CAGE – Ancient Evil (Sweden Music Group)Monday, 25th January 2016
Ever since vocalist Sean “The Hell Destroyer” Peck and guitarist Dave “Conan” Garcia formed the metal machine known as CAGE from the remnants of Crusher and Nomad in San Diego, Calif., in 1992, the pair have guided the band through multiple full-length albums, singles, EPs, compilations and live releases, all while rotating through an ever changing cast of musicians and bandmates. However, with the latest additions of guitarist Casey “The Sentinel” Trask, drummer Sean “The Thrashing Machine” Elg, and bassist Dwight Magic joining the ranks for CAGE’s seventh studio album, Ancient Evil, the band may have found its most potent metal attack yet. [Although Magic participated in the writing and recording of Ancient Evil, he has since been replaced by Alex Pickard on bass.]
CAGE’s full speed, high octane-fueled power metal is delivered with such force and energy, you would think the band was slugging it out in the clubs with Metallica and Exodus back in the heyday of thrash. Ancient Evil is littered with razor sharp riffs, blistering lead work, and blazing solos courtesy of Garcia and Trask, while Magic and Elg combine for a roaring, thunderous rhythm section that propels the songs forward with crushing velocity, and Peck has to be one of the most versatile vocalists in metal, with his ability to channel the likes of Rob Halford, King Diamond, Ripper Owens (“Sinister Six”), and Warrel Dane. But what really puts Ancient Evil over the top is the fact that it’s a concept album based on a horror story written by Peck about the depths a man would go to save his wife from an incurable illness and the nightmare that results from his fateful decision, which takes the listener on a journey from London to Egypt and back.
Following an ominous spoken word intro by Blaze Bayley (Blaze, ex-Iron Maiden), Ancient Evil explodes out of the gate with the unrelenting title track. Elg gets a full body workout as he pulverizes his kit, providing plenty of double bass action to bolster the bullet train-like riffs, as Peck menacingly wails over the top. Just marvel at his scream to close out the song, which rivals the glass-shattering screech of DC Comics superheroine Black Canary. “Behind the Walls of Newgate” and “The Procedure” follow in much the same manner, with driving riffs, pounding rhythms, searing solos, and Peck’s air raid siren screams.
Similar to Jon Schaffer’s accounts of Set Abominae with Iced Earth, Peck possesses an excellent storytelling ability that provides the album with a cohesive flow, as songs transition smoothly from one to the next, yet retaining their own identity so as not to all bleed together and lose the listener in the process. The break-neck pace is maintained throughout the majority of the album, pausing briefly here and there for interludes and spoken word passages to keep the story moving and give your ears a reprieve before smashing headlong back into aural chaos. For “The Appetite,” with a rumbling intro similar to Immortal (think “Antarctica”), Peck not only channels King Diamond in his falsetto shrieks, but also in a lower register during the verses, while during “The Expedition,” Peck bears traces of Warrel Dane, especially halfway through when the band lays back and slows the pace, as a haunting melody creeps in and Peck sings “With my father’s funding, I assembled all the best/One hundred men, supplies and archeologists.”
For those who feel Judas Priest may have peaked with Painkiller, introduce yourselves to CAGE, as the band has taken that blueprint and injected it with a healthy dose of Bane’s venom to deliver some of the fastest, hardest-hitting power metal you will hear this side of the Atlantic. Ancient Evil is rife with metallic anthems of steel, concocted and crafted to tell a tale of pure Lovecraftian terror and leaves no doubt that CAGE are the kings of American power metal.