Thursday, May 22, 2014

Taker - It Is Finished (2014)

As a music fan, and a metal fan, I love to dig into the history of bands and find out where they came from.  I enjoy hearing early demo material from well-known bands, because it's often indicative of whether or not the band's musical prowess or abilities are their own, or whether their early records needed a lot of "studio magic" to make them sound good.  It's also interesting to hear demo material from bands that never quite got to that place where they got a record deal, so all that is available is studio demos, live recordings, basement tapes, etc.  Either way, an interesting historical perspective.

In the case of white metal band Taker, the latter is the case.  Taker never quite got off the ground, and as a result, all we have are demo recordings to understand where they were at.  Originating in Virginia, this band never got a record deal, and officially only 2 demo recordings exist with any level of distribution.  Thankfully, we have Roxx Productions to dig up recordings like these and make them more widely available to the underground music enthusiast like myself.  Not all recordings like this are going to be at a level of quality that warrants repeated listens, but thankfully, Taker is at least an interesting enough case to be worth checking out.

Taker plays the traditional American style of melodic, 1980's heavy metal sound.  There's a bit of NWOBHM influence here and there, with some fast riffing in songs like "He Is The Light" or "Living By Faith", and big, anthemic choruses that try and get a hook stuck in your head that you'll be singing long after the song is done playing.  As this is a collection of demo material, the quality varies from song to song, especially because much of this is likely tape transfers, so there is a bit lost in the analog-to-digital conversion.  In addition, there are a couple tracks where some damage to the tape(s) was apparent, as there are spots where the song sounds garbled or cuts out briefly.  This is to be expected from archival releases like this, but it's unfortunate that a better quality or less-played copy wasn't available for use.  Still, all things considered, it sounds pretty decent, and is in some ways a step up from some of the previous archive stuff Roxx did early on (like Eternal Ryte's demo material).

As expected with demo material, not everything here sounds fantastic, especially the first 4 or 5 tracks from the band's 1st demo and rehearsal tapes.  The guitars are crunchy and distorted enough, even on those tracks, so they get the job done, and you can tell the players have talent and have clearly rehearsed the material, because it's generally well-executed.  Things pick up near the middle of the CD when you get to the tracks that the band did for an Image Records session.  I could see Taker fitting well on the Image roster alongside Zion and Dreamer, but it never quite happened.  The recording quality steps up quite a bit from that point forward, and it helps give the material a bit more weight and presence.  You can also hear the consistency in performance between the early versions of "Open Your Heart" and "He Is The Light" between the 2 recordings as well.  Bass guitar is present more on the later tracks, and though standard for the music, sounds good given the time frame of the recordings.  Drumming is powerful and solid, and there are a few spots (especially in the re-record of "Yesterday, Today and Forever") where some studio wizardry gives the drums a bit of extra flair.

Lyrically, being from the 1980's, white metal, and following in the Barren/Neon Cross vein, you know what you're going to get here.  Unapologetic expression of love for and faith in Jesus Christ are the bread and butter here, and for the most part, it works well, except when things get a bit clumsy, like "The Measure" or "Look Into His Eyes".  But then metal lyrics from that era aren't known for being highly poetic, so this should be no surprise.  Vocally, Kevin Potter sticks out to me as the weak point of the band.  He can scream and hit higher notes, but there are times when I feel like he's just a bit flat, and other times when he dips into a-melodic territory in places where it doesn't make sense.  He just doesn't quite hit all the rights notes when it counts, which is something that might have been able to have been ironed out with more rehearsal, more studio time to get the right take, etc.  It's not a huge detriment, given that this is demo material, but it does detract somewhat from the songs.

Ultimately, this is going to be a release that is mostly of interest to hobbyists like myself who are interested in the history of "Christian metal".  If you're looking for the next Barren Cross, you won't find it here, but this is mostly a good listen from start to finish, minus a few embarrassing lyrical and vocal bits, and the fact that about a third of the material is repeated on the CD more than once.  The songs aren't overly memorable, though I did find myself humming the chorus of "Open Your Heart" a few times during the course of listening to this CD for the purposes of review.  This stuff would never have set the world on fire, but it does show a solid band that, with a little more practice and time, could have made a bigger impact.  Recommended for the collector and enthusiast.


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