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Descending Fate - Castle of Ice (Reissue)

Descending Fate
Castle of Ice (Reissue)
by Dave "That Metal Guy" Campbell at 22 September 2017, 10:58 AM

DESCENDING FATE is a Progressive/Power Metal band formed in Florida in 1991. Active until 1997, the band independently release three EPs until disbanding. Three of the members re-emerged in a new group named SPELLBINDER. Progressive Metal was born after the great Progressive Rock bands that came before them, like RUSH, KING CRIMSON, KANSAS, YES, and GENESIS. But it was Seattle, Washington’s QUEENSRYCHE who spearheaded this movement, followed shortly thereafter by giants FATES WARNING and DREAM THEATER, the latter who took the level of musicianship to new heights in the genre never heard before. Bu the time DESCENDING FATE had released their first of three EPs in 1993, Grunge had all but killed off Glam Metal, and QUEENSRYCHE was about to release “Promised Land,” which marked the end of their days as a Progressive Metal band. At this point the torch was fully passed to DREAM THEATER.

DESCENDING FATE’s “Castle of Ice” is an eighteen-track compilation of the bands three EPs, releasing on CD in a limited 500 copy format by Arkeyn Steel Records. I’m going to talk about the songs in the format of the three EPs and separate line-ups for category purposes. The production is about as what you would expect for an independent release at that time. The songs are riff driven and prominently feature Springer’s vocals as the focal point. Stylistically this sounds like about where the Progressive Metal genre was at the time, sans what DREAM THEATER were doing. There are not crazy time changes or volatile displays of musicianship, but rather more dark and brooding music like we hear in the track “Trying to Survive.” Some of the best moments on the first seven tracks would include the sleazy snarl of “Judgement Day,” where a chunky, heavily distorted guitar riff combines with the tenor lamentations of the vocals, the melodic and catchy sensibility of “Annihilation,” which features some dexterous lead guitar work, the ambient sound of “Castle of Ice,” which points inward with some emotional qualities, and the raucous nature of “Seal the Fate.”

The middle six tracks hear the band growing with the addition of keyboards, which are a necessary and supporting staple in the genre as it was developing. There is less of a focus on the guitar riffs driving the sound, and more willingness to explore and experiment. In “Victim of Greed” for example, the vocals are a bit less pitchy in the higher ranges and the keyboards maintain a strong presence throughout. Some of the other moments that can be consider their best include “Running through Darkness,” which hears some of that meaty guitar sound from the first demos returning, churning through the track in mostly minor chords, building some mystery, the more straightforward “When the Hammer Falls,” which sounds strangely like TED NUGENT’s “Stranglehold” at times, and the aggressive punch of “The Drifter,” which has a FATES WARNING vibe.

The final five tracks are the last incarnation of the band, with only founder Springer and keyboardist Herlihy remaining. Again you can feel their sense of Progressive songwriting continue to develop, and it’s a shame that they disbanded because they really were hitting their stride nicely here. “Faded Dreams” is more complex than earlier material, and hears the bassist breaking out a bit of the standard mold of following the riff line too closely. Some other highlights include the more sophisticated sounds of “Out in the Pouring Rain,” where clean guitar notes and pensive vocals provide some strong melodic beauty, and the seven-minute “Broken Vision,” which is where the band realizes that conventional track length does not have to apply in this genre. It might be the best song on the album as well as summarizing where they were as a band at that time. Some tender lead guitar work and supporting keyboards do a nice job of painting a poignant and enjoyable picture to round out the end of the album here.

Being a Prog head, I am surprised at myself for not knowing about them at that time, especially considering they were an American band. At the time however I was fully immersed in bands like KING’S X, PANTERA, SAIGON KICK and DREAM THEATER for the most part, and just starting my foray into the budding scene in the Nordic countries at this time. Overall, I think this is a fine collection of some strong Progressive songs from a band that clearly had a vision for their music. Had they been signed, I think some production could have taken them further into the scene. As it stands, it is worth a listen and a purchase if this is a genre that interests you, as it does me.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Memorability: 6
Production: 5

3 Star Rating

1. Trying To Survive
2. Judgement Day
3. Annihilation
4. Castle Of Ice
5. Seal The Fate
6. Castle At Dawn
7. Trying To Survive (Acoustic version)
8. Victim Of Greed
9. Castle Of Ice
10. Seal The Fate
11. Running Through Darkness
12. When The Hammer Falls
13. The Drifter
14. Faded Dreams
15. Out In The Pouring Rain
16. Escaping The Dreams Of Fate
17. Broken Vision
18. Pig Named Joe
Tracks 1-7:
Jim Springer - Lead, Ac. & Rhythm Guitars
Mark Wallace - Rhythm, Ac. & Lead Guitars
Ronnie Dintaman - Bass
Mike Blair - Vocals
Stacy King - Drums
Brandon Embry - Drums

Tracks 8-13:
Jim Springer - All Ac. & Electric Guitars
Stacy King - Drums
Mike Herlihy - Keyboards
Curtis McGuinn - Lead & Backup Vocals
Lenny DeGroat - Bass

Tracks 14-18:
Jim Springer - Lead & Rhythm Guitar, Lead Vocals
Jayson Vogler - Lead, Rhythm & Ac. Guitars
Eddie Pecchio - Lead Vocals & Bass
Stacy King - Drums
Mike Herlihy – Keyboards
Record Label: Arkeyn Steel Records


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Edited 21 September 2019

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