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Acolyte - "Oceans Of Blood" (CD)

Acolyte - "Oceans Of Blood" CD cover image

"Oceans Of Blood" track listing:

1.Brake Of Dawn (2:23)
2. Vultures (3:12)
3. I Have Become (5:43)
4. False Heaven (4:45)
5. Birth Is The Beginning (12:36)
6. Brand New Beast (5:24)
7. Visitation (1:10)
8. Mist Through The Night (5:29)
9. Nocturne (Fugue In B Minor) (2:19)
10. Oceans Of Blood (20:05)

Reviewed by on April 15, 2009

"These compositions aren’t exactly what you could call tight and concise; in most cases, though, if the songs were cut down, they would be quite good."

There was a time in the not so distant past when almost all metal music preached themes of anti establishment and anarchy. Greece’s newest progressive metal band, Acolyte, seems to have taken up the banner of "mankind is evil" with their debut release, "Oceans Of Blood."

Band founder and guitarist, Lazarus Varla, is responsible for the entire album’s lyrics and compositions. While the lyrics are dark and thought-provoking, some are sure to rub people the wrong way, and after a while the "Heart Of Darkness" feeling gets to be a bit depressing. Still, they are well-written and make the album worth a listen.

In contrast, the compositions are mediocre at best. By the fifth track, you realize that they are formulaic, even if some songs are excessively longer than the rest, and that the main sound is a mix between progressive and symphonic. There are hints of power metal, but the guitar work isn’t that inspiring when compared to other bands in the genre, and the brief moments of thrash are so similar to some masters of the genre that two or three measures will be instantly recognized by most listeners.

The vocals are somewhat weak, and many times get buried behind the instruments. Even in what is arguably the best track, "Brand New Beast," the vocals lack the strength and power to effectively deliver the message of evil in the guise of addiction. This track is significantly better than most, primarily because there are more lyrics, and their message is complete, but unfortunately, the band drags out the song to over twelve minutes in order to accomplish this, which still is nearly half the length of the closing track, "Oceans Of Blood." These compositions aren’t exactly what you could call tight and concise; in most cases, though, if the songs were cut down, they would be quite good.

From Big Brother satellites, to greedy politicians, to missionaries who feed the starved with faith rather than food, the topics covered in this album are all worthy of reflection, but even the most somber person needs a break now and then. Thankfully, Acolyte intersperses these heavier themes with a couple instrumental pieces. The first, "Visitation," refers to visits from the spirit world, and the tinkling of wind chimes adds to the eerie feel of the composition. The second instrumental track, "Nocturne," is a mellow, almost folk sound, with two acoustic guitars seemingly doing their own thing. It would be a very nice piece, except that the guitars’ separate scores don’t blend well, and end up sounding discordant.

For the most part, Acolyte does a good job as a progressive act matching composition to lyrics. In "I Have Become," an acoustic guitar takes over a sad melody that effectively and passionately expresses the pain this young soldier feels at having become a killing machine. "Mist Through The Night" is a traditional ballad, with mellow vocals and slowed down tempo, reflecting the sense of heartache over a lost lover, who happens to be a ghost.

Because "Oceans Of Blood" is Acolyte’s first album, I’m willing to cut them some slack for being formulaic and dragging songs on too long. Hopefully their next album will be tighter, and the vocal delivery will be better, because though "Oceans Of Blood" warrants a listen, but it’s not one most people will feel obligated to add to their collection.

Highs: Thought-provoking lyrics make this album one everyone should hear once.

Lows: Vocals are weak, and compositions drag.

Bottom line: A prog release that may have its flaws, but is one everyone should listen to once.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)