Oh, what a fool I have been… Once, I believed my own open-mindedness to be a virtue, one which could help me expose the world to musical truths they might otherwise never learn. Once, I believed myself able to see past the veils and charades of societal labels, to be able to transcend the likes of religious affiliation in order to experience art for art’s sake. Once, I believed that I could overcome any element of musical unpleasantness if the rest of the material was strong enough. I have loved the likes of Mos Def, Flyleaf, and Ghost Bath, and felt no shame. Once, I believed all this to be enough to allow me to find redemption in any kind of music… until I heard Enzo and the Glory Ensemble’s In the Name of the Son. I had to accept a cold, hard truth that I have spent many years championing against: some stuff is just as bad as it sounds like it will be. On that note, let’s talk about the neo-symphonic Christian metal album that I’m about to ruin your day with.
First of all, I can’t unburden my soul with lamentations of this aural assault without conceding that it was delivered unto me at the hands of musicians most educated and skillful; any album blessed with the presence of artists such as Kobi Farhii (Orphaned Land), Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) and Marty Fuckin Friedman — just to name a few of Enzo’s apostles — will inherently contain complex, intricate material. Material which truly requires some serious talent and education to compose and execute. Yay verily, Enzo himself hath studied piano, composition and classical guitar, as well as having composed, directed and acted in a few operatic pieces. Indeed, this particular cheese’s Christ superstar wears a coat of many accomplished colors, and it would be wildly unfair of me to damn this offering, the follow-up to 2015’s In the Name of the Father, as being one of poor musical quality. No, Enzo and co. know exactly what they’re doing with this particular collection of hymns, psalms, and prayer set to 11.
Unfortunately, if you can imagine an over-the-top Broadway production praising God through ‘safe’ metal moments buried under Disney vocals and painfully glaring lighting arrangements, then you also know exactly what Enzo and friendos are doing. I was anxious but determined to be optimistic as opener “Waiting for the Son” wandered in with a cheerful, building atmosphere of strings and woodwinds, tastefully fading back for a moment to reveal a brief, snaking guitar line before segueing into the next track. After that, all Hell broke loose. Classic arrangements, symphonic flare-ups alongside decidedly driven guitar/drum passages, folk instrumentation entwined with modern metal melodies, all this and more…
…laid to utter ruin by every vocal moment of the album. Power metal stylings are simply not my cup of tea, so let me be the first to admit that I’m probably not the right Muppet for this job, but I’m pretty confident that many of you will agree that things got taken a bit too far on this one. Whether it’s the obnoxiously angelic choir of “The Tower of Babel” or Enzo’s own Disney-villain nasal musings, nearly every vocal performance feels forced, rather than felt, and overdone to boot. The female vocals on “Glory to God” are a decidedly welcome exception to this dilemma, and “Psalm 133” crafts a folk/metal/classical/Jesus combo that actually works, but that’s about the extent of my praise here, and neither are enough to save …the Son.
To be fair, this album would be a good instrumental offering, possibly even great. The mix is as clear and dynamic as one should expect of such experienced, well-trained musicians, and the compositions themselves are often incredibly strong. The inspiration and passion are very much alive and well within the music, but the vocal performances by and large made it impossible for me to listen for too terribly long. I went into this with an almost painfully open mind — I wanted to like this, damn it, but it just didn’t happen. However, subjectivity, ya know?. Don’t take my word for it, listen for yourself. The instrumentation and compositional execution are undeniably top notch, and it’s entirely possible that many of you may even love the vocal performances found on …the Son. I, however, did not1