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Useless For Owens - 59%

GuntherTheUndying, July 15th, 2009

Tim Owens must have no free time after including his participation in the various projects the ex-Judas Priest vocalist now commands: Yngwie Malmsteen and Beyond Fear on Mondays through Wednesdays, Charred Walls of the Damned during Thursdays, and Hail for the weekends. But hold the John Schaffer jokes, because here we have ANOTHER Ripper project: Tim Owens. Talk about merging the land of the dead with the land of the living! Regardless, “Play My Game” shows our man at his independent helm, writing songs on his own – which was the point of Beyond Fear, but I’ll bite anyway – with a number of well-established musicians in his depository. And you know what? It’s not complete horseshit! However, that’s not to go without saying “Play My Game” has its reeking moments.

So “Play My Game” revolves around a very simple structure musically: traditional heavy metal with groove influences. Hooray. Perhaps it may lean on the Neanderthal base sure, but there’s a surprising amount of good riffs and patterns popping up from an idea that usually becomes self-destructive. The instrumental foundation for nearly every tune is repetitive, catchy, predictable, and the opposite of pretentious, yet there’s a strong sensation that the job is done and done well. I found it quite unusual to enjoy something that this reviewer typically avoids like disease. But then, the foreseen meltdown of Ripper’s solo-project: kicking the dead horse of groove/heavy metal. “Play My Game” just plods along aimlessly like an insomniac nodding off for hours during four or five cuts after the first three tracks or so, drowning in modernized, alternative filth braced in crunched production and then stamped ‘heavy metal’ despite the atmosphere slowly degrading more and more. Then, a few songs revive the feeling a little, but it all just feels mediocre overall. As for Tim, he’s still got the highflying, mandating edge that awed the original Painkillers way back when; once again, we have a fantastic demonstration from one of metal’s most valorous priests, screaming like a banshee with blessed pipes of gold. Although I must say a solo project for Ripper makes no sense whatsoever, as that was why Beyond Fear created itself. But then again, the music is anything but the main point.

Simply put, this little guy revolves more so on Ripper’s vocals rotating on catchiness and almost pop structures than the straight-to-the-heart approach Beyond Fear practices; not really balanced musically, yet heavily orientated on Tim’s voice, and that’s the sole alteration beside a lapse in solid content. Overall, I’d say this formula is risky business once up against Beyond Fear. The album’s opener for instance, “Starting Over,” is actually a well-endowed anthem that rotates on this scale wonderfully with Tim’s voice leading the verse-chorus orientation to great, soothing levels. Several tunes within this whooper also act identically, although it ain’t as sweet: the scribed-in-stone set sometimes leads to monstrous repetition of poor riffing, substandard choruses, and flaccid tunes. Honestly, the ratio moves back and forth between good to utter shit like a pendulum swaying between awesomeness and defecation. One could justify “Play My Game” as a hit-or-miss offering simply by this analysis. Beyond Fear, on the other hand, applies opposite ideas which easily match passable cuts and eliminates something like “Pick Yourself Up” from ever exiting the womb.

As for some other aspects of “Play My Game,” we have a few. The only slight objection that truly stands in defiance away from the album’s nature is “Death Race,” a much-needed speed metal contribution that really dishes out spellbinding riffs and musical balance; I can’t even describe how fast and healthy the tune is from start to finish, which makes it the record’s highlight without competition. The lyrics aren’t the work of poetic immortals that forged Zeus’ library as you might have guessed, yet musically speaking, the tongue-in-cheek approach completes something like “The Cover Up,” creating a fun, catchy atmosphere that’s as unremarkable as it is intentionally unremarkable.

But then again, the massive spotlight on this bloated list of guest musicians – all failing to actually contribute their own individuality to the record, mind you – does precisely dogshit to the album’s final cut overall. However, Tim’s effort as a vocalist surrounding this vocal-orientated texture proves to be fun for what it is, albeit quite lax throughout an alarming amount of tunes. In contrast to many artists leaning toward the solo option, I think Sir Ripper has achieved an equal level of potency and volume representing metal’s status quo of mediocre results, making “Play My Game” good for a few listens before retirement. Not “Holy Diver 2.0” obviously.

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