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Release Date: October 30, 2015
U.S. Power Metal stalwarts, Cage, return with their seventh album, Ancient Evil. The new album is a long, winding, and destructive sounding concept album based on a novel written by vocalist Sean Peck. The story is told through a handful of vocalists and most of it is delivered at a breakneck speed. All of these things are big ol’ red flags for me so I was hesitant to give this one a listen.
The first thing that caught my attention here is the production. While I have enjoyed other Cage albums, this one takes the whole thing up to the proverbial “11.” Every instrument is pristine and the songs sound HUGE. The guitars are thick and the rhythm section pummels you at every turn. Aside from the narrative interludes, this album barely ever lets up.
It’s hard to pick highlights on an album like this because the band knocks it out of the park at every turn. “Behind the Walls of Newgate” has a dark feel to it that makes the vocals shine. The music machine guns along to the catchy-as-hell melodies laid down by the guitars and vocals. And the screams? The screams, I kid you not, rival Rob Halford’s work on Painkiller. “Across the Sea of Madness” is another go-for-the-throat tune that reminds me of Judas Priest’s heaviest moments. The melodic chorus is balanced out by pummeling verses that leave you exhausted at the end of it all. “The Expedition” is straight out of the Power Metal bible with its heavy melodic drive, but the band twists the myth a bit mid-song with a slower, semi-narrative part before amping it back up for the last minute or so. The more progressive elements of this song and the slightly more commercial flare of “Symphony of Sin” are ample evidence that Cage are not a one-trick pony.
As it turns out, this album works both as a standalone album and a musical soundtrack to a fascinating story. The band wisely allow you to put as much or as little into as you want. You can enjoy it either way and enjoy it you will if you like the traditional sounds of bands like Judas Priest, Blind Guardian, and Helloween. Ancient Evil cements the fact that Cage are worthy to be spoken in the same breath as the masters.
Reviewed by Mark Fisher