Released: 2005, Limb Music Products
This one was quite the surprise for me; I guess I’ve been living in 2001/2002 when all that seemed to come from LMP was Rhapsody and a bunch of other facless power metal bands. Now, in 2005, LMP seems to be interested in a lot of traditional metal as well as some speed/power; certainly music that isn’t as “flowery” as the label had become known for in the past. Casus Belli play straight up heavy metal, maybe a few power metal touches (at least that’s a description that a lot of people will be more than happy to throw out with the abundance of double bass). At their heaviest the band can resemble a Grave Digger, Firewind, or Saxon as of late but the album tends to get bogged down by some more melodic material (like “Holy Gates (in the Name of the Rose)”) where they can come off as a little too commercial, at least for some out there.
Casus Belli was apparently formed by vocalist Panos Dedes in 1997 who, according to LMP’s website, tried out for Judas Priest (though I'd never heard his name in reference to the Judas Priest vocal search) that same year only to, obviously, not get the job. Coming back to Greece Panos got together with guitarist Panos Arvanitis and started to create the music that would become Casus Belli’s first demo. In 2001 the band forged ahead to release their first album, only to wait 4 years before signing with LMP and releasing this year’s, IN THE NAME OF THE ROSE.
The album starts off heavy, fast and in your face with “I’m Your Master”. Pounding double bass and constant, flowing guitar follow. Panos Dedes slightly rough, mid-range vocals sit nicely overtop, not necessarily adding to the song but certainly not taking away though I’m sure many will find themselves singing along to the simple, repetitive chorus; I could see it being a nice fist pumping anthem in the live situation. The little bass solo prior to the guitar solo turns out to be a very nice touch to the song. “Vengeance is My Law” follows along the lines of “I’m Your Master” with its pounding double bass and straight chugging riffing that, for some reason, doesn’t really get boring even though both songs follow the same formula. Yet again, this second song really gets cooking during the pre-chorus/chorus with Panos taking a very “sing-a-long” approach. For “Holy Gates (In the Name of the Rose)” things slow down and certainly get a bit more melodic, the band even throw in some underlying keyboards. While this song isn’t downright horrible I do find it somewhat unfitting with what came before and would fit in more with some of the ballads I’d find on the more generic power metal albums.
“Diamond Crown” kicks things back up with straight up speed metal riffing. The song utilizes the rather typical open verse leading into heavy riff leading back into open verse style that a lot of faster bands like to use. I actually find this a little disappointing because it doesn’t give that nice riff enough room to breathe, I’d actually be happier if there just wasn’t any singing and the riff just played over and over for a minute or two… I really enjoy the solo in the song though; fast, yet tasteful and I love it when it’s doubled up. “Edge of a Knife” follows that more melodic path and tends to be rather dull, not necessarily because of it but I already get the impression at this point that the band can’t write soft songs too well, especially considering the best part of this song is the evil/menacing (yet damn familiar) riff at 2:40. “Initiation (Promised Land)” is the first song on the album to slow things down and yet still be heavy, which makes it a bit more of a stand out track on the first listen. Unfortunately the song really isn’t that great and tends to get lost in the pack on repeated listens, I find it to be a bit lifeless. It’s “Wrongly Right” where the band are best able to work in a slower tempo with staccato riffing and almost Faith No More-ish (at least that’s who I think of…) keyboards filling up the background space.
I always think it’s a weak argument when someone says a band should stick to fast songs, ditch ballads, etc. etc. but this might be the first album I’ve heard where I have to take that stance. Casus Belli just don’t work in slower tempos, it’s the fast double-bass songs where the band excels and as boring as I’m sure many people (probably including the band) would see an album full of straight double bass songs I think it just might work for Casus Belli.