DELIVERANCE - HEAR WHAT I SAY! (*NEW-CD, 2013, 3 Frogz Records)
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Hear What I Say!, the tenth and reported final studio album from Christian metal veterans Deliverance, might not occupy the rarified air of classics such as Weapons Of Our Warfare (1990) and Learn (1993) but is not without its share of merit all the same. Weapons Of Our Warfare came out at the height of the groups speed metal and thrash era - starting with the self-titled debut (1989) but also including What A Joke (1991) - before it made the transition to the straight-on technical metal of Stay Of Execution (1992). Learn introduced a somber, moodier and more progressive period for Deliverance, which encompassed River Disturbance (1994) and Camelot In Smithereens (1995) in addition to the industrial fused hard rock characterizing Assimilation (2001).
Released in late 2013, Hear What I Say! represents the latest in what has been a long line of Christian metal bands from the eighties to recently record successful comeback albums: Stryper (No More Hell To Pay), Bride (Incorruptible), Sacred Warrior (Waiting In Darkness) and Bloodgood (Desperately Close). The commonality Deliverance shares with its contemporaries are drawing upon the musical influences of its past to create a work I can see appealing to fans of both the old and the new. The upshot being how Hear What I Say! follows a pattern similar to Deliverance’s most recent work, As Above, So Below (2006), by hearkening back to the aggressive sounds of the earlier material (but without crossing the threshold of thrash) but also reflecting the more sober and swarthier elements of that which followed (albeit not backing from the groups ingrained heaviness).
“The Annals Of Subterfuge” and “Angst” best embody this with their joining of bone crushing riffs and unremitting tempos of a Weapons… capacity with catchy refrains that bring to mind Stay Of Execution. Heavy but melodic is the feel at hand. “Detox” is another slugger, contentious with its near speed metal impetus and assailing intent of its curtly done chorus. Of equal note is how founding member and front man Jimmy P. Brown bestows some courser and lower register flavorings to the three.
“Hope Lies Beyond” smoothes and tempers in playing up a melancholic and progressive edge that would not sound out of place on Learn or Camelot In Smithereens. This one yields the perfect joining of melody and creativity. Likewise, “Nude” also lightens things as underlining keyboards and Manny Morales’ big bass sound help create a dramatic River Disturbance influenced environs. “Passing” gives rise to added forthright momentum with its heavier guitars and periodic swirling backing vocals lending an understated catchiness.
Deliverance is also not afraid to throw the occasional curveball, as can be found in “A Perfect Sky” in which Brown sings over of an acoustic accompaniment. Yes, perhaps Deliverance’s mellowest ever but also proves Brown has not lost anything in terms of range with his “doom-laden and melancholic Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) meets Geoff Tate (Queensryche)” vocal style. Another unexpected moment is the German version of “Detox”, “Engfittung”. No, not the first time for Brown in that he also recorded a German version to the title track of the debut from his Jupiter VI project Back From Mars ("Zurich Von Mars"). It also must be noted Brown’s German ancestry, with his grandfather originally named Braunstein before making the change to Braun and finally Brown.
One of the albums highlights is the Iron Maiden cover “Where Eagles Dare”. Deliverance, as I am sure you are aware, is no strangers to covers in already having covered songs by David Bowie (“Beauty & the Beast”), Black Sabbath (“After Forever) Daniel Amos (“Horrendous Disc” & “Sanctuary) and Vector (“The Hunger & The Thirst”). Yes, the group might not be in unfamiliar territory, but how do they pull off Maiden style metal? To perfection, in staying true to the spirit of the original by starting to the same rolling drum solo opening before transitioning to the galloping bass, astute harmonies and tightly woven twin guitar attach that carry the song the rest of the way. The fit is natural to the point you would think the group was born for such direction.
Musicianship remains a strong point. It starts with Michael Phillips (The Sacrificed), who is widely regarded as the finest guitarist in Deliverance’s four-decade history, which speaks a lot for his abilities when factoring some very tough competition in Glenn Rogers and George Ochoa. His impassioned playing stands out best on “The Annals Of Subterfuge” (with its jaw dropping soloing), “Hope Lies Beyond” (one of the catchiest riffs ever) and “Where Eagles Dare” (technical guitar melodies throughout). Brown is not to be underestimated either in lending to the albums heaviness with his richly textured but precise rhythm guitar abilities. Drummer Jayson Sherlock (Mortification, Horde), obviously, needs no introduction with timekeeping skills that walk a fine line between the thunderous and technical in adopting to the style at hand, whether approaching thrash the melodic or progressive.
Lone constructive comment revolves around how Hear What I Say! is a bit short in that out of its ten songs one is a brief introductory piece and second a version of another in German. Of the remaining eight, we have the Maiden cover and acoustic “A Perfect Sky”, leaving just six traditional Deliverance heavy hitters. Yes, a couple more tracks would have been appreciated and gone a long way towards mentioning Hear What I Say! in the same sentence as Weapons… and Learn, particularly when factoring how its better material is of similar quality. That said, Deliverance deserves credit for going with its best songs and not including any filler.
Flawless production is the best of the already noted eighties Christian metal comeback albums to come out in 2013 (production on all are good but Hear What I Say! tops them in my opinion). Also of note is the succinct but highly effective album artwork.
If Hear What I Say! is truly the final Deliverance album then let’s hope that Jimmy P. Brown continues to make music- at the very least along the lines of his Fearful Symmetry and Jupiter VI side projects. In other words, there is too much talent here to remain on the sidelines indefinitely. After repeat listen to the Maiden cover, I would not complain if the same line-up reunited to record an album heading in similar musical direction (even if not under the Deliverance moniker). As for Hear What I Say!, a quality work that succeeds with its strengths in the areas of songwriting, production and musicianship that would allow it to, again, appeal to fans of all eras of Deliverance’s history.
Review by Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Liber 111 (Intro)” (1:02), “The Annals Of Subterfuge” (4:42), “Angst” (4:08), “Hope Lies Beyond” (4:44), “Detox” (3:38), “Nude” (4:29), “Passing” (4:05, “A Perfect Sky” (5:05), “Where Eagles Dare” (6:02), “Entgiftung” (3:38)
Jimmy Brown - Lead Vocals & Guitars
Michael Phillips - Guitars
Manny Morales - Bass
Jayson Sherlock - Drums