ANNEX — Powers That Be (review)

ANNEX — Powers That Be album cover Album · 1990 · Progressive Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3/5 ·
"Powers That Be" is the debut full-length studio album by US, Point Pleasant, West Virginia based US power/progressive metal act Annex. The album was released through Powergame Records in 1990. Annex was formed as far back as 1976 by guitarist/lead vocalist Jeff Wamsley. It wasn´t until 1987 that Annex released their first release which was the "Breaking Ground" EP. "Powers That Be" is up until now their sole full-length studio album, although Annex have never officially disbanded.

Stylistically this is not surprisingly late 80s influenced US power/progressive metal, and it´s artists like Fates Warning, Crimson Glory, Queensrÿche, and similar acts from that time, which are the most valid references. Annex are not quite as technical and their use of keyboards definitely provide their music with a progressive edge, which is a bit different from the mentioned artists and often sounds more like progressive rock instead of metal. Annex can still play some pretty sharp and at times even thrashy riffs though, so this is not soft progressive metal. But of course the first couple of minutes of a track like "Shining Prize" could probably have fooled most listeners into believing that this was an 80s synth pop album, so yeah there are moments on the album which aren´t that hard edged.

"Powers That Be" features a decent sounding production job, although it´s a bit rough around the edges considering that this is a 1990 release. The relatively unpolished and raw sound of the instruments is actually an asset to the album, as they work as a counterweight to the more polished keyboard heavy moments. Wamsley has a decent voice, and can hit the high notes when needed, but his vocals are often slightly subdued or maybe just a bit low in the mix or underproduced.

So upon conclusion "Powers That Be" isn´t what I would call a forgotten US power/progresive metal gem, but it´s still worth a listen for fans of the genre, and it´s definitely created by skilled musicians and composers. Had Annex been given the opportunity to record the album with a major budget and a producer who could have guided them, I´m sure they could have produced an even better release. As it is a 3 star (60%) rating is warranted.
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