Thursday, December 31, 2009

Forecast: Reign!

REIGN STORM – “Tomorrow’s Past” CD ’09 (Arkyen Steel, US) – Been an interesting 6 months or so on the Dorsey / Lembach Reunion front. See, here’s the thing. Back this past summer, in the realms of Facebook, I got friended up by an old record store buddy Jarrett Lembach. Within literally a couple of weeks of that, thanks to my wife Jennifer’s urging, I checked out awesome local metal cover band Deadlock. One of the discoveries I made about them, aside from the fact that they completely stomp ass and that they (in their alternate form, Shift) released a massive album in 2006, was that their drummer is Chris Lembach, brother of Jarrett. Chris, besides being another music store chum from the mists of time, also had manned the tubs for area prog institutions Mystic Force back in the day. So, the last several months have seen me catch up with Chris over a lot of old and new stories at Deadlock shows plus receive in the mail this nifty REIGN STORM CD from brother Jarrett. It’s a lengthy, 16 song collection spanning the life of his band over the years 1991 – 1998. Got all that?

Anyway, “Tomorrow’s Past” by REIGN STORM is a real breath of fresh air. For me, it brings back a feeling of metal that you just don’t hear that much anymore. When I say that, I’m talking about days when metallers had long hair, wore Iron Maiden shirts and didn’t feel the need to write every song about some pathetic loser committing suicide because his goth-girl had left him for another vampire. I’m also talking about the days when the words “progressive metal” didn’t make you feel the bile rising in your throat and have you running for the safety of your Blue Cheer albums. No, when I put on this disc and the opening title cut fires out of the Realm Blaster, I’m picturing guys in muscle shirts with “Mercyful Fate” on the front, Jackson V’s and hair swirling…and that’s a good thing. Yes, because much like our beloved Fate (and even Arch-era Fates Warning), these guys packed a helluva punch into their songs. Why, just in that title cut and “Chapter XXX,” guitarist Robb Peterson crams more riffs and harmony leads than Carter’s got liver pills. The best thing about this is that, like the classic MF duo of Shermann & Denner, he does it in songs that range mostly from 3-5 minutes…thus keeping the listener’s interest, not making everything a half-hour snore-a-thon. In fact, it’s notable that only 2 tracks out of the 16 here last beyond the 7 minute mark. Jarrett Lembach’s vocals are a real eye-opener for me throughout this disc. The guy has a range that goes from a pensive mid-range to stratospheric, all with an ease that references the best of the genre, like Mr. Diamond, Arch and John Stewart (Slauter Xstroyes). Listen to his work, for example, in “Road To Insanity.” That’s impressive! It’s also far more than notable that 9 of the 16 numbers here feature the drumming of brother Chris Lembach. As something like “Ruler Of Today” proves, he’s not only one of the premier sticksmen in the local area but of any I’ve seen. (Watch him nail the Tool covers in Deadlock, as well). The blinding bass work on most of the cuts is handled by John Barr.

Another neat thing about this CD is that it chronicles the band’s progress, from their 1989 demo through some live cuts (’91) and on to demos from ’97 and ’98 (some of which feature the contributions of other musicians as well, like Drew Mazurek, Mike Davis, Dwayne Adams, Charles Parker and Frank Starchak) . Unlike some such collections, where the listener finds him or herself blanching at hideous and wildly variable sound quality, the production values here are not just listenable but very high throughout. It all makes this something I have kept near the player since it’s arrival, the perfect antidote to those times I find myself in need of top-notch, first class pure metal. (Um...isn't that always, Ray?) The packaging is sterling, the sleeve notes describing the band’s history are exhaustive and the artwork is first-rate. The only drawback to the whole affair is that 1998 seemed to signal the end for the REIGN STORM story and I find myself sad that I never got to see these guys trod the boards. Still, that being said, this disc is a super chronicle of a band that any real metaller could hold to their heart. And, it’s a limited edition of 1000, so act now! Metal Storm

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