Cage - Ancient Evil

Cage Ancient Evil cover
Ancient Evil
SMG Records
Cage return, some four years after their latest effort, with a largely different lineup and a new concept album based on a novel that frontman Sean Peck wrote and Blaze Bayley (ex-Iron Maiden, Wolfsbane) assuming the role of narrator/hero…
Peck seems to have kept himself quite busy in recent times, manning the mic for Warrior, Death Dealer, Cage and also providing vocals to the Denner/Shermann effort… but how this largely “different” lineup of Cage and the more demanding format of a concept album measure against previous efforts of the band is open to debate. The musicians that are helping Peck in his metal quest are more than capable players so that doesn’t constitute such a big problem, even though changing guitarists will obviously bring each different players character into the equation for better or worse…
A lot of fans, that had followed the band since the early days, had expressed a bit of discontent, when “Science of Annihilation” didn’t quite manage to match up to the band’s seminal “Hell Destroyer” and while “Supremacy of Steel” pretty much kept the Iron hot, it didn’t quite manage to definitely silence the discontent. “Ancient Evil tries, valiantly to do just that, but its “particular” story driven nature doesn’t make things any easier while the changed lineup feels sufficient but not entirely sure in its footing. Both band and Peck seem more reliant to using some clichés they know will not estrange their fans than really taking a chance with the material. While Peck is quite a nice and capable singer, here he just screams and screams and then screams some more in between riffs that are not all that “signature”.
There are a number of good tracks, ie the title track “The Appetite”, “The Expedition”, “Across the Sea of Madness”, “Sinister Six” and “The Antidote” that quite capably create a backbone for the album to not collapse under its own ambition, but the few narrations that Bayley does, range from banal to even slightly comical (ie “Tell Me Everything”) instead of heightening the drama and the way in which those interludes and narrations are included, probably breaks up the flow/minimizes the momentum, as they seem unable to actually do what they’re meant to. I suppose they might make a lot more sense if one has read the lyrics and/or the novel, but on their own, they just feel a bit confusing and interrupt the album’s continuum. By the time, “Tomorrow Never Came” comes around; the listener is left a little gobsmacked.
All I’m trying to say is that “Ancient Evil” is not really bad, but it is a little long winded and disjointed, clocking at some 75-76 minutes. I am guessing it could have been a bit more compact and varied as a whole. The songs themselves do have moments where they get different moods etc., but there seems to be a quite uniform “feel” in a lot of places and I’d like to see some seriously slower and more atmospheric songs. That being said, Cage still have a certain quality about them, despite the lineup changes and while “Ancient Evil” is not their best work, it manages to place itself nicely enough in the band’s canon of releases. “Helldestroyer” it might not be, but certain moments of it seem to be among the best they’ve achieved since then…