Caffery, Chris - Faces/God damn war 4/5

Reviewed: 12-17-04





Tracklist:

1. Alas
2. Faces
3. Fade into the X
4. Pisses me off
5. Remember
6. The fall
7. Music man
8. Life, crazy life!!!
9. The mold
10. Bag o'bones
11. Evil is as evil does
12. Never
13. So far today
14. Jealousy
15. Preludio
16. Abandoned

God damn war:
1. God damn war
2. Fool, fool
3. Edge of darkness
4. Saddamize
5. I
6. Amazing grace
7. Piece be with you
8. Beat me, you'll never beat me
9. Curtains


Chris Caffery is well known in metal circles. His resume includes more than a decade's experience as the "other" guitarist in Savatage; a dalliance in Doctor Butcher, Jon Oliva's uber-heavy side project in the mid-90s; an annual gig as ringleader for the East Coast touring production of Trans-Siberian Orchestra; and a host of other writing and playing credits. But it wasn't until now that Caffery chose to step into the limelight with his first-ever solo outing, a generous 2-CD package available through Greece's resurgent Black Lotus Records.

My immediate, knee-jerk reaction was that this project sounds too ambitious and self-indulgent to be worthwhile. After all, Caffery wrote all 25 songs (save 3 or 4 co-writes and a cover of "Amazing Grace"), played all the guitars, produced it, co-engineered and co-mixed it. And, oh, he did all the lead and background vocals as well, despite having no discernable prior singing experience. Anyone remember Glenn Tipton's and Roland Grapow's ill-fated turns at the mike on their respective solo CDs? Yikes, I wish I didn't either, as I think their "performances" gave me post-traumatic stress disorder. So Caffery's project is doomed because he's bitten off way more than he can chew, right? Wrong. He delivers the goods in a big way on this twin-CD assault. And, yes kids, he can actually sing, sounding a bit like a cross between Jon Oliva and Brad Divens (Wrathchild America) on the angrier stuff and bringing Zak Stevens to mind on the more melodic material.

The first CD, 'Faces', captures a full range of emotions, styles and feels, from the classic neo-classical freneticism of "Faces", to the downtuned modernized fury of "Pisses me off", to the delicate almost-AOR tones of "Music man". As expected with such a concept, it's a bit uneven, as the varying styles don't always mesh well, producing a fairly schizophrenic experience as Caffery unceremoniously jerks the listener from one dark corner of his mind to the next. But, notwithstanding this musical pastiche, the songs and performances are uniformly solid (well, aside from the throwaway "Bag o'Bones") throughout this 16 track odyssey. Not surprisingly, the more straight-ahead metal tracks (such as the title track, "Fade into the X", and "Evil is as evil does") are my favorites, but quality oozes from this entire CD. Meanwhile, the 2nd CD, 'God damn war', focuses on the anger, chaos, waste and tragedy of the U.S. conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The lyrics are biting and thoughtful, the guitars crunch like Sherman tanks and the 40 minute running time passes in the blink of an eye.

The highest praise I can bestow upon this release is that the best 40 or 50 minutes of material on 'Faces'/'God damn war' would decimate any Savatage CD from the last decade. Mr. Caffery, welcome to the limelight. You've earned it.



KIT




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