Never been a big fan of these Boston trad-metal water-treaders, from their somewhat plodding and generic major label days to their more recent, hopeless and low-buck efforts. And I wasn't expecting to change my mind based on the "Xeroxed tree" motif of the cover of "The Deep and Dreamless Sleep", or the generally desperate and cheap aura of the packaging. And eight tracks? There has to be a back story on why this band has always been so stingy with the tunes (their Epic debut, "Kill to Survive", sported a whopping seven songs, though at least one was removed due to lyrical content – these guys must write at a pace that would embarrass SACRED REICH).But it's hard to be too rough on MELIAH RAGE here. Sure, "The Deep and Dreamless Sleep" is pretty pedestrian metal, middle-of-the-road riffing with gruffly melodic bar-band-guy vocals, but the whole mess seems a bit more likable this time out, a little more thought out and catchy. The band continues to work a middle ground they've found between heavier, thrashier fare and a more commercial hard rock sound, especially since workmanlike vocalist Paul Souza took over a few years back. The result is not too far removed from other tradition-minded metal outfits of their age group — you could almost call 'em a bargain-basement METAL CHURCH at this point (the two are touring the US together next month). There's definite potential in harmonic rockers like the brooding "God and Man" and the upbeat "Undefeated". The latter, especially, fuses a few basic building blocks of guitar ideas into an appealing combination, a faster-paced rah-rah anthem with a tough-guy chorus not far removed from something that, say, BRAND NEW SIN would come up with. The title track lets Souza stretch a little bit vocally, and the band turns in another killer chorus on "Last of the Wanted". "Curse" turns up the speed and intensity a little bit, but ends up wallowing in its own played-out riffs, with little to recommend it. That's the main problem here — too many generic moments that just don't grab the listener. "The Deep and Dreamless Sleep" is a decent slab of lunkhead biker metal from a band whose largest achievement in two decades is simply not dying. That may sound uncharitable, but the band does seem to be on an upswing, creatively speaking — hopefully it doesn't take them another twenty years to get from "not bad" to "essential."
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