Artist: U.P.  (Unleashed Power) 
Label: Amarok Records  (available through http://www.ruggedcross.com/ ) 
Metal fans should eat up this blazing metal missile, with a kind of progressive speed/death/thrash sound somewhere between early Believer and Sacrament's Haunts of Violence.  The riffing is fast and surgical-tight, as is the incessant, often-inspired drumming (by a former drummer for bands Mekong Delta and Rage), while most of the excellent leads are of the sick and melancholy, back-in-the-mix type typical of the genre (like Believer and early Living Sacrifice).  The vocalist adopts a snarling but semi-understandable style similar to many outfits of this kind (again, halfway between Believer and Sacrament). U.P. must also have had a decent budget for an underground band, with above-average production and glossy 16-page liner notes. 
The lyrics may frustrate listeners looking for evangelistic messages, with no mention of Christ or entirely obvious Christian themes. The singer and guitarist do claim faith in Christ (look for an upcoming interview), but they choose to veil the truth in thought-provoking poetry.  The album definitely deals with spiritual issues, though, with an undercurrent of faith and respect for notions of right and wrong.  It doesn't do them justice to quote the lyrics apart from their context, but here are some to give you a feel, from "Thou Shalt Live": 

    With all the things that will discourage 
    can one find the power of courage 
    To live with contradictions 
    yet there will always be hope 
    For faith will move the mountains 
    inducing the strength to cope 
    Are you really alive 
    Do you really live 
    Can you truly fight it 
    Where's the will to give 
    refusing, resisting the fiery temptations
Most of the songs are long and sometimes divided into "parts" ("Cataclysm" clocking in at 11:33), with the exception of the short and mellow-but-dissonant instrumental, "Etude." 

This is flawlessly-played, and should be many speed/thrash/death fans' favorite album since Believer's last.  I had some problems with it that will keep it from warming my CD player much, however--the similarity and repetitiveness of most of the songs, the same guitar tone throughout, and the cold and distant nature of it all.  I'm more into metal that crosses genres these days, so this doesn't quite blow my mind like it will for the metal purists out there.   

By Josh Spencer 

1 clock2 clocks3 clocks