Twilight Kingdom - _Adze_
(Siegen Records, 2000)
by: Brian Meloon (7.5 out of 10)
This is likely to be the longest review I will ever write for CoC, but being as familiar as I am with these guys, I have a lot to say about it. Their music is similar in style to the progressive/pompous style of Dream Theater's _Images and Words_, though somewhat more consistent: generally lighter, but without the excessive cheesiness. Their songs tend to be in "extended" verse-chorus format (i.e. with an extended development section in the middle), which puts them roughly between five and nine minutes in length. The music is keyboard heavy, but guitar driven, with a good mix of lighter and heavier sections. The choruses tend to be memorable, and sometimes catchy, though the songs are hardly hook-heavy. The playing is generally good, at times flashy, but most of the time restrained and appropriate instead of technical for the sake of showing off. The lyrics are generally very good, dealing with subjects without being too direct or too abstract. Unfortunately, there are a number of problems with this release that make it far inferior to their 1995 independent cassette-only release, _The Guardian_ (which incidentally contains the best five songs on this album). First and foremost is the production. This album sounds worse than my CD copy of _The Guardian_, which was digitized from a half-worn-out four year-old cassette tape, originally produced on a shoestring budget. The guitar is a fuzzy, tinny mess, sounding quite a bit like the tone obtained by we-don't-care-about-production black metal bands. There's also virtually no bass. It's almost like they recorded it too muddy, and to "fix" it, they cranked the high end. In any case, I'm unable to think of a progmetal CD with worse production. My second complaint would be the sloppy playing. The guitar solos are particularly bad in this department, as Trey's timing seems non-existent at points (e.g. the last guitar solo in "Shadow Troops"). Chris' vocals are sloppy as well, almost as if they were rushed in the studio during the last few sessions. While he's usually a talented and natural vocalist, he doesn't sound like he's trying very hard on this recording. His timing is noticeably off in a few places, such as the last chorus of "Awakening". He's also off key in a few places. Part of this may be because the original vocal lines were changed to lower registers, which was a particularly bad idea, as Chris' voice is more naturally in the high registers. Generally, all of the changes they made to songs from _The Guardian_ -- such as cutting down "Shadow Troops" and the intro to "Forever Sacred" (though I can see why keeping it might've caused legal problems) -- were bad ones. The non-musical intro "Dreams of Osirus" is pointless, especially when "March of the Guardian" (the far superior intro to _The Guardian_) is the "hidden bonus track". Having "hidden" bonus tracks is a stupid idea, moreso now than ever, but if they really needed to do it, why didn't they use "March of the Guardian" as the intro, and put "The Ticket" as the hidden track? On this record, they sound like a band who have been together for a little while, trying out a new singer, and just screwing around in their garage. It's hard to believe that this is a "professional" CD that took three years to record and mix. That said, if you've never heard these guys before, you'll probably think "they're a good band, and they have some good songs; if they clean up their act, they'd be pretty good." If you're lucky enough to have a copy of _The Guardian_, you probably won't be able to listen to this very much.

(article published 12/8/2000)

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