|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Lou St. Paul|
|Record Label: Metal Heaven||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2008||Artist Website: Fires Of Babylon|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 85%|
Guitarist Lou St. Paul is best known for his work in Winters Bane. A band with a history dating back to 1990, Winters Bane included vocalist Tim “Ripper” Owens, who later went on to front Judas Priest and Iced Earth, at the time it recorded its 1993 debut Heart Of A Killer. Girth, the groups 1997 sophomore release, found St. Paul handling lead vocal duties while the 2006 follow up effort Redivisus featured the vocal talents of newcomer Alexander Koch. St. Paul returns two years later with his latest project, Fires Of Babylon. Fires Of Babylon got its start when the owner of Metal Heaven Records requested that St. Paul put together the material for a classic eighties metal album. St. Paul, in turn, proceeded to recruit a literal all star line up, comprising vocalist Rob Rock (Impellitteri), bassist Kelly Conlon (Monstrosity) and Robert Falzano (Shatter Messiah), prior to entering the studio to record the spring of 2008 self titled debut from Fires Of Babylon.
Originally a European release on Metal Heaven Records, Fires Of Babylon was re-issued in the USA by Retroactive Records in the winter of 2009.
Fires Of Babylon delivers what is promised in featuring ten tracks of classic US power metal heavily influenced by the eighties. Fans of St. Paul’s previous work with Winters Bane will find a lot to like here as will those into the various projects Rob Rock has participating over the years, including his four solo albums, material with Impellitteri and Warrior’s Code Of Life. The album breaks down fairly evenly between melodic based tracks and those heading in a more guitar driven direction. The melodic aspect to the bands sound is best reflected in the emotional “Falling To Pieces”, catchy “Revolution Coming” and up-tempo “When The Kingdom Comes” and “Going Through Changes” (two of the albums faster pieces). St. Paul and company, at the same time, pull no punches on heavier tracks such as the muscular “Devilution”, portent “Lake Of Fire”, “Holy Resurrection” (a song driven by a literal wall of rhythm guitar) and anthem-like “Lazarus Rising”. “Generation Of Destruction” and “Castles Are Burning” deliver the total package- fast, heavy and catchy.
The best way to describe Fires Of Babylon would be “riff orientated metal”, a description which is testament to the prevailing work of St. Paul. Riffs you will find in abundance here, from fast paced riffs, to slower and driving riffs, to unrelenting riffs, to catchy riffs, to energetic riffs, the total package is delivered. Lead guitar wise, St. Paul makes his presence felt as well with his aggressive style of play (just check out the fiery touch he imbues “Falling To Pieces” and “Holy Resurrection” or his mercurial work on “When The Kingdom Comes”).
Rob Rock puts forth the type of high quality performance one would expect from him. While staying mostly in even and classic tenor territory, Rob can reach down for a lower register on “Devilution” and “Lake Of Fire” or even add a bit of grit to his delivery on “Lazarus Rising”.
Production values are professionally done in complementing the driving and heavy duty music here.
Lyrically, this is one of the most upfront and forthright projects from Rob Rock to date. Now, since it way my initial thought that Fires Of Babylon was going to be a mainstream/secular release along the lines of Warrior’s Code Of Life, I could not help but wonder how Rob got lyrics this bold past the other members of the band. A closer look at the albums liner notes, however, sheds further light on the matter: as it turns out, St. Paul, who openly thanks “my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”, is a Christian as well. Hence, it becomes obvious that the two had previously collaborated and decided upon the lyrical direction taken in question.
“Falling To Pieces” jumps out of the gate with a plethora of resolve prior to building to a crescendo of hard hitting riffs and powering drums. Maintaining the unrelenting tempo for its first verse, the song evenly calms upon acquiring a chorus of a, surprisingly, smooth sounding variety. A fiery run of lead guitar highlights a composition talking about maintaining the faith during times of trouble:
I know the Truth and the Truth knows me
But I just can’t seem to make it alone
Take me hand as I fall to my knees
I surrender to my God on the throne
Can’t you see the struggle in my eyes?
Cant’ you hear the passion in my voice?
All I want is to be taken home
“Devilution” moves the album in a more aggressive direction. Immediately opening to an ardent joining of rhythm guitar and keyboards, the song slams its way ahead in muscular fashion only to gain further momentum for a deep and resounding chorus with a goal of exposing the evil one:
Angel fall from the sky
Standing tall on his pride
Vengeance burning inside
Roaming the earth, seeking someone
St. Paul steps forward with more biting lead guitar. Mid-tempo but heavy as all get out, “Devilution” is aptly entitled:
Angel of angels, beautiful creature
God in heaven’s delight
Exalted with wisdom, hungry for power
Filing yourself with your pride
Selfish ambition, leading rebellion
Who say’s you can’t be like God?
War in the heavens, fighting for glory
But it in the end you’re cast down
I might describe “When The Kingdom Comes” as energetic melodic metal (the frenetic pace established brings to mind Impellitteri). The song advances at an upbeat tempo from the start, rushing through its first and second verse on the way to a sweeping chorus in which a near sublime setting is put into place. “When The Kingdom Comes” touches upon the second coming:
When the Kingdom comes, the dead in Christ shall rise
We’ll hear the trumpet call; we’ll meet Him in the sky
When the Kingdom comes, the whole wide world will see
Like a flash before our eyes- immortality
Where is the sting of death? Where’s the victory?
The truth is a miracle, the Lord has set us free
Set us free!
“Lake Of Fire” represents the albums only track to border on the heavy handed- but only just slightly and not to the point of becoming overbearing. Slow, driving and resonant, the song takes a near plodding chorus (that almost reflects a doom-like tinge) and backs it with an overriding mix of rhythm guitar. The end result is a rumbling effort that ultimately deals with the final judgment:
Adversary of the human race
Recruiting fools and the blind
Give account someday what you have done
Have you ignored all the signs?
Unbelievers shake their first and curse
Their conscience whispers what is right
Before the throne reveals the second death
Is your name found in the book of Life?
With its take no prisoners rhythm guitar sound and fixed mid-tempo impetus, “Holy Resurrection” represents one of the more authoritative numbers on Fires Of Babylon. The song begins at once to a prevailing guitar riff, tapering slightly for its verse portions before regaining the impetus for a stalwart chorus in which keyboards play an accentuating role. An edgy run of lead guitar is added to a track focusing on faith and belief:
Carpenter from Nazareth
How can I believe in You?
Legendary tale or myth
How can such a story be true?
Opening my eyes, conviction in my heart
Holy Spirit calling me
Road is wide to ruin, Faith and hope are given
Narrow is the way to life
“Going Through Changes” comes across as another emotional and melodic based piece in the vein of “Falling To Pieces”. The song, for a lack of better words, almost sets a land speed record during its furious first verse, not settling down (if only somewhat) until obtaining an even sounding chorus in which making a change for the better is the subject matter:
I’m going through changes
My spirit is rising deep within
I’m going through changes
Making me stronger once again
The fiery tempo returns for an instrumental section sustained by a raging guitar solo.
A weighty mid-tempo environs is established by “Lazarus Rising” throughout its driving verse portions, impetus picking up in an energetic manner for a brief but spirited chorus in which Rob Rock exhibits the full range to his voice. A crisp rhythm guitar opens an instrumental section carried by a fluid stretch of lead guitar. “Lazarus Rising” depicts the resurrection of Lazarus from John 11:1-44:
If you were here you could have saved him
But now he’s lost, gone with the dead
If you believe the power of Jesus
You will see, he will rise again
Take away the stone, taking off the cloth
Death gives way to life, reveal the glory of God
“Revolution Coming” starts slowly and quietly, almost in the form of a ballad. Upon hitting its first verse, however, the song abruptly picks up in pace as pounding drums play a prominent role in the mix. Conversely, “Revolution Coming” tapers off to a more even tempo as it transitions to what can best be described as one of the albums catchier choruses. St. Paul steps forward with a pull-out-all-the-stops guitar solo. “Revolution Calling” details how a constructive change is on the way:
There’s a revolution coming in the night
Breaking down the wall of time
There’s a revolution coming in the night
Shining forth the power and the light
I appreciate the no-nonsense sensibilities – both musically and lyrically – characteristic to “Generation Of Destruction”. With its dominant wall of quickly moving guitar and abundant chorus hook, the song puts in place a foreboding ambience that helps to rank it with the more powerful tracks here. And powerful would be the way to describe the performance of St. Paul with, again, his prodigious guitar riffs and razor-like leads. Lyrically, this one is self explanatory:
Corruption, deception, propaganda and power
Slander, liars, a nation devoured
Political head games and selfish ambition
Fighting for leverage and position
There’s no conscience, there’s no shame
Desperate fools play this game
Fast paced, driven and intense metal, “Castles Are Burning” roars out of the gate with a profusion of animated momentum. The song sustains the all out vigor for its first verse, not backing away from the spirited mindset as it acquires the ardently delivered chorus that follows. I enjoy the time change from a charging guitar riff to a quietly played guitar that takes place during its instrumental section. The lyrics to “Castles Are Burning” come across in the form of a warning:
Land of the free, home of the brave
A new world standing on its faith
Times have changed, foundations crack
And no one seems to know the stains
Our castles our burning
Can’t you see the writing on the wall?
The tables are turning
We still refuse to hear the warning call
Track Listing: “Falling To Pieces” (4:49), “Devilution” (5:12), “When The Kingdom Comes” (4:23), “Lake Of Fire” (4:49), “Holy Resurrection” (4:21), “Going Through Changes” (4:28), “Lazarus Rising” (5:27), “Revolution Coming” (4:47), “Generation Of Destruction” (4:26), “Castles Are Burning” (5:08)
Rob Rock – Lead Vocals
Lou St. Paul – Guitars
Kelly Conlon – Bass
Bob Falzano – Drums