Jacob's Dream - Drama of the Ages
Most bands tend to have shake ups now and then. Some lead to the band’s ruin, and other lead to a “second wind” for the band. As for Jacob’s Dream, I think it has given the band a second wind. Now is that second wind as good as the first wind? Well, let me tell you about the shake up and then I’ll let you know about the qualities and downfalls of this album.
First off, the band has switched vocalists. David Taylor resigned as vocalist quite a while back. The band found a replacement, but tragically that person died in a car wreck. So, the band went on a search again and found what they liked in Chaz Bond, who at the time was the vocalist for the band Biogenesis. The revolving door of band members also continued as former band members Jon Noble and Gary Holtzman rejoined the band with Noble still on guitars, but with Holtzman switching from guitars to drums.
With all of that moving it's no wonder that it was four years between Theater of War and Drama of the Ages. With that long gap and all the member changes, what can fans of Jacob's Dream expect? Well first off, the biggest noticeable difference is the new vocalist Chaz Bond. Where David Taylor had very high, stratosphere vocals, Bond has a deeper more gothic sounding voice ala Jimmy Brown (Deliverance) or Eric Clayton (Saviour Machine) with a slight lean towards Geoff Tate at times. This is going to take some patience on the part of some Jacob's Dream fans to get used to. Even though I was a fan of Bond's former band Biogenesis, it took me a few spins of this disc to get used to his singing in Jacob's Dream, which is more clean oriented instead of the gruff almost death metal singing he did in Biogenesis. A couple times he does the gruff thing (like in the songs "Tempest" & "Deceiver of the Nations") and while that doesn't bother me at all, some JD fans will cringe. While Bond does have a great, versatile voice he does seem a bit out of place on a few songs. Not throughout the songs, but on certain verses or choruses. But for the most part he is completely in control and sounds solid. He even lets out some piercing screams a couple times which ups the aggression level. And one thing that the band doesn't lose by switching vocalists is emotion. While there is no heart-jerker like "Sarah Williams" on this disc, Drama of the Ages is dripping with passion.
Musically, while this does sound somewhat different from the band's first two albums, there is still some recognizable features, especially in some of the guitar playing; and it shouldn't be too much of a challenge for past JD fans to get into it. While the band still cranks out the metal, this current Jacob's Dream seems more intent on pushing the song itself instead of focusing on whether or not they knock you back against the wall. Which in a way can be a good thing at times. Like at the beginning of "Drowning Man" with the soft acoustic guitar and haunting vocals that soon turn to heavy riffing and a screaming lead and then more aggressive vocals. It's not just about being "extreme" and heavy but in crafting the song in the best way possible. Then there is the opening of "At the Gates" where you hear a minute worth of fighting, swords, and metal clanging before the song rips in in grand fashion. Regardless though, the band is still as tight as ever and continue to grace us with their musical prowess. And they still toe the line between being a power metal or progressive metal band. While the two genres can have great extremes, Jacob's Dream...like a Balance of Power...tend to take elements of both and fuse them together nicely.
Lyrically, the band continues to write impressively. "Spinning Leaf" talks of the meaning/fragility of life, "A slave to time as I look back on my life/A path that can lead to insanity/All the years I leave behind me/All means nothing at the front of the gate/....Life is like a spinning leaf/Rise and fall with our valor and grief/Life is like a spinning leaf/Your world can be broken so easily/...Reborn in fire/Flesh mortified/Bringing death to the agony/This life is now but we must look to eternity." Then the song "Third Way" talks of the crumbling of America from within. "Manipulate and fabricate/A scheme to rule the masses/A rotting corpse in royal gown/Hail the throne majestic/A cancer eating at the heart/of blood bought liberty/No aggressor could prevail/she's falling from within/A socialist utopia/Equality for all/The ruling elite exempt themselves/from the cruel reality/Sacrificing for the goal of global unity/Atone the sins of capitalist and racist sovereignty/The third way/Is the reign of idiocy/One by one/Freedoms stripped away/The third way/The offspring of our apathy/Down we go/Into the vortex of tyranny/Bleed our inspiration/Conform at any cost/The individual must give way/to new identity/Regulate/Confiscate/Blind diversity/Breed the worker drones to serve/in numb complacency." That is just fabulous writing and wise insight. You got to love it when band not only know how to create good music, but also when they have a handle on reality.
I guess my biggest disappointment with this disc is the production. While it's not bad for some bands, it's a step in the wrong direction for Jacob's Dream. Their previous releases were crisp and clear, and this one tends to get muddied at times. Aside from that complaint (well, and the somewhat lame artwork too), I really am enjoying this new JD album. It will take some getting used to for some, but it's worth the extra effort it takes. Jacob's Dream caught that second wind and I'm hoping they ride this one for as long as possible.
Review By: Matt Morrow
Label: Metal Blade Records
Total Songs: 13
Total Time: 70:50
Tracklisting: 1. Drama of the Ages, 2. Keeper of the Crown, 3. Spinning Leaf, 4. Stand or Fall, 5. Tempest, 6. Third Way, 7. Forever Winter, 8. Drowning Man, 9. Deceiver of the Nations, 10. Cutting Words, 11. Victory, 12. At the Gates, 13. Untitled.
Best Songs: 3, 9, 10, and 12.
Band Lineup: Chaz Bond - Vocals, John Berry - Guitars/Synth/Backing Vocals, Jon Noble - Guitars/Backing Vocals, James Evans - Bass/Backing Vocals, Gary Holtzman - Drums.
Band Website: http://www.jacobsdream.us