Meliah Rage - The deep and dreamless sleep 3/5
1. Permanently damaged
2. God and man
4. The deep and dreamless sleep
5. Twisted wreck
7. Last of the wanted
8. Take what you want
Long-running New England metallers Meliah Rage have recently returned with their 5th full-length CD (in addition to an EP and a collection of demos). 'The deep and dreamless sleep' marks the band's 2nd recording with vocalist Paul Souza, a more than worthy successor for the charismatic Mike Munro. The vaunted Anthony Nichols/Jim Koury twin axe attack remains firmly entrenched (aye, it could scarcely be considered Meliah Rage without them), and original rhythm section Jesse Johnson (bass) and Stuart Dowie (drums) are reunited here for the first time since 1990's 'Solitary solitude' opus. Much as I loved Munro's voice, I was quite chuffed with the 2004 'Barely human' opus, which marked the glorious dawn of the Souza era and shattered a prolonged silence from the Boston bashers with a truly convincing reunion effort. To this day, when I need a fix of honest, no-frills U.S. metal, I reach for 'Barely human' on a regular basis. That CD, like much of Meliah Rage's catalog, fits comfortably in the space between traditional metal and thrash, kinda like Metallica's 'Black album' perhaps, but without the prom ballads or the layers and layers of studio polish and sheen to buff the life outta the songs.
Perhaps because I've been a fan of Meliah Rage ever since I was a scrawny, mentally disturbed college student in Boston in the late 80s, it pains me to say that 'The deep and dreamless sleep' marks a step down from its predecessor in nearly all departments. The meager 8-song, 36-minute running time is more fitting for an EP than a full-length CD, and is hardly value for the money. The bland, grey cover art and barebones packaging suggests that the entire affair was thrown together quickly and carelessly. But the real shame is the unevenness of the songwriting. Normally as solid and dependable a riff merchant as they come, Nichols takes a few detours here into more experimental realms. On several songs, Meliah Rage abandons, or at least mutes, its patented staunchly metal attack in favor of a more, hmmm, modern rockish, radio friendly approach. On these tracks, Souza alters his convincing tuneful snarl (a cross between Mike Munro and Wargasm's Bob Mayo, to these ears) with a less powerful, higher pitched, almost Alice in Chains type drone, and even half-raps on occasion. He's a sufficiently talented singer to pull off the stylistic switch effectively, but this moody stuff isn't what I (or many of the die-hards, I expect) want to hear from these Rathskeller rockers. Let me be clear: none of these more experimental tracks are horrible, and all of have headbangable riffs and cool guitar work, but something's obviously amiss, and they're just not thoroughly satisfying to the crusty, old-school Rager in me.
Does this mean that this latest Meliah Rage offering is an unadulterated dud? Hardly. Of the 8 cuts on display, 3 are bona fide Meliah smashers that at least equal everything this band have ever done before and rank among their finest moments ever. Opener "Permanently damaged" marries a vicious crunch with some compelling vocal lines and a killer chorus. "Undefeated" is a sheer juggernaut of a song, with a relentless riff and some tasty melodies from the Nichols/Koury tandem. And "Curse" is this CD's answer to "Invincible", an all-out speed assault that simply rips from start to finish. The other 5 songs range from very good at best to okay at worst.
So I guess the question really is how much of a Meliah Rage fan are you? If you're new to the band, 'The deep and dreamless sleep' is not the best of introductions. Go for 'Kill to survive' or 'Barely human' instead. If you're a fan of everything these Beantown bruisers have done before, then you can buy this new CD with confidence, just don't expect to be blown away. I'll accept and even enjoy 'The deep and dreamless sleep' for what it is, but I'll send a prayer to the metal gods that Nichols tweaks the formula a bit next time by returning to the tried and true, pure Meliah Rage sound for the entirety of the next CD, leaving the experiments for the kiddies.
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