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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Beyond Fear

Beyond Fear

Review by Mike Korn

Nobody should doubt the heavy metal credentials of Tim "Ripper" Owens after hearing this recording. It's unlikely that 2006 will produce many records that are more pure metal than the debut of Owens' new band. This is trendless, dynamic metal with a modern edge that still shows its debt to the classics. Owens, of course, was the star of the most celebrated "cinderella story" in the history of metal when he was plucked from the obscurity of Ohio band Winters Bane to become the lead singer of Judas Priest when Rob Halford took his leave after the Painkiller album. Ripper was put in the unenviable position of stepping into the shoes of arguably the greatest metal vocalist of all time. He acquitted himself well, but basically his tenure was a placeholder until Priest and Halford could iron out their differences. After leaving Judas Priest, Tim hooked up with Iced Earth and he again demonstrated his piercing, powerful vocals on their album The Glorious Burden. Yet even with Iced Earth, he seemed to have a reputation of being Jon Schaffer's hired hand.

With Beyond Fear, Owens takes control and delivers a searing indictment of those who doubted his metal heart. This is a solid traditional metal album that has definite reminders of his Priest and Iced Earth days but which also incorporates some more modern influences from the likes of Fear Factory and Godsmack. It's a great start to what I hope will be a very productive career!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 3 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Scream Machine
What a great way to kick the record off, with a thrashing jolt of pure metal muscle. When Ripper's high-pitched screams kicks in, it blows your head right off! I'd compare this to the title track from Painkiller, only the chorus seems even catchier. Outstanding guitar work from John Comprix and Dwayne Biharry propels it further. The only problem with this monster is that it is so good the rest of the record struggles to match it.
And...You Will Die
Not quite as high velocity as "Scream Machine," this still packs a hefty punch, with growling staccato riffs snarling along in a mid-paced mode. The production on the whole album is excellent and the bottom end sound of drums and bass is massive. The ending is a bit too abrupt.
Save Me
The brutal thump of the opening riff would make a perfect accompaniment to a tank assault. Ripper's vocals switch from a piercing falsetto to a more restrained but still powerful tone with tremendous ease. This cut kind of made think of what Godsmack would be like if they were crossed with the punishing punch of Hatebreed.
The Human Race
Speed and urgency return here with a good fast paced kick. Ripper's vocals are lower register here and the song is better for it, showing that he knows when to show restraint. Non-stop air raid shrieking like on "Scream Machine" is a lot less effective when there's no contrast. I also like the choppy mid-section with the melodic guitar soloing on top of it.
Coming At You
This is a fist-pumping anthem that's on the simple side and which definitely has a commercial side to it. The tune has the feel of some of the classic Priest material. I found the repetition of the chorus to be rather on the meat-headed side, but Ripper comes to the rescue with a soulful performance.
Dreams Come True
This is the token ballad on the album, but it's lifted beyond the average because it is obviously autobiographical and Tim puts a ton of emotion into it. I hate to keep hammering on it, but this guy's voice is just so strong. The multi-tracked chorus is extremely effective and matches the best of Priest's ballads. "Close your eyes for something new / For when you see your dreams come true."
Telling Lies
This is more chugging mid paced crunch and not terribly outstanding. It's not a bad track and very competently delivered, but just too familiar. It sounds kind of like Fear Factory with Priestish soloing and vocals on top.
I Don't Need This
Again this is not rocking the boat and keeps to the same chugging tempo as several other tracks. This has a more bluesy feel to it and resembles a cross between Hell Bent-era Priest and Godsmack. There's a nice little speed up with some tasty soloing in the middle.
Words of Wisdom
The aggression is upped significantly here and Ripper's vocals are definitely a bit more menacing on the main verse. The chorus is more of that choppy Fear Factory-like riffing. This is good, angry sounding metal sure to get the head bobbing.
My Last Words
Wow, what a classic this is...better than anything Ripper did with Priest. It has a lot more of a classical metal feel. A tremendous surging riff is matched by superb vocal melodies. The lyrics relate the last thoughts of one of the passengers of the doomed Flight 93 (or so it seems to me) and are very emotional. The mid-section has a cool Iron Maiden type bounce and guitar solo. It's just a terrific heavy metal song on all levels.
Your Time Has Come
The opening guitar hook is the closest the record gets to all out thrash and provides an excellent backbone for Ripper's high pitched vocal assault. This gets quite melodic and even epic in the second half.
The Faith
Powerful tribal drumming from Eric Elkins kicks this off. The riff here is a very cool pounder that's as catchy as hell. The lyrics are again autobiographical: "I believe in what I do / You see it in my face / I believe in what I do / Because I have the Faith". That's as good a sentiment as any to end this platter of pure unadulterated metal.
 
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