(Razar Ice 2015)
Hailing from the Motor City, Reverence are something of a metal supergroup, featuring in their ranks past or current members of Riot, Savatage, and Tokyo Blade, among others. Of particular note, Reverence’s singer is none other than Todd Michael Hall (Riot / Riot V, Jack Starr’s Burning Starr, etc.), one of the absolute top vocalists in the business today. The band’s debut album, ‘When Darkness Calls,’ came out in 2012, delivering a brand of classy U.S. power/heavy metal that definitely turned some heads in underground metal circles. A U.S. tour followed, including an appearance at the ill-fated Rock Harvest Festival in White Marsh, Maryland in November 2013 that I (and, sadly, precious few others) witnessed. Late in 2015, Reverence returned to the scene with their sophomore album, ‘Gods of War,’ once again released on the band’s own Razar Ice imprint.
There’s no denying that ‘Gods of War’ is a marked all-around improvement over its predecessor. The production is more powerful, the performances are more confident, and (most of all) the songwriting has taken a substantial leap forward. The writing team of Bryan Holland and Pete Rossi is both skilled and versatile, excelling at various styles from uptempo power metal bursts (“Battle Cry,” “Heart of Gold”) to mid-paced anthems (the title track, “Cleansed by Fire,” “Choices Made”) to a compelling slow-burn semi-ballad that builds magnificently (“Splinter”). Everything Holland and Rossi touch on ‘Gods of War’ turns to gold, with memorable choruses (“Angel in Black,” holy crap!), great solos, and riffing that calls to mind early Criss Oliva, Vicious Rumors, Metal Church and even Primal Fear in spots. As for Hall, the man turns in yet another world-class performance on ‘Gods of War,’ sounding a bit tougher (and using the lower end of his range more) than he does in Riot V but proving once again that his power, range and control are truly peerless in the world of traditional/ classic/melodic heavy metal. In fact, one of my few niggling gripes with this album is that Hall sometimes seems a touch back in the mix, rather than being at the forefront where he belongs. I understand the artistic decision to feature the killer guitars more prominently; after all, Holland and Rossi are smoking here, and their tone is simply massive. But voices like Todd Michael Hall come along once in a generation, so why not have him front and center? One more note about Hall: his layered, a capella performance on the album’s hidden track, a choral music cover entitled “Give Me a Song,” is simply divine, however one feels about the overtly Christian lyrical message. Let me put it this way: Eric Adams on his best day couldn’t have eclipsed Hall’s work on that track.
The CD booklet graphics exhort the listener to “Join the Resistance,” and after spending some quality time with this album, I can only respond, “Hell, yes!!!” Reverence have the talent, the experience, and the songs to put Detroit Rock City back on the heavy metal map in a big way. Those with an affinity for old-school U.S. metal, power metal, or quality melodic metal in general are in for a real treat with ‘Gods of War,’ throughout its 12-track, 54-minute running time. Every song is a winner and there are no remotely skippable moments. Support real, trend-free American heavy metal with heart, soul and balls. Support Reverence.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~