January 2, 2012
How many times have I listened to a metal album and said to myself, “If this is the last thing I hear, I can die happy?” No, not a common or often occurrence, but those were the exact words to enter my mind after listening to A Moment In Chiros, the fall of 2011 debut solo release of Lance King, for the first time. King, as I am sure most of you are already aware, has gained renown as not only one of the premier vocalists in the power and progressive metal genres but also most prolific.
Just consider the various bands and projects he has been part of over the years: Getting his start in the mid-eighties with the melodic metal outfit Gemini, and recording two albums in the process, but later moving on to form his own group, The King’s Machine, and releasing its debut A State Of Mind in 1995. A stint with UK’s Balance Of Power followed, with three albums recorded in Book Of Secrets (1998), Ten More Tales Of Grand Illusion (2000) and Perfect Balance (2001), before he moved on to Pyramaze for two more: Melancholy Beast (2004) and Legend Of The Bonecarver (2006). In between, King participated on projects with Avian (From The Depths Of Time & Ashes And Madness), Defyance (Transitional Forms), Shining Star (Enter Eternity) and Empire (Hypnotica).
After being part of various bands and side projects almost too numerous to tally, the next logical step for the artist, obviously, was to record a solo album. Hence, A Moment In Chiros proves the right album at the right time!
Musically, A Moment In Chiros pretty much follows the same pattern as many of King’s previous efforts with its joining of melodic power metal and progressive metal. In terms of specifics, fans of Balance Of Power, Pyramaze and Avian will be certain to embrace this, as will those into Symphony X, Dream Theater and older Queensryche (and just about all things in between, including Theocracy, Darkwater, 7 Days and 7th Reign).
The main difference is how A Moment In Chiros brings a bit more heaviness and emphasis on the progressive in comparison to what we have heard from King in the past. How so?
One must first consider that the artist has been involved in some projects that are more progressive than others, Balance Of Power comes to mind, but none quite showcase the over the top progressiveness found on seven minute pieces “A Moment In Chiros”, with its leanings towards the instrumental, and “Transformation”, found in its intricate and technical milieu. “Sacred System” and “Infinity Divine” uphold a similar penchant for the progressive with their wealth of time and tempo changes. It is on these four that the Dream Theater reference comes into play.
Similarly, I do not think King has participated on a project that has been quite this consistently (the key word here) heavy. “Joy Everlasting”, for instance, almost approaches classic metal territory while a more melodic power metal direction is taken on “Awakening”, “Manifest Destiny” and “Given Choice”, three top of the line tracks characterized by their upfront guitar driven proclivity. The Symphony X comparison comes about as a result of these three.
Irregardless of musical direction it ultimately comes down to songwriting, which is where the albums true strength lies. The fact is, King has packed the project with so many good songs due to drawing upon a vast array of talented songwriters, including Markus Sigfridsson (Darkwater, Harmony), Fred Colombo (Spherical Universe Experience), Michael Hansen and Shane Dhiman (Phonomik), Jacob Hansen (Beyond Twilight), Kim Oleson (Anubis Gate), Michael Harris (Darkology, Thought Chamber) and Mistheria. It has always been my experience that the more songwriters involved in an album the better opportunity for quality material, a particular that plays out to perfection on A Moment In Chiros.
Many of the above also lent their musical abilities to the album- and help to turn musicianship also into a strength in the process. Consider the soloing of the underrated Sigfridsson on the two tracks he contributed, “Awakening” and “Infinity Divine”, in addition to that of Kim Oleson and Tore St. Moren on “A Moment In Chiros” and “Transformation”, respectively. Or the highlighting keyboard touches of Oleson (quite the multi-instrumentalist in that he also handles bass on several tracks) in addition to the complex timekeeping skills of Morten Gade Sorensen. Rounding things out, of course, is the soaring and high end (almost operatic) vocal abilities of King, who is not referred to as “the voice in power metal” for nothing. It is good to hear that the guy has not lost anything over the years.
Serving to tie everything together is the albums top notch production, which is ably handled by Kim Oleson and Jacob Hansen.
King, who in the albums liner notes thanks “Christ for entering my heart, mind and body and changing my perspective and perceptions in such a profound way”, composes all lyrics, which are conceptually based around the 11:11 time prompt phenomena. Specifically, the album focuses on one man’s journey as a seeker of truth for answers to the world’s greatest mysteries.
The artist goes into further detail (as taken from The Christian Metal Realm): “This is basically a testimony, it's about going from "Faith" to "knowing" it's about moving from "Hope" to "Being a part of the solution" it's about connecting to "Love" directly and learning how to be a conduit for it. It's about being a true disciple and internalizing all that means to your core: Being a light that is hardwired on in the darkness that continues to burn brighter and brighter, rather than one that flickers and fails, or one that has a switch.”
The lone complaint revolves around the occasional use of narration. Yes, narration and concept albums often go hand in hand, but it has been this reviewer’s experience that narration for narrations sake often comes across cheesy (and such is the case here). Not to be critical, but wouldn’t it make better sense to do away with the narration and let the story line unfold through the music and lyrics instead?
Track By Track
The variances to opener “A Sense Of Urgency” sets the stage for much of what is to follow. The song opens its first minute to narration with the second instrumental in being carried by heavy set drums, melodic guitars and symphonic keyboards. The final two take a similar heading but at the more moderate tempo (for its verses) and with a notable melody playing a prominent role (as found in its catchy chorus).
“Awakening” represents melodic power metal at its finest. Consider the darker guitar tones, occasional atmospheric elements interlaced with acoustic guitar and, conversely, driving chorus heading in the more decisive direction. Instrumentally, Sigfridsson steps forward and proves why he is one of the metal scenes more overlooked soloists. Lyric snippet:
How can this be?
He was much to full of life to
Pass on. So why now/
Baby daughter points to the ceiling
Says there’s grandpa
A raised eyebrow
Beginning to see there’s more
I’m hearing a voice at the door
I’ve always believed there’s more
I feel an awakening…
“Manifest Destiny” takes the faster and more energetic approach. With walls of brazen guitars backed by pounding double bass, the song flows in spirited fashion through weighty verses and a pristine chorus lightened by airy acoustic guitar. Things slow at the halfway point for a passage that tapers to a near crawl. Balance Of Power cannot help but come to mind here.
The resounding heaviness to “Given Choice” gives rise to a Symphony X comparison. The song might highlight a tough as nails low end and snarling guitar emphasis but ultimately succeeds by balancing the heavier elements with a melody of the unflinching variety. King complements things by singing in a fitting lower register. Keyboards almost reflect an orchestral feel. Lyric snippet:
Freewill, a lock on the door
I must find the key once more
Lies, and the pain, a poor decision I made
A dark night of the soul, allowing my ego
I must find a way to right this wrong
Now I pray and scream to God
To help me end this wicked game…
I made a choice to ignore the voice
Something I now wish I hadn’t done!
I made a choice to ignore the voice
And now my trouble has just begun…
“A Moment In Chiros” showcases an over the top progressiveness. The song begins its first two and a half minutes to narration that segues to an instrumental joining of metal guitars and bluesy soloing. Things gain momentum from that point forward, as tranquilly done verses are blended with a dramatic chorus in which a swarthy low end establishes itself fixed and firm. Additional instrumental moments (featuring a reflective stretch of soloing) carry things to their grandiose close.
A Pyramaze-like feel can be found in “Dance Of Power”. This can be found in the songs abundant melody, which cannot help but make you feel King played a more than above average role in the songwriting on the Danish power metal bands excellent sophomore release Legend Of The Bone Carver. Musically, “Dance Of Power” starts loftily to swirling keyboards before kicking into high gear and roaring the rest its way to full on energy- and playing up the understated progressiveness inherit to many of the tracks here in the process. Lyric snippet:
Ethics are hard to find in Washington
Deaf, dumb and blind
Instead they choose
The method of reform
Around and round and round we go
Spinning globe under control
Divine they conquer angering each other
We must stand together
Or we’ll fall forever
This time it’s now or never
Now we must end the dance of power!
“Kibou” is a calmer and gentler - almost ballad-like - number that acts to divide the albums first and second halves. The song serves its role perfectly in being carried its flowing distance by piano and keyboards while allowing King to stretch in the vocal department, particularly during its majestically done chorus.
“Infinity Divine” starts its first two minutes instrumentally with keyboards and viola building exponentially until the rhythm guitar cuts in. Some of the albums heavier moments take place as the song moves ahead, creating a swarthy environs in which unflinching verses and sublimely structured chorus prevail. The melody here is quite profound and almost approaches commercial in capacity. Lyric snippet:
As understanding envelopes me
I’m open to endless possibility
The end of a cycle edges nearer
It’s time to prepare…
Though once I feared this…
Now engineer bliss…
Completion near the end
All things unwind
In absence of time
The mission, help prepare
The other minds…
For infinity divine
“Joy Everlasting”, similar to “Infinity Divine”, hits hard- almost to the point of reflecting a traditional metal feel. Profound guitar riffs and aggressive rhythm section, for instance, play the defining role. The main difference - this time in contrast to “Infinity Divine” - is that “Joy Everlasting” lacks the type of melody that might pull you in on initial listen. Still, what we have is a very good song that by no means is filler.
“Sacred Systems” stands out as another monster track. The song brings a slight technical underpinning, playing up some creative time changes (from faster to slower and back and forth again) in addition to quite the creative drum performance and full on guitar mix. Of note is the calmer acoustic based passage at the halfway point that gives way to a stretch of jazzy lead guitar.
“Transformation” starts quietly to an audible bass line. The song takes off at once to a surge of up-tempo momentum, setting an aggressive tone as it plows ahead to heavy hitting drums, pounding riffs and an underlining element of angst. An extended instrumental excursion helps take “Transformation” out past seven satisfying minutes. Interestingly, the final minute closes in the form of a new age keyboard driven instrumental. Lyric snippet:
Now I see the coming son…
It’s time to light up the world
With the strike of a match
Let the tired old
System of corruption collapse
While we rise again…
It’s time to light up the world
Time to strike up a match!
An awakening has come
Your destiny reborn
It’s time to make a choice
Power your true voice
The hope that has drawn near
Infinity you hear
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Lance King - Lead Vocals
Malek Ben Arbia - Guitars
Vince Benaim - Guitars
Shane Dhiman - Guitars
Jacob Hansen - Guitars, Bass
Michael Harris - Guitars, Keyboards
Tore St Moren - Guitars
Markus Sigfridsson - Guitars
Elyes Bouchoucha - Keyboards
Fred Colombo - Keyboards
Kim Olesen - Keyboards, Bass, Guitars
Mistheria - Piano
Michael Hansen - Bass
Anis Jouini - Bass
Morten Gade Sorensen - Drums
Violin - Tommy King
Track Listing: “A Sense Of Urgency” (3:43), “Awakening” (5:29), “Manifest Destiny” (5:05), “Given Choice” (5:09), “A Moment in Chiros” 7:33), “Dance Of Power” (5:04), “Kibou” (4:42), “Infinity Divine” (6:13), “Joy Everlasting” (5:32), “Sacred Systems” (6:14), “Transformation” (7:13)