Jacobs Dream - Drama of the ages 3.5/5

Reviewed: 6-17-05





Tracklist:

1. Drama of the ages
2. Keeper of the crown
3. Spinning leaf
4. Stand or fall
5. Tempest
6. Third way
7. Forever winter
8. Drowning man
9. Deceiver of the nations
10. Cutting words
11. Victory
12. At the gates


Ohio's Jacobs Dream, throughout their life cycle, has been one of the rarest of breeds, playing a style of classical, melodic metal that is most strongly influenced by Queensryche in their exalted days, a sub-genre which was once, if briefly, populated by some of metal's best in Heir Apparent, Lethal, Hittman, Sacred Warrior, etc.. Such metal has pretty much disappeared from the face of the earth, despite the incredible amount of melodic European power metal out there these days, most notably from the (once) mighty originators of the sound themselves, with the closest sounds coming from bands like Shadowkeep and Twisted Tower Dire. They are of course much more than a derivative clone of such classic sound, but it certainly starts there from a description point. Therefore, it is uplifting to know that at least one band can carry on the torch of this area of metal with some polish, power, and that unique blend of majesty, power, melody, and emotion, which is also a hallmark of the best of Metal Blade's once classic AMERICAN METAL roster.

It was a pleasant surprise to know that this band was still out there with news of this release, and it seems farther back than 2001 when their last release, 'Theater of war' saw the light of day, one year after their excellent Metal Blade 's/t' debut. The band also released, however, a prior 's/t' 6 track CD, to create a confusion not seen since the days of Leatherwolf's debut(s). While the band features new singer Chaz Bond on this CD, his style is not notably different from prior vocalist, and suitably strong and passionate, so no worries on that front, and in fact, I didn't immediately notice before confronting the actual band data. The lyrics, while more on the subtle side than earlier Christian bands, certainly continue to convey a consistent tone in that type of positive area, although they are not marketed in that vein by Metal Blade.

The band takes the classic melodic metal stylings from the glorious mid-80s sound and feeling, and drapes it in a somewhat darker, more mystical cast, with a more brooding, minor tone. Returning guitarists Jon Noble and John Berry provide plenty of strong leads, with especially sweet melodic strains that provide plenty of energy and interest, but with their sharp and cutting moments as well, against the backdrop of an overall sound by drummer Gary Holtzman and James Evan that is most consistently in the midtempo range. That is perhaps one way the CD could have been improved, just a bit more change-up in the tempo throughout could have made the entire work more effective, especially given how similar many of the brooding keyboards tend to be. Additionally, the production certainly could have been stronger, and while it's not bad, it can verge on muddy. A sharper, cleaner and clearer sound could have done even more justice to the excellent guitar work, classic vocals, and powerful rhythms. "Stand or fall" offers some of the more stirring moments of the CD and to me, the most memorable chorus, but it's overall a strong and consistent offering with plenty of strong tracks. As a sort of hidden bonus track that I did not see listed, the band does a really beautiful and stirring version of the classical "Canon" by Pachelbel, which is a nice contrast to the rest of the CD and a unique choice.

Overall, 'Drama of the ages' is an emotive, quality melodic metal release that not only has its own strengths, but benefits from being almost completely alone in its style these days, and it is rewarding to see Metal Blade releasing something like this, which once would have fit so well alongside Omen, Lizzy Borden, and Fates Warning. For fans of these type bands, classic Queensryche, and the recent Twisted Tower Dire releases this is a highly recommended purchase.



CRAIG




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