|Musical Style: Melodic Power Metal||Produced By: Magnitude 9 & Michael Vescera|
|Record Label: Inside Out||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2004||Artist Website: Magnitude 9|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 45:53|
Can anybody tell me what's up with Ohio? Perhaps it's something in the water, but why is a state best known for the movie Major League and a professional football team that lost "the fumble" and gave up "the drive" (sorry Browns fans!) producing so many killer metal bands of late? For example, if the excellence of Antithesis and Jacobs Dream were not enough, we now get to enjoy the talents of a wonderful melodic power metal band out of Columbus by the name of Magnitude 9. Magnitude 9? Actually these guys have been around for a while, debuting in 1998 with the progressive metal of Chaos To Control before following up in 2000 with its sophomore effort Reality In Focus (an album this reviewer finds musically brilliant). On its most recent effort Decoding The Soul, however, Magnitude 9 has lost a bit of the over the top progressiveness characteristic of its earlier work. That being said, the quality of the music is every bit as high reflected in the bands catchy melodic based songwriting backed by nothing less than world class musicianship.
Contributing a smooth sounding voice with excellent range and dynamics, talented lead vocalist Corey Brown deserves to rank with other top notch metal vocalists like Rob Rock and Lance King (Pyramaze, Balance Of Power). The superlative lead guitar work of Rob Johnson, at the same time, brings to mind the likes of Rex Carroll (Whitecross, King James), Chris Impellitteri and James Byrd. The rhythm section of bassist Ian Ringler and drummer John Homan perform capably, while keyboardist extraordinaire Joseph Anastacio Glean adds just the right amount of texture to the bands sound.
Decoding The Soul feature an immaculate production job in which each member of the band is allowed to shine. A near flawless mix of rhythm and lead guitar is backed by just the right amount of keyboards. The rhythm section sounds full and heavy.
Magnitude 9 includes at least one openly Christian member in Glean who, in the albums liner notes, thanks "My Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". In addition, Brown, Johnson and Homan each give thanks to God as well. I would describe the albums lyrics, written by Brown, as clean, positive and Christian friendly.
Album opener "New Dimension" begins to a scripture reading from Revelation 21:1 that, unfortunately, can be difficult to discern due to the narrators voice being placed too low in the mix. Taking off to a swiftly moving combination of rhythm guitar and double bass, "New Dimension" slows upon reaching its first verse only to pick up in pace for an infectious double bass driven chorus. Johnson nails thirty seconds of sharp sounding lead guitar work. "New Dimension" deals with the issue of faith:
Holding their dreams, they believed that they could move the mountains
Always believed, what they could see was only truth beyond illusion
The power of faith, they controlled their fate and they controlled the heavens
They never chose between, the promise of faith or the fears of false illusion
"Lies Within The Truth" moves in a heavier and more guitar driven direction when compared to "New Dimension". Once Glean's keyboards combine with an upfront mix of edgy rhythm guitar as the song reaches its first verse, they fade away as it approaches a chorus with a catchy refuse to go away hook. Johnson steals the show with a good fast paced guitar solo.
A blend of rhythm guitar and double bass drives "Facing The Unknown" forward in upbeat fashion until it slows for its first verse. Picking up in pace, the song recovers its lost momentum for a sweeping chorus underlined by a trace of vocal harmonies. A very well done guitar solo helps place "Facing The Unknown" among the albums stronger tracks. "Facing The Unknown" focuses on dealing with the past and the future:
Wherever we may go, whatever we may find
Our fate is what we hold, can our fears be left behind?
How are we to know when tomorrow's due in time
We can never give up hope and leave the fear behind
Getting underway to a flashy synthesizer solo, "To Find A Reason" advances through its first verse to a bouncing guitar riff accentuated by just the right amount of keyboards. The keyboards drop from the mix, however, as the song culminates for an immaculate chorus backed by smooth sounding vocal harmonies. Thirty seconds of clean sounding lead guitar work brings out the best in a song talking about searching for the truth:
The changes we must face are facing you and me
Now I'm searching for the truth in our faith we must believe
Try to find the reason
Search to find the truth, a faith that we believe in
Change your point of view and try to find a reason
"Walk Through The Fire" starts slowly in an acoustic laced manner before it quickly takes off to an exquisite mix of rhythm guitar and keyboards. Carried through its first verse by a combination of acoustic guitar and bass, the rhythm guitar returns and propels the song to a great catchy chorus that ranks among the albums best. My favorite track from Decoding The Soul culminates for a solo from Johnson of the highest quality.
After racing through its first verse to a fast paced double bass driven guitar riff, "Dead In Their Tracks" launches into an energetic chorus with a message based around conflict and warfare:
As it begun, war rages on
To the victor the spoils of war
The fight will be long, we must be strong
See the fear in their eyes
We will fight like were God's of War!
Glean takes center stage with a tastefully done keyboard solo ensued by several seconds of tight sounding rhythm guitar harmony.
The catchy "Changes" has a slight Balance Of Power feel to it. Opening slowly to a quietly played guitar line, "Changes" picks up in pace during its first verse as the rhythm guitar kicks in and conveys to a chorus underscored by just the right amount of double bass. The song peaks for Johnson's blistering guitar solo. "Changes" asks important questions as it addresses the meaning of life:
And I'm feeling older, but I've missed it all somehow
And I begin to wonder if we've forgotten all about
Why are we here and what we should know
These things that we fear are only the unknown
And I'm looking to the Son and I'm asking if He knows
Of wonderful places where everyone’s supposed to go?
"Torn" is the first of three tracks to close the album in a more commercially accessible melodic metal direction. After a blend of acoustic guitar and sweeping keyboards initiates the song, a crisp rhythm guitar steps forward during its first verse and leads the way to a strong melodic flavored chorus. While Johnson’s lead guitar work is very well done, I wish he would have extended it by several additional seconds.
The aggressive "Thirty Days Of Night" ranks among the albums heaviest tracks. Introduced to a hard hitting guitar riff, "Thirty Days Of Night" slows to an edgy rhythm guitar for its verse before smoothly flowing to a chorus delivered at a good upbeat tempo. An instrumental passage limited to several brief seconds of lead guitar does not quite cut it.
The quietly played guitar line at the start of "Sands Of Time" transitions to a slowly moving but equally heavy sounding rhythm guitar. Subsequent to the rhythm guitar playing a reduced role in the mix as the song reaches its first verse, it returns to a place of prominence for a non-stop hook filled chorus. A bouncing guitar riff opens in instrumental passage highlighting a fast paced guitar solo underlined by double bass.
In showcasing the bands top notch songwriting and musicianship backed by a stellar production job, Decoding The Soul deserves to rank among the finest releases of 2004. That being said, am I out of line to suggest that the album, while musically superb from front to back, comes across with the slightest hint of predictability? I wish for the sake of variety Magnitude 9 had not abandoned the more progressive elements of its music and extended several tracks out past six or seven minutes (or longer). Along that line, Rob Johnson puts forth a superior performance, but on a number of songs he could have prolonged the duration of his lead guitar work. These, however, are only minor complaints and in the end no way detracts from the albums high quality.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: "New Dimension" (4:29), "Lies Within The Truth" (6:00), "Facing The Unknown" (5:13), "To Find A Reason" (5:26), "Walk Through The Fire" (4:48), "Dead In Their Tracks" (4:02), "Changes" (5:19), "Torn" (3:29), "Thirty Days Of Night" (3:33), "Sands Of Time" (3:30)
Corey Brown – Lead Vocals
Rob Johnson – Guitars
Joseph Anastacio Glean – Keyboards
Ian Ringler – Bass
John Homan - Drums