ABOUT THE ALBUM
This is the LIMITED EDITION - ONLY 500 COPIES MANUFACTURED - VERSION WITH THE RHINO COVER. Everything else is the same as the available everywhere Raven cover.
A metal anthem for the voiceless - twelve songs with a message of compassion for all creatures. Musically speaking, Beethoven meets Frankenstein!
After listening to this six or seven times, I feel confident sharing my opinion now.
First, the 12 tracks break down like this: 7 rockers, 1 ballad-ish tune, 3 short instrumentals, and 1 spoken word piece over ambient music.
A few things that struck me as being a bit different than anything Tourniquet has done previously are 1) a metalcore/nu-metal influence in a few places, evident in things like the vocals, breakdowns, and other details; 2) this album uses the piano (or maybe it's a keyboard or harpsichord) for a lot of the classical influences that appeared in the form of violin/cello work on earlier albums.
I think some people will appreciate this album more if they approach it as NOT being a Tourniquet album, though I'll avoid the whole pointless debate about whether this should count as a "real" Tourniquet album or a side project of Ted Kirkpatrick's. In either case, this release re-affirms Kirkpatrick's status as an awesome songwriter with an endless ability to create music that is at that same time memorable, catchy, melodic, and heavy.
The 7 rockin' tunes are all good to very good. Here's a quick thought on each of the 12 tracks:
1. "Onward to Freedom Prelude" - A classical-sounding number on the piano, which segues into...
2. "Onward to Freedom" - Featuring Michael Sweet and a metalcore vocalist. This is a good tune. Plenty of variety in the music. Not my favorite on the album, but maybe 3rd or 4th favorite.
3. "The Slave Ring" - Ambient effects mixed with dog growling as the intro, but then a cool guitar harmony builds into a very crunchy riff. This song has a thick, nice rhythm guitar sound and a bit of a groove (not super fast). Metalcore vocals start the song, but then the chorus uses a more melodic vocalist. Chris Poland (ex-Megadeth) has an awesome, super long guitar solo on this one, lasting almost 90 seconds. One of the best tunes on the album.
4. "The Noble Case for Mercy" - Metal king Ed Asner (aka "Lou Grant") performs a spoken-word piece over more ambient music. Frankly, at 3:11 this is a bit too long for me. I can see myself skipping this one frequently.
5. "Let the Wild Just Be Wild" - Starts out with a super heavy intro, but then gets mellow with female vocalist Gabbie Rae before exploding again into a crushing riff. This has some real neat foot work by Ted in the middle part of the song, which you can hear if you listen closely. There are a lot of different parts to this song - different riffs, tempos, etc. Rex Carroll handles the solo, and you can tell it's him by the 45,892 notes he plays once he gets going.
6. "No Soul" - A super groovy riff opens this one, which fits well with Dug Pinnick's soulful voice. I like the rhythm guitar tone on this tune. Bruce Franklin contributes one of his recognizable solos, leaving this song with a vibe similar to Supershine, the band in which Franklin and Pinnick once worked together.
7. "If I Had To Do the Killing" - A crazy drum solo kicks off this tune, which then transitions into a nice rocker featuring Kevin Young (of Disciple). The insane drumming continues in different parts of this one, as do various groove-laden riffs. One of my favorite tunes on the album - it rocks hard!
8. "Virtual Embryo" - More ambient effects lasting one minute. Ted seems to be big on those with this album.
9. "Stereotaxic Atrocities" - Remaking the classic, this time with Luke Easter on vocals. The vocals are layered so you can hear a variety of things listening closely. It's cool to hear a new version of this oldie. Marty Friedman solos for the last part.
10. "Animal Crossing at the Rainbow" - Piano time again. Not bad, but maybe not necessary.
11. "Drowning in Air" - Piano starts again, but this time it's fast. Before you know it, though, things change and you're being pummeled by the fastest song on the album and facing an onslaught of metal madness. This is also the longest tune (6:26) and has a bunch of different riffs, weird interludes and breakdowns, and general chaos in places. Tony Palacios has a shred-tastic solo (or probably two separate solos, if it's him on both). I think this is my favorite track of them all.
12. "Cage 23" - Think "Twilight"... Not the vampire movie. I mean the song on Vanishing Lessons. This is a light tune with female vocals to wrap things up.
Overall this is a very good album that shows yet further development in the wide-ranging catalog of one of metal music's hidden gems, a band who's now approaching its 25th anniversary. Time will tell where this one ranks in the Tourniquet catalog, though I know it's neither their worst nor their best. For a lot of bands that might sound like damning with faint praise, but Tourniquet has released so many amazing works that even an average Tourniquet album typically surpasses the best releases from a lot of other bands.