Friday, January 22, 2010


Every musical artist has to start somewhere. That is they have to define who they are musically. Sometimes it’s immediately known (Iron Maiden for example) and they stick with that style for entire career. For others it may take an album or two (AC/DC worked it out with their 1974 Australian release High Voltage. The next release T.N.T. defined the sound we all know and love. If you don’t believe me listen to the two of them back to back.) To come to a place of comfort. I think that is what we have in the first album by Ultimatum entitled ‘Symphonic Extremities.’ This album was originally released in 1996 and then remastered and re-released in 2007.

This debut album is much more heavy metal as opposed to the blistering power/thrash metal the band is producing now. In many ways ‘Symphonic Extremities’ is a development from their ‘Fatal Delay’ demo. Both albums are more in the traditional heavy metal vibe. Now that doesn’t mean the material stinks or anything like that, but it’s a far cry from ‘Into the Pit’ or ‘The Mechanics of Perilous Times.’ Yes the production is more demo like, as this album is actually a combination of two demos.

There are even some diamonds in this musical rough, ‘Blink,’ ‘World of Sin,’ and the title track. These tracks have stood the test of time and they should, the material is crafted well and just has it. The other songs however are more forgettable than memorable, except perhaps for the tune ‘Darkest Void’ which has a catchy if cheesy chorus line with echoing reverb on the word ‘Void.’

The performances are pretty good as well. Perhaps one of the main differences listeners will notice immediately is that vocalist Scott Waters uses a clean voice most of the time and actually sings the songs instead of his trademark wail. I believe its all part of that ‘finding your musical footing.’

I’m glad Ultimatum did find that footing and have continued on till today. I’m sure every fan is as well. This album isn’t one for the first timer, for that I would recommend ‘Into The Pit’ or ‘The Mechanics of Perilous Times’ but if you are an Ultimatum die hard you’ll want it to complete your collection.

I’m sure the band is proud of this work even though it hasn’t weathered time as well as their other releases. For diehards only…

6 axes

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


This particular Ultimatum album was re-mastered and rereleased in 2007 but I just obtained a copy from someone who wanted to know what I thought about it. I’m grateful for that person sending it to me. ‘The Mechanics of Perilous Times’ is the follow up to the bands ‘Puppets of Destruction’ release. Now I have given that release some very high praise, in light of this album though ‘Puppets’ may have to take a step back.

What can say? Hmmm…. After spinning this disc some 6-7x's first thing right off I will say that this album is the HEAVIEST Ultimatum album I’ve heard. With a sound that is reminiscent in feel and attitude to Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘em All.’ ‘Perilous Times’ is full of anger, attitude, and power that are not seen very often if at all. Only a few landmark discs have ‘Kill ‘em All’ is one, the first Metal Church album is another. Perfect polish isn’t necessarily the endgame, but capturing a band on the verge of a breakout is.

It seems to me that these guys hit the studio in tip top form. The performances on ‘Temple of the Spirit,’ ‘Greed Regime, Inc,’ ‘Violence & Bloodshed’ blow the proverbial roof off. They are raw loud and true power/thrash masterpieces. Listening to ‘Temple’ it just demands and forces you to listen again and again. Ultimatum is reminding us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Someone may ask ‘Why do you say that this disc is full of anger?’ Well let me explain ‘Greed Machine, Inc’ is all about those unscrupulous preachers who fleece the flock of God and turn our Lord into Santa Claus. Or how about on ‘Shroud of Science’ when the largest sacred cow of our time is exposed for what it is, then tar and feathered. Just those two examples lyrically are combined with a musical attack that really is top drawer all the way.

The production isn’t perfect but that completely adds to the charm of this album. The guitars are LOUD and CHUNKY, with a little reverb added in then set to simmer with pile driver drums, blasting bass and vocals that would scrape rust off the side of a ship.
What is not to like???? How ‘bout a worship song ‘The Purging’ is just that. Nasty riffs and dynamic arranging pull this whole composition into focus, then hit a bulls eye.

The more I listen the more I’m enthralled and sucked into this musical vortex that refuses to let me go. Sorta like falling into a black hole I think, y’know where even light cannot escape. However in this case the vortex isn’t there to bring destruction but life and direction to the one who can give it.

This album is a classic in the same vein as early Metallica, Exodus, Metal Church. Ultimatum have made a statement here that they’re ready to share the same stage as any major player in the metal world.

10 axes PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


I have waited quite a while to finally get my mitts on this platter of heavy metal delight. This album by Fires of Babylon is full of brutal powerful heavy metal. With a picture of lighting striking a tower of Babylon with destructive force and might, it gives a hint to what awaits within this package.

For the uninitiated Fires of Babylon is an all star metal band of sorts. I mean first off we have Rob Rock on vocals (does any introduction need to occur????); on lead guitar is Lou St. Paul of Wintersbane. The rhythm sections consists of bass player extraordinaire Kelly Conlon (ex Death and Monstrosity) and drummer par excellence Robert Falzano (formerly of Annihilator). From the resume I’ve just given you can know that the musicianship on this release is second to none.

Kicking things into high gear these guys start off with the incredible track ‘Falling to Pieces.’ The drumming and bass playing are unbelievable as these guys lock in tight.
Rocks soaring vocal and St. Pauls shredding tone make this one of those songs that really ROCKS!! It’s simply stunning in its complexity and simplicity

Fires of Babylon continue to bring quality music in song after song. This is powerful 80’s HEAVY METAL. You just want to bang yer ever lovin’ head (just not when you’re driving!) and swing the wild air guitar around (anyone with a tennis racquet?). Lou St. Paul has come up with some unreal riffs that just seep lighting energy with heavy power chords. Listen to ‘Castles Are Burning’ there are so many guitar parts to this tune that I’m sure two or three songs could be made out of what Lou brought to the table.

The drums and bass on ‘Generation of Destruction’ play some of the most driving rhythm parts I’ve heard on a metal album in quite a while. Almost staccato like in feel, however Kelly and Robert then bring in a fluidity that is so mental metal it makes my head spin as I listen.

Rob Rock has never sounded better, and his vocal adds the melodic edge to a strong musical background. Lyrically Rob is probably the most biblical and upfront of any release he has participated in.

My favorite song has to be “Lazarus Rising” what a riff and especially in the chorus where the melody is TEARING IT UP! (Sounds like he drops a root note) Tempo changes along the chorus and the bridge back into the verse. This song will get you moving and fist pumping guaranteed (other wise you’re dead my friend….!) Lou totally cuts loose with some tasty guitar licks that add depth and intense feel to this song. Rocks vocal melody has me singing along after the first listen, not too mention the darn thing sticks in your head for HOURS!!

I can only hope that these guys will get together and do this again. If you haven’t bought this you must do so NOW! Otherwise this will be one that you’ll let get away and hear a portion in the future and think to yourself “How did I miss that???”

One of the most powerful heavy metal albums I’ve ever heard!

9 axes

Tuesday, January 5, 2010


Heavy metal is about as diverse an art form as one can imagine. If you think about the styles of playing or the visuals associated with it really can become overwhelming. I mean how can you describe this music to someone who has never heard it? As easy as it sounds I challenge you to do so in terms that your hip hop loving friends would use. Not that easy is it? And especially since this form of art is constantly evolving and adding new elements.

In times past and often today we the metal ‘elite’ would often define bands music by their vocalist. How many times have I heard this phrase “This band sounds like Slayer…” or “They sound just like Queensryche” or “Maiden” or “Metallica.” This is so true especially in the metal arena occupied by most Christians. How many of us were waiting for a Christian “Slayer” or “AC/DC” or “Judas Priest” or “Slipknot” (I’m not…) or you name it.

That brings me to the disc I have in hand, Faith Factors “Against the Darkened Sky.” Some of the promotional material indicates ‘Progressive Power Metal for fans of Dragon Force, Rob Rock, Helloween and Sacred Warrior!” While I would agree with the “Progressive Power Metal” tag I don’t really hear any of the other bands on the musical side. Perhaps because of Faith Factors lead vocalist Ski those comparisons were made. Whatever the reason, there is a lot going on here.

Strong power metal with many progressive elements that grind and chew on you until you must sit and listen to it. This ain’t an album to have playing in the background, Faith Factor force you to listen, not just hear them. Perhaps it’s the European flavor that shines through in the mood and feel. The moody dark cover is simply a hint of what is to come, yet the message is far from dark but a light shining into the darkness.

After a short instrumental introduction ‘Keep It True’ tears it up with strong power chords and progressive harmonies. Yet this track stays true to its metal roots and just drives along with pulsating rhythms and soaring vocals. Chris Matusieski and Blaine Booth grind those guitars and make them submit into a musical union that proves they master the art of power playing. This combo makes this statement throughout ‘Against a Darkened Sky.’ Dan Jefferson and Joe Mangham (on drums and bass respectively) provide superb rhythms.

‘Light Replaces Darkness,’ ‘Armor of God’ are just the tip of this metal iceberg. Powerful melodies courtesy of Ski and finely tuned instrumental passages deliver this barrage in powerful fashion. ‘Armor of God’ is perhaps the closest thing to a straight ahead metal tune and it’s a solid reminder not to bring a pocket knife to a sword fight. Many of Faith Factors compositions have acoustic or slower melodic passages right in the middle of the metal bombardment. That would be what is called dynamics.

“Ascend unto Heaven” stands out as the longest song, clocking in at over 11 minutes, but this metal passage doesn’t wander needlessly through a maze of musical indulgence. It drives to a pointed conclusion that is powerful indeed. Ski again shows why his reputation as a strong vocalist is well deserved.

Lyrically Faith Factor is bold in their statement of faith. However the lyrics are more story than evangelical tract. Plenty of meat on the bones which communicate in a deeper way that a ‘Jesus loves you.’

For me the only drawback was the guitar sound which did sound overly processed and compressed. A bigger sound might’ve given the songs more of the punch they so richly deserved. Honestly that is a small criticism that can hopefully be corrected on their next release. Might I also suggest at least one or two straight out fast songs to break up the tempo a bit? However these small items fail to detract from the mission of Faith Factor or the enjoyment of this release.

‘Against a Darkened Sky’ has developed quite the reputation in the metal underground and it’s easy to see why. Strong performances and in depth writing with energetic songs allow Faith Factor to rise above mediocrity to complete the calling they have in their hearts. Keep it true indeed.

8 axesPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Faith Factor live @ KIT 11

Visions in Fear | MySpace Video