Proclaiming yourselves to be "American power metal kings", as CAGE does in the booklet for "Science of Annihilation", doesn't exactly smack of humbleness. Then again, CAGE continually backs up their collective words great heavy metal albums, and "Science of Annihilation" is no exception. The fact of the matter is that very few bands play this kind of JUDAS PRIEST-inspired (think "Painkiller") heavy metal and power thrash with such verve and songwriting prowess. The band followed up the metal magnificence of "Darker than Black" with an ambitious concept album in "Hell Destroyer" that actually held one's interest for the duration. Now comes "Science of Annihilation", an album that is closer to "Darker than Black" in pure heavy metal aggression, yet continues to offer the songwriting dynamics heard on "Hell Destroyer".
Just like previous albums, CAGE makes the most of what they record and put a great deal of care into the crafting of their compositions. Even at 55 minutes, "Science of Annihilation" keeps the listener attentive from beginning to end. Whereas "Hell Destroyer" may have turned some folks off because of the amount of concept narration involved, "Science of Annihilation" delivers one crushing blow after another, usually at breakneck speed. Aside from intro "The Power that Feeds", outro "At the Edge of the Infinite", and a slower, more serene track called "Spectre of War" that serves as a kind of introduction to the impossibly heavy title track, this album attacks with a vengeance. The riffs and solos of lead guitarists David "Conan" Garcia and Anthony Wayne McGinnis are absolutely scorching — here again, the kind that one hears from JUDAS PRIEST's heaviest material, as well the works of bands like PRIMAL FEAR. The main firestorm riff of "Speed Kills" is the epitome of it; it is a real jaw dropper. "Planet Crusher", "Scarlet Witch", "Spirit of Vengeance", and "Die Glocke" contain similarly incendiary riffs, as well as the meticulous brutality of drummer Norm Leggio.
But melody is just as important and "Science of Annihilation" is an album full of hooks, the aforementioned "Scarlet Witch" and "Spirit of Vengeance" two cases in point, the latter actually one of a couple of moments on the album that contains a kind of "Stained Class" vibe. Horror story "Black River Falls" is another catchy track and one of several that showcases Sean Peck's range of vocal styles, all of which he tailors to fit the mood and structure of the song. And he of course still does a mean Rob Halford scream. CAGE takes influences from more than just PRIEST though. The grandness of "Power of a God" — which masterfully utilizes splashes of keyboards — and especially "Operation Overlord" remind of ICED EARTH to a degree, while there is a smattering of IRON MAIDEN and even KING DIAMOND at various points along the way.
The only minor complaint I have is that the recording sounds a tad compressed, resulting in songs that don't breathe as much as they should. It also results in something less than a thunderous drum sound. I can't say it's something that interfered with my enjoyment of the album though.
I'm grateful that bands like CAGE continue releasing albums of pure, blistering heavy metal with songs that stick to the ribs. We can never have too much of that sort of thing. CAGE haven't disappointed me yet.