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A more straightforward effort, but still very good - 90%

failsafeman, August 9th, 2009

While both albums begin very similarly with the singer's scream turning into a deliciously evil laugh, compared to Born of the Cauldron, ...And Rome Shall Fall differs in a number of significant aspects. First off, it's a little more straightforward and streamlined, with pretty much every aspect from song structures to rhythms to riffs to vocal melodies simplified somewhat to go for a more immediately catchy and accessible sound. Now, that may sound negative, but "more accessible and less complex than really inaccessible and really complex" isn't bad. That's not to say the guitar histrionics are all gone, quite the opposite in fact; they seem less spread all over the place, but concentrated in certain sections (it goes without saying that Howie Bentley is still in fine form). For example, the beginning to both "Finder of the Black Stone" and "Storming the Castle" start out with a substantial neoclassical-ish part, though most of the riffs in the song are much more standard. The debut album was almost the opposite, with the unusual guitar histrionics dominating the songs with a more standard riff providing an occasional groove for contrast ("The Sword's Lament" with its monstrous power chord chorus riff provides an apt example). In short, ...And Rome Shall Fall is a less ambitious album than Born of the Cauldron. It doesn't aim as high, and as such does not triumph as mightily. Still, it succeeds quite admirably at what it attempts.

Another significant difference is the general tone of this album is much more Robert E Howard than Clark Ashton Smith, if you get my drift. More chopping people in half on a battlefield than facing awful fates at the hands of unnameable horrors. Now, the debut did have "In Fate's Eye a King" and this album has "People of the Dark Circle", so it's more a shift in emphasis rather than a complete transformation. Still, if you listen to each album in its entirety, the difference in overall mood is quite noticeable.

The switch in singers also affects the albums. While Danny White was more standard in tone and favored a lot of falsetto, David Louden sounds a lot more like a Geoff Tate with inklings of Bruce Dickinson or even better Bill Carter from Screamer. He favors a developed head voice rather than all-out falsetto. While it may sound like a cop out, I actually like both singers pretty equally; both fit the styles of their albums quite well.

One of the major strengths of this album is the choruses, and the songs are much more chorus-centric here than previously. An extreme example is "Finder of the Black Stone", which is possibly my favorite song from the album; the chorus is 45 seconds long, and repeated three times (keep in mind too that it's a fast-paced song). It gets better every repetition, exploding at the end with multi-tracked wailing in classic USPM fashion. "I WON'T SEE MY WORLD IN CHAINS, WHILE MY FISTS CAN STILL GRIP STEEL!" Yes my friends, the Texan would be proud. "Clontarf" is another standout, with a great driving speed metal riff and sprawling melancholy Dickinsonian vocal melodies fitting the story of the defeat of the Vikings at the hands of the Irish.

...And Rome Shall Fall is one of the most epic albums I own. If you want me to define exactly what I mean by "epic", just listen to this album. This album is the most "this album" album I own. With fags like Hammerfall and Rhapsody prancing about in fields of daisies and LARPing each other with plastic swords and dildos, in 2002 it's almost unheard of to hear something this epic while still being manly as fuck. What Manowar try to be but don't ever really succeed at, this album is.