Saturday, March 27, 2010

Grand Halls 47

OMEGA – “The Prophet” 1985 (Rock Machine, Eng) – I can say without hesitation that the NWOBHM produced some of the greatest metal ever. Never once before or after has one small geographical area given rise to such a humungous amount of great music in such a short period of time. And while it’s no knock at all against bands like Maiden, Tygers, Angel Witch, etc. my favourites from that era were always those acts who offered sounds that were a bit quirky and afield from the greater multitude. Names like Legend, Witchfinder General, Shiva, Saracen, Split Crow, Limelight and others issued records that ranged from ‘70’s doom to southern rock to progressive, all the while retaining a good hint of the feel of that magical movement. While certainly emerging far later than any of this stuff, OMEGA’s “The Prophet” has the distinct feel of one of these NWOBHM oddities while occasionally rising to even greater heights.

Released in 1985, “The Prophet” is, as far as I can determine, OMEGA’s only work. They are not to be confused with a prog/rock band, much more worldly-known, who put out several LP’s in th ‘70’s. The record features a jacket which just screams “RARE!,” the front cover bearing a spacey silhouette of a gunman on a hill and the back looking like it was almost typed up at somebody’s house! Basically, this album is a dream-come-true for anyone who likes heavy metal with progressive, epic songs, shredding lead guitar and commanding vocals. In fact, wile it doesn’t sound like either, I’d say that if you’re into Saracen’s “Heroes, Saints & Fools” or the Connecticut Legend’s “From The Fjords,” this one will clean your clock!

Side One of OMEGA’s lone effort contains only 3 songs. But what a trio! They are all fantastic, epic-type works, building up in a scale of grand melody and heaviness and each featuring lead guitar blow-outs by Steve Granger (also keys), who’s soloing reminds me a lot of vintage Gary Moore. The vocals of Nick Brent (who also handles rhythm guitar and is joined in the line-up by Graham Roberts on drums & Dave Robertson on bass) are sometimes reminiscent of Greg Lake. Hence, as with the American Legend and Saracen, I could see these guys being considered a sort of metal version of ELP (a mantle that would later be picked up by New York’s Mastermind). Even that description, however, does not do justice to something like the title cut here, a 9 minute epic work of gorgeous power that leaves me breathless every time I hear it. It's overwhelming and quite impressive that a record this obscure was produced so well in the studio. It’s a trait it shares with Winterhawk’s “Revival.”

Side Two of “The Prophet” opens with, yes, another epic killer, “Yesterday’s Children.” At this point, I have to wonder how many bands would die to be able to write one cut like this to use as the centerpiece of an album. Yet here are 4 in a row! The next two songs are sort of odd bedfellows to the rest of the platter. “Drive Me Crazy” and a cover of The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” are both cool, to-the-point rockers, striking me not as filler but more so a way to draw the casual listener into the web of the other material. Another thought: Could these 2 have been the substance of an even more obscure single? With a picture sleeve? Alright, I might be dreaming but if anybody has any info on this possibility, let me know! Finally tying the record together is “The Child,” another magnificent 9 minute opus, sort of the sister song to Side One’s title track. If you don’t have gooseflesh by the time this one ends, you probably have ice water flowing through your veins.

Yes, OMEGA’s “The Prophet” is a truly superior release and holds it’s own with the very top sacred obscurities: Winterhawk, Survivor, Slauter Xstroyes, Poobah, etc. Once you hear it, you’ll know what I mean. A Prophecy Fulfilled

NOTE: If I’m not mistaken, I’ve seen word on the internet about an LP and CD re-issue of this bad boy, so get a-huntin!

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