Wings of Innocence
1/1/2005 - Review by: Al Kikuras
Very tight and polishedSometimes you come across those metal bands that don't quite fit the usual mold. The bands that really have an original sound that doesn't focus on trends or mass marketing campaigns, instead allowing their music to create their own paths. Today we have so many bands crossing over genres, but at the same time they seem to be playing follow the leader. MTV and Headbanger's Ball have been shoving nu and extreme metal down our throats, but never take the time to allow a good melodic band a decent spin. Azrael's Bane are that good melodic band that needs to be heard today, this very minute, by the vast majority of trend seekers and so called headbangers.
You see it is difficult to go against the grain, to develop a style and system that is different than everyone else, then to get that style across to the suits and ties who manage what this country listens to, and what this country considers hip and radio friendly. If Azrael's Bane could be heard and played, then they have a very good shot at being accepted, helping to break down the walls of a very close knit circle. For some reason MTV doesn't like good, clean metal fun, instead they want us to use equations and calculators while we wrestle with extreme math metal like Mastodon, Dying Fetus, and Dillinger Escape Plan. Whatever happened to hearing a soaring riff on the radio, then getting your friends together and playing air guitar along with it? I miss the days of Boston, Styx, and Thin Lizzy, when good metal was good music. Nowadays the radio is just stale and uneventful, with most of today's good music coming from the underground, from places like Houston, the home of Azrael's Bane, one of the finest indy bands of our time, a fine group of professional musicians who aren't afraid to play riffs for melody, who aren't afraid that their clean sound isn't heavy or extreme enough to catch the teen listeners. They just do what they do best, playing fine heavy metal in the tradition of the 70s and 80s, with thought provoking, fun lyrics that aren't created out of hatred or protest, but from a genuine passion for this type of music.
The band formed in 2002, and just two years later have released their debut record, "Wings Of Innocence", independently with no help or "guidance" from a record label. Is this a good thing? I like to think so, since this album is completely created by the band, with no outside help whatsoever. This is straight from the heart, the way it should be. Fans of bands like Lillian Axe, Savatage, and Queensryche will find plenty to like about this record. It has all of the melody and signature riffs of the 80s, but a speed racer vision of life here in this millennium as well. Some of the grooves come out of the 90s, but for the most part this is a great blend of 80s and today. I never thought I would hear a band attempt to pull off the abstract sounds of Lillian Axe, but Azrael's Bane have achieved that. Their songs aren't really structured like most hard rock acts, instead they take the Lillian Axe way of thinking by mixing the songs up. You won't hear verse, chorus, verse, chorus, lead, chorus. Instead the band builds through each song with several verses, sometimes not even throwing in a chorus part. This sort of pattern keeps everything more lively, allowing room for the songs to build, but at the same time allowing plenty of melody to soak in.
Guitarists Jeff Clinton and Chuck McFadden have a great thing going, combining on some catchy hooks and memorable twin guitar melody. On opening track "Shine", the two race to the front with a European gallop that reminds me of Edguy or Avantasia, but for the most part the duo stay on par with the likes of Dokken, White Lion, and even a slower Racer X at times. Cuts like "Chasing A Memory", "Mercy", and "Saints And Sinners" are deeply rooted in the 80s, with soaring riffs and a melodic groove throughout. Other tracks like "Lie To Me", "Innocence", and "Saving Grace" display that neat Lillian Axe craftsmanship, which I emphasize again that nobody has really tried until now. "Rainbow's Edge" will please fans of Vicious Mary, Pink Cream 69, and even Wycked Synn. Vocalist Trey Gadler doesn't really sound like anyone, with his voice register being mostly mid-range, which he uses effectively on ballads like "Foolish Pride" and "Silence", but at times he can hit the higher notes, bringing in the Queensryche elements when needed. The whole band chips in for vocal duty, allowing plenty of backing vocals for each track.
Considering this is an indy release, it is very tight and polished. I don't know what a bigger budget would really do to help make this album sound better. Azrael's Bane's debut comes off perfectly, really showcasing a brand new band with a whole lot of skill and talent. If we could get these guys decent radio play or a television appearance, it would definitely help the current drought we are in. Bands like this are few and far between, and for whatever reason never seem to get the proper respect they deserve.
Best case scenario, they land a label deal with someone like NEH Records, Perris Records, or Nitemare.
Worst case scenario, they fall into the dreaded crack in the Earth, which seems to open wider for bands like Radakka, Jackal, and Azrael's Bane.
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