Album Review :
Called to Arms - Peril and the Patient

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Band: Called to Arms
Title: Peril and the Patient
Label: Tragic Hero
Release Date: July 27, 2010
Reviewer: BMer

Tracklisting:

1. “Patient’s Prognosis” 4:45
2. “Safest Road To Hell” 3:42
3. “Pleasure In The Trough” 4:26
4. “Dead Fire In A Cold Room” 0:54
5. “Let Sleeping Worms Lie” 4:08
6. “Vintage Pharisee” 4:34
7. “A Hedonist At Heart” 5:28
8. “Our Realism, Our Rejection” 4:12
9. “Ashamed, Awake” 4:04
10. “Dismembered and Devoured” 4:02

A progressive-metal album dedicated to C.S. Lewis? This might be a first!

North Carolina’s metal act Called to Arms have created a concept album based on the Screwtape Letters, one of C.S. Lewis’ last works.  Peril and the Patient is Called to Arms’ third album and it is a good one.

The first thing you will hear about this album, probably before you even listen to it, is that it is “based on The Screwtape Letters”.  This book is a collection of letters written from one demon of higher standing (Screwtape), to another demon of lower standing (Wormwood). Wormwood is tasked with the Patient, and man in the world who has become a Christian.  The letters are essentially instructions for Wormwood on how to tempt the Patient and undermine his faith and cause doubt and sin.  These letters are basically the lessons and ideas of C.S. Lewis presented in a creative format.

The words for the album, Peril and the Patient are all based on the Letters. The idea is creative, but the actual lyrics really offer nothing more than a rehashing of the original creativity of C.S. Lewis.  The lyrics are as ambiguous as the original Letters, and most readers might not understand a few of the ideas.  If they were to use The Screwtape Letters as a reference they would not be any closer to figuring out the lyrics since the lyrics are simply a re-wording of the book or in some cases the exact words from the book.  The lyrics don’t add much in explaining the different ideas found throughout Letters, or do they offer alternative forms of the ideas, they are simply the letters put into a format that best fits music. All that said they do make for interesting hardcore lyrics, dark and sinister sounding, and they have more substance than quite a few other lyrical themes found in the genre today.

The music created on this album is amazing.  Each song is carefully crafted, each step of the song has its own feel and rarely ever do you find excessive repetition.  Most notable is the guitar-work, the riffs and sweeps are awesome and creative.  Even the tone of each song follows the tone of the book, songs like “Let Sleeping Worms Lie” have a darker aggressive feel where the singers growls “Inside he rots, inside he knows. He’ll forget so he can carry on” referencing the letter in the book talking about falling victim to routine and numbness.  Other tracks like “Patient’s Prognosis” or “Safest Road to Hell” have a slightly lighter tone with positive sounding guitar leads spread throughout.  On top of the sweeps and rhythm parts you find some very impressive Stryper-esque soloing. I have to admit I was pleasantly surprised with the quality of the solos, and they’re all in a somewhat positive tone.

The album is creative from beginning to end, featuring plenty of heavy chugging and speedy drums.  The guitars never stop, whether they are sweeping through a verse or using creative bends found on the opening track “Patient’s Prognosis”.  There are a few moments of imagination with pipe-organ samples, cowbells, and vocal effects.  Even with those moments this album is heavy with two contrasting vocal styles, no clean vocals except for a key track near the end, and plenty of breakdowns.  Since the album plays along with the story of the Patient, Called to Arms bring an almost epic feel to some parts.  The first interlude is the instrumental track 4, “Dead Fire in a Cold Room”.  The track resembles that of numbness, ambient sounds setting up for the track “Let Sleeping Worms Lie”.  The next track, “Vintage Pharisee” has a great breakdown, almost 2 minutes of build with some beautiful guitar work just building suspense and expectation which is met by a back and forth vocal effort “Lord, Lord, hear our cry. We’re all desperate for the first time.”  I almost wish this part of the song was longer!

The last major change-up in the album is the 2nd to last track,  “Ashamed, Awake” which is a clean quiet track featuring vocals from Lane Wood, a friend of Called to Arms. This song represents the death of the Patient and the moment at which the demons Screwtape and Wormwood realize they have failed in their quest to undermine the Patient’s faith.  It’s a beautiful track that contrasts the whole album with a dreamy feel and positive lyrics.  It sets up the final track well, a heavy closer.

OVERALL Peril and the Patient is an excellent album.  The creativity found throughout will impress music fans from many genres while maintaining a heaviness that will keep Called to Arms firmly planted in the progressive-metal genre.  Called to Arms have not only produced a powerful collection of artistic tunes, but they have also brought to light one of C.S. Lewis’ most interesting works, one that hopefully listeners will pick up and read while checking this album out.

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