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Cage: Science of AnnihilationCage: Science of Annihilation

Band's Fifth Release a Power Metal Opus

Releasing albums since 1998 -- and apparently knocking heads since well before then -- Cage is one of those bands about which you hear great things, but remain too far under the radar to make any significant impression. The band's back catalog is top-notch, but at the same time, easily forgotten. Thankfully, the same cannot be said for their fifth full-length, Science of Annihilation.

Cage has put back some of the reckless abandon that has been missing from the power metal genre for far too long. Science is fast, fun, catchy and undeniably heavy -- and it never lets up for the duration.

Loosely based on a comic book theme, the album's ferocious pace and soaring melodies wouldn't sound out of place in 1984, being blasted from the open doors of an airbrushed conversion van. And therein lies its charm. When else but the mid 1980s could song titles like "Planet Crusher" and "Scarlet Witch" be taken seriously? These guys are obviously into beer, metal, video games and Magic: The Gathering and as a result, the band has created a formidable, unapologetic collection of tunes that sounds as fresh now as it would in power metal's glory years.

The band is as solid as they come, utilizing strong double bass work and insane speed-picking to keep up with vocalist Sean Peck. Though many already consider Peck an admirable metal vocalist, Science sees him flying off the charts, hitting every note at a near-maniacal, breakneck pace.

On the few occasions where it seems like he is about to lose control, Peck corrals his lungs, channels his aggression, and powers forward through a series of songs that perfectly showcase his abilities. Metal vocalist discussions always seem to follow the same Bruce Dickinson/Rob Halford/Geoff Tate/Michael Kiske/Midnight path. After his performance on Science of Annihilation, it might be time to add Sean Peck to that list.

Cage maintains a speedy pace throughout the course of the album, with tracks rarely exceeding five minutes. In fact, Science only really gets bogged down in its final moments, when "Die Glocke" and the title track seem like they're prolonging the inevitable. They're not bad songs by any stretch, and may have actually benefited from a higher placement in the track listing. But they don't seem necessary after the full-bore melodic onslaught from earlier on.

While there's nothing new about old-school metal using modern production values, there is something to be said for a band that perfectly balances the two. Its polarizing "pure metal" attitude may keep Cage off many year-end top-10 lists, but Science of Annihilation may be one of the best metal albums of the year.

-- Brad Bortone

Copyright 2009, Brian Heaton. All Rights Reserved.