Black Majesty - Silent Company
After the very promising debut Sands of Time, Australian Black Majesty have their sophomore effort, Silent Company out on the market. Since the first album was a very promising beginning, this was a highly anticipated release and to see if the band could make an equally strong or even stronger follow- up was very interesting to dig further into. The line up is intact since the debut and the band hasn't strayed far, or even anywhere actually, from the former style. Silent Company continues where Sands of Time left off and the music is still focusing on an abundance of melody in the lead guitar and the quite unique vocals of John Cavaliere. Comparisons to especially Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Helloween and above all Queensryche (Operation Mindcrime) still hold but Black Majesty haven't lost touch to their own musical origins from the first album. Some light progressive touches are also present but overall we're once again dealing with a very melodic straight up power metal release.
The starting Dragon Reborn opens up this chapter with a great distinct and fast guitar riff worthy in the recognition of the band. This is a real strong and fast opener and quite a complex one too so it takes more than just one listen to get the entire hang of it. Really nice track once done though and one of the more prominent outings on the album. The title track isn't as good as its counterpart Sands of Time but it shows that the band has other qualities than just keeping the pedal nailed to the floor. The song provides a lot of multi-layered vocals and the chorus really stands out among the rest of the material. The band's decision to include their own interpretation of John English's awesome ballad Six Ribbons came totally out of the blue, but I really like what Black Majesty's done with it and Cavaliere's duet with guest female vocalist Susie Goritchan is a truly great feature. I remember this as a theme from a TV-series from my childhood and I've always loved it and to hear it in a metal version so much later in life was a real nice thing.
Firestorm and Never Surrender are clean and direct power metal numbers worthy of encouragement too even though they provide very little resourcefulness. Especially the second one has very evident Maiden strokes though and both prove that Black Majesty have a really good and reliable source to scoop up songs like this from. The galloping rhythms of the 8 minute closer A Better Way to Die is also bearing the Maiden trade name and overall there are flavours in the guitar work from Janevski and Mohamed that sends more than just one thought to Smith/Murray's classic finger-fretting. The more mid-tempo oriented Visionary shows the most progressive features of the album but also a great multiplicity and shifts between different paces.
Just as Sands of Time this album also shows quite a heavy quantity of diversity even though the delivered power metal itself can't really be said to push the boundaries of the genre. No major revolution regarding the sound has taken place either but the production of the old school type has a little more flesh on its bones this time. It feels a little fatter and more packed with power and much of that is due to the collaboration with Piet Sielck, who's been responsible for the drum-recordings together with Pavel Konvalinka. Otherwise you can't say that any real groundbreaking inputs have been added regarding the sound and the band has continued to rely on the basic sound they had on their debut release.
What really makes Silent Company a very good release though is the lead guitar that this album is more than very well stocked with. They have a very impressive flow and give us several real knock-out twin leads and impressive solos on as good as every number. Many keep mentioning John Cavaliere's vocals as the band's real trademark and to some extent I can agree, but since he still tends to miss a tone here and there and feels a bit unsharpened. Based on this I have to disagree a little with other reviewers and regard his efforts of the more average sort, however unique his pipes must be looked upon. Comparisons to Jeff Scott Soto, Daniel Heiman, Geoff Tate, Rob Rock and a strong lean towards Bruce Dickinson on some songs are still valid and being mentioned in the same contexts as these impressive other vocalists says much of what capacities he has, but there's also more improvement ahead before matching any of those.
The question to whether Silent Company or Sands of Time is the better release remains to be a difficult nut to crack. There are parts on both releases that are both better and worse on both albums. Sands of Time had the magic of being the debut and providing something new and fresh while Silent Company feels like the band's playing it a bit safer and relies on former exertions. The sound is slightly better here, the drums especially and perhaps the guitars are too. The song-material is by and large on the same levels between the two albums. More killers on the first album and more solid and even compositions on the new, so I guess that will have to be the weight that finally breaks the nutshell. It's basically a dead run between the two efforts and I will continue to follow the future career of this band with great interest. I'm sure that Black Majesty will continue to be a reliable resource of well played melodic power metal and they sure have the potential of becoming one of Australia's bigger such exports together with bands like Dungeon and Vanishing Point.
See also: Song By Song Commentary
also review of: Sands Of