Maniacal Renderings starts of awesome and ends awesome with a little bit of awesome in the middle. Pretty much the entire album drips of just how amazing of a writer Jon Oliva is. The band is in top form this album and the production is definately a step higher than Tage Mahal. Almost all the tracks are incredible so its hard to pick out a single stand out track, but Through the Eyes of the King (strangely reminiscent of In The Hall of the Mountain King) and Maniacal Renderings are probably the best the cd has to offer. Stylistically half the album feels like Mountain King to Streets era Savatage and the other half seems more like Tage Mahal (post Poets & Madmen style). Overall very much a high reccomendation.
Burden of Truth does two things at once to me. It reinforces my opinion that Zak Stevens is one of the most talented straight-metal singers in the game right now. He has such great control, range and dynamics. And his tone is great, in this album more than any other he has ever done. At the same time, I am dissapointed in his writing abilities for himself. When Jon Oliva and O'Neil wrote for him, he did so much more. Not just range wise, but rythmically too. Wake of Magellan and Watching In Silence had some of the most complex vocal arrangements. But Burden of truth just reminds me so much of Middle of Nowhere. There just isnt any pizzazz here. A shame too, cause Zak is capeable of so much more than Circle II Circle has been putting up. At least he is getting to do his own creative expression how he likes it. There is pleanty of overdubbing and canonized singing here too, so you wont miss out there. Your Reality and Evermore are standout tracks, burden of Truth is probably the best track on the album. Hard to reccomend to anyone not already a Zak Stevens fan, but good enough that I'm glad I got it.
I'll probably do full on reviews after I'm done with finals. i want to dissect Burden of Truth to get at the story.