Absolon - Darkness Rising: The Tale of Derek Blackheart (independent) 2013
1. What Have I Done/The Beginning (2:19)
I received this CD in my mailbox from a good friend who suggested I check 'em out and write a review if I like them. Absolon? Never heard of them. A quick check through the insert revealed that the singers name is Ken Pike. Now I am sure most metal fans won't remember that name, but if you are just the right age you may remember an obscure band called Malachi or which Ken was the singer. Absolon are a Orlando, Florida based melodic heavy metal band whose sound is a along the lines of Siam, Lethal and most definitely "Operation: Mindcrime"-era Queensryche.
"Darkness Rising: The Tale of Derek Blackheart" is Absolon's first album and is concept album based on the story of Derek Blackheart, a kid who dreams of being a heavy metal guitar legend. The story goes that Blackheart sells his soul to the Dark Master to attain that popularity and ultimately realizes much too late that it's nothing but emptiness and deceit. Ultimately Blackheart takes his life in order to escape the Dark Master only to discover that even in death there is no escape. As far as I can tell, the storyline is based on the classic "A Portrait of Dorian Gray" with a more modern approach.
Musically, the band delivers an album that has a feel very close to the acclaimed "Operation: Mindcrime". The songs are split between traditional heavy rockers with melodic hooks, ballads and some musical and storyline interludes. Songs like "Nail in the Head"and "Pretender" are striking and infectious in sound. There is a European power metal influence to both of these songs with the mix of heavy riffs and melodic keyboards. These more rockin' songs are contrasted with ballads such as "Even Heros Fall". This particular ballad is mostly built around a clean guitar and piano, is a bit dark and purposely introspective. There are also a few instrumental interludes including "The Master Calls" and "The Master Calls Reprise" both of which are fairly heavy in approach, as well as the acoustic based "State Of Mind". Pike's vocals are clean and mostly in the mid-range, never really soaring into the highs that one might expect from a band of this nature. However, that's not to say that his vocals don't work well. In fact, I found the entire thing to be quite mesmerizing. The storyline, the music, the vocals and the production all work well together, making for a fantastic listen.
It's unfortunate that this in an independent release and much like Pike's former band Malachi, will be only enjoyed by a select few fans that seek out music outside the usual channels.