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Hymns of Screaming Metal - 95%

Zod, October 30th, 2009

Faith Factor is a relatively new power metal act that has gotten quite a bit of attention fairly quickly. They released an EP a few years ago and “Against a Darkened Sky” is their debut full-length album. Power metal maniacs might be aware of this band because it features Ski, the legendary multi-octave screamer of cult power metal merchants Deadly Blessing.

The album is primarily rooted in traditional power metal with a bit of a more modern production and crunch to the guitars. The songwriting throughout is very good. Some of the songs are more straightforward and anthemic (ex: “Keep it True”) while some of the other songs feature more progressive, extended song arrangements (ex: “Ascend unto Heaven”). There are a lot of good catchy guitar riffs, and some nice melodic sections. Some clean guitar sections are scattered around but the album doesn’t really feature any “ballads” per se. The drums really sound great too, powering along with some nice fills along the way. The soloing is good but not overly showy, just playing some instrumental parts that fit adequately in the context of the songs. The bass guitar has a great percussive tone that really cuts through the mix.

Ski wields his powerful voice like a weapon here, with a lot of great catchy melodies, well-placed screams, and layered harmonies. He’s definitely one of the best current vocalists in the metal scene. Gang vocals are used in many places and work well in Faith Factor’s overall sound. The song lyrics are generally very direct proclamations of the band’s Christian faith and tales from the Bible.

The album production is good and clear though not as maxed-out and glossy as some might prefer these days.

I subtracted some points over a few issues. First of all, let me be clear that I don't believe any album is perfect. I believe there is always room for improvement for musicians to strive for and my rating reflects that belief. I think that the band could convey its lyrical message more effectively by more carefully crafting its lyrics. Sometimes the lyrics are poorly worded or might come across as corny, especially to non-Christians. Keep in mind though, that I consider this criticism to be very minor considering the number of things this album has done well and I consider it overall to be a gem of underground metal.

Bleached to the point of no return. - 45%

Empyreal, April 7th, 2009

Alright, get your bibles out and your holy crosses ready, it's time for another Faith Factor album! Against a Darkened Sky is the band's debut album, following the three-track EP they released back in 2007, and it's definitely a metal album. It has guitars, bass and drums, and vocals that remind me of the guy from Deadly Blessing...oh, wait, that's exactly who it is.

Now, I'm admittedly not a follower of the Christian religion, so a lot of this stuff goes over my head and in one ear, out the other, but musically it is pretty alright. The formula has shifted a bit from the melodic Power Metal stylings of the EP to a more stodgy, abrasive Heavy Metal one reminiscent of Rob Rock or Bruce Dickinson's solo project if they weren't as well written. The production is nice and heavy and old school-sounding, sounding a lot thicker than what I remember the EP being like. The guitars churn out decent, chugging riffs that won't really amaze anyone, but they're well done enough so as to not offend, either. Ski's vocals are alright - he is clearly not who he used to be back in the 80s, but he still sounds pretty okay, with a nice mid-range and occasionally he hits some higher notes. The bass is nicely done, and so are the drums, galloping along in a Maiden-esque fashion that doesn't really hinder or help the music in the long run.

Everything on here is just so safe. It's this kind of thing that pisses people off enough to pinhole bands with Christian ideologies into their own wretched little sub-plot. Faith Factor can play their instruments, but man, these songs are just so boring! "Keep it True" is alright, but everything after fails to excite - with the lowlight being the extremely dull ballad "In Remembrance." Sometimes some momentum is kicked up, but the band fails to ever let loose and really play; just settling for a relaxed sort of groove that sounds restrained and dishonest. You get the idea these guys could play much better music if they tried. They don't sound like they have too much chemistry yet, and it hurts their sound quite a bit. This album isn't terrible, but it just gets more and more annoying and bland with repeated listens, and with every song being over 5 minutes? It's almost unbearably dull at times.

So as you might have noticed, this isn't exactly the most exciting music in the world. Nothing really stands out about this release as particularly exceptional but the fervently and sometimes uncomfortably Christian lyrical themes, which I can live with, except for a few passages where they get a little too blatant - I don't listen to music to be preached to, so shut the fuck up about it, guys. And even worse, most of the music only seems to exist for the sole purpose of these lyrics, and that should never be the case. This album is just sort of pointless. I don't see why you would ever want to listen to it, really. It's not bad, it's not good, it's just...there. There's nothing here you haven't heard done better anywhere else, but I guess this band does get a bit of leeway, as it was a debut. Oh well. Now go listen to Possessed's debut instead! Go! Burn those holy books!

Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com