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(61:07, Gentle Art of Music Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Vedanta 5:46 2. God Lends a Hand 2:41 3. Through the Trees They Talk 4:54 4. Tooth 2:10 5. And He Skinned Them Both 8:00 6. Please 6:35 7. Europe’s Garden 6:19 8. Europe’s Garden Reprise 2:04 9. Into the Afterlife 6:15 10. Song of the Sphinx 2:52 11. A Child’s Prayer 1:15 12. Dear Mother 2:48 13. The Swallowing Mouth 11:09 LINEUP: Aaron Brooks – vocals; guitar; keyboards; doumbek Rick Phillips – guitar, mandolin; vocals Joe Kidd – drums, djembe; vocals Spider Monkey – bass, banjo
Prolusion. “Meet Me in the Afterlife” is the first full-length release by the American band SIMEON SOUL CHARGER (SSC hereinafter), following two EPs. It was issued last year via the Gentle Art of Music label, which is owned by the German prog rock outfit RPWL.
Analysis. In genre terms, this release appears as a motley rather than varied album, suggesting that the band’s desire is to cover all the styles that are within their grasp, instead of choosing a couple of those and make them a calling card of their work. Naturally, the number of bands that can serve as reference points here is comparatively large as well. However, if we consider the tracks according to their structural density, the outing only falls into two different parts, with eight heavier and five lighter compositions in each of those, and since the former pieces cover two-thirds of the album, its core style would overall be classic Anglo-American Hard Rock. It’s when we begin to carefully examine the tunes that their stylistic fluctuation will come to light. And then we’ll find out that only three of the 13 tracks presented fully suit the above idiom, namely Vedanta, Europe’s Garden and Europe’s Garden Reprise, all bringing to mind a cross between ‘70s Nazareth, Aerosmith and AC/DC (with bluesy guitar solos in some occasions) – except for the vocals, which don’t remind me of anyone’s, at least directly, delivered for the most part by Aaron Brooks alone. Compositionally, God Lends a Hand is also a hard rock piece, but about a half it lacks meatiness, since the guitarist not always used the “Distortion” pad of his sound processor when played riffs. On And He Skinned Them Both (my favorite track here, heavy throughout) the basic style is blended with Doom Metal, and also with a more updated rock and metal sound in places, evoking Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult and even ‘80s Alice Cooper (circa “Raise Your Feet & Yell”) on some occasions. The same words are relevant to Through the Trees They Talk, Into the Afterlife and The Swallowing Mouth, but only with reservations. The former two pieces have some vocal sections where there is no heaviness at all, whereas the latter begins and unfolds as French chanson-meets-circus music – quite a trite trick that has been used by many. Otherwise the vocals are either similar to those on the three hard-rock songs or, which occurs more-to-much more often, represent Queen-stylized (which is not the same as a Queen-style) choir singing, provided by Brooks along with two of his bandmates, albeit when a few more vocals are added, i.e. overdubbed, it is also reminiscent of the epic metal-like chorals, which can be annoying from time to time. Four of the remaining five tracks, Please, Song of the Sphinx, A Child’s Prayer and Dear Mother (the last three of which follow one another) are either ballad-like songs or mere ballads, all involving an acoustic guitar, albeit there is also banjo on a couple of them. Unlike any of the other tracks, the last two of these aren’t original at all, merely imitating The Beatles, at least on most levels. Contrary to them, the arrangements on the former two tracks are held together with fine vocals – still Queen-stylized ones, to be more precise. Finally, the only instrumental here, Tooth, is a rather simplistic thing, only featuring drums and flute.
Conclusion. To have real, huge success one has to create an album that would be conceptual in style – which doesn’t necessarily mean “unified”, for sure. I believe, even if SSC had appeared in the ‘70s, their “Meet Me in the Afterlife” would have gained a status of minor masterpiece at best. On the other hand, anyone in nostalgia for a ‘70s hard-rock sound will find plenty here to enjoy, really.
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