Futures End is not exactly a ‘supergroup’, but looking at the pedigree of the five guys in the band, I suppose you’d be forgiven for thinking so.
At one time in ‘rival’ bands, guitarists Marc Pattison and Christian Wentz decided to work on something together, initially to see what would happen. The addition of singer Fred Marshall moved things further along, making Futures End a band instead of a project. Completing the lineup is the impressive duo of bassist Steve DiGiorgio and drummer John Allen. Childhood friends that have played together before [Dragonlord, Testament, Sadus], they each know what the other is capable of and bring a strong chemistry to the band that’s hard to beat. There are also keyboards in some of the songs, but as to whose work it is, I cannot say at this point – Pattison, Wentz and DiGiorgio have also played keyboards in the past, so I’m guessing it’s one of them.
With everything that each member has done in the past, it would seem that Futures End would be more like a gathering of different styles and influences that compete with each other. Instead, the band sounds more like a marriage of metal (as Marc Pattison mentioned in an interview I read) that brings some heavyweights of ‘80s metal (prog and non-prog alike) together with a modern edge. The end result is something like a thrash driven breed of progressive metal with some power metal influences. If I had to drop names, think Iron Maiden meets Judas Priest meets Queensrÿche (hey, that’s almost the ‘Three Tremors’ tour!) with a bit of Iced Earth, Testament and Fates Warning – all without sounding like a rip-off of each band (and others) thrown together and recycled.
Memoirs Of A Broken Man is a concept album that deals with a topic we’re hearing more and more about these days in the news; the struggles some soldiers endure after returning home. The main character of the album sinks deeper into depression and self-destructive habits following the suicide of his best friend (and fellow returning soldier) and lashes out, his girlfriend deciding to finally leave him. Isolating himself from the outside world, his thoughts turn to suicide. Eventually reaching a critical moment of clarity, he decides to try to change his life for the better before reaching a point of no return. A few sound clips help move the story along, without eating up too much time.
On a bit of a side note, I have to say I was surprised to hear the use of a typewriter in the background (a manual one at that!) during the narrative parts, rather than the click-clack of a computer’s keyboard or scribbling in a notebook. I don’t know why, but it caught my attention. End of detour.
Marc and Christian are exceptional guitarists, able to shred with the best of them. Pick a song, any song except for power ballad “Beyond Despair” (which is as good as anything else on the album) and you’ll hear an exceptional twin guitar attack with precision control, a strong sense of melody and some outstanding solos. “Your Decay” and “Forsaken” are good examples, but they’re all worth checking out. Fortunately, the album isn’t all about shredding or keeping the guitars the main focus. Steve and John’s experience playing together is fairly evident, building a rock solid foundation for the songs and providing a back end powerful enough to keep the guitars from overflowing. The mixing and production helps keep them from being buried by the guitars and vocals, but it would take a lot to bury their packaged thunder.
As good as the music is, I think Fred Marshall is the highlight of the album. It’s hard to pick out any one moment, but the aforementioned “Beyond Despair” is a good place to start looking. While guest vocals from Lance King [Pyramaze, Balance Of Power, Avian] and Lucho Silva [Magistral] help in a few of the songs, Fred has a voice strong enough to stand on its own, able to remain in the foreground at all times. “Endless Journey” features counterpoint that helps to elevate it to awesome levels, while “Remembering Tomorrow” seems to give Fred more of a chance to explore his own range.
A jaw-dropping cover of Iron Maiden’s “Powerslave” completes the album as a bonus track. Even though it’s last, it might ruin the ‘flow’ of a concept album for some listeners. However, if you can get over this trivial matter, it’s quite an enjoyable rendition of an Iron Maiden tune that hasn’t been covered a lot (as far as I’m aware) already.
I didn’t know what to expect at first, but Memoirs Of A Broken Man has remained on near constant play since I got it and I doubt it’s going to leave my current listening anytime soon. Albums like this don’t come along very often, and that’s probably a good thing. All five men have had impressive careers up to now, but the five of them together seems to be an example of something that is ‘greater than the sum of its parts’. Expect to be hearing music from these guys for years to come.