Reign Over Obscurity



Dream Theater, Testament and Megadeth. These are the bands Reign Over Obscurity - the new metal band founded by guitarist Roo Chapus - cites as some of their influences. While I can definitely hear the influence of Dream Theater in the keyboards of the band's song Hollow Moon, I'm not quite sure I'm hearing the Testament and Megadeth influences though. I do however hear the influence of another thrash metal band - Metallica - which is the case in the track Inner Strength, which I swear reminds me somehow of Metallica's song Harvester Of Sorrow. Both of the tracks mentioned appear on the band's brand new debut album Time Distortion. Surprisingly enough noting the band's self-proclaimed Dream Theater influence the album doesn't include any Octavarium-esque twenty-minute progressive epics but instead opts to keep the durations of its songs to a modest five minutes or less. An attempt to keep the songs more easily accessible to a wider audience that might be alianated by tracks that take up the length of an average episode of a TV series each, I assume.

The album opens up with an intro, as an album preferably should, I feel - an acoustic piece bearing the name Ouverture. Funny enough this brief acoustic intro with a duration of roughly over a minute may just be my favorite track on the entire album. Despite being a simple acoustic piece, with very little the track manages to create a genuinely epic and grandiose atmosphere and feel. In fact I could easily see it being expanded beyond its current one-minute limitations - maybe as the opening of a ten-minute opening song that after its acoustic opening explodes into full-blown prog epicness. Sadly this doesn't happen as the album goes into its first proper song, which is the previously mentioned Hollow Moon but even in its current form Ouverture works wonderfully as a separate piece and as an intro to the album.

On Hollow Moon however a main problem of the album quickly becomes apparent - its sound and production are sadly lacking. Now this could very well just be a result of budgetary reasons and as such the limitations would be perfectly understandable. However since the band's music in essence takes influence from a genre as grandiose and epic as prog metal, the material deserves and is in dire need of a sound and production worthy of this type of material. As is the album sounds more like a rough demo as opposed to the debut album of an epic aspiring prog metal band, and as a result many of the songs suffer for it. For example the track Wheel Of Mind desperately needs a more grandiose production to highlight its scope and melody, whereas Dreadful March cries out for a heavier guitar tone to beef up its excellent riff, as currently the guitars simply sound way too thin for a riff of this caliber.

The previously mentioned Inner Strength also could have done with better production to make it more potent, as well as benefitted from better structuring to be honest. The track previously appeared on guitarist Roo's second instrumental EP Plectrum Spectrum but with the added lyrics and vocals the song structure doesn't quite work as well as it did when the song was just simply an instrumental. This isn't the only track that while full of potential could've used some finetuning though. Cryptology for example is full of great riffs but the music doesn't reflect the epic vibe of the lyrics, making me feel like maybe different lyrics could've worked for these melodies and these lyrics could've been used for another song. Empire Of Dust also has a good chorus but one that I feel could've become even greater with different guitar melodies to back up and enhance the vocal melodies.

While the sound and arrangement of the songs leaves more to be desired though, what one can't fault the band for is lack of musicianship as these guys are clearly competent musicians with a handle on their instruments, as evidenced for example by the excellent guitar work and solos on tracks like Wheel Of Mind. Especially impressive is vocalist Elias Parviainen who shifts between clean and raspy vocals on the album. Elias' deep, slimy growl that heavily reminds me of vocalists like Mr. Lordi of Lordi and Robb Flynn of Machine Head is what is especially impressive and his delivery is therefore an absolute delight to listen to on tracks like Wheel Of Mind and Dreadful March, the chorus of which probably has the best growls of the entire album.

I personally would've loved to have heard even more of Elias' raw and raspy vocals on the album as opposed to his clean ones. For example on Dreadful March the dark lyrics I feel should've been delivered with growls as opposed to the clean vocals that are there now apart from the chorus which is growled. For the melodic lead-up to the chorus the clean vocals fit though. In terms of clean vocals, on Wheel Of Mind I feel Elias could've tried vocal melodies a bit more intricate to really bring out all the potential power of the melodies. Actually my preferred vocal style would be the growly vocals but with maybe some falsetto screams thrown into the mix for the cleaner parts. Maybe some screams on the next album perhaps?

In fact this is the main question that the album brings up - what is next for the band? Where will they go from here? What will the next album be like? While full of talented and competent musicians, on Time Distortion the band doesn't quite yet seem to have found a definitive sound that would be distinctly identifiable as them. The way I see it the band has two ways it can go - either they can go heavier and dedicate all their time to focusing on raw riffs and growling vocals or they can try and focus on being epic and melodic by writing catchier songs and really refining the melodies that are already full of potential but that have yet to take flight. Or who knows - maybe the band can do both and be able to find a perfect balance between melodic and heavy. All I know is that on Time Distortion these two sides of the band are both full of potential but neither are in full bloom yet and therefore require attention to be perfected. If the band can improve both aspects without taking away from either then more power to them.

Reign Over Obscurity is a fantastic name for a band not only for how it sounds but for the meanings and ideals it invokes. With their debut album however the band don't quite yet manage to live up to all those ideals but potential for growth is there. On top of the positive things already mentioned, Empire Of Dust for example has some pretty cool and interesting keyboard sounds going on in it and the title track of the album has a great riff and drum beat, as well as some great guitar melodies with potential to be refined and perfected. That would be the case with the album in general - lots of good ideas but ones still in need of refinement. Time Distortion can be seen as the beginning of a journey for the band. Only time will tell where this journey will lead them. By working on their sound and finding their own unique style, the band just may one day reach a point in their journey where they may finally go on to reign over obscurity.



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(Review done by Markus)

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