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One of the greatest USPM albums of the modern age - 92%

Jophelerx, December 9th, 2013

After quitting the project New Eden, which no one has really heard about (for good reason), Dan DeLucie, along with former New Eden bandmates Nardo Andi and Brian Craig, formed the band Destiny's End, joining forces with guitarist Perry Grayson (Isen Torr) and well-known vocalist James Rivera of Helstar fame. Their debut full-length, Breathe Deep the Dark, was released in 1998 and was decently well-known in power metal circles due to Metal Blade trying to whore it out to a broad variety of customers as much as possible. Thus, I'd say that Breathe Deep the Dark definitely got the recognition it deserved; it's a very solid album all around, although it focuses more on the speed/thrash aspects than the USPM ones. A lot of people seem to at least know of it, and everybody who's heard it seems to highly enjoy it - multiple people have even told me it was what got them into power metal, or at least USPM, which is definitely a quality achievement. The follow-up album, however, gets much less recognition, which is definitely a shame considering it's a major step up.

The album was released with a production apparently different than what the band intended; while it's not bad and doesn't detract from the album that much, Perry Grayson has made the entire album available to download in its original form on his blog, The Falcon's Fortress. While I'd recommend buying the album is possible, the sound on the alternate mix is significantly better and it's what I typically listen to these days. Some of the background vocals are improved and the guitar and drum sounds are a bit crunchier, so it depends on what you like really. I'm going to comment on the alternate mix as I've heard it more often and more recently, but the songwriting is identical and I've already identified the production differences so the descriptions should be relevant to both mixes.

The thrash influence from the first album is almost completely dropped here, which is fine by me as the debut was too aggressive for me at times. The songwriting here is very DeLucie, as he was the primary riff-writer. If you've heard Crescent Shield, the guitar work is definitely comparable - very, very similar to the style on The Stars of Never Seen in particular. A focus on speedy, galloping riffs topped with sweet leads and solos and occasionally breaking into clean interludes. The main difference between Destiny's End and Crescent Shield's guitar work is that the Thin Lizzy influence that shows through in Crescent Shield ("The Past Once Chosen", "Lifespan") isn't really seen here much at all, which again is fine by me, as I don't really think it ever fit well with DeLucie's style (nor Grant's for that matter). Parts of "First You Dream, Then You Die" have it, but it's not a problem as Rivera's vocal lines go much better with this sort of riffing than Grant's. This is streamlined, unadulterated USPM; no ballads, no interludes, no drop in quality at any point in the album. Very few albums, comparatively, are really able to achieve that, so Transition is definitely something special.

Rivera's vocal lines are great as well, as of course is his performance. For those familiar with Helstar, it's a more mature, controlled approach a la Nosferatu rather than his rawer, wilder approach on the first three albums. I definitely prefer this approach, and while there are definitely strengths to both, this approach is much more suited to the album's complex, thoughtful, slightly technical style. Of course, the album's not perfect and some songs are bound to be better than others; "Storm Clouds" is merely solid rather than excellent, as it is sort of a half-ballad (I know, I said no ballads, but it's got enough metal that I don't really consider it primarily one), which are generally way harder for metal bands to write well than metal songs. Still, as I said, it's solid, and doesn't detract from the album at all.

The other songs range from great to fucking excellent, with "A Choice of Graves" being the worst (still great) and "From Dust to LIfe" being the best. Other than "Storm Clouds" there aren't any significant changes in writing style from song to song; it's all dark, riffy USPM. I doubt the album would have been that much more successful even with the alternate mix as it just didn't have that much promotion, but it's a damn fine USPM album - one of the best ever, and easily in my top 5 of the 21st century. Get the album if you want, but if you're going to download it definitely stop by the Falcon's Fortress and get the Joe Floyd mix - either way the album is great, but it's definitely superior.

Solid USPM. - 85%

hells_unicorn, July 13th, 2007

There was a brief period in the late 1990s to early 2000s where a conglomeration of members of several previously well established US metal acts came together to form this brief musical stint known as Destiny’s End. Although short lived, it provided many a disillusioned American metal fan with a desire to hear more of the older speed/power metal that had been all but nuked out of existence due to changes in the interests of the recording industry with what they wanted to hear. Unlike their European power metal counterparts, this band is unapologetically USPM prime and builds songs completely around riffs, resulting in something that is a hell of a lot more aggressive sounding than Styx/Boston influenced, synthesizer happy, pomp power metal outfits such as Stratovarius, Freedom Call and Sonata Arctica. They also tend to avoid the happy/overtly catchy choruses that tend to pop up among more guitar driven European power metal outfits such as Iron Savior, Gamma Ray and Paragon.

The proficiency of all the musicians found in this outfit obviously demands attention, although one should not discount the solid songwriting going on here. James Rivera’s vocals are a bit deeper than the typical power metal singer, but he has no problem with occasionally shooting up into the higher register, as can be observed on the occasional testosterone deficient wails on “The Watcher” and “From Dust to Life”. The guitarists are highly proficient at lead, as can be observed in the solo sections of “The Suffering”, “Vanished” and “First you dream, then you die”. The rhythm section is tight and capable of occasionally showing their skill, be it the occasional bass run in the album’s token ballad “Storm Clouds”, or the fast as hell yet methodically consistent double bass pedal work on “The Watcher”. There aren’t really any loose ends in this fold as the songwriting credits list all of the band members as equals, indicating that like Black Sabbath these songs were all conceived in a rehearsal setting, rather than one dominant member ruling the direction of the band.

The one difficult part of this album was trying to pick a favorite, as all of these songs were obviously carefully crafted and listen well. For me, there are two songs on here that are tied for first, which happen to be completely different from each other. “Storm Clouds” has some really solid acoustic guitar work that really makes it stand out from the other songs, and contains the cleanest and strongest vocal performance out of Rivera. The album’s title track takes the lead in terms of lyrical interest, borrowing from The Matrix movie’s plot line depicting a race of machines dominating humanity, and including some rather robotic sounding narrations using some kind of vocal track manipulation. When you listen to the song and look at the album art you almost get the creepy sense that machines might be currently doing maintenance work on your body while you are trapped in a mechanically induced dream world, especially during the second narrated section in the middle of the song.

After this album the band disbanded so that Rivera could go back to being the front man of Helstar and the remaining members would gravitate to various other projects. In some ways it is unfortunate because this band really did have a lot of credibility to it, but basically it was a brief in-between thought for a group of metal veterans who had found themselves in a period of, for lack of a better word, transition. (no pun intended) Fans of USPM are encouraged to look at the first Destiny’s End album “Breathe Deep the Dark” as it has stronger songwriting, but this album is a worthy purchase if you have the money to afford both.