Faces (Black Lotus)
Savatage/TSO stalwart Chris Caffery has gone and created what is the most purely intelligent strain of traditional metal heard in years, avoiding any pitfalls, clichˇs or minefields found in thrash to the left and power metal to the right, two genres Chris surprisingly avoids as he defies all odds and forges his own virulent form of '80s-anchored metal. Forsooth, this immense talent has come up with a top-flight collection of smash singles, track upon track, that recalls the majesty of magic-era, pre-Chris Savatage and Chris' own Doctor Butcher project. And just like we all scratched our mullets when Phil Collins turned out to sound much like the seemingly unduplicatable Peter Gabriel, this guy's voice is a dead ringer for Jon Oliva's. Don't believe the modest liar when he says he can't really fill a frontman role - Chris Caffery's voice is one of the strongest things about the multi-dimensional, always entertaining Faces, his only slight wobble coming when he has to sing something slightly lower, without the same heavy pushing of air. But then there's also playing (the ever dependable Jeff Plate holds the fort on drums) and rock-solid no-nonsense production, and high quality arrangements. Best of all though is the personality-laden songwriting, Piss Me Off dead catchy, opener Faces passionate and exhilarating, The Mold and even more so The Fall (coolest first ten seconds in ten years) living and excelling on stupendous widdly riffs. Incredibly, Caffery hucks on as a bonus CD a whole extra album called God Damn War, Chris' doomy Nevermore-tinged riffs again captured with disciplined clarity on what is maybe a darker, slightly more meandered collection of tracks (I hope a one CD, Faces-only version of this thing is floated). I'm disappointed to say that (IMO) the Jon Oliva album wasn't nearly this stridently good nor strivingly professional, and that way too many recent Savatage records sound listless in comparison as well. Faces, on the other hand, is about as top drawer as Doctor Butcher or Hall Of The Mountain King, in fact, sort of a blend between those two albums. In a perfect world (i.e. suppose this record blows up), Caffery would be joining Zakk and the dearly departed Dime in the depressingly cold, drafty, empty practice room reserved for middle-aged guitar heroes. But as Chris laments all over God Damn War, it ain't a perfect world. Rating of Faces: 9; of both combined, 8. By the way, I hope Black Lotus got a discount from their printer, 'cos they forgot to trim the booklet. Dicks.
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