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Mob Rules - "Radical Peace" (CD)

Mob Rules - "Radical Peace" CD cover image

"Radical Peace" track listing:

1. Children Of The Flames (7:31)
2. Trial By Fire (5:23)
3. Warchild (5:56)
4. Astral Hand (5:50)
5. The Oswald File (18:10)
6. Waiting For The Sun (4:37)
7. The Glance Of Fame (5:20)

Reviewed by on February 9, 2010

"Mob Rules has crafted a full and complex brand of progged-power metal that offers a lot more than the standard sing along."

Mob Rules was formed back in 1994, and they took their name from the Dio-fronted Black Sabbath tune. But Mob Rules isn’t just another German power metal rip off. Over the last 15 years and six full-length releases they have honed their sound, and while still firmly in the thrash-free German power metal camp, they have developed an excellent rapport and a surprising amount of prog elements. These things take “Radical Peace” quite a bit beyond the standard fist-pumping skullduggery.

“Children of the Flames” starts and we know this isn’t going to be a standard power metal offering from the get go. A picked bass line leads the way briefly before the power kicks in, but the seed has been sown. As the song progresses the things that stand out most are Klaus Dirks’ vocals and the slightly off-kilter melodies. The vocals aren’t the standard soaring piece, but are more contained and introspective. And the melodies slowly twist and turn, moving in and out of dissonance and deliberately ill-matched notes, creating a touch of discomfort. The song also features long, Dream Theater-esque bridges that carry the core melody between sections; an almost two minute long outro on "Children of the Flames" finds Mob Rules easing through the melody to its logical conclusion. At seven and a half minutes that move between very distinct passages, this clearly is not the expected opening.

Some songs are of course more straight forward, and some are more progressive in nature, but it all holds together. Mob Rules’ power metal is based on Iron Maiden’s bass-led chug (albeit without the galloping rhythms), and their prog elements are based on the less virtuosic Dream Theater passages. The crown jewel of the album is of course the 18 minute “The Oswald Fire.” Lyrically based on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the song is separated into six sections, and the suite is very well constructed. Like all excellent prog concept pieces, it combines musical themes as it goes along, and delivers an emotional and intellectual ride throughout. It will take a few spins to get all the pieces together, but it is well worth the time.

Perfection doesn’t reign exclusively, however. The choruses and main melody on “Warchild” just don’t quite gel, as the keyboard that leads the charge is particularly lethargic, and the rest of the band can’t bring the song back. After the epic “Oswald Fire” the last two tracks play like filler, as they don’t hold together as well as the front of the disc. But “Waiting for the Sun” and “The Glance of Fame” aren’t terrible, just tired.

After most power metal albums end, it seems like exactly what was expected ended up happening. After “Radical Peace" ends a moment must be taken to assess what exactly went on. Mob Rules has crafted a full and complex brand of progged-power metal that offers a lot more than the standard sing along. Fists in the air indeed.

Highs: “The Oswald Fire” is everything it sets out to be – musical, dynamic, and epic for all 18 minutes.

Lows: The last couple songs aren’t great - just a letdown after the epic that precedes them.

Bottom line: Surprisingly good mix of progressive and power makes for a great album.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 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)