My first exposure to Australian power metallers Black Majesty came when I snagged their Sands of Time debut on a whim while visiting the immortal and greatly missed Slipped Disc Records in Valley Stream, New York. As impulse buys go, it was a big win and fast became one of my favorite power metal albums, and it still gets steady spins 15 years later. Despite such auspicious beginnings, Black Majesty has struggled over the years to equal their debut’s magic. Some albums like Silent Company come close, but the Angry Metal Guy’s Law of Diminishing Recordings ™ hit these guys particularly hard. That brings us to their 7th album, Children of the Abyss, and I’m sad to say, the ravages of the dreaded law still besets these unfortunate blokes. I’ve spun this thing on cross-country planes, commuter trains, in cars and at bars and it just doesn’t resonate with me or grab my attention, despite the band’s obvious technical proficiency and talent. Catchy songs are the coin of the power metal realm, and it seems the band has barely a farthing to their name these days.
That’s not to say the album is utterly without merit. Somewhat rousing opener “Dragons Unite” is a decently energetic textbook example of Euro-power benefiting from the atypical vocals of John Cavaliere. While many power metal singers exist in a perpetual upper-register wail, Mr. Cavaliere spends most of the album in a restrained mid-range which adds some gravitas to the tales of dragons, pirates and lion men. “Hideaway” is the standout cut, coming closer to the debut’s sound, adopting a more muscular riffing style akin to Iced Earth without entirely forsaking the Euro-power pomp. The chorus works and even sticks. “War’s Greed” and later cut “Sanctified” also hit that successful sweet spot the band once owned, with a respectable marriage of classic and power metal. Neither are essential listening, but they work and have some staying power.
Unfortunately, the better stuff here is solid at best, and the remainder is pretty close to filler and devoid of attention grabbing moments. More than any recent album, I found my attention wandering every time I tried to listen to this thing. I would try to be attentive, then realize 3 songs went by without my noticing. The songs just do not click in my head or keep me engaged. At just under 47 minutes, Children isn’t even a particularly long platter, just one that drifts by like background noise.
What’s frustrating about this is how talented the band is. Everyone has chops, from Cavaliere to guitarists Hanny Mohammed and Steve Janevski. These guys can shred and do so lustily, but always keep things regal and classy. Their solos are quite impressive, but too often they’re found in songs that themselves aren’t very compelling. I’ve been a fan of Cavaliere’s vocals since I first heard the band, and he sounds fine here as always, but again, it feels like his ability gets wasted on too much sub par material.
Children of the Abyss shows once again that all the talent in the world is useless without consistent song writing. Black Majesty once had that crucial gift, but seven albums in it seems their muse is on life support and the long-term prognosis isn’t good. This isn’t bad, but it certainly isn’t required listening. Check out their debut instead and see what the band is (was) capable of.
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Pride & Joy Music
Websites: blackmajesty.com | blackmajesty.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/BlackMajestyOfficial
Releases Worldwide: September 21st, 208