Twilight Messenger – The World Below
Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway
I’ll be open about this: I wasn’t expecting much out of the international Twilight Messenger. Between the fact that there are a multitude of bands with the word “Twilight” in their names (like Twilight Guardians, Twilight Odyssey, Twilightning, and probably numerousl others that I’m forgetting), and the abundant cliches in both the tracklisting (“By Wings Of Destiny,” are you kidding me?) and the cover art, I was about ready to chalk this one up as a bland, forgettable power metal entry. I then proceeded to hit play and eat my hat, both metaphorically and literally (the starving college kid stereotype exists for a reason). What I got was a pure metal onslaught not unlike the hell destroyers from Cage, or even Primal Fear at its most unabashed. Singer Juan Rodriguez even bears a similar Painkiller-era Judas Priest shriek that the two aforementioned bands have been aping for years. Crushing riffs, blistering solos, and pounding drums round out the majority of Twilight Messenger’s sound.
…All that and some terrible metalcore vocals. Mercifully, these only show up in two songs, but they come without so much as a warning, and sound so terribly out of place. Their first appearance is on “Fireball,” which is the fourth track on the album, an awfully late time to present such a drastic style change like that, in my opinion. It’s like a drive-by change-up that doesn’t come back to finish the job until the last song, “Lord Of The Dragons.” Both of these songs are also short, thankfully, but the fact that these awful vocals are included at all baffles me. Even in comparison with other metalcore vocalists, these vocals are abysmal. They’re not emotionally driven like Howard Jones (ex-Killswitch Engage), nor do they have the guttural brutality of Steve Marois from Despised Icon. They just suck. A note to all metal bands, power and otherwise: don’t add core-style vocals unless you can do them well. Even then…probably don’t do it.
That one complaint aside, The World Below is a ridiculously solid album with tons of great moments like the choir near the end of “By Wings Of Destiny” (clichéd song title be damned). It’s not the best implementation of choirs ever in power metal, but the build-up is admirable. The ominous intro in the opening song, the self-titled “Twilight Messenger”, also sets the mood nicely despite being cheesy. But hey, at least there’s no broken English spoken word. After the intro, the listener is hurdled into a rip-roaring, guitar-driven, shrieking assault to the ears. And it’s glorious. The rest of the album is more or less akin to the first track, but it’s done so energetically and well that it’s hard to complain. The shorter numbers are a bit punchier, but the music here is like a more brooding Cage, wailing Halford-esque vocals, shredding guitars, and all. It’s not particularly deep or original, but given some of the rubbish I’ve had to review this year (*glares at Ring of Fire’s Battle of Leningrad*), albums like The World Below are fresh, and a very welcome change of pace. Just cut the -core vocals and you’ve got the perfect album to tide over those anticipating the new Cage and Judas Priest coming out later this year.