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Spirit Web return a few years later with a couple notable changes in the lineup and still provide the planet Earth with another fantastic release. The most obvious lineup change is the aquisition of vocalist Randy Barron, replacing Scott Huffman who wanted to continue with Twelfth Gate. Behind the kit is Chuck White, replacing Tony Rios who could not continue with the band for personal reasons.
Lineup changes always have an impact on a band, sometimes in really subtle ways, or in this case, the sound of the album is very different from the last. Many have argued and will always say that the debut album is better than this one but I will disagree here for a couple of reasons.
The first album was mainly composed by guitarist Paul Speredes and vocalist Scott Huffman, since Brent Sullivan and Tony Rios were brought into the band when much of the music had already been written. But here the input of Brent Sullivan and Chuck White (replacing Rios) both help make this album sound like a combination of all of their talents, rather than being a one-man's record. And most importantly is that this album sounds far more inspired, as the band begun to learn early on what it is like to deal with a record company that constantly bullshits you and delays things. This album honestly has a very subtle, but very dark feel to it, and I think that is really what gives this album a slight edge over the other one.
Randy Barron obviously has a very different voice than Scott Huffman, and while he still sings melodic very well (he has a natural melody to his voice, and can hang it for eternity and it will sound amazing) he generally sounds more like James Hetfield on "...And Justice For All." Which surprisingly works very well, since Brent Sullivan provides the album with quite a bass groove, driving towards a more traditional "rockin riff" sound. It was there on the first album, but there's more emphasis on it here. Chuck White as well seems more content on driving forth in slower tempos than Tony Rios, and relying on more subtle changes, so all in all the album sounds a bit more simplistic than the first one.
BUT, most importantly, the guitar-playing of Paul Speredes. Yes, the shredding riffs are still there, and in quite the abundance as usual! The extended solos have seemed to disappear, yet the quality of them has very much improved. The guitar just sounds totally different with the addition of other ideas provided from the other band members, which is far from a bad thing.
As it stands, the unique eerie feel of the first album is not quite here, which is why many who appreciate this band lean towards the first album. But the melody of the first will never sound as captivating as it does on tracks like "Far Beyond The Visual Mind" or "From A Prince To A Pauper." "Slave" is probably the track that sounds the most like the first album, with shredding and tasteful riff madness. "Fame And Glory" is another unique track, with lots of interesting changes - a clever and awesome song! "Hellbound Train" is the one song for all the thrashers, with it's upbeat thrashy riff madness and fast tempo, you cannot avoid headbanging to this one. "Far Beyond The Visual Mind" is one of those ballads that really takes you someplace else, like "Tears of the Dragon" (or even Dickinson's latest one, "Navigate The Seas of the Sun"), an absolutely amazing song, and having the second best solo on the album.
The best song on here, is without a doubt, the last track "From A Prince To A Pauper." Could this be perhaps the lost great Iron Maiden epic? It begins with a minstrel-sounding clean guitar riff, which is a clever fit since lyrically the song is about two lovers in a medieval time where the king forbids what they do, and when she is impregnated it's obvious that they'll romantically die for their love. Anyone who can write a song on that and make it absolutely slay beyond belief deserves a lot of credit. This song is utterly mind-blowing. It has a real "Seventh Son..." feel to it, riffs that can be filed exclusively in the "total pwnage" bin, and the best vocal performance of Randy Barron - here is where he uses his naturally melodic voice to its fullest potential. And the solo is the only real extended solo of the album, but it beats every other solo he's written, hands down. This is Spirit Web's very own "Hallowed Be Thy Name," it's that fucking good.
Since I've already said quite a bit about this album, I'll close off by adding the fact that this album is like the first in that it avoids extreme internal redundancy - every song on here sounds different. And while many will argue that the first album is superior, I hold that this one is a tiny bit better. But even still, everyone needs to hear "From A Prince To A Pauper" (and the rest of the album for that matter...), it's just too good to be true. But it is. True metal.