Sacred Dawn - Gears of the machine 3.5/5

Reviewed: 6-27-08


1. Gears of the machine
2. (World's apart) The desire
3. I'm the one
4. Hatred
5. Approval
6. White road, black sun
7. Shadows
8. Walls of Jericho
9. The man (Time will tell)
10. Master of thought
11. Soldier's plea
12. Asmodeus

This Chicago band displays some wicked talent, and you definitely can’t accuse them of either playing it safe or being another face in the melodic or power metal crowd. However, how much you appreciate them will be a matter of taste. I thoroughly enjoy a lot of their debut 'Gears of the machine', but there are also elements which move away from my comfort zone.

With some implication that this is a “progressive metal” band, they are a long way from Dream Theater, 'Parallels'/'Perfect symmetry' Fates Warning, or their progeny, typical or otherwise, and include some sound and feeling reminiscent of bands like Radakka and Psychotic Walt. Perhaps the most experimental elements of Dream Theater would not be too far off in a description here, such as 'Falling to Infinity'.

This CD starts in promising fashion, “(Worlds apart) The desire” has a more straightforward intricate metal sounds, akin to something you’d hear on the first 2 Anubis Gate CDs, with a minor, middle-eastern feeling, but overall quite good, and “Master of thought” continues things in this way as well, were the band actually springs into an even more direct metal mode, and calls to mind bands like Dragonlord (the Spaniards, not the death metal band) and overall there is plenty of real metal on display, with some more aggressive riffs, leads, etc. “I’m the one” takes in some heavy middle-eastern tones in its songwriting.

However, as the CD goes on, “Walls of Jericho” goes more for the chunka-chunka riff style which is also repeated in other songs (again, when you compare this to other descriptions in this review, the band can’t be accused of simplicity, homogeneity, or playing it safe or direct).”Asmodeous” (all hail the Dungeons and Dragons monster manual!) pleasingly turns up the aggression with some more speed. But then there are times where you hear the metal lightly tinged with the more “down-tuned” harmonies and shades of Alice in Chains’ early work, and even more hard-rockish elements like Lillian Axe circa 'Pyschoschizophrenia' in songs like “Shadows”, where the harmonies are rife, but with that slightly off center tone, and the overall structure is very accessible if you like that style.

The CD continues to veer into elements I’m not as fond of, although they are heavier, with “Time will tell”, where you hear some great lead guitar work, but the chorus veers into a dirtier tuned sound that just takes away from me. The last couple original songs, including the title track, have elements like this in the songs as well. Sometimes when I listen to these songs, it grates on me a bit, and other times it workes a bit better, so it is subtle elements that take away from this CD for me, and others more objective, or less objecting to those elements, especially in rather short quantities when compared to the more impressive elements of this CD, may enjoy it for its originality and talent.

Vocalist and lead guitarist Lothar Keller is a pretty strong vocalist, and probably an even better guitarist, with some great leads that really stand out. Rhythm guitarist John Vitale is good as well, while Joey Vega’s bass creates some really great texture to the songs, and the drums by Brad Sabanthe (who has also played with DSG) are impressive as well. The production overall is smooth, clear and impressive.

Cover songs are a source where it is easy to score some cheap points of recognition for a band, but nonetheless, score the points they do with the cover of "Devil went down to Georgia", that great choice of a non-metal song that makes a GREAT metal song, and the guitar leads replacing the flying fiddle playing is great fun. Ironically, however, its one of the most fully satisfyingly metal moments of the CD.

This is certainly not a CD I would criticize on objective failure or lack of talent, and there are parts of it I like quite a bit, but whether you think the variety is brilliantly exciting, or somewhat occasionally jarring in a negative fashion is purely subjective, so you may want to check out their samples for yourself.




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