OLIVER MAGNUM — Oliver Magnum

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OLIVER MAGNUM - Oliver Magnum cover
3.24 | 4 ratings | 2 reviews
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Album · 1989

Tracklist

1. Sister Cybele (3:40)
2. The Last Prophet (4:12)
3. Old World Nites (5:12)
4. Evilution (5:55)
5. Trapped (5:51)
6. Mendes Prey (4:22)
7. Tongue Tied (2:14)
8. Silent Scream (Prelude to Death) (7:30)

Total time 38:56

Line-up/Musicians

- Dan Kurtz / Bass, Backing Vocals
- Curt Daughtery / Drums, Backing Vocals
- Monte Humphrey / Guitars, Backing Vocals
- James Randel / Vocals

About this release

New Renaissance, 1989
Licensed to SPV Steamhammer in Europe

A self-financed video for "Trapped" was released.

Thanks to Vim Fuego for the addition

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UMUR
"Oliver Magnum" is the eponymously titled debut full-length studio album by US, Oklahoma based heavy/power metal act Oliver Magnum. The album was released through New Renaissance Records in 1989. Oliver Magnum were formed in 1983 and released a 1986 demo before being signed for the release of this album. It turned out to be their sole studio album as they disbanded in 1997 without releasing any further albums.

Stylistically the music is a combination of traditional heavy metal and US power metal. A combination of "The Warning (1984)"-era Queensrÿche and 1982-1985 Iron Maiden is a fairly valid description of what the music sounds like. Oliver Magnum are very well playing musicians with tons of skill, and every note is delivered with great conviction and passion. While the instrumental part of the music is powerful and tight, the vocals by James Randel take the music to a higher level. His predominantly high pitched delivery is powerful but he can also sing more raw type vocals, which brings nice variation to the vocal part of the music.

The material on the 8 track, 38:56 minutes long album is well written, relatively catchy, and above all highly energetic. While most tracks are hard edged heavy metal tunes played in a fast pace, there are also both mid-paced heavy parts, and some atmospheric clean guitar parts featured on the album. "Evilution" is for example quite the epic track, which features clean guitar parts. The album is well produced featuring a powerful, detailed, and clear sound. The snare drum has a bit of a "thin" sound, but other than that, this is a very well sounding release.

Upon conclusion this is probably an album that came a bit too late to make any real impact on the scene. This type of metal wasn´t exactly in fashion in 1989 (had this been released just a few years before it would probably have received quite a bit more praise), but it´s actually a real shame, because it´s a high quality release through and through. It doesn´t feature anything you haven´t heard before and in that respect there is a lack of originality, but on the other hand Oliver Magnum are both skilled musicians and composers who know how to write and play a great heavy/power metal track, so I´m gonna let the lack of an original sound pass this time around. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.
Vim Fuego
In the past, thrash often copped flak for being a bit dumb, appealing to meatheads and longhaired no-hopers. By and large, thrash did attract a lot of fans like that, because it was hard music dealing with tough subjects. For that reason, Oliver Magnum would not have appealed to many of them. The band wasn’t the heaviest or fastest out there, but they were smart and sharp, and proved thrashers didn’t have to be dropkicks.

Oliver Magnum came from that seething hotbed of metal, Enid, Oklahoma, and as you’d expect from the raging Enid scene... Well, OK, Oliver Magnum probably WAS the Enid, Oklahoma scene in 1989, but think how much mileage Slipknot have made out of being small town country boys. This band may have disappeared into the mists of metal history now, but think of what a triumph it must have been even just to get signed.

This album thrashes something like late 80s Voivod, mixed with a bit of Maiden and with much clearer vocals. It chops and changes a bit, but it all seems to work. There are the normal thrash passages, but the songs are broken up with traditional metal laments (check “Old World Nites”), with the odd progressive influence thrown in. It is not your typical thrash by a long shot. The soloing is a bit over-the-top, but hey, 1989 was in the middle of the era of the guitar hero, so it’s excusable. There’s enough hard-out thrash riffing to make up for it anyway. Any band of the time would have been well proud of a guitarist like Monte Humphrey, because he was versatile enough to do pretty much anything in the metal sphere of the time, from sensitive semi-acoustic, to lead shredding to massive power chord riffing.

Oliver Magnum weren’t afraid of taking chances either. “Evilution” is a soaring power ballad in the style of Judas Priest’s “Dream Evil”. The song lets singer James Randel stretch his vocal talents, soaring and wailing as he creates images of humanity’s earliest beginnings. His voice is a theatrical tenor, not unlike Flotsam and Jetsam’s Eric AK minus the dog-bothering high pitched screams. Randel holds the melody of many of the songs, rather than letting the guitar rule. The lyrics he sings were not the usual violent or anti-Christian cliché thrash bands were keen on back in the day. Mostly, the lyrics are fantasy, of the prophets and demons genre, but not many bands would have been brave enough to touch on Greek mythology (“Sister Cybele”, “Mendes Prey”) or evolution.

Like Voivod and Overkill, and other single guitar thrash bands of the time, the bass is high in the mix, and has plenty to do. Bassist Dan Kurtz treated his instrument like a second guitar, but didn’t go over the top showing off his skills. He does a fairly good Steve Harris impression on “Mendes Prey”, galloping like the middle section of “Phantom Of The Opera”.

If you’re looking for a straightforward headbanging thrash album, try Exodus or S.O.D., because you won’t find it here. While it’s not earth-shatteringly brilliant, this album doesn’t take the path of least resistance and will make you think.

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