It's always fun to watch a band mature and grow. Years ago I remember hearing a CD from a band from Brooklyn, New York called Urshurak, who had some line-up changes as well as a name change and later became Twilight Odyssey. After hearing and reviewing their debut EP a few years ago, it was evident that Twilight Odyssey had many of the tools to establish themselves in the crowded world of metal, but that they still had some work to do. Now, with the release of their first full length CD, the band seems to be gelling as a unit, as their debut is loaded with plenty of classic early 80's styled metal.
I'll admit, upon first listen I was impressed with the power that the band was now possessing, but was a little unsure of the production of the CD. Upon further listens on various types of CD players, with headphones, without, and in the car, the production style became a little clearer. It's very easy these days to expect the "in your face, crystal clear and digital" processed production sounds that so many bands employ. What I initially thought to be a rather unbalanced sound revealed itself to be a throwback to the way metal albums sounded 25 years ago, back when Queensryche first hit the scene, and bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Fates Warning, and Saxon were ruling the metal world. In fact, much of the guitar sounds, as well as the way singer Pamela J. (PJ)Berlinghof's vocals soar above the mix, remind me of the first two Queensryche albums. It's raw, it's warm, and really retro, which is a refreshing change. Speaking of Pamela's vocals, she has definitely grown into her role as a powerful focal point of the band, as she now sounds more assured of her talents than on the EP, and sounds like a cross between Pat Benatar and Doro, but with more power. Songs like "Near Dark" and "Plaza de Toros" see her conjuring up a multitude of styles and delivery, from melodic yet moody vocalizations to high-pitched screams that reach for the stars. She's also gorgeously venomous on the raging and memorable "Zero Hour", a song that has a chorus that you will be hard pressed to get out of your head hours after you hear it for the first time. Guitarist Ben Asaro knows all the tricks of the metal trade, and if you like crunchy riffs, flashy solos, and plenty of pinch harmonics then you are in for a treat. Some listeners might wish the band had two guitar players, as the way the songs are written they just scream for twin harmonies and unison leads, which Ben covers here all by himself. The band had two guitarists previously, and have just recently added a new player who did not join in time to record the new album, so expect plenty of musical fireworks on future releases and especially live on stage. At times though on the CD when Asaro is laying down a lead the rhythm guitar parts just drop out and the music sounds a little flat without some rhythm crunch behind it, but my guess is either the band likes the sound of the multi-tracked leads with no rhythm guitars, or that this aspect might change a little on future releases with the added guitarist. Synthesizers are interspersed occasionally on the CD by Asaro for a nice effect, and I wonder also how much more of a full sound the band can get with a full time keyboard player.
Overall, there are just an abundance of gritty and catchy metal anthems to be heard here, like the lengthy "Defiler", a song with intricate guitar riffs, catchy vocal melodies from Berlinghof, and pummeling rhythms. A song from their Urshurak days, "The Endless Days of a Stranger", is once again reprised here, sounding better than ever with stronger guitar work and amazing vocals from PJ. The male vocal chorus "…destroy all evil, destroy all evil" is still present, and maybe it's my ears but I seem to be warming up to this aspect of the song where years ago I questioned it. Other highlights include the weaving guitar workout for Asaro "Onward to the Games", the progressive and atmospheric "Under the Black Flag" (which has some subtle Iced Earth influences), and the closing metal epic "Gift of the Southern Oracle".
If you miss the sounds of the early 80's when European metal ruled the land before the glitz and glam of the L.A. scene took over, then the latest from Twilight Odyssey will be a welcome addition to your CD collection. The all around packing of the CD is extremely professional and classy, with photographs, complete lyrics, and attractive artwork. Hopefully the band will get noticed by a prominent metal label and be able to bring their classy sounds to a wider audience. Brooklyn can't have it all now can they?
1) Plaza de Toros
2) Zero Hour
3) Near Dark
4) Under the Black Flag
6) The Endless Days of a Stranger
7) Onward to the Games
8) The New Queen
9) Gettysburg (The Blue and the Gray)
10) Gift of the Southern Oracle