where these detractors are coming from. It does occasionally sound like Silver is holding back, and at times it's more like chanting than it is singing, which can be a little irritating for those of you who are looking for a heavier listen. I myself would prefer it if he went a little heavier across the board, but the vocals are, for the most part, really great when mixed with the instrumental work. It's an incredibly musical sound, and the best example of this is provably the better part of track four, "In Thought Alone". There is that meshing again, but the vocals really shine in this song. Perhaps it's just a well-produced track, but I really enjoyed all of the fourth song and was never bored. The drums are something I'm a little unsure of, because they compliment the mix very well, but lack any clear direction. Like a bass guitar following the rhythm's leading, the drums fit, and add well to the rest of the sound, but they don't really ever break away. I'm still not sure if that's a good or a bad one for the band's mix, but there's certainly a lack of creativity present in the drum tracks. I was much more impressed by the vocal range and the solos and riffs pulled off by the guitarists (one of whom does the vocals of the album as well).
Plague of Conscience has plenty of great moments, few bad ones, and some really cool lyrical themes to boot - it deals with greed, hatred, oppression, corruption, and resistance. This album has great concepts, great execution, and a great amount of effort put into it. All in all, Savage Messiah hit a home run for their fans, and I really enjoyed the record. The lack of overt harshness in the vocals will be a turn-off for some of the thrash heads who are caught headbanging more often than not, but Plague of Conscience is a stellar effort and well worth it in my book. Check it out.
1. "Plague of Conscience"
2. "Six Feet Under the Gun"
4. "In Thought Alone"
6. "All Seeing I"
10. "The Mask of Anarchy"
For some strange reason Savage Messiah has tended to come off as a slightly leaner and meaner version of Annihilator, owing not only to the strong melodic contours of the music and the fancy riff work, but also because of Dave Silver’s versatile pipes. Particularly in the case of early 2000s this proves out where heavy amounts of speed metal ala “Painkiller” began seeping into the Canadian thrash outfit’s sound, and the same general tendency holds true for their newly born counterparts out of London. But in the case of their latest incarnation “Plague Of Conscience”, the parallels have actually grown to include a healthy amount of Annihilator’s early 90s influences, namely the more mainline heavy metal additives that made “Set The World On Fire” come across as almost being a commercially tinged change in style.
For any who doubt that this kind of sound would somehow find its way into the current thrash paradigm, look no further than this band’s epic closer “The Mask Of Anarchy” and all of the ballad trappings that come with it. There’s definitely a healthy bit of mainline melodic tendencies that point to a somber reinterpretation of the slower, deeper character of the early 90s thrash ballad, painted over with a little bit of late 80s power metal tendencies. Perhaps even more indicative than the musical aspects of this song is Silver’s rather mundane vocal performance, which reminds heavily of Ray Gillen, a voice not regularly associated with thrash metal but was all but a household name amongst transitional late 80s heavy metal/hard rock outfits by the time Grunge was first starting to make waves.
But in spite of this and the additional balladry present in bits and pieces on “Carnival Of Souls”, which is otherwise a pretty tight thrasher with a thick, chugging riff set, this is an album that is mostly built off an aggressive template that still straddles the usual fences of late. Dave’s vocal work is bent a bit more towards an archaic 80s scream approach, but most of what is heard on here is definitely of a modern bent. “Six Feet Under The Gun” and “In Thought Alone” groove a bit more than they thrash, but also bring home that fancy, semi-progressive tendency with the occasional repeated melodic guitar line for good measure.
This approach to putting together an album has become a bit more common the past couple of years, particularly out of the likes of Death Angel. It has its fair share of nifty lead guitar gimmicks and flashy technical elements, but it’s built off a more limited formula that tends to wear thin after multiple listens. It definitely lacks the frenetic glory of the earlier Bay Area scene, but it sufficiently smacks the listener upside the head with enough attitude to keep things reasonably interesting. Think in terms of a more power metal tinged combination of “The Art Of Dying” meets “Carnival Diablos” and the picture should get pretty clear.