|The Sign The Second Coming||Frontiers Records|
The key to enjoying The Second Coming to its fullest potential is to sit back and take the album in from start to finish in one hit – concentrating on the music as much as possible.|
This album picks up where the debut left off, but is different in several important ways.
The main drive behind the album is the continuing story line involving Aryon, introduced on the first album. But this time the story is musically far more complex and requires a degree of concentration to absorb.
The story behind the album even getting finished is as complex as the music contained within. The line-up has changed a little, with Billy Greer and Bobby Rondinelli gone and Mark Mangold installed as drummer, adding to his already large work load as composer and keyboard player.
Although part of the band in every way, I felt the input and musical influence guitarist Randy Jackson, less apparent. A second guitarist Jon Bivona is also credited.
Vocalist Terry Brock is certainly featured in all his glory, and he too gets a credit for guitar parts. The biggest influence on the record is the Mark Mangold/Terry Brock partnership.
This is not an album to go picking hit singles from. Nor is it an easy album to get into. Much of the music is woven together and flows in the context of the album, with several instrumental interludes acting as bridges between chapters of the album.
Listening to the album track by track I'd say there aren't many tracks that could be singled out as standalone classics.
As stated, it is far more complex than the debut, certainly more ambitious and musically challenging, but at the same time it does lack the killer punch the debut provided with tracks like Crossed The Line, The Wait, Forever Again and Nothing But A Heartache.
That aisse, there remains some brilliant musical moments and I would go as far to say that this is one of the best ever performances by Mark Mangold – his keyboard playing is something to behold here and truly weaves the album together.
There were some complaints about the production quality of the debut and The Second Coming suffers a similar ailment. At times the sound is a little thin and certainly doesn't do justice to the bombastic arrangements, but sound is always a subjective argument.
Track By Track:
Aryon Overture is an intro following on from the influences of the debut.
Stained (Gone) is pretty close to the sound of the debut, with Brock in good form. The track features a fairly progressive drum beat and a good chorus.
The Morning After (Time To Run) is a moody track which rolls along smoothly backed by organ accompaniment. At the three minute mark the track gets turned on it's head, with the song picking up pace and urgency. At this point Mark Mangold goes to town on his keyboard, turning out a highly enjoyable solo before the track returns to the way it started.
Motorcycle Messiah is a darker and heavier track that mirrors the pace of the mid-section of the track prior. Due largely to a flat chorus, I can't say I'm a fan of this song.
Nor am I blown away by Shine, which has a more stripped back feel, but lacks a killer hook.
Bliss is a haunting 2 minute instrumental interlude which runs directly into one of the album's best tracks If For One Moment. This track should prove popular with all, given that it features an emotional vocal. Once again the structure of the song is abandoned mid way through as it turns back to the haunting vibe of Bliss, this time as a slow guitar solo guides the listener through it. Then it's straight into Flame Of The Oracle, which is another highlight. Dare I say that this mid-album passage of tracks is the best part of the album.
Flame Of The Oracle is an more uptempo track that features a strong vocal and an interesting musical arrangement.
The Ooze is a 2 minute track featuring a tough and urgent vocal and a tempo to match. As you can see, listening to the tracks out of context just won't work. This leads directly into the softening instrumental Inner Child (Exorcise), which is a companion piece to Bliss.
Black Mountain is a stand alone track which has that Led Zep vibe the debut had in places, and like the debut, features a Randy Jackson lead vocal. Solid song, but perhaps lacks a powerful rhythm section.
Keep On Breathin' is a little gem – a big, powerful ballad in the style of the debut and a raritiy on this album in that it could be played on it's own, outside the album.
Shine (Finale) is a return to the earlier track (which sadly I didn't really take to), with added musical parts from elsewhere within the album. Interesting track.
Rapture (Ode To Aryon) is an instrumental outtro that is a reprise of Bliss yet again.
Maniac is a bonus track that works outside the mold of the album. This is an enjoyable stand alone uptempo pop/rocker with a good chorus.
Mark Mangold plays his heart out and when listening to the album from start to finish without pause, it gives the listening a wild ride that few other albums are capable of. But it does lack the knockout punch of a couple more killer tracks and a somewhat soft production quality in places. It just isn't as tight and as emotional as the Signs Of Life was.
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