|Musical Style: Heavy Metal||Produced By: Bill Menchen|
|Record Label: Independent||Country Of Origin: USA|
|Year Released: 2012||Artist Website: Bill Menchen|
|Tracks: 10||Rating: 90%|
|Running Time: 38:36|
Most veteran metal acts have released a career defining album in which they are best known. With Deliverance it is Weapons Of Our Warfare (1990), a groundbreaking work that came out following the groups promising self-titled debut (1989), while Stryper is most often identified with To Hell With The Devil (1986), every bit as acclaimed in following on the heels of well known albums The Yellow & Black Attack (1984) and Soldiers Under Command (1985). Bride might have gotten off to a good start with its first three releases on Pure Metal from the eighties but did not hit its stride until the nineties with Kinetic Faith and its highly regarded follow up offering Snakes In The Playground (1992).
For guitarist Bill Menchen it would have to be the 2006 self-titled debut of his The Seventh Power project. Menchen began his career in the late eighties by releasing the debut of Final Axe, Beyond Hell’s Gate, prior to returning in the nineties with two albums from Titanic, Maiden Voyage and Screaming In Silence. The decade also found him putting out four additional albums under the Rev Seven moniker.
The Seventh Power proved a special work in that it found the artist perfecting his songwriting while traversing musical territory we had not heard from him in the past. When I first learned of The Seventh Power, my gut reaction is that it was going to be a Final Axe, Titanic or Rev Seven clone (by no means a bad thing). Not so in that the album bases itself around the traditional metal of the artists past while making use of keyboards and introducing some doom-like touches and symphonic elements approaching power metal.
Now, whenever I revisit an album I have previously reviewed, there have been occasions in which I say to myself “perhaps I might have overrated this”. Such an opportunity presented itself with The Seventh Power, which was re-issued by the artist in the spring of 2012 under the new title The Power after having been remixed and re-mastered and partially re-recorded (all rhythm guitar tracks were re-played while drum tracks are the original unedited versions). Despite the passing of five years, however, the album not only still holds up remarkably well but sounds every bit as fresh, creative and inspired, albeit that sound is somewhat different (more on this later). In other words, it is still deserving of the 90% grade I gave it when originally reviewed in 2006.
The fact is that Bill Menchen has put together perhaps his finest ever group of songs. What stands out is how much time, effort and hard work the artist put into his material, refining and honing it to perfection with surgeon-like precision. This is best summed up in my review of The Seventh Power: “(The album) finds Menchen really stretching in the songwriting department and pushing the creativity levels to the limit. The end result is a very consistent endeavor – again, you can tell that Menchen put a great deal of time, thought and effort into the songwriting process.”
That creativity is reflected in “Christ Died”, “Far From Fear” and “Heaven’s Gate”, three essential pieces staying true to the artist’s straight on metal calling card while introducing some accessible elements in the form of catchy hooks at the same time. “Enthroned” and “Eyes In The Sky” give rise those already referenced power metal touches while “Possessor Of You” approaches the doom-like and “The Power” an all out energy driven sound. Quality does not diminish when the artist experiments, as can be found in the instrumental “Seven Golden Lampstands” and quirkily infectious “Ocean Of Emotion Motion”.
How does The Power differ from The Seventh Power? In terms of specifics, The Power can best be described as a different take on the original with a sound on the rawer, edgier and crisper side of things. Some of the metal lacings to The Seventh Power have been stripped away (observation and not critique) with the end result a project giving rise to a more of a straightforward hard rock feel. But do not be concerned in that The Power proves every bit as heavy, but rather it is a different type of heavy- hard rock heavy as opposed to metal heavy. Does that make sense? Drums, at the same time, now come across “drier” in delivering that much more punch and power in comparison to the first version (guest drummer Robert Sweet puts in the type of inspired performance one would expect of him).
The album also finds Menchen stretching from a lead guitar standpoint (I felt that his soloing on the two Titanic releases was a bit restrained). But not The Power in that he takes every opportunity to show off his licks and chops. Once more, my review of The Seventh Power sums things up best: “As a guitarist, however, he (turns) the album into his own personal shred-fest. “Christ Died” showcases a more fiery side to his playing, while he cuts loose in distorted fashion at the end of “Enthroned” and “Eyes In The Skies”. The lead guitar work gracing “Heaven’s Gate” and “Human Sacrifice”, on the other hand, reflects a more blues based feel.”
Vocally, Bill Menchen continues to bring his even sounding and mid-ranged presence. Some have described his delivery as “monotone” or even “hinting of Ozzy” when in fact neither is true. Rather, I have always considered him a solid performer with a style fitting well with the music at hand- keeping in mind there are better vocalists out there.
The lone complaint revolves around the bare bones packaging. I do not wish to be unfair because this is an independent release, but the plain feel to the album artwork is not up to the standards of the original, which was released on Retroactive Records. Perhaps this will be licensed for re-issue on Retroactive at a future date.
It is the songs that make a great album special, and such is the case with The Power. I consider it Bill Menchen’s signature release in that all of all his various projects this is the one I find myself gravitating to the most, with his Menchen Red Rock solo release being the lone possible exception (but that is a story for another day). Again, I appreciate how the artist made a “different take” of the album available- I wish more artists would do this for their fans. If you liked the original then by all means check out The Power; if you are not familiar with Bill Menchen’s music then this would be a good place to start.
Please note that since a track by track is included with my initial review of The Seventh Power I am going to forgo the process here. However, if interested in reading further about specific tracks and/or the lyrics then please visit the following link: www.angelicwarlord.com/reviews/s/theseventhpower06.html
Track Listing: “Christ Died” (3:56), “Enthroned” (4:34), “Eyes In The Skies” (3:32), “Far From Fear” (4:25), “Heaven’s Gate (3:38), “Human Sacrifice” (3:25), “Ocean Of Emotion” (3:20), “Possessor Of You” (3:50), “Seven Golden Lampstands” (3:37), “The Power” (4:13)
Robert Sweet - Drums
Bill Menchen – Everything Else