Sacred Oath - Darkness visible 4/5
1. Words upon the stone
2. Battle cry
3. Queen of the night
4. Darkness visible
6. Calm before the storm
7. Unholy man
8. Death is inevitable
9. Beyond the edge of the flame
10. The golden dawn
A great, long-awaited return of classic American metal with plenty of variety and strong execution.
If there is any ullage at all in the current overflowing deluge of melodic and power metal, it is in the once strong American representation that once delivered so much through Metal Blade as a domestic counterpoint to the explosion of awesome power metal through Noise. Unfortunately unsurprising, given the absolute death of metal with the slightest hint of melody as a commercial or even critical force in the U.S., it's still nonetheless sad to those of us who hold up early platters from Fates Warning and Queensryche as the greatest the world has ever known. Luckily, Sacred Oath's first CD in 20 years helps fill that void in the summer of 2007.
Location, location, location. It still remains surprising to me that with a ridiculously global world, American bands sound like American bands and European and South American bands follow a distinct style, but there it is. To be even more specific, Sacred Oath, from Connecticut fits very nicely with the great styles produced by their state-mates of Fates Warning and Liege Lord, with the same type of appeal, if their very own sound.
'Darkness visible' is an effective collage of classic Maiden and Queensryche melodic leads and their progeny, mixed with intricate songwriting. Compared to Exiled, for instance, this has more of an emphasis on melody and less on aggression, but there is plenty of contrast within the confines of the CD.
Vocalist Rob Thorne doesn't quite walk the Geoff Tate path completely, but the hints of that great vocal emotion are constantly cropping up, and remind me how much I missed that style. While he also plays guitar, his vocals are not the typical we hear from someone splitting their time with another instrument, exceedingly smooth and polished. Glen Cruciani provides the rest of the guitar work, Kenny Evans is on drums, and both Pete Altieri (main bassist) and Lou Liotta do a nice, dynamic presentation of the bass.
The songs are just a bit on the intricate side, the opener "Words upon the stone" is mesmerizing, with a hint of Megadeth's "Mary Jane" in the choral lyrics, but powerful emotionally, while "Battle cry" is much more direct and terse, and nonetheless effective. I mentioned Maiden, and "Unholy man" starts off in what I initially thought was a "Two minutes to midnight" cover for the first 25 seconds, but I'll forgive them for any similarities because of the guitar work throughout that song, and the powerful vocals are strong too. "Death is inevitable" features a different metal feeling with its really infectious chorus. With other titles like "Prophecy", "Queen of the night", and "Calm before the storm", you know you're not getting the most ground-breaking lyrics in the world, but they work well, and let's face it, it's becoming increasingly difficult to pull off something even remotely original and good, and the musical delivery is what matters on here, and that is something just a bit different from what we typically here these days.
Overall, just great stuff for those who love very melodic, American styled metal with plenty of Maiden influence.
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