Saturday, May 10, 2003

Review: Area 54 - Beckoning of the End (2003)

Area 54 [ Website | MySpace ]
Beckoning of the End

Frontman and guitarist Lakis Kyriacou formed Area 54 in 1997 with the goal of creating melodic metal true to his influences (Iron Maiden, Guns N' Roses, and Megadeth  to name a few) while keeping the power and aggressive elements of today's modern metal. Rounding out the line-up with lead/rhythm guitarist Steve Martin, drummer Rob Hillman, and bass player (and one of metal's new breed of hotties) Laura Salmon, Area 54's debut No Visible Scars on Dream Catcher Records certainly delivered a true testament to the metal lords of old, but was lacking in uniqueness to really propel the band forward to the next level.

Fast-forward three years and we now have Beckoning Of The End, a sophomore effort that at times grabs you by the collar and bitch-slaps you with ferocious intensity while at the same time serving up a feast of pure guitar melodies. There's plenty of quality guitar solos, galloping double-bass, and exceptional bass lines throughout this disc. Lakis's vocals are delivered gritty, raw, and emotional - complimenting the dazzling musicianship perfectly. The formula he had in mind when beginning the metal joyride that is Area 54 has definitely been discovered.

The first track of the album, "Living A Lie", is my favorite and has what it takes to propel this band into the spotlight. Rob's complex drumming, along with Laura's vicious bass, is mind-blowing and when combined with the dual guitar attack of Steve and Lakis - well, be prepared for some serious headbanging. Even though the tune clocks in at just over 5 minutes, it ends all too quickly and I find myself wanting more after each listen. Another standout on Beckoning Of The End is "Personal Gain", which begins with a great riff and relies heavily on the vocal harmonies of Lakis for success. "Cancer Of The Mind" combines aggressive riffing with some nice hooks to come across as one of the more powerful songs on the album. Of course, guest vocals by former At The Gates vocalist Tomas Lindberg lend quite a bit to the extreme nature of the tune. It's great to hear Tomas on this album, but the result is that "Cancer Of The Mind" becomes a bit out of place among the rest of the tracks.

The one thing about that Beckoning Of The End I would like to see changed on Area 54's follow-up is the number of ballads. "Scarred Earth" is really more of a power-ballad, turning up the aggressiveness about halfway through its 6-minute run, but "Another Life" and the closing track "This Is The End Of Everything" are really two ballads too many and only serve to interrupt the pace of the album. They're good songs and Lakis does an excellent job, but the overall flow and feeling of the album is hurt.

I really like what Area 54 has hit upon with Beckoning Of The End and I look forward to seeing where Lakis and Co. can take their sound. As of this review, the album is quite hard to find in The States but I'm hoping a distribution deal is in the works to bring this great slab of metal to the American masses.

Track Listing
1 Living A Lie
2 Beckoning of the End
3 Beyond a Pale Existence
4 To Conform is to Suffer
5 Scarred Earth
6 In My Blood
7 Another Life
8 Personal Gain
9 Cancer of the Mind
10 This is the End of Everything
Total Runtime

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