Album: Hear What I Say!
Label: Roxx Records/ 3 Frogz
Release Date: 12.10. 13
Reviewer: Lee Brown
- Liber 111 (Intro)
- The Annals of Subterfuge
- Hope Lies Beyond
- A Perfect Sky
- Where Eagles Dare (Iron Maiden Cover)
- Entgiftung (German Version of Detox)
There have been a few times since I became a reviewer that I have felt ill equipped or a bit daunted. This is one of those times. Deliverance has been a mainstay in the Christian thrash metal scene since back in 1985 (despite a couple hiatuses) and have, at this point, released an amazing ten albums. However, this album is my first experience with the band. Imagine catching a T.V. show that has been running for ten seasons and only beginning to watch it in its final year… That is where I stand as a reviewer coming into Hear What I Say!
With any long-running T.V. show, you know going into it that there are good reasons it has lasted where many other shows have failed. Similarly, you don’t make it in the music industry for multiple decades without having a strong sound, relentless touring presence, and rabid fan base. It just doesn’t happen. So, for Deliverance to offer up a final album after over two decades there is simply so much backstory that someone experiencing them for the first time is going to miss. That’s just upfront and honest. I want you to know what you’re getting as you read this review… and that is a fresh perspective.
With Hear What I Say! listeners are treated with an album that incorporates European, doom, and thrash metal elements, and resonates with influences such as Queensryche, Iron Maiden, Metallica, and others. In total, there are eight original tracks presented on the album with a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Where Eagles Dare” and the band’s first ever German language track, a redux of the track “Detox.” Across the board the riffs are fast and clean, the drums pound, and the vocals are in line with the band’s seeming influences and genre.
Album Breakdown: The album begins with an engaging, yet brief instrumental before blasting full boar into “The Annals of Subterfuge,” one of the highlight tracks found on the album. The track begins fast and heavy with 80’s/90’s styled doom metal vocals layered over fast paced guitars and a solid hook that repeats through the track. For me, however, the initial hook is the deep German vocals that repeat through the background. Back in High School I actually took a year of German simply because I was into the band Rammstein at the time and had a free elective. The background vocals sound more than a little like Rammstein’s gruff style, and they offset the main vocals nicely.
“Angst” follows by bringing a thrash-heavy intro that breaks its own pace several times to set a distinct rhythm. The lyrical progression is solid across the board as Jimmy moves from quicker-paced verses before breaking into a singsongy chorus that offsets the track nicely. The lyrics focus in on asking why we seem to live our lives full of angst, fittingly to the title. This questioning theme seems to echo through the rest of the album as Deliverance moves into future turmoils in the coming tracks.
“Hope Lies Beyond” works as a bit of a pace-breaker, as it slows things down to a more distinctly 80’s doom-metal flavor with a hint of ballad to it. The track winds through skillful guitar progression for a full minute or so before entering into a somber melody with distinct emphasis placed on the higher percussion range, such as the cymbals being moved to the front of the track. “Hope Lies Beyond” is a stand-out on the album and will more than please fans of winding European metal.
I’ll cover “Detox” and “Engifttung” together, since they are the same song just alternated between English and German. “Detox” builds from the slower pace of “Hope Lies Beyond” but picks the pace back up as it heads into the chorus. The track also features a rather nice guitar solo. Lyrically, “Detox” follows on “Angst” by pointing to the need to detox from a mediocre life. Jimmy poses the question of whether or not we’ll look back “from the end of our days” and wonder if we lived fully. In this, the charge to “hear what I say” is issued that we need to detox from the chains of this world that lead directly into mediocrity.
“Nude” continues to increase the pace and plodding of “Detox” as it starts by speaking to “the mundane” existence that is killing us. Lyrically, “Nude” hits the same themes as “Detox,” but the focus becomes more action oriented on the one hand and self reflective on the other. To this vein, “Nude” also offers up a more firm solution as Jimmy proclaims, “so here we are, the masks have been burned, a time to show our real face… It’s not too late… Create our new lives… fly straight to the center of the universe and find meaning beyond yourself…. death is not the end, but… a chance to live as if you were.” All in all, “Nude” is just a pleasant thrash/doom metal experience from beginning to end that serves also to bring the album’s story arch closer to its resolution. In terms of pacing, “Pass” and “Nude” could have been switched, however, as “Pass” seems to go back to the problem verses looking at a hopeful solution.
“Pass” takes a look at all of the elements of modern life that seem to bring about this living death that is spoken of directly and alluded to from “Angst” on. In this, Deliverance points to false hope in things like shoddy medicine (miracle cures?) and even social media as beacons of mediocrity. The cry, “I’d hate to come to the end of my life and realize I hadn’t lived it” sets the tone for “Pass” before the chant encourages the listener to “pass” on living like dead men.
For me, “A Perfect Sky” is the song that makes the album. From the acoustic guitar focus, to the falsetto vocals, to the overall “instant classic” meets classic metal styling, this is the song I’ll be coming back to long after the rest. Fittingly, “A Perfect Sky” is truly the close to the arc set in place through the rest of the album (again the remainder is a cover song and German language track). Specifically, the way Jimmy hits the falsetto and stretches the word “Euphoria” against the plucking acoustic guitars just has such a memorable element to it. Lyrically, the progression from the problems of the world in songs like “Angst” and “Pass” are countered by the joyous imagery of floating through the heavens in a life set free.
“Where Eagles Dare,” a cover of Iron Maiden, follows. Here is another point where I feel ill equipped to make any strong comment. I grew up listening to heavy music and had a strong devotion to bands like Metallica, but never once picked up Iron Maiden. So, again, I can only comment on my fresh impression. To that end, “Where Eagles Dare” is a great choice in terms of how it is arranged and how the tone fits with the rest of the album. It has a little distinct flavor that is unique to the album (including some of the faster drumming found), but still fits like a glove when compared as a whole.
Musicianship: As I mentioned at the outset, you don’t last for multiple decades in the music industry if your musical skill is anything but stellar. Deliverance proves this as they pull off complex sounds and engaging riffs with ease. This being the band’s swan song they leave on a definitive note that builds upon years and years of honing their respective craft.
Lyrical/Spiritual Content: From start to finish, Hear What I Say! focuses in on the things in this world that seem to lead us back into nothing more than mediocre lives and challenges us to seek new life and open skies. The lyrical content and execution seem fittingly apt to the genre and style Deliverance brings, though I didn’t feel the lyrics deep down as I did the similar themes presented, for example, in Everything In Slow Motion’s Phoenix. The two, admittedly, have different focal points, but for my palette there wasn’t as bold a message as I feel certain places could have been.
Lasting Value: Just as Stryper recently released one of the best albums of their career, Deliverance seems to have ended on a high note. Hear what I Say! has some memorable and addictive musical moments that fans will certainly come clamoring back for. Anyone who grew up with the early thrash or classic doom metal sounds will feel right at home here. However, those who are always looking for the next trend may not give the album the time it commands.
Overall: Christian Thrash legends Deliverance make their exit in a big way with Hear What I Say! as they challenge the world to pull away from their computers and soar into new life. Tracks like “The Annuls of Subterfuge” and “A Perfect Sky” are instant classics, and the band has finally brought their first ever German language track to the table. Still, at just seven original songs (not counting the intro, cover song, or German track) Hear What I Say! will likely leave dedicated fans hoping for a robust reunion album down the road.
RIYL: Queensyrche, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Stryper