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Having made a name for himself as a hired gun vocalist for bands such as Judas Priest, Iced Earth, and Yngwie Malmsteen, Tim "Ripper" Owens has won an extensive fanbase thanks to his own vocal talents and a pretty solid resume. Now with a little help from his friends, Owens has set out to prove himself as a solo artist with some interesting results.
Seeing as how some of these songs were probably intended to be included on a second Beyond Fear album and a good number were co-written with guitarist John Comprix, it's unsurprising that most of them sound like Beyond Fear outtakes. The guitars are reasonably downtuned, the riffs tend to go on a solid mid-tempo pace, the vocals range from drawn out wails to more aggressive shouts, and a few random samples have a tendency to show up before the songs themselves come in. A few exceptions to the rule do manage to occur within the balladry of "Pick Yourself Up" and "To Live Again," the more complex "The World Is Blind," the slow and menacing work of "The Shadows are Alive," and the appropriately faster pace of "Death Race." I also found "Starting Over" to be a fairly interesting track, for the guitar melodies sound a lot like something that could've come out of Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath...
While you've also got to give credit to Owens for the well known musicians that he's recruited for the album's writing and recording, it is something of a double-edged sword. Such names as David Ellefson, Simon Wright, and Jeff Loomis are quite fun to read off on a list of credits, but they do make one question the practicality of having so many famous names on a SOLO ALBUM. Tim, you're a great vocalist, you don't need so many big names to back you up. Not to mention there aren't too many stand-out performances anyway...
Unfortunately, one flaw that has carried on from Beyond Fear's self-titled effort is the lyric writing. Granted that the Ripper is slowly improving his abilities, they aren't quite up to a great quality just yet. It really becomes evident when he attempts to move beyond the slightly pedestrian introspective and determined themes that make up the bulk of the album. "The World is Blind" seems to be the biggest culprit with its overall theme of reaching out to the less fortunate. While the groovy riffs and melodic bridge make it a musical highlight, such poetic lines as "Pollution is so bad that when it snows, the snow is black" make the whole thing seem a little Spinal Tap-ish despite the good intentions. A few other noteworthy tracks include the intriguing but slightly cheesy Roswell themes of "The Cover Up" and the Metal Monster aesthetics of "The Shadows are Alive."
All in all, this is a fairly decent album in spite of its flaws. Worth checking out for the Ripper's fans as they wait for the next Yngwie Malmsteen or Beyond Fear album to come out, but I'd suggest that anyone else just stick with the bands that hired him.
1) As expected, the vocals sound pretty damn good
2) An interesting guest list
1) A significant number of lesser songs
2) A few pointless samples
3) For as many cool guests, there aren't too many stand-out moments
4) The lyrics leave room for improvement
"Starting Over," "The Cover Up," "The World is Blind," "Play My Game," and "The Shadows are Alive"