More than two years after their last full-length album, the metallic, gothic, art-rock band from California known as Saviour Machine returns with an "unofficial soundtrack to the end of the world." The new album, entitled Legend (Part One), is the first of three concept albums--a trilogy of sorts--with parts two and three slated for release in early 1998 and 1999, respectively. With over 77+ minutes of music and lyrical imagery, Legend is a surrealistic journey into the pages of the Scriptures, carefully assembling as much apocalyptic/end-times information as possible, and setting the resulting account to music which is often reflective, at times somber, but always stirring.
Since their self-titled release almost five years ago, Saviour Machine has undergone some line-up changes: the departure of original bassist Dean Forsyth--replaced by Charles Cooper--and the very welcome addition of pianist Nathan Van Hala. As a result, this album differs from previous efforts not only in its focus, but also in the musical arrangements and programming. The band has sculpted the album in such a way as to allow the listening audience to not only hear the story but to envision it.
Legend begins with a brief dialogue that's followed by a haunting instrumental piece, "Overture." The sounds of the Ensemble Cantabile Choir descend on the listener and lead into the track "Legend 1:1." The use of the choir in Legend is excellent, helping to not only bridge certain songs, but to enhance the ambiance created by the music.
The piano and keyboard playing of Van Hala is an integral part of this album, especially in ballads such as "Ten-The Empire." The use of bass drums and toms is also notable, as they play a prominent role in setting an almost war-like, thunderous, tribal atmosphere in songs like "The Eyes of the Storm," while tracks like "The Birth Pangs" and "The Sword of Islam" have Middle-Eastern tones incorporated with tiny hints of a Queensryche sound. The album increases in intensity as it progresses, with the use of distortion more prominently featured on the album's latter half. Lead vocalist Eric Clayton's low-tone vocal delivery, reminiscent of Brian Healy (Dead Artist Syndrome) and Andre Eldritch (Sisters of Mercy), often complements the rather dark subject matter though, for some listeners, his vocals may become monotonous after repeated listens.
As an album on the end-times, all of the lyrics are heavily influenced by biblical prophecy. The lyrical content, though not as cryptic as on previous albums, remains impressively poetic, vivid, and descriptive. Take, for instance, the song "The Night":
Behold the place of slaughter
The epic concludes--for now--with the extremely powerful "Antichrist
I," in which many of the musical elements of Legend are incorporated,
leaving the listener anticipating the next part of the trilogy (as well
as catching his / her breath). The amount of effort injected into this
project by Saviour Machine is clearly evident not only in the music, but
in the packaging of the product, as "Legend" comes in a black jewel case
with fancy raised-lettering and a sixteen-page insert.