This review, oddly enough, feels like a response to my review of Sleepy Hollow’s Tales of Gods and Monsters, as, back in that review, I commented that you could tell that Bob Mitchell’s voice would have fit that record far better than Chapel Stormcrow’s did, so having him pop up on this record was a bit of a surprise for me, as I had entirely forgotten to see what he was up to in the time since I’d done that review! Granted, if someone had told me that Mitchell was fronting an Italian power metal band while I’d been working on that review, I’d have probably raised an eyebrow and gone “OK, that’s a weird choice”, as the logistics of having a vocalist work with a band from a different country as themselves are something that I’d expect to have shot such an idea down.
Although it works for Assassins Blade, so maybe I’m overthinking it a bit…
Anyway, Savior from Anger are an Italian power band that lean more towards the US power metal style of things (so, think more along the lines of Iced Earth and Jag Panzer than Sonata Arctica and Stratovarius) and are lead by guitarist Mark Ryal, who was also their lead vocalist from 2010 until 2014 and their bassist from 2013 until 2014 as well as the only founding member of the band remaining (so, think Jeff Waters if he was Italian and you’re on the right track). The band’s current lineup comprises bassist Frank Firodellisi (who I’ve not been able to find other information on), who has been a member of the band since 2014 after having served as a live bassist for the band since 2012, drummer Michael Kusch (who has been active since at least 1995 as a musician, but this is the second album he has appeared on as a musician, as far as I can tell: his first album was with Adligate, a death/thrash/groove metal band, on their 2015 album New Blood Old Chapter…as one of their guitarists, surprisingly!), who has been with Savior from Anger since 2015, and, obviously, Bob Mitchell, who joined the band in 2014. The band have released two previous studio albums to date: 2008’s Lost in the Darkness and 2013’s Age of Decadence. I’m not familiar with either of these two records, I’ll admit, so consider this more a review for first time listeners rather than already established fans.
Honestly, though, I’m not sold on Temple of Judgment. Is it a bad record? No: it doesn’t do anything that works to its detriment, some elements of it are pretty decent and it is definitely going to be something that I can see US power metal fans enjoying. But I can’t escape the feeling that this is the sort of record that is more commendable for its devotion to the subgenre of metal it is from than because of the quality of the material, which hampers my personal enjoyment of the record.
Let’s get the obvious comment out of the way: Savior from Anger’s sound is pretty much how you would expect a US power metal band to sound. Seriously, if I was to boil the band’s sound down to one sentence, it would be basically me saying that it is fast playing with a lot of aggression, but with a melodic side that stops it from entirely descending into a thrash metal record and with high pitched vocals that owe far more to Rob Halford than the expected punk-influenced yell. It’s not all that original in that aspect, but hey, originality is not a requirement to be good, so it’s not a big issue.
The songwriting is…not bad. I hesitate to say it is good because nothing on the record really grabbed me as a listener, but there’s nothing technically wrong with the songs: they’re well structured (although there’s not a huge shake up of traditional songwriting structures on here), have a reasonable amount of complexity to them, have some memorable moments and nothing feels like it is beyond the level of the performers. Maybe the problem is that I’m generally a bit underwhelmed by US power metal as a subgenre of metal (I don’t dislike it, but I’m MUCH more interested in the European scene), but nothing really made me sit up and go “OK, I’d like to hear that again”: it was more pleasant while it was playing than anything else.
The band’s performances are hard to fault. Ryal is a very competent guitarist, but I could tell very easily that he is more at home on the lead guitar than he is on the rhythm guitar (his guitar solos are actually pretty good overall, even managing to avoid falling into the trap of just playing notes randomly and quickly by giving them structure and changing up the tempo during them), which makes me wonder if the band might be better served with a second guitarist to cover that for him. Kusch’s drumming is pretty much what you would expect to hear on this type of record, but he doesn’t do a bad job with it at all: some of the drumming he does is pretty good (‘Chosen Ones’ has some very quick double bass drumming that I was actually rather impressed with, although he doesn’t reach the speed of, say, George Kolias) and I will admit that there’s nothing I can really fault his drumming for. Firodellisi’s bass isn’t all that interesting, unfortunately, but this is pretty much par for the course with this sort of metal, so I’m not too bothered by this.
Bob Mitchell’s vocals…well, the best way I can sum him up is that he is pretty much like Rob Halford without the lower range and with a more aggressive edge. I haven’t heard Mitchell’s voice on his early records, but I will say that, for a guy who has been singing for over 22 years, his voice is actually pretty decent! He hits some pretty impressive high notes that I would have thought would have been beyond him across the record (I particularly like the ones he does in “The Eye”).
The production on the record bothers me. For once, I’m not too concerned about the minimal bass presence in the mix: it isn’t doing anything especially interesting in any case, so I can see why it wasn’t given a lot of presence. The rest of the mix is fine, with the guitar actually sounding pretty good and the drums sounding OK. The thing that bugs me is the mastering, but for a weird reason: it manages to sound like it has had too much mastering, but it isn’t as loud on my ears as some of the records I usually say could have done with a bit more care on the mastering front. Maybe there’s been something done with the record on the production front, but I feel like I did when I tried to listen to Deicide’s self-titled debut: my ears can tell something is wrong with the sound of the production, but it’s actually quieter on my ears than other records which I have covered, so it’s not obvious what the problem is. I can’t put it any better than that, if I’m honest. The thing is, the sound of the record (in terms of how the instruments sound) is actually fairly good! I’m not going to say it’s a bad production job at all, but it does bother me for some reason.
Ultimately, I can see why people would enjoy Temple of Judgement: there’s nothing technically wrong with it. The performances are fairly good, the songwriting has some good moments to it and the production isn’t necessarily bad. Unfortunately, it just didn’t grab me personally. People far more interested in US power metal than me will probably dig this a lot (and, if so, good for you!), but, for me, it’s just nothing all that special.
Temple of Judgment will be released on the 29th of April by Pure Steel Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.