Dark Age – Dark Age Ep 4.5/5
Its 1984, in LA, and a bunch of kids got together and wrote a mini-album on a record label that did not give two shits, and created something on par with works by bands like Griffin, or Jag Panzer. That is not just a comparison in sound, but quality, and yes, it is that good. I loved this little demo, it is energetic, enduring and the only real problem with it is the time. If these guys had had more material or monetary support, maybe they would have had enough of a fanbase to catapult them into the top of the USPM scene. As it is, these guys are virtually unknown and unmentioned, and that is a real shame.
The album intros with 30 seconds of solos atop a moody bass and drum rhythm, and a wicked laugh leads into the first song. The vocalist reminds of King Diamond with his high tenor and yelps. He has moments where he sounds like a pre-pubescent, but also manages to sound serious and mature in select spots. Because he is not growling, I can say his clean vocals are some of the greatest and most ranged I have reviewed. The guitarists manage wicked riffs while throwing in steaming hot licks, giving a quick-paced feel, and the solos, while not the greatest I have heard, are easily in my top 50. Drumming is fairly standard, and is given some spotlights over the record. What really drew me to the album was the audible bass throughout the album. It is one thing to enjoy a bass that just does the rhythm duties, but this is not a simple follow-the-leader style of playing. The bassist (Jeff Exx) actually has me torn between listening to his bass lines and the guitarists’ (Alan Foley, Johnny Ljissacs) riffs. Everything has a general NWOBHM feel of youth and fun, but with an addition of technicality and aggression.
What is truly surprising, besides those majestic bass lines, is the lack of filler material. Based off such trivialities as song titles, I can see why this might have been passed up by the lactose-intolerant (read: cheese haters). Metal Axe? Rock Revelation? I know you guys could have done better. If I could catch all the lyrics, I bet they would reek of that same kind of cheese, but thanks to this superb musicality, I feel no need to judge their words. Shockingly, these are some of the strongest tracks, and considering the material that is being compared, that is saying something. As for whether the amount of cheese hurts the overall feel, I would not say so, but if the album cover is enough to make you grimace, then maybe this is not for you. As for the highlights, listen to the whole thing. It amazes me the band managed to fit all the different things they have done into this little ep, and if you get bored listening to this, you have no soul. Highly recommended obscure USPM and you will listen to it!