Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sons Of Liberty - Brush-fires Of The Mind

Just play the Metal Gear game instead.

Stereotypes are usually identifiable as sweeping generalizations that, if they do have any basis in reality, certainly can’t be applied as broadly as the person saying them would like. So what am I supposed to make of this, where metal’s own Jon “AMERICA!” Schaffer has essentially lived up to every negative stereotype about him and then one-upped them all?

I mean, Christ, “Jon Schaffer makes an entirely self-performed solo album ranting about the new world order” sounds like something a troll would say on a forum trying to get a rise out of Iced Earth fans.

But at the end of the day, lyrical content isn’t so much of a make-or-break factor in music for me. Cool lyrics are a plus, but I’ll overlook iffy lyrics if the music is good. Which this isn’t, really.

Imagine Iced Earth, except suck out any sense of excitement or dynamic until you’re left with bland, chugging riffs that go throughout the whole song and do. Not. Stop. You’re probably imagining The Crucible Of Man right now, but at least that album had a few moments where Barlow was able to let loose. In essence, take everything that made some Iced Earth exciting, strip it down to its least interesting, least ambitious form, and press it to plastic. That’s Brush-fires Of The Mind. It’s a propaganda piece, pure and simple – you can clearly tell the music plays second fiddle to the message. Even if you agree with the message (that global banking organizations are pulling the strings behind American and world politics), you can just read blogs about it or watch Zeitgeist again. That’s what this is, really; if, say, Enslaved is ‘viking metal’, then Sons Of Liberty is Zeitgeist metal.

Look, I’m keeping my politics out of this, whatever you might think they are, but the fact is that from a musical standpoint, this CD is much more a testament to unambitiousness, and mediocrity, than The Crucible Of Man ever was. I mean, despite the riffetition, Schaffer had it once. I mean, remember how in Travel In Stygian, he surprised us with that melancholic piano outro representing the protagonist’s numb descent into Hell? Or how about Barlow’s massive “I am your anti-Christ!” scream section in The Coming Curse? Total catharsis there. Here? There’s nothing. It’s a plain doughnut, except it spouts political epithets at you. And the moment my pastries start shrieking about the new world order, I’m changing my snack order.

I mean – it’s not bad, because it isn’t ambitious enough to be. These songs just plod along, every facet of the music structured specifically to draw your attention to the vocal lines – which don’t even carry very interesting, or varied melodies. This is an album that serves the exact same purpose as a political blog, and for that reason it just can’t be good on its own merits; it doesn’t care about anything more than the message.

I haven’t touched on the individual instrumentation, or individual highlights, because there’s nothing TO touch on.

The fact that we’ve got a fully produced live Iced Earth DVD set coming out this year answers the prayers of many fans (the Alice In Athens DVD wasn’t so much “fully produced” as “taken from a Greek TV broadcast”, mind) and shows that Schaffer isn’t completely detached from musical reality quite yet. But none the less, save your money for that and avoid this.

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