For an unsigned
band’s self-financed and self-released debut album, Fallen Angel’s Crawling
Out of Hell is pretty impressive. Three years in the making, Crawling Out
of Hell is a concept CD (the first in a planned trilogy) including a
companion novel (sold separately, if you wish) written by
guitarist/creator/producer John Cruppe. This unique approach to music packaging
has rarely been done before in the world of heavy metal.
September 2010, the word has started to get around about this amazing band and
their CD’s unique packaging. Fallen Angel’s Crawling Out of Hell is a
pretty involved heavy metal endeavor that needs time for it to soak in to truly
be appreciated for the concept album that it is. The songs could stand on their
own individually, but were meant to be taken in as a whole.
Crawling Out of Hell
is a tale about
lead character Luke, who was involved in a car accident and falls into a coma.
He struggles through life and death in a fight for his soul as he finds himself,
as the title suggests, crawling out of Hell. It’s strictly fictional and
fantasy-based, and the concept is nothing new (Ayreon’s The Human Equation comes
to mind). But, there’s a twist at the end of the CD and the book, which leaves
you unsure of what actually happens to the main character. On the CD, Luke can
be heard saying, “Where am I?” It serves as a cliffhanger by setting you up for
Part II, which the band is already working on the CD and the novel, entitled
Cast Out of Heaven.
The 250-page companion novel (including a glossary and lyrics to the CD) has a
few flaws; awkward sentence structures, jumbled syntax, grammatical errors and
some repetitive sections. The abundant use of ellipses (the omission of a word
from a sentence) disrupts the flow of the story. However, the written
descriptions are vivid enough to picture in your mind the scene as if watching a
movie. Excluding the instrumentals, the primary songs on the CD have the same
chapter names in the book.
I tend to read a
lot of books, so it only took me three days, off-and-on, to complete the book.
The bigger type face and spacing between sentences makes it a pretty easy read.
But don’t feel that you have to read the book to understand the music on the CD,
as there is a lot going on and can be a bit overwhelming. The story is already
pretty well laid out for you in the CD booklet, the novel is just something of a
bonus for the listener to experience the full effect.
The artwork that accompanies the CD and the book is also fantastic, created by
four or five different artist from all over the world on a somewhat modest
budget. The illustrations are mostly, if not all, traditional paintings, no
digital renderings as far as I can tell. The description of the characters in
the book adequately match the renderings and leaves a lasting impression in your
Originally formed in 1983 in Rochester, New York, the band never released any
recorded material. Probably the most recognizable name in the band is guitarist
Robb Lotta, who played in Joey Belladona’s solo touring band. Fallen Angel’s
onstage performance portrays some of the villains in the story. Guitarist John
Cruppe stars as The Dark Lord of Democales, guitarist Robb Lotta as The Man in
Black, vocalist Steve Seniuk as Caleb The Teller of Tales, bassist Joe Surace as
The Lord of the Flesh and drummer Frankie Quaggs as The Darkness. All the band
members wear costumes and theatrical stage makeup - not the black metal corpse
paint of Dimmu Borgir - but more like Kiss or King Diamond. The image of the
band reflects the story and merges the whole concept together.
There’s 20 tracks (6 instrumentals) exceeding 72 minutes of
traditional/speed/power metal in the old school vein of Mercyful Fate, Cage,
Helstar, Agent Steel, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and most notably, Iced Earth.
There are obvious moments where the band do wear their influences on their
sleeves, but the way they construct the songs and deliver them is in their own
style. There’s great trade-off guitar solos, pummeling double bass and drum
fills, ear-shattering wails and memorable fist-pumping choruses. There are
several cinematic instrumentals that bridge parts of the story together, without
actually becoming boring. The production (also handled by Cruppe) is not
perfect, but very commendable.
Vengeance," “Dark Lord,” "Leaving it All Behind," "Watching" and “The Neutral
Zone” are great examples of Fallen Angel’s use of melody and musicianship.
There’s even some
backmasking on “Ashes To Ashes” and CD closer "Grant Me Peace." Don’t worry
though, there won’t be an Ozzy or Judas Priest-like lawsuit or trial on their
hands, as it’s a blatant attempt and an homage to early classic rock bands like
The Beatles and Led Zeppelin. It only adds to the eerie and mysterious feeling
of the album.
To some people,
Seniuk’s voice might be a little over-the-top at times, but it’s impressive none
the less. But, if you’re not a fan of falsetto vocals, then you most likely
won’t enjoy his singing style. It’s hard to decipher what he really sounds like,
though, as he morphs into many different types of metal singers. But his high
wails, vocal phrasings and harmonies fit the tempo of the music perfectly. He’s
not quite ready to be inducted into the elite vocalist circle as Barlow, Tate,
Halford or Owens, but he’s not too far behind at all.
This is a true “record” in every sense of the word, reminding me of the days
when buying an album was a special experience, visually and aurally. The feeling
you’d get when you could listen to an album uninterrupted from start to finish
while reading the lyrics and liner notes and truly ensconcing yourself in the
listening experience. With the exception of a few flaws, Fallen Angel’s
Crawling Out of Hell is a rather valiant and commendable effort from Cruppe
and Co. Do yourself a favor and purchase this CD (and novel) as soon as you can,
you will not be disappointed.