Lord - A personal journey 3/5

Reviewed: 3-16-07


1. The dreaming
2. Footsteps in the sand
3. Reflections
4. Freedom
5. By George!
6. The richest man
7. Journey through hell
8. The traveller
9. One world
10. Behind the mask
11. Rainy nights
12. Last rites

The name Tim Grose is well known in international power metal circles. For more than a decade, Lord Tim (as he is professionally known) fronted Australian true metal stalwarts Dungeon. (He also performs lead vocals for up'n'coming Aussies, Ilium.) At their best, Dungeon were in the upper echelon of Euro-styled traditional metal bands, thanks in large part to Lord Tim's superb songwriting skills and his fearlessness at incorporating elements of other styles (a dollop of thrash here, a hint of glam there, and even the occasional black/death foray) into their speedy melodic double-bass- driven core sound. I still remember being mesmerized by the cassette I received from an Australian pal in 1997 labeled "Early mixes of songs from the forthcoming album 'Resurrection'," and the thrill I had to finally see Dungeon live at a sweaty south German club in June 2005. So yes, Dungeon were a very special band to me. They received a strong push from Limb Music Products (or so it seemed to me, as an industry outsider) and garnered a respectable international following over the years. It was with sadness that I learned of Lord Tim's decision to disband Dungeon in late 2005 because of ongoing line-up instability and other issues. At that time, Lord Tim announced that his pre-existing solo project, Lord, would brandish the torch where Dungeon had faltered. I had never heard that project's material, but recently obtained a copy of the "special edition" of Lord's debut, 'A personal journey', which was released prior to Dungeon's demise.

Anyone embarking on this 70-minute musical odyssey with Mr. Grose who expects a consistently Dungeon-like style and intensity is setting himself up for disappointment. This is not a Dungeon CD. Lord Tim makes no pretense of the truth being otherwise, as his liner notes candidly acknowledge that this CD is filled with songs that he deemed either inappropriate or too personal for his day job. That said, much of the material on 'A personal journey' is obviously cut from the same cloth as Dungeon, albeit with a more melodic, blatantly self-indulgent bent. The vocals, guitars and melodic sensibilities are covered with the fingerprints of Dungeon. Perhaps the best way to describe it is this: Dungeon and Lord both fell from the same tree, but the branch that spawned Dungeon was that of speed/power/true metal, while the limb (hah, no pun intended) that yielded Lord was that of Dokken/early Leatherwolf/Loudness kind of stuff, with abundant guitar hero pyrotechnics. For all of these reasons, Dungeon fans may find much that suits their fancy on this CD.

The biggest stumbling block to my enjoyment of 'A personal journey' is the lack of cohesiveness of the thing. The liner notes reflect that the songs were written over a period of many years and it sounds like it, because they don't mesh together fluidly as an album should. Also problematic, for me at least, are the extended instrumental tracks. At their finest, a couple of these tunes are "Mr. Scary" type songs (check out "By George!") loaded with blazing fretwork and cool melodies, but they do tend to drag. Did I mention that 6 of the 13 tracks (including the intro) are instrumentals? That's an awfully high percentage for my taste, and I found myself wishing on multiple occasions that there weren't so many of these self-indulgent guitar hero pieces on display. That said, Lord Tim showcases some phenomenal chops on this CD, and shredders will be in heaven as they listen to him really cut loose. The vocal pieces are actually quite enjoyable, with tunes like "Freedom", "Last rites", and "Footsteps in the sand" sounding very much like classic Dungeon mixed with, say, Dokken.

In a way, I feel guilty about criticizing this CD. Lord Tim never intended for it to be anything other than a personal document for his own personal enjoyment, so holding it up to the lofty standards that might govern a Dungeon full-length seems a little unfair. But then again, maybe I shouldn't feel bad, because Lord Tim states that "If no one else in the world appreciates what's in this CD then that's fine; it's primarily for my own ego, my sanity and my soul." That sincere disclaimer summarizes 'A personal journey' well. As a fan of Lord Tim's work, I enjoyed hearing him perform in this slightly different format, warts and all. Now that Lord is his full-time gig (not counting his continuing collaboration with Ilium), I'm eager to hear what Mr. Grose comes up with next.




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