4 out of 5 Stars!
Oh no… A new band in a genre I love always comes with momentary feelings of unease, sometimes even pure dread.
Will a debut album prove a positive experience, further solidifying my faith in the genre as a whole, or will it disappoint me like so many others have in the past, thus turning me ever more cynical?
That’s exactly what was going through my mind when I stumbled upon the Angels & Demons album by Rite Of Passage last month. I took a deep breath, mentally braced myself, and prayed for the best as I hit the PLAY button.
Thankfully, I ended up exhaling a sigh of relief. This turned out to be an above-average debut album, bettering some albums by bands with much longer histories and extensive releases in their back catalogues. All but one track on this release spans 6-10 minutes, giving the band plentiful opportunities to experiment with intriguing atmospheres and complex arrangements.
There is much to like there…
For instance, the opening track “Breaking Through The Walls” has a rather dark ambiance during the verses with low, often eerie organ notes and other keyboards lending a lush background. The full and chunky guitars from Kurt Spranger and slamming percussion by the team of Jon Martin (bass guitar) and Robert Barton (drums) swept me along until the grand finish.
“Before Midnight” proved equally intriguing, with a terrific opening replete with the creepy sounds of a cuckoo clock and tolling bells before the song’s killer riff slams through the speakers and kicks everything into high gear.
“Change And Transition” features a beautiful piano intro (thanks to keyboardist Justin Valente), which soon ushers in a mellow, melodic vocal passage by Bill Quigley. Afterward, a wicked rhythm brings the song into a new phase, and the track ends with thunderstorm sound effects and keyboard passages interpreting violins and cellos.
Meanwhile, “Angels & Demons” opens with voice-over excerpts from the Bible atop another edgy backdrop, this time with some extra percussion and guitar effects that would be right at home in the Raga Rock genre. The track eventually kicks into traditional Prog-Metal before returning to finish with a reprise of the song’s intro passage.
“Saying Goodbye” offered a nice surprise with a guest female vocalist, which gives an added dimension to the band’s overall sound.
And “Flash Of Clarity,” the album’s longest track, is one of my favorites, thanks to the various mood and rhythm shifts, the mixture of both heavy and light passages, and as always, some dark atmospheres.
So summing up, the band presents professional musicianship, high creativity when it comes to their arrangements, and often-tense soundscapes—quite gothic in feeling. Some unanticipated time shifts, rhythm fills, and the occasional strange keyboard textures or guitar patterns provide additional surprises along the way. Certainly I hear the “normal” influences for a band playing in this genre—perhaps a few nods to acts such as Dream Theater, Age Of Nemesis, Vanden Plas, Derdian, Dali’s Dilemma, and Fates Warning, although Rite Of Passage seems generally “darker/edgier” when it comes to the overall sound and mood of their music.
I must say, however, that the production quality is a tad lacking, with some of the instruments (particularly the high octave keyboard runs) being either a bit too bright at times or often buried, and singer Bill Quigley’s vocals could definitely be louder in the overall mix.
Nevertheless, despite my criticism, I believe that given a little time and a more polished production stamp, this band has the potential for some great things. They certainly showed they have the talent and creativity to prove me right.