In the seduction of society, we play upon desire
Spoiled and drunk, that's you"
One Word Review: Essential
Few albums have the strength to endure regular listens for more than fifteen years. Even fewer have a concept where music, story and performance unite into something completely convincing. Most concepts fail in some way on one or more levels. Tyranny is one of the rare concept albums where everything works 100%. The experience lingers on long after the music has finished playing and has kept me coming back to the album for so many times it could be diagnosed as unhealthy.
The music is progressive metal of the highest caliber and manages to marry the technical and melodic aspect in an astounding way. Convincing emotions tie everything together and draw the listener into the midst of the well thought out story. Covering the course of a year, the story evolves from its origin in war and corruption into something very personal, handling themes of belief, death, trust, technology and love along the way.
Not to downplay the importance of the other band members but the standout performer on the album is vocalist Mike Baker (R.I.P.). His voice is incredibly emotional and has a soaring quality that is without comparison. The teamwork of Carl Cadden-James who comes up with the vocal melodies and Mike Baker as the expressionist was a perfect match.
Mike Baker's voice embodies every song with an extra emotional layer. Just take the way he conveys the feelings in Broken. He was an amazing singer who is no doubt singing with angels right now.
Beginning in a stressful and chaotic mood, the album ends on a peaceful note, which also describes the journey the main character makes. The band has a way of bringing the story to life through the songs, which is quite amazing. There is a very visual, almost movie-like quality to the experience and that doesn't happen often.
Stiletto in the sand is a fast and intricate instrumental introduction, which rises in intensity to an explosive level, symbolizing an escalating sense of turmoil, before it gives way for War for sale, a second assault on the senses. Being both fast-paced and unbelievably melodic, the song shows the unique qualities of the band straight away. The vocal harmonies and the technical, yet smooth feel the music has are two elements the band marries to perfection. There are some brilliant details in the drumming which adds urgency to the song.
Gary Wehrkamp's wailing guitar sets the tone right away in Out of Nowhere (Or is that Brendt Allman? The booklet doesn't specify who plays which solos). The song has a feeling of being lost, searching for new ground and everything, from the guitar tone to the vocal harmonies and the atmospheric keyboard layers, which generate a thick foggy background, reverberates this feel. Through the song the guitar has a very immediate, aggressive feel to it and the superb keyboard solo which ends the song, successfully makes the transition of the atmosphere into something more positive.
Mystery grasps this transition and makes the most of it in a song that is so melodic it hurts. The first time I heard this I was sold. Just a small thing like the way the keyboard leads into the first verse is pure perfection and enhances the song greatly. The opening instrumental section builds up great momentum, Mike Baker's captivating vocals are convincing with a tinge of vulnerability and the chorus moves the song even further into the stratosphere. A great keyboard and guitar solo is the icing on the cake. I may have mentioned this before but Shadow Gallery really mix the technical and melodic element into something special.
Melancholic piano notes open Hope for us? and soon the rest of the band joins in. However they are reduced to rumblings in the background as Mike Baker's mesmerizing voice is the all embracing power in this song. As he sings the lines "Entranced - we danced their dance. The stage is set, the crowd is on their knees" in tune with the rising wave of the keyboard melody there is suddenly a chilling sensation in the air. Gary Wehrkamp and Brendt Allman deserve a special mention as the guitar solo completely grasps the feelings in the song and gives them a hard twist. Throughout the album the guitar work is exquisite and another essential piece of the band.
Victims sets a darker tone and Broken ends Act I with a beautiful sorrowful piano ballad. Strangely, Broken has a different production on Mike Baker's voice and it sounds much more compressed here than on the rest of the album.
Act II begins with realization, and a death. I Believe is a fantastic song, weaving gracefully in and out of moods. Special, and most excellent, guest star: James Labrie (Dream Theater)
Roads of Thunder has a wonderful passage leading into the first verse, where Mike sings with a feeling of held back emotion and it brings the song extra intensity and a tinge of hope. It is a song that evolves and gets better and better with each listen.
Laura Jaeger and Mike Baker share the most amazing duet on Spoken Words, where they perfectly capture the feeling of shared hope and connection. Spoken Words is one of those rare pieces of music, instantly captivating and forever memorable.
D.C. Cooper (Royal Hunt among others) gives New World Order just the right paranoid, menacing feel.
Ghost of a Chance and Christmas Day end the album on a bright note. There is a real lively feel to these songs, a sense of presence, which is very compelling. I'm always hooked by the way Mike sings the line "Walking down some highway, midnight North Dakota" in Ghost of a Chance. Moments like these are scattered through the album and create a fascinating experience.
Tyranny is a classic. It is also one of my very favorite concept albums. Do yourself a favor and check it out if you haven't already, it is an extraordinary album by an amazing band.
Written By Steen
Online: Monday, March 3, 2014
War For Sale