Original vocalist J.D. Kimball passed away from cancer on October 3, 2003.
Omen - Battle Cry (Metal Blade Records) 1984
1. "Death Rider"
Classic, galloping heavy metal. If ever there was an album the epitomized 1980's traditional American heavy metal, "Battle Cry" would be it. "The Axeman" will forever remain one of the staples of American heavy metal. Early Omen was often compared with Iron Maiden, and indeed the two bands do share some similarities in style. "Last Rites" or the opening moment of "Be My Wench" and "Bring Out The Beast" in particular seem to have that galloping style that Steve Harris and Co. made so popular in the 80's. Where Omen seems to differ from the run of the mill metal band is the well developed guitar riffs. At some points the guitar playing could almost be considered early thrash metal. "Dragon's Breath" for instance has some fast playing that certainly touches on thrash metal. Vocalist J.D. Kimball has a smooth style that fits well with the band's uptempo heavy metal. He's not a very high singer, as many metal bands in the 80's had, but rather he has smooth, clean, mid-range style that is complimented with a bit of vibrato. Omen are just good, quality, heavy metal. Fans of early Fates Warning, Metal Church and Iron Maiden would do themselves well to check this CD out.
Powergod recorded a cover of "Death Rider".
1. "Warning of Danger"
For those who were part of the metal scene in the mid-1980's, this album is considered a heavy metal classic. Many consider "Warning of Danger" to be the band's best, although many would argue that title belongs to the band's debut. Regardless, "Warning of Danger" is another hold, molten slab of dynamic heavy metal. Anthemic headbangers like "March On" are soundtracks to a generation of rivet-head from the 80's. The instrumental track "V.B.P." recalls that early, galloping, Iron Maiden style. The faster cuts like the speed metal "Red Horizon" and "Ruby Eye (of the Serpent)" are simply outstanding. As well, the mesmerizing and speedy "Termination" is another standout track. "Cyborg lust, programmed to terminate..." I can't actually listen to this CD without getting that song stuck in my head. The album closes out with the melodic "Hell's Gate" that features excellent vocal melodies, heavy guitars and some progressive tempo changes.
Vocalist J.D. Kimball sings with a clean, mid-range voice, but has a slight grittiness to his voice that give him character. Kimball, along with the songwriting of Kenny Powell really set this band apart from the average metal band in the 80's. It's a shame this band didn't generate more interest and popularity.
I have the Metal Blade "Classic Series" edition of this CD, which feature a lame insert. The booklet has a few photos of the band, line-up and credits. There are no lyrics or liner notes included. There is another CD version of this album that included the "Nightmares" EP as bonus tracks.
Omen - The Curse/Nightmares (Metal Blade) 1986/1987/1996
Metal Blade released so many classic heavy metal platters in the mid-1980's. Albums like Fates Warning "The Spectre Within" and Cirith Ungol's "King of the Dead" are underground classics. Omen fit right in with these classics. "The Curse" was the band's third album in as many years, and they were still flying that Euro-heavy metal flag high. Resisting the urge to follow the thrash trend in the mid-80's, they clung to their denim and leather roots without looking back. The band did seem to embrace a slightly more social ethic in the lyrics, as opposed to their former tales of sorcery, battles and warriors. The entire album is hook-laden, heavy, and raw. Sure, the production leaves a bit to be desired in comparison to the bigger label bands, but this isn't about competition with the majors. Rather, this was underground heavy metal! Galloping, pure, heavy and full of the 80's metal spirit. J.D. Kimball's vocals are raw but also passionate an work well for the band. Comparisons can be made to Di'Anno-era Iron Maiden for sure. The album was reissued on CD in 1996 with the "Nightmares" EP, which is a nice inclusion since it is a pretty rare recording to begin with. The additional songs were all recorded around the same time with the same line-up, so they fit nicely, save for the final track. The live version of "Whole Lotta Rosie" is an oddball track for sure and isn't all that great to begin with. I suppose it would have been fun to hear it and see it live, but on CD it doesn't really do the band, or the original song justice. Otherwise, this CD is a genuine heavy metal classic.
Omen - Escape to Nowhere (Enigma/Metal Blade) 1988
Not Easy" (5:12)
If I am not mistaken, this is the only Omen album that has not yet been re-issued by Metal Blade. "Escape to Nowhere" is old school heavy metal that lacks a bit in hooks. While Omen are an American band, they borrow heavily from the NWOBHM bands of the early 80's. The disc was produced by Paul O'Neil. Paul has become well known in Savatage fan circles as he has written and produced several Savatage classics and is the mastermind behind the Trans Siberian Orchestra. "Radar Love" is a Golden Earring cover. I picked this disc up for $7.99 at a local used CD shop. This disc featured Coburn Pharr on vocals who left to join Annihilator, in which he recorded the "Never Neverland" CD.
Omen - Teeth Of The Hydra (Metal Blade) 1989
1. "Holy Martyr"
I use to own most of the Omen catalog on vinyl, but have been slow to replace them with CD copies. I picked up this 'best of' collection from LaLa.com for $1.75 and it has re-sparked my interest in this band. Omen was one of the more successful Metal Blade artists of the eighties, employing a classic 80's metal sound that was common for the Metal Blade label. Bands such as Armored Saint, Obsession, Warlord, Tyrant, Leathewolf, etc. all had a similar sound. Early Iron Maiden might be another good comparison. However, I had always thought that the band had a slightly above average sound in comparison to many others. Vocalist J.D. Kimball had an aggressive style that was clean, yet didn't sound overly commercial either. His voice is present on the majority of the tracks here, save for "Thorn in the Flesh", which is off the slightly more commercial "Escape to Nowhere." Musically, the band was studs and leather, working man's heavy metal; upbeat tempos, pounding drums, dirty bass, crunchy, galloping guitar riffs and blazin' guitar solos. They didn't really employ any pop elements, save for "Escape to Nowhere", which was a bit of a departure for them. For the most part, however, there was that classic, 1980's heavy metal vibe that was rugged, heavy and even pushed the elements of speed metal and thrash at times. This compilation was released after the band broke up in 1989 and encompasses their entire 80's catalog, but isn't in any sort of order whatsoever. (Guitarist Kenny Powell has since resurrected Omen). I would have liked it better had the songs been in chronological order by the year they were recorded. However, as it stands, this is still a good overview of the band's early years and a pleasant trip through heavy metal years gone by.
Omen - Eternal Black Dawn (Crash Music) 2003