“AS ABOVE ~ SO BELOW”
Title: “As Above ~ So Below”
Label: Retroactive Records (http://www.retroactiverecords.net)
Release Date: April 24, 2007
Catalog Number: RAR7833
Style: Heavy Metal
Tracks: 10 Time: approximately 51 minutes
ABOUT THE ALBUM
Since their thrashing1989 debut, Deliverance has been breaking new ground wherever and whenever they decide to make their metal presence known. The video for “Weapons of Our Warefare” was the first Christian video to ever get airplay on Headbanger’s Ball. And, when the band stepped away from speed metal and thrash in favor of progressive metal in the mid 90’s, they ascended to musical and artistic brilliance without peers. From the very beginning, Deliverance enjoyed both commercial and critical success that allowed them to dominate the Christian market as the most distinguished heavy metal band on the scene, period. Over a decade of aggressive touring, exposure in the mainstream markets, and 12 albums later, Deliverance continues to hold icon status among legions of metal enthusiasts world-wide.
In spite of years of rumor-filled message boards and relentless requests from fans, this is the first new Deliverance album from vocalist Jimmy Brown and company since 2001. Never has Retroactive Records been privileged to release an album met with such fan appreciation and unbridled anticipation! Jimmy knew how high fan expectations would be for a new release, and has worked relentlessly with the band for over a year to deliver Retroactive Records an album that would not only delight, but astound fans….an album that would hold up under the most scrutinizing fan critique. Jimmy’s goal was to create the greatest Deliverance record of all-time; a culmination of a brilliant career, while continuing to break new ground.
As Above ~ So Below is a prayer that things would be on earth, as they are in heaven. Musically, this 13th album represents a unilateral step forward in the heavy music genre; few groups have ever blended epic thrash / speed metal with the elegance and beauty of progressive metal (later period Deliverance) with such devastating skill and brutality. Never has a Deliverance album alternated so many moments of beauty (e.g.The Omen inspired opening track) with beastly moments of metallic fury and spine snapping riffs that would seem right at home on a Slayer, Believer, or early Deliverance album.
The end result is arguably the heaviest Deliverance album yet. Jimmy continues to deliver vocal melodies that are as commanding as a thundering voice from above. What no one could have anticipated is that the band would deliver one of the most enormous-sounding metal records ever made. In our minds, it seems like the album is a piece of heaven here on earth, which, ironically means that the album is an answer to it’s own prayer!
Deliverance deserves to rank among the more influential bands in the history of Christian metal. Hitting the scene with the melodic speed metal and thrash of its self-titled debut in 1989, the group returned a year later with more of the same on the groundbreaking release Weapons Of Our Warfare. The erratic What A Joke followed in 1991 before Deliverance went through a transitional phase that saw it drift away from the speed metal and thrash leanings of its earlier efforts. The end result was Stay Of Execution. Released in 1992, the album showcased a straightforward heavy metal sound that would prove a precursor to the bands work that would follow. Learn from 1993, for example, was highly acclaimed album that delivered a blend of metal and hard rock with a progressive edge. The polished but slightly subdued River Disturbance (1994) preceded Camelot In Smithereens (1995), a melancholic piece heading in a guitar driven direction that hearkened back to Learn and Stay Of Execution. Deliverance proceeded to go on hiatus until 2001 when it came back to recorded the industrial influenced hard rock of Assimilation.
After the passage of six long years, however, I am proud to announce the return of Deliverance and its ninth full length studio release in As Above – So Below. Showcasing a guitar driven sound that is perhaps the heaviest of Deliverance’s career, the album can best be described as a creative blending of the aggressive and melodic certain to appeal to fans of all eras of the bands history. Those into “old school” Deliverance – such as the self-titled debut and Weapons Of Our Warfare – will rejoice at the thrash influenced sounds of “Cause & Effect”, “Return To Form” and “Should We Cross Paths”. But fans of the metal and hard rock offerings of Stay Of Execution and Learn, on the other hand, will find a home here as well. “As Above – “So Below”, “My Love” and “Enlighten Me” all deliver an abundance of melody, while “Screaming” is a somber piece that sounds as if it came off Camelot In Smithereens. “Contempt” rides a fine line between heavy metal and thrash. As Above – So Below even finds the band stretching and composing an incredible eleven minute instrumental entitled “Thistles” (one of this reviewers favorite songs off the album).
I might describe the vocal performance of founding member Jimmy P. Brown II as a blend of the doom-laden and melancholic, alternating between a delivery that is smooth sounding (such as the albums melodic material) and at times gruff (on its more aggressive sounding tracks). Brown combines with lead guitarist Mike Phillips (who was part of the band at the time of Stay Of Execution) for an excess of upfront rhythm guitar that, again, helps to make this one of Deliverance’s heaviest outings. If lead guitar is your cup of tea then look no further than the impassioned soloing abilities of Phillips. Choice tracks highlighting his lead work include “Return To Form”, “Screaming” and “My Love”. It is worth noting that Brown has worked with some very fine guitarists over the years – Glenn Rogers from the self-titled debut and George Ochoa (who performed on Weapons Of Our Warfare) – but Phillips puts them all to shame.
The performance of the rhythm section of bassist Tim Kronyak and drummer Mike Reed is monstrous. And it has to be in order to stand in support of music of such a heavy duty capacity. Reed is a no-nonsense timekeeper who literally batters his drum kit into oblivion, always adding the right buttressing touch without overplaying. Kevin Lee (who also was part of Deliverance at the time of Stay Of Execution) makes a guest appearance on three tracks and puts forth a showing every bit as assertive.
Production values are of a polished variety but not so much as to take away from the bands natural and all out raw energy.
The album opens to “Legum Servi Sumus Ut Liberi Esse Possimus (Intro)”, a cinematic instrumental carried its distance by a blend of keyboards and orchestration sustained by a resounding low end.
“Cause & Effect” is a thrash flavored track that would sound right at home on Weapons Of Our Warfare. The song begins to a forward swell of rhythm guitar that shores up its first verse in unrelenting fashion, the pace abruptly picking up as a hard hitting chorus backed by a deluge of double bass is obtained. What we have here might not be the albums catchiest number but it certainly isn’t lacking in power.
And the same can be said for “Return To Form”. A heavy duty number that also reflects a thrash feel, this one almost comes across hardcore – do I dare say modern? – in capacity with its harshly delivered verse portions and a chorus that continually repeats the songs title in an aggressive manner. Phillips pulls out all the stops on lead guitar. The lyrics here are every bit as biting as the music:
A tour de force, the old school returns to form
Sounds to me like an overdose of chloroform
I’ve read beliefs and values that bend the scene
A fine line between ideals and obscene
The people say they want the past come born again
Regurgitate the truth from lies, see how it bends
Plagiarize the greatest story ever told
Play the bluff on the cards to see who folds
“As Above – So Below” showcases a blend of metal and hard rock not unlike that of Stay Of Execution and Learn. A metal edged rhythm guitar pushes the song ahead at a mid-tempo clip from the start, the resonant environment upheld for a catchy chorus giving rise to an abundance of draw you in appeal. Deep and dark but heavy at the same time, “As Above – So Below” rates with the albums better compositions. The song reflects the heart of the Psalmist:
Let the mountains shake and the rocks declare Your glory
As it is with You, so mote it be with me
Let the rivers run strong and all nature bow with humility
As it is with You, so mote it be with me
“Screaming” is a slower and more somber piece that awakens memories of Camelot In Smithereens. Another mid-tempo setting is established as the song steadily toils through its first verse, the poignantly charged chorus that follows accentuated by the emotional feel to Brown’s vocal delivery. A great deal of melody and emotion imbues this one along with a stretch of lead work from Phillips that almost comes across bluesy in capacity. “Screaming” reflects upon a nightmare:
Silence In The Night, In between the compass readings
Pages turn in my head, and keeps my mind breathing
My eyes close, I take the night flight once again
To where my dreams turn so real, and feel the coming rain
Screaming out, intensity builds
Running from my fear of Hell
Trapped inside pounding walls
By this power, will I be held?
“Should We Cross Paths” returns the album to its earlier thrash direction. The song emanates an excess of determination during its verse portions as a muscular guitar riff is allowed to lead the way. A chorus of a combative nature, at the same time, almost reflects some extreme touches as a result of the forceful feel to its delivery. This is the most aggressive Deliverance we have heard in a long, long time. Once again, the lyrics here are in line with the aggressive nature of the music:
You have done us wrong, no more will we take
The chips are all in, there’s too much at stake
Your raping force has caused nothing to lose
Your waiting demise will be courting the muse
We’ve had all we can take! Nothing more to have!
The world disintegrates, should we cross paths!
The best way to describe “Contempt” would be classic metal with a touch of thrash. A hammering guitar riff drives the song through its first verse in uneasy fashion, a trace of chanted vocal harmonies highlighting the mix as the pace picks up for a chorus in which a disordered environment is put into place. Phillips adorns the scene with several seconds of blistering lead guitar work. Am I out of line to suggest that “Contempt” talks about misplaced priorities? Please consider the following lines as an example:
You prayed for the well, while the sick couldn’t make it to the stage
Performed ill-licensed counsel while playing the role of a sage
Take a knee and learn to submit, it’s the only way!
You said it was to God, but somehow you were always in the way
One of the highlights to As Above – So Below is the instrumental “Thistles”, an eleven minute masterpiece allowing Brown and Phillips to showcase their tight as a nail skills on guitar. The song begins its first minute and a half to a quietly played guitar line as a punchy bass guitar decorates the background. As momentum slowly builds, a wave of rhythm guitar crashes into the mix and impels things forward with full force. Several time changes are made by the song, including a run of gritty work on lead guitar and a move towards an acoustic based direction over its final four minutes. Despite its length, “Thistles” never turns into a tiresome listen.
Mid-nineties Deliverance at its very best, “My Love” jumps out of the gate in a pummeling manner, crashing its way ahead to an ardent blend of sledgehammer riffing and pelting drums. A flowing chorus giving rise to an impassioned touch will pull you in and refuse to let go. Reed goes absolutely nuts behind the drum kit here, as does Phillips who contributes a solo of the spirited variety. “My Love” focuses on a long term and endearing love:
Alas, the years have, have fallen upon us
Thru the storms and seeing the lighted end
Weight lifted in time for the rush
Remember when you first came into my sight
I fell just like a dream it seams so long ago
Conscience, it did not take long
To see all that you were to me
My love, all that I am is yours…
“Enlightened” comes across aggressive but melodic at the same time. The song immediately kicks in fast and heavy, plowing its way ahead with a plethora of determination only to briefly decelerate for a hook driven chorus reinforced by an angst laden wall of rhythm guitar. Phillips steps forward and again proves why he is the most able lead players to grace Deliverance’s storied line up. This is a buzz saw of a track that proves a fitting end to a noteworthy come back release from Deliverance.
Review by: Andrew Rockwell
Track Listing: “Legum Servi Sumus Ut Liberi Esse Possimus (Intro)” (3:39), “Cause & Effect” (4:03), “Return To Form” (4:05), “As Above – So Below” (4:46), “Screaming” (4:33), “Should We Cross Paths” (4:02), “Contempt” (4:02), “Thistles” (11:21), “My Love” (4:59), “Enlightened” (5:32)
Jimmy P. Brown II – Lead Vocals & Guitars
Mike Phillips – Guitars
Tim Kronyak – Bass
Mike Reed – Drums
Jeff Whiting & Trevor Shannon – Piano & Strings Arrangements
How many times have this band reunited now? After 'Assimilation' Jimmy once again laid his band to rest, claiming he would never do anything using the Deliverance name again. He was more then happy to do his other projects, using the Fearful Symmetry and Jupiter VI monikers. So why do we get treated to a new album from the mighty "D" in 2007? Well, during all those years in between there have always been plenty of discussion about the band on the internet. Every fan holds different periods of the bands past as their favorite, while many claim to love every incarnation of Deliverance. And if you have ever witnessed one of the many Deliverance discussions on many a discussion board over the years, you must have seen that very few bands harvest such heated debates. In general though, most people have expressed that they would love to see this band do at least 1 more album, preferably a metal one! And Jimmy has himself taken part in many of these discussions, so he basically knew what the fans were longing for. So after all these years, he ones more found it in him to return to his metal past, and deliver an album filled with music that he likes, and that he hopes we, the fans, will enjoy too. As such 'As Above - So Below' has become an album that musically spreads throughout Jimmy's entire career with "D". The album opener is a 3 minute plus instrumental intro, that I basically only listened to in it's entirety on the first spin. I just find it unnecessary to have such a long somber, eerie, orchestral intro before the actual music starts. But when it start..... it starts! "Cause & Effect" kicks off with a riff like we haven't heard from Jimmy and the boys since the mid 90's! The song is heavy, with Jimmy's gothic, Bowie-esq vocals (which he also uses throughout the entire album). "Return To Form2 is next, and to be honest, this should have been the title for the album! Because that is what this is! This song sounds like something off of "What A Joke?". I also get a slight Anthrax feel here. The lyrics, at least partly, seems to be dealing with the so called "fans" that never seems satisfied with anything Jimmy does. The title track is up next, and this is another heavy song that forces it's way to your ears, and into your brain. Think 'River Disturbance' or 'Stay Of Execution' here. "Screaming" is probably my favorite song here, with it's "old school" leanings, and killer guitar-work. Another heavy metal tune unlike anything we've heard from Jimmy for over a decade! "Should We Cross Paths" might be the closest thing to a speed metal number we get here. But without the high-pitched screaming vocals from Jimmy, we still don't get a full-on 'Weapons... part 2' return. "Contempt" might be the least accessible track here, but it is still heavy as a ton of bricks, and sports a nice melodic guitar-section before the chorus. "Thistles" is an 11 minute instrumental. It's very diverse, but not something I think I'll listen to every time I put this CD on. I'd rather listen to songs with vocals, which both "My Love" and "Enlightened" have. Again, heavy is a key word. Classic "D" is another. 'As Above - So Below' is a fine new album from one of the most beloved Christian metal bands, and a return to form, blending in everything we've always loved them for.
Killer tracks: Cause & Effect, Return To Form, As Above - So Below, Screaming, Should We Cross Paths
DIGITAL METAL REVIEW
Deliverance – "As Above, So Below"
Deliverance is a band with a lot of history. Releasing their debut CD in 1989 ("Deliverance" on Intense Records), they were one of the first Christian oriented Thrash Metal bands to have an international release. They were also the first Christian Metal band to receive regular rotation on MTV’s “Headbanger’s Ball” with a video from their second album, the title track “Weapons Of Our Warfare” (Stryper doesn’t count as they were as mainstream as a band could get at that time). Over the years, their Christian themes have become more introspective & cryptic, and their Metal has become more varied in style and execution, but the sound is still unmistakably Deliverance. This is due in no small part to the band’s sole remaining founding member & mastermind Jimmy P. Brown II. Consider him Deliverance’s version of Dave Mustaine.
Anyway, that’s enough history. Late 2007 saw the band break a 6 year silence with the release of “As Above, So Below”…an album touted by many fans & critics as something of a return to form for the band and their best release since 1993’s “Learn”. Jimmy & Co. have brought back some of the speed elements missing from the band since their “What A Joke” album. They’ve also dropped the electronic elements that were so prevalent on their previous album “Assimilation” (an album which Mr. Brown himself now refers to as “ASS-imilation” it was so bad). The common thread linking all “D” albums together would be the voice of Jimmy P. Brown II. His rich, low tone…sounding like a blend of Geoff Tate & David Bowie…and unique sense of melody give “As Above, So Below” a moody, eccentric air amidst the wall of heaviness created by the man-made instruments. His guitars, along with shredder extraordinaire Mike Phillips’, are thick, wide and demonically heavy.
Best taken as a whole, album highlights would include the Thrash-laden “Return To Form” (aptly titled), the slow, haunting vibe of “Screaming”, “Should We Cross Paths” (more Thrash) and surprisingly the 11+ minute instrumental “Thistles” showcasing the dual guitar virtuosity of Misters Brown & Phillips. The Christianity isn’t in your space or preachy, so that shouldn’t ward off your average Metal fan. Kudos to “D” for knocking one out of the park.