This is Steve’s second solo release, a follow up to 2019’s ‘Back in Hell’ whilst his other band Hamerex are on hold. As you may already know, this is totally self-recorded (all instruments – and drum programming) and over recent lockdown Steve offered fans who pre ordered the physical CD release to be included in the album’s thanks list.
The style still remains the same, 90’s onwards Iron Maiden and Steve’s vocals are akin to the messiah Dickinson in more places than not. The album persona overall feels much darker than with its predecessor ‘Back in Hell’. The material is written well and has an improved production, much like ‘Back in Hell’ even though I find some aspects quite compressed. Positively though, the improved dynamics completely change the listening experience for the better when using some decent audio equipment for these acute and fulfilling metal tracks.
Opener ‘The Screaming Eye’ is galloping Maiden fest. I love the riffing, Steve’s added some cool echo effects to the vocals and the solo shows progression and is a pure British metal juggernaut almost sounding like a twin guitar attack when it sounds like a second part comes into the mix. ‘Black Dog’ uses some effects pedals at the start them goes into a Sabbath ‘Dehumanizer’ time machine chug fest mixed with modern-ish Saxon influences. ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’ is over 6 minutes long and as almost predicted, is much more “epic”. Perhaps in places to a similar stance to Dark Forest’s material. The sound effects are a nice touch and this shows there’s some thought behind the arrangement, although I generally don’t like keyboards! Sound wise, these are equally on par with modern material released by some of the big names. This track in particular has momentum, it has depth and it comes across very well with a strong vocal performance to match. ‘Lucifer Rising (Hell Awakens)’ drum and bass parts to the intro seems to take influence from Megadeth, and to some degree the complex guitar riff that develops from this. Otherwise you may well look to the likes of what is termed progressive metal in the complex time signature. When the vocal starts its again dark and broody, but the lead break after the first bit of singing is really quite special, I really enjoy this part. ‘The End’ completes the album and starts like WASP’s ‘The Heretic’ if you want a sense of similar atmospherics. Other would argue its pure Blaze era Maiden, but that’s not a criticism. When the guitar starts, there’s a slight augmentation in the structure, it makes it stand out, makes you listen. Influences are plentiful and it shows that a solo artist can produce material of great wealth and Steve has a deft art to the arrangements.
Overall, I wasn’t sure at first, for me it was the production not the songs. But as I mentioned earlier, if you listen to this on a proper sound system and not a tinny MP3 player, then you get the real picture, the real atmospherics come through and the strong song writing presents itself in its true glory. I like ‘The Prophecy’, it’s a continuation of Steve’s former album, but I think here the writer has paid more attention to the arrangements and the way they come across to would be listeners.
(8/10 Paul Maddison)