John West - Earth Maker
Frontiers Records
Melodic Heavy Metal
10 songs (55'40)
Release year: 2002
Frontiers Records
Reviewed by Marty
Surprise of the month
This is the latest solo release from the current Royal Hunt and Artension vocalist. His first big break came as the replacement vocalist in Badlands after Ray Gillen lost his courageous battle with cancer in the mid 90's. Although the band dissolved a short time after, it was invaluable experience and helped him get to the point in his career that he is today. This is his third solo release after John West's Mind Journey in 1997 and Permanent Mark in 1999. Earth Maker is a concept album with the story based upon the journey or "vision quest" of the native American spirit "Shenandoah" as it tries to find the "Earth Maker". The songs describe the world as seen through his own eyes as he takes on both animate and inanimate forms. Helping John with the writing and recording of this album are; Chris Caffery (Savatage), guitars, Metal Mike Chlasciak (Halford), guitar, Bobby Jarzombeck (Halford), drums, Kevin Chown (Artension), bass and Lonnie Park (Cozy Powell) on keyboards. Guest keyboardists include Andre Anderson (Royal Hunt) and Vitalij Kuprij (Artension).

Based upon what I've heard of John's work with Royal Hunt and Artension, I was pleasantly surprised at just how heavy this album is. Lots of big riffs drive most of the songs giving this album a very Heavy Metal sound. Chris Caffery, as well as contributing to the guitar playing, lends his writing skill to three tracks on this album. Soul Of The Beast and Warrior Spirit have lots of heavy riffs, great riff breaks and some killer solos all rounded out by a great passionate vocal delivery by John. Catchy choruses with lots of harmonized vocals are the mainstay on this album and these songs are no exception. Mystic Wings has a lighter melodic style and is very much a power ballad in format and John once again reminds us of just how much he sounds like a combination of Steve Perry (Journey) and Glenn Hughes (Deep Purple, Hughes Turner Project).

Having two members of Halford play on your album is an almost certain guarantee that it's going to be heavy! Bobby Jarzombeck plays on all tracks whereas Mike Chlasciak contributes to both the writing and guitar playing on only 3 songs. Sleep Of The Dead, Life and Love Is Pain (the heaviest track on the album) all bear a very Halford style of a modern, grungy and almost thrash style guitar attack along with a powerful drum assault. Life even has a section that is almost identical both in the riffing and vocal lines as the pre-chorus section to Nailed To The Gun by Fight. I'm not sure whether this was intentional ( I think it must have been) but the resemblance is very, very obvious.

The tracks written by John and keyboardist Lonnie Park, although still having some great riffs and guitar interludes, feature a much more melodic style. When Worlds Collide is a great melodic and heavy song with galloping riffs, a strong chorus and some great synthesizer leads, something not too frequent on this album. Stand, Sentinel starts quiet with just a piano and John's voice but slowly builds into a great dramatic and powerful song. This is the best vocal performance I've ever heard from him hands down.....truly spine-tingling and amazing!! The title track, Earth Maker is an orchestrated, slow and heavy number based around a very Savatage-like guitar riff and with the keyboard orchestrations and hypnotic repetitive beat, it has the feel of Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. The album finishes with Soul To Soul, a more laid back track that although does get heavier with some wonderful expressive lead guitar, maintains a lighter feel than most of the album.

This album really grows on you and it has everything that fans of both a heavier and melodic style could ask for. Every song is good, the production is excellent and truthfully, contains John West's best vocal performance that I've heard to date. All the songs are catchy and you'll certainly go away humming some of the choruses after listening to this album ( a true sign of a good album as far as I'm concerned!!). A great album that is highly recommended and one that I'm going to be playing for a while!!!!

Killing Songs :
Soul Of The Beast, When World's Collide, Sleep Of The Dead, Stand, Sentinel, Life, Warrior Spirit and Earth Maker
Marty quoted 84 / 100
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