Being on the Bloodbought Records mailing list, I've been aware of the new Shining Force album for quite some time before it's release. The label, of course, is going to hype the album's "greatness", so very rarely will I take too much stock in what record labels say. Before I even heard one note from this self-titled disc I had talked to two different friends about it. One friend heaped praise on the band and said that this release is one of the best metal albums in 2003. The other friend said the band was not very good at all and said the disc was pretty "sad".
Those are two VERY different opinions from two music guru's that I highly respect. Finally, my copy arrived in the mail and it was time to decide for myself. For one, this is not a "sad" album or a bad band. However, this is not one of the best metal albums of the year either. Shining Force kinda lands somewhere inbetween. This is, however, a band that I will have no problems listening to in the future once this review has long been posted.
This disc starts off with a barrage of four straight '80's influenced, heavy metal songs with a lot of bite, before being broken up by a ballad. The band supplies a nice hefty crunch, with some fine guitar solos, and plenty of attitude in the vocals. Lead singer, Randy Dickey, does a pretty decent job throughout the entire disc. On the first listen I kept waiting for him to mess up or not be able to hit every scream just perfect, but he does a great job of staying in control and always sings perfectly within his range. Musically, the band is nice and tight and keeps you locked in most of the time. They do an excellent job of coming at you with great hooks that will stick in your head.
Lyrically, the band does a great job writing lyrics that are very convicting and bold for Christ. The opener "The Old Serpent Whispers" warns of the deception of Satan: "Cast down from Heaven/Broken from the Light/To crawl on the ground/On you sin he thrives/To destroy your spiritual life/He is the liar/The dragon never sleeps/Your souls he wants to eat/Pour your life into hell/...The old serpent whispers." At other times, the band's lyrics are very worshipful and emotional in a very tasteful way.
Unfortunately, there are some down points. Occasionally, during the second half of the disc, the album kinda bogs down. This isn't the case with every song, but I just found my mind drifting to other things at times. There are no songs on here that will make "Song of the Year", but the band supplies solid material for the most part that give the listener something to look forward to past the first spin of the disc.
Production-wise, the album suffers in places, but being on a small, underground label you can't always expect perfection. Overall, it's a decent listen though.
The band has some samples on the Bloodbought Records website (http://www.bloodboughtrecords.com) if you wanna check out their sound. Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but definitely not an album that I will dog. (Review by Matt)