Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sons Of Liberty - Spirit Of The Times (EP) (2011)

With many politicians already riding high on the campaign trail for the 2012 election, Iced Earth mainman Jon Schaffer has taken his political side project Sons Of Liberty off the shelf for another go. These songs were conceived during the latest Iced Earth sessions, that which became their last album, "Dystopia." I guess when your main band is so prolific, you will always something left over for whatever you choose. On "Spirit Of The Times," Schaffer once again wears his views on his chest, for better or worse.

For a release headed by Shaffer, the opening clean riffs on "Alive" and accompanying melodic vocals may come as a surprise. He has honed his vocal skill noticeably, despite keeping his more raspy delivery. Lyrically, it is exactly what you would expect from the Sons Of Liberty moniker, seeking to empower the "little guy" against big brother. This is a call to arms, far more powerful than anything from his initial offering. It is a rock anthem, complete with chanting gang vocals and heavy, bass driven guitars. The heavier side comes out on "Full Spectrum Dominance," with a pummeling at the hands of an aggressive drum track. Screw polish, Shaffer's vocals are as raw as can be, yelling at full speed ahead. This certainly could be confused with an Iced Earth b-side, minus the vocal range of a Matt Barlow, or even Stu Block. There is a lack of subtlety here, which may or may not be a good thing. There is something to be said about being up front and honest, and Shaffer has that in spades. But the true star of the track is the dynamic guitar work on display. But the chugging, thrashing verse to a ripping solo, this is a well rounded assault.

The musical effort on "Molon Labe" is equally impressive, though the same can not be said for the vocals. There is a fine line between emotional, aggressive delivery and a pure struggle, and this one seems to fall more into the latter. Shaffer is, as you may remember, not a true singer. And his weaknesses show here. Though, to be fair, he has never claimed to be the second coming of David Lee Roth. The "300" samples layered into the solo are somewhat inspiring and well thought out, making the Spartan references that much more applicable. The parallels being draw between the Greek struggles and those of the American working class are a stretch for some, but not wholly fictional. If you are looking for one track to take away from this effort, "Mind Control" could be the one that sticks with you. The riffs are as catchy as ever, and the simple, effects laden vocal track is straight forward. No twists, no turns, just a great hook and heavy handed drumming. And despite the slander of the almighty television, it is hard to say that Schaffer's heart is in the wrong place.

The EP finishes with the title track "Spirit Of The Times," a final rallying cry to these who are in harms way. It begins softly, but comes out swinging shortly thereafter, with Shaffer proclaiming "my soul is not for sale," an attack at so many government agencies and entities who may or may not have sold out our future. The bass line is tremendous, with a glowing groove that could excite a jazz man of any generation. With some deft guitar work, both in chord and fret form, the song cruises to an end with one last burst of freedom.

Side projects are what they are. Jon Shaffer has worked long and hard in the musical industry, and has built himself into a successful guitarist and mastermind. So, if Sons Of Liberty is his way of being open and honest with his fans, then so be it. "Brushfires Of The Mind" came off as heavy handed and pretentious to some, including myself. His stint opening for himself on a string of Iced Earth dates seemed egotistical and a bit off-putting. But in the context of this five song EP, it actually seems as though he has grown as an activist and a singer, all at the same time. "Spirit Of The Times" may actually serve a purpose for those who listen.


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