As Our Army Grows
posted on 7/2007 By:
Believe it or not, As Our Army Grows is neatly summed up by its first minute. “Anger of the Ancients” kickstarts with ballsy, if derivative, Iced Earth-style galloping power metal. It’s nothing to get too worked up over, but serviceable metal all the same. But once the verse kicks in, Intense’s shortcomings come to light–although the band has the right approach stylistically–this sort of grittier power metal is typically a more headbangable and cheese-resistant take–they simply don’t seem to have the songwriting chops to put together a consistently memorable album. Specifically, they continually have trouble partnering aggressive sections with equally convincing melodic approaches. They frequently can pull off one or the other, but rarely both. It’s not a case of back to back successes and failures, but more like a series of ‘pretty good’s’ and ‘not quite’s’, although thankfully the former sections easily outnumber the latter. “Anger of the Ancients” (even with its inconsistencies), “Long Live the New Flesh” and especially the epic “Our Last Hope,” which opens nicely with an intro that would fit in on Seventh Son of a Seventh Son, are the strongest moments of this inconsistent listen. Although normally an easy place to look, you won’t find fault with frontman Sean Hetherington’s contributions. His midrange delivery has a nice blend of melody and heft. And while we’re talking musicianship, the rest of the band turns in solid, workmanlike performances as well. This album is reasonably well recorded and played, it’s just not always terribly exciting.
Although Intense has been around since 1991, As Our Army Grows is only their second album, following 2004’s Second Sight. It’s possible that some of these songs have been around for quite some time, and “Temptress” sounds like a song with some years on it, which wouldn’t really be a bad thing if it was a stronger track. Other skip-worthy songs include the formulaic power ballads “Insanity’s Call” and “Strange New World,” and the well-intentioned but slightly awkward “Mirror Shroud.” But there are also a solid handful of decent-to-good tracks on the album, and perhaps the cause might have been helped by paring down the album’s nearly hour-long playtime, allowing the best of these offerings to shine. The genre’s devout and/or the more forgiving may find As Our Army Grows well-worth exploring, but I’d say the Intense army probably won’t grow much as a result of this average effort.
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