LANCE KING - ReProgram
Lance King is back (8 years since the release of his debut solo album A Moment In Chiros) with 60 minutes of heady, melodic progressive power metal bliss. From a purely musical standpoint, this album is exceptional. Kim Olesen (Anubis Gate) and Markus Sigfridsson (Darkwater/Harmony) have rejoined him to contribute guitar and keys on several songs each. But this time around Lance has recruited the help of Rich Hinks (Aeon Zen), who contributes guitars/keys on a few tracks and bass on most of the tracks, and newcomer Matt Hodsdon (Chaos Frame) who also contributes guitars and keys on a few tracks. Morten Gade Sorenson (Pyramaze/Wuthering Heights/Anubis Gate) is back in the drum seat. Along with a few other guest musicians, this collection of artists has crafted a more powerful and diverse collection of songs this time around. Lyrically, there is much here to fathom as Lance has a lot to say, so fans of progressive metal take note.
Unlike many releases where the best songs are the first 4 or 5, I feel that this album gains momentum throughout – the weakest two songs (for me) the opening two tracks – culminating in the 10 minute closer “A Mind At War.” The opener title track is a short affair, but it nicely sets the stage, both musically and lyrically, for what follows. While thankfully not “overture” like, the song makes a quick statement. This song focuses on the concept that a child’s innate imagination and capacity for expansive thought is blunted by the “process” of going to school and getting “educated.” We are encouraged to remain “child-like” is our passions and dreams. While following our passions can often lead to destruction, if we are grounded in truth, and allowed to dream, we can “see what is unseen” – see beyond the veil of this world.
“We’re all born artists, remaining one is hard.” – “ReProgram”
“Pointing Fingers” follows in tandem with the problems depicted in relationships (“You’re never happy, just want it your way”) standing in stark contrast to the innocent trust of childhood. The music is heavy – with nice guitar crunch and pace – and the deft guitar solo serves as a nice introduction to those not familiar with the talented Rich Hinks.
The first real highlight for me is “Standing Your Ground.” This is one of the tracks here that fans of Balance of Power will really enjoy because it has a heavy punch and big melody. Fans of Markus Sigfridsson will really appreciate his efforts on this one, and I think his guitar solo here shows how nicely he has matured as a guitarist. While the rousing chorus chants “Stand your ground, we all gotta deal with fear and rejection” (true!) the second part of that “Stand your ground, guard yourself with a bit of self love and affection” is a bit nebulous. We are naturally more “self-centered” than “other-centered” by our nature, so while it is a positive action to deal fearlessly with the rejection of others, only truth can free us from our slavery to ourselves.
“Never let anyone sell you their mind pollution.” – “Stand Your Ground”
“Technology” – the first longer, more progressive track – is full of truthful and honest observations about the personal costs of “progress,” especially as we have increasingly become slaves to our devices and constant information updates. Musically, I hear Anubis Gate influences from Kim Olesen, but there is this insane Pink Floyd-like guitar solo going on in the middle of the song that slows things down in a nice laid-back manner and provides dynamic contrast to the rest of the song with the heavy guitar and drum grooves. The guitar noodling picks up again on the somewhat prolonged outro, but then the song ends abruptly with a rushed-sounding drum fill. Still, it is a highlight song, along with “Reaction Formation” which follows. This is the second song that has that Balance of Power, slower rock vibe and Lance’s vocal melodies really shine, along with some great guitar chord progressions in the chorus section. Lyrically, this song emphasizes the importance of unconditional love – don’t judge what you don’t understand. Fear breeds hate, self-righteousness leads to loneliness/isolation.
“Limitless” is one of the most uplifting songs here, an inspiring song about the limitless nature of our belief if we can move past the confines of the daily routine. Markus Sigfridsson once again contributes the guitars and keys, and there is an almost Celtic melodic lilt going on here toward the latter portion of the song. “Wide Open” features a much slower tempo and an almost funk groove alternating with a twangy laid-back crunch. The message is to “open your eyes” and find truth and not rely on politicians or government for salvation. Instead, “cut the cord” and break away from the hive mentality. There is a spacy key outro layered with vocals in the background which nicely segues with piano into “Chaotica,” a heavy up-tempo number featuring Matt Hodsdon on guitar. Sorenson’s thumping keeps the song moving at an urgent pace as the lyrics warn that the media constantly feeds our morbid curiosity for the negative and controversial news.
As stated earlier, this album keeps accelerating toward the finale - the final 3 songs a brilliant culmination. “Spell of Domestication” (that’s a great descriptive!) is the most aggressive song on the album, both musically and vocally (a few harsh vocal sections). It’s filled with crushing lurching rhythms and percussive tom fills, double bass, snare attacks intermixed with crash cymbal rides. Dynamic musically, the lyrics are no less so. Take personal responsibility for your actions and have purpose and conviction in all you strive to accomplish. “Perfect World” switches back to the more melodic side with this incredibly catchy lead and chorus. Trust in your deepest relationships (marriage) is priceless. Not only is that relationship a sanctuary from the chaos of the world, it hopefully displays the ultimate in self-sacrifice and unconditional love.
Saving the best for last, the closer – the most progressive song musically – reminds us that the spiritual battle is ultimately won/lost in the mind. This is an epic prog tune with plenty of contrast, transitions, all anchored by this very cool reoccurring heavy guitar riff, almost a Fates Warning quality. Keyboards are interlaced with guitar solos and an interesting eulogy mid-song which is all backed up with Sorenson’s tom interplay. This is clearly the most musically ambitious song on the album.
“Between the beauty of Darkness and Light/A Mind at War/a Balance of Power seems to unite a Mind at War” – “A Mind At War”
The CD comes with an essential 16-page booklet which in addition to lyrics and credits includes some great insights by Lance regarding his inspirations and thoughts around the content of this release and the contributions of his musicians.
Overall, Lance and friends have surpassed the solid, yet somewhat more one-dimensional A Moment in Chiros – more power, more diversity and no sappy ballads! And where that album was more personal in nature lyrically, the topics and observations on ReProgram are more universally accessible and extremely relevant to the world we live in right now. These songs stand up well to repeated play and this one is highly likely to be on a lot of year end favorite lists. Lance, glad to have you back writing music!
Release Date: 3/29/2019
On ReProgram, Lance makes many truth-filled, frankly sober, and insightful observations about the state or our minds and our souls within the confines of the flesh and within the physical world where we cohabitate. However, while it is tempting to look “within” for the solutions to the behavior of mankind, I believe Christ teaches us that although our “self” is capable of doing good (we were, after all, created to worship and glorify Him), in the absence of the Spirit’s intervention we often make the wrong choices, leading to the devastation of “self” and others. We live in culture that is far too focused on “me” and “self.” But I do value what Lance is trying to convey here, that the world we see around us – if we are bound by its laws and rules – blinds us to a form of slavery we can never escape and can honestly be all too content to accept. I applaud him for “calling” us out of that slavery, and for encouraging us to think beyond the confines of the physical. While I may disagree with some of his means by which that freedom is attained, I greatly appreciate his efforts and exhortations. In a society that has become increasingly “mindless,” I think it takes a lot of courage for an artist to release music these days with this kind of challenging and thought-provoking confrontation. And, to do so with the musical credibility and chops to make it entertaining, enjoyable and uplifting is just a testament to his integrity as an artist.
1. ReProgram (3:27)
2. Pointing Fingers (5:21)
3. Stand Your Ground (4:14)
4. Technology (6:45)
5. Reaction Formation (5:29)
6. Limitless (5:18)
7. Wide Open (5:03)
8. Chaotica (4:16)
9. Spell of Domestication (5:27)
10. Perfect World (4:36)
11. A Mind At War (9:58)