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Slaves For Life

Review by Gary Hill

Much of this CD is pure metal. The truth is the rest of it, though, is so symphonic and soundtrack based that it really doesn’t qualify as metal. If it’s rock music and has styles built into it that keep it from fitting into any real category, for my money that makes it progressive rock – almost by definition. This is a concept album, based on the Exodus story from the Bible – and since that’s old Testament it’s part of the Torah – so that alone would make this of interest to Christians and Jews alike. The music here is quite amazing. While there are parts that will call to mind this or that the full combination and effect is one of a sound that is purely unique. This is quite a powerful album.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at

Track by Track Review
Sound effects lead off here. A voice speaking, I believe in Hebrew, delivers a line or two. Then they take us on a world music journey with a track this is basically an acoustic guitar driven instrumental ballad. The sounds of wind and other effects are present in this mix. Eventually sound effects (including a horse) and some more spoken words, end this or more accurately pull it into the next track.

Slaves For Life
Sound effects and a world music vocal line begins this. The music grows upward in a symphonic motif that resembles soundtrack music. We get a shift out towards metal and world music progressions weave their way over the top of this. When you think it might shift into a full heavy metal journey, it drops back to a very symphonic balladic approach still laden with those Eastern textures. The vocals rise up and begin to tell the epic story. After a while this fires out into more pure metal, albeit epic metal with symphonic elements. They drop it back towards the more melodic and the world music textures are laid over the top of this. They merge this more pure prog with the more metal. We get an instrumental segment that includes both more purely metallic structures and those which are more symphonic. This is merged as they carry on, and truly this  part of the composition is epic metal plain and simple.  They continue this track by more alterations between the more symphonic and the more hard rocking.  This is incredibly well arranged, merging the two sounds (and effects making this feel like a soundtrack) quite effectively. Eventually this drops to just old world vocals to end.
Birth of Deliverance
This starts nearly purely symphonic. As it grows upward it feels like the soundtrack to an old epic film. They pull it down to more gentle textures, but still preserve the motif. Another rise upward and then it drops down for the vocal section. This is delivered in a balladic, nearly gothic, mode. It grows with dramatic and measured additions. There is a definite operatic/theatric feeling to this. They turn it up towards a metallic prog jam as they carry it forward. This drops way back down mid track to a segment that’s almost entirely sound effects. Piano drives a balladic movement as this grows upward. Then they burst out into more metallic territory. This begins to resemble epic metal quite a bit, still with a lot of classical textures to it. As is becoming a theme on this CD they alternate between these rocking elements and the more purely neo-classical soundtrack ones to create the rest of this number. There is a section around the eight and a half minute mark (this piece is 11:11 in length) that reminds me of a more metallic take on a progression that we might have heard from Fish era Marillion. As they build this out it’s one of the rocking sections of the disc that does not have any real metal. It definitely qualifies as epic in form and function, though. They drop back to the more symphonic to carry us into the next track.

As the build up the symphonic elements left behind from the previous cut this feels mysterious and awe-inspiring, but still stays mellow. They drop it way back to world music sounds and then it begins to rise up with an ethnic music texture. It drops back around the two minute mark for a flute solo. Then they power out into an Eastern tinged metallic jam. As they drop it back down it’s a mysterious, world music oriented ballad motif. This is built gradually upward. They take us more fully into that world music tradition and then scream back out with Eastern tinged metal. Then we drop back toward the symphonic. Again they continue on by alternating these two (metal and orchestral) themes and sometimes merging them. We get some serious death metal vocals on this piece. A little before the seven minute mark (this one is almost twelve minutes long) they drop it back for a balladic movement. After a time this gives way to more ambient sound effects dominated music. Then it rises upwards towards prog ballad territory. World music vocals come over the top and we get the first bursts of the return to the metallic. They work it back out in this direction gradually and more sound effects are all over the top of this. The swirling guitar section that takes it next is quite dramatic. They twist and turn this jam while maintaining the epic metal motif. The sound of a horse running off ends this.
Sound effects merge with a female world music vocal line. That holds about the first minute or so of this. Then we get a melodic and mellow progressive rock texture for the first verse. The world music textures are all over this and it’s very effective. They alternate between the male and female vocals in an intriguing pattern. This has a bit of a Renaissance feeling to it at times, but also has hints of Lacuna Coil. The acoustic instruments weave some wonderful patterns of sound as the voices dance around one another. This is one of my favorite tracks on the disc. At around the three and a half minute mark this works through another wonderful world music section (with just the female vocals) and then the male vocals return to continue the dance. This is powerful (mainly through the vocal performances) and just plain cool.

Burning Bush
The music that starts this reminds me of the theme to The Exorcist. This has a dark, nearly frightening aspect to it. The first vocals are spoken and in Hebrew, I think. They turn this out to an anthemic balladic approach that is still laden with symphonic elements. This is worked out in powerful ways as they carry on. They continue to expand on this and it builds into something extremely cool before they abruptly end it.
The Wooden Staff
They start out here with a fast riff, thoroughly in the metal category. This carries through as the introduction, but then they drop it back to more atmospheric textures and waves of textural guitar (not unlike some early Rush) are merged with a weird processed voice and some other effects. It gets rather strange before that drops away leaving us in the midst of a drum solo. A metal guitar pattern rises up and moves us on from there. The guitar solos in melodic yet crunchy patterns becoming both world music inspired and classical in nature at varying points. It turns quite dramatic for a time in a slow moving pattern and then they take it into faster patterns. This really does a great job of showcasing this band’s ability to merge old and new musical element into a unique and original sound. Eventually this brings us back out into lyrical territory with more ethnic patterns making up this rather crunchy but melodic section. The music drops away leaving just a choir of voices (at first with sound effects and then alone). This serves to end the cut.
Return to Egypt
Keyboards start this. Then they shift out to a symphonic motif that is much in line with soundtrack music and is laden with and built upon Eastern elements. This drops away after a while leaving just an ethnic “wailing” vocal line and some slight effects based musical textures. This transitions us into the next piece.
Ten Plagues
Acoustic guitar rises tentatively amidst sound effects. A spoken (Hebrew?) bit comes over the top and then they shift out into a metallic motif that is powered up with symphonic textures and has a bit of a Pink Floyd feel to it. This moves slowly. Hints of a heavier, nearly thrash-like sound are placed here and there. Rather than shift into that, though, they drop it back to mellow acoustic based stylings for the basis of the balladic vocal segment. They use their now tried and true pattern of alternating between more metallic and mellower motifs often laced with world and symphonic textures to weave the rest of this tale and it becomes quite dramatic at times. They drop back to effects and spoken words (in Hebrew, I think) mid song and then build it back up gradually. This is quite symphonic and soundtrack like for a while but shifts out into neo-classically tinged metal eventually. They drop it down to soundtrack type concepts after working through in an instrumental manner like this for a while. Effects and other elements tell a tale for a time before they pound back out into the metallic song proper.
Land of the Dead
The first portions of this are balladic, with the vocals coming over a motif that is centrally symphonic. They power it up to the metallic for a time but drop it back down to whence they came for the next verse delivery. This is essentially an epic power metal ballad, but it’s got so many symphonic elements to it that it puts in a whole different world. The guitar solo segment on this, while crunchy, is a powerful progressive rock motif – one of the most pure prog sections of the CD. They continue this segment for the next vocals. This takes it to the end, but spoken words (guess what language) end this.

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