They are spoken of as potential heirs to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but Steel Prophet have frankly been around long enough to shape their own path and reputation. These Americans started out in the mid 1980s, since when they have released 7 albums before this one. Now they’re back to entertain us with “Omniscient”, an album immediately noteworthy for its oddball titles, if “Aliens, Spaceships and Richard M. Nixon” and “1984 (George Orwell is Rolling in his Grave)” are anything to go by.
“Omniscient” wavers between power and progressive metal, the latter probably winning out, and I can see clearly why Steel Prophet might be bracketed with Fates Warning. The opener “Trickery of the Scourge” has the strong melody and harmony that you’d expect. It also sounded outdated to me as if it came from a bygone age of prog-power. It’s well constructed though, and everything works with everything else. It’s quite high in the range, and there’s the feel of a live performance, especially when it speeds without pause into “When I Remake the World (A Key Flaw)”. The riff line is spectacular and the drum pitter-patters at pace. The vocalist reaches to the sky but doesn’t quite make it. There’s plenty of energy, exemplified by the statutory solo widdle. Let’s face it – isn’t that what power metal is about? Now let’s gallop. Steel Prophet use an interesting sound range to spice up their songs. “911” is an example of that. The dum-da-da-dum-dum-dum goes on eternally. In amongst this machine gun fire, there’s a bog standard power metal song and a bit of false drama. I preferred the galloping.
I could see that Steel Prophet were trying to inject new ideas here. “Oleander Deux”, “Aliens, Spaceships and Richard M. Nixon” and “Funeral for Art” were just three tracks of many which were strange and threatened to have a power and intensity which I found lacking. “Chariots of the Gods” had a slam – bam – pow! feel but I just didn’t like the song. I liked “Tree of Knowledge” even less. The song’s quite bland and the vocalist seemed to be straining. “Through Time and Space” is weightier and I liked the irregular progression but the expressive guitar work contrasted with the flat vocals. Again I wasn’t blown away. “Transformation Staircase” had the same effect, leaving me bewildered in my front room instead of transporting me anywhere. Yet it’s fast, hard and is technically good. But if this was a live show, I’d have escaped to the bar. I struggled to maintain interest. “Bohemian Rhapsody” – yes, that one – was played. With a few touches, it sounds like Queen. What’s the point? I preferred the version I heard recently by a local brass band playing in my local park. “1984 (George Orwell is Rolling in His Grave)” summed the album up for me. It has an element of Sebastian Bach in its delivery, which I quite liked, but it’s not very deep conceptually and is a hard song to enjoy. Yet there is great guitar trickery and in general tight instrumental work.
The dramatic edge was missing from much of this album. I didn’t like most of the songs and the vocalist didn’t seem to be in tune with them for me. The highlight was the instrumentals, which were testimony to a band who’ve been around and know what they’re doing. Maybe “Omniscient” was an innovative adventure which missed the mark. That would be my interpretation of it.
(6/10 Andrew Doherty)