THE MURDER OF MY SWEET – A GENTLEMAN’S LEGACY
Label: Frontiers Music srl
Author: Kira L. Schlechter
01. Six Feet Under
02. A Ghost Of A Chance
04. The Wheels Of Time
06. Kill Your Darlings
07. Fathers Eyes
08. Rise Above
09. Trick Of The Devil
10. Heads Or Tails
11. Please, Don’t Wait Up
12. Finding Closure
Ever find a cool-sounding fantasy novel in the library and being just about to check it out until you notice the cover where it says: “Book Two Of The Series” — and you haven’t read Book One? That’s kind of like the conundrum you face with “A Gentleman’s Legacy”, the sixth album from the Swedish cinematic metal band THE MURDER OF MY SWEET. First, this is two bands coming together in a roundabout way. This album is the continuation of “A Gentleman’s Hurricane”, the most recent one by the prog rock band Mind’s Eye, which is drummer and mastermind Daniel Flores’ other project. TMOMS‘s guitarist Mike Palace is a fan of that album, so the intertwining of the two ideas/projects does make sense.
The Mind’s Eye effort was a concept album, according to the label bio, about rogue ex-CIA agent Adam Evangelista. A song from that record, “Ashes To Ashes (In Land Lullaby)”, introduced Evangelista’s daughter Pandora, a Mexican-American girl who is trying to find him. On “Legacy”, Pandora is now an adult as the bio says: “Taking revenge on the ones who were giving her father his orders, the Illuminati” and “Facing the challenges her father had to endure and suffering the ultimate punishment: remorse”. Singer Angelica Rylin, naturally, plays Pandora. Flores, Palace and bassist Patrik Janson round out the band. But there’s a big problem with the high-minded concept: there’s no real plot to back it up. Nothing really happens: there’s no actual action, or at least, it’s not relayed well. If you didn’t read what I just quoted from the bio, you’d likely think there was no concept at all. And they’ve said the sound is influenced by Queensryche and Genesis, but it’s not heavy enough for the former and not complex and varied enough for the latter. It stays fairly the same throughout.
“Six Feet Under” sets the opening scene, with sound effects very like “Operation: Mindcrime”, almost too much like it (rain, thunder, former President Reagan being interviewed). We can gather that Adam has likely died, considering the title, and he’s passing the torch to her, although reluctantly (he says: “Don’t want this life for you”). It’s a little hokey when she says: “It’s time for the cleansing of these rivers of sin” and calls him “An unsung hero in an unmarked grave”, but it gets the story under way and establishes the sound, here being definitely more symphonic.
Big, bold and with a nice swing throughout, “A Ghost Of A Chance” gets Pandora established in her quest. She knows the odds are against her (the “ghost of a chance”) because her grief is getting in the way (“An ocean of sadness / It narrows my chance to succeed”). The problem is it’s too happy-sounding and it’s hard to buy Angelica as this character — she’s not angry enough, she’s not even sad enough. Her voice is pleasant but it’s one-dimensional emotionally, it’s soft and restrained, when it should be raging and furious.
The tense, jagged verses of “Damnation” are good vehicles for the snide, pointed observations (“The higher ups / Applauding first / They’re smiling as / Their wallets grow”). It’s not certain who this is directed towards, perhaps someone who’s trying to change things, or maybe even Adam himself (“You’re just a man, you’re no Christ”… “You thought they had your back / But really they had your soul”). There’s good stuff here, but dammit, sound more pissed off! The music is not up to the sentiment and the story — what’s being said and how it’s presented are really at odds.
A beefy bass chug and a zingy repeated guitar effect marks “The Wheels Of Time”. This is a musing that’s puzzling as to its purpose or even to what it’s trying to say. There’s interesting lines: “Perfect love is when you don’t have a choice” and “As the sick man lays on a broken bed / Humming his favorite tune” and “There’s a common goal / For this nation’s soul / Even though it’s come to an end”, but what it all adds up to is unclear. And that one line: “Created by a primitive owl” is really a head-scratcher.
You can’t fault TMOMS for the quality of their music, though. “Winged” is moody and quiet, with an acoustic base in the verses and a light, lilting swing in the shimmery chorus. It too is an observation that makes some valid social commentary. The opening scene in the first verse is effective (“I signed a petition / Helping elders make amends… I gave back the paper / And looked straight into his eyes /No anger resolved”), as is the second (“Treat them like dirt / Reads the sign in the protest / Their voices are heard / They march down the street / Where the beggars ask for change / They plead but get none”, which is a great play on words). The bridge draws parallels between Europe and America, which is interesting, but the point of the chorus is unclear in the light of the rest of the song. And like “Ghost”, this ends with a mention of her father: “This one’s for you, Dad” (there, it was “need you, Dad”). It’s contrived and is a blatant manipulation of emotion — once you could forgive, but twice is pushing it. If there’s a plot going on here, by the way, I’m not getting it, and we’re five songs in — what exactly is the action, what’s supposed to be happening with Pandora and her advertised “taking revenge”? Sadly, it doesn’t get any clearer.
Jagged and punchy with a fine, bright-sounding chorus, “Kill Your Darlings” is another track where it’s hard to determine what’s going on. It’s another observation — maybe Pandora is trying to make progress toward her goal but is being distracted or is losing motivation? And when she says in the prechorus that “It drives me crazy”, it’s hard to buy it because it’s sung without real passion. The phrase “Kill Your Darlings,” by the way, is a bit of old writing advice: it means to get rid of anything that doesn’t serve your overall story, anything that doesn’t fit for whatever reason. So are we to take this literally, like “darlings” will actually be “killed”? Stay tuned…
The opening electronic/keyboard parts tie each song to the next and that’s good continuity. “Father’s Eyes” continues that trend. This too is introspection, so again, whatever the plot is is still going nowhere. Pandora asks: “What have I done? What have I become?”, but we know nothing about what she did or became. She says: “It’s like this mission has been slowly kind of changing me”, but what is the mission? In the jaunty chorus, which relies on the cliche “what goes around comes around”, she says: “You probably won’t pull through” — really? Why does it sound so happy and positive then? Here again a phrase is used awkwardly: they play on the phrase “will o’the wisp” by saying “When the will of wisps is nigh”, but what does it mean? Pandora mentions having her father’s eyes and “My mother’s heart”, but we know nothing of her mother either.
The husky intimacy of Angelica’s voice in the piano-based ballad “Rise Above” is notable — it’s mixed right in your ear and there’s at last passion and grit. It loses a little impact later on when overdubs are added, but the band falls back smartly in the bridge to let her shine. This is a fine look at the Pandora character and what she’s facing being a woman doing this work (but remember, if you didn’t have access to the bio, you’d have no idea what this work was). She’s obviously had a setback (“My voice still lacks a vote”, “I’m forced down to denounce this perfect plan”, “You would listen up if I was a man”) and knows she’s being compared to her dad (“It’s like I’m living in your shadow”), but you have no clue what happened — or what’s been happening. It’s the best track so far, however.
The verses of “Trick Of The Devil” are promising sonically — there’s a bit of ‘Ryche-like guitar in the intro and Angelica’s voice is again upfront, but the chorus again is too happy and bouncing (like, yay! Adversity!) and cliched in spots (“Got my back against the wall / Not backing down”). It’s hard to determine what the verses are trying to say: “Speak magic 8 / Tell me how am I supposed to cross the lake / That goes nowhere” in the first and “Fly busy bee / You look down on us all comfortably / You made your bed”. The prechoruses are trying to make a political statement, with touches of references to climate change, but the whole thing doesn’t hang together well, and what is “the trick of the devil” anyway? It’s never made clear. Plus the fadeout ending goes on too long.
“Heads Or Tails” is a bit heavier and crunchier, with all sorts of ‘Ryche-feeling guitar riffs and tones. It’s a fine set piece, colorful and descriptive (“I’m shaking hands with all bad seeds / While I moonlight as a preacher” and “I can’t be caught in this red dress / It reeks of roses and vigor” and later “I can’t be caught in this red mess / It smells of rogue machine guns”). But what is she actually DOING? We’re not told. And once again, the chorus is too cheery and cliched (“The bigger they are / The harder they fall”). The verses have a nice tension, but Angelica needs much more oomph, and the lightweight chorus just ruins any edge it might have had. The bridge is set to a decent musical background, but makes no real sense lyrically (“Treason and reason goes to bed / A son of a gun / I’ve got your picture / In case something goes south”). It empties out effectively sonically later, and they establish a catchy chug as the song winds down, but adding the “red dress” and “red mess” lines with it is unnecessary and distracting.
“Please, Don’t Wait Up” is an evocative ballad with a definite late-night vibe. The orchestration is solid, as are the overdubs in the prechorus, and the chorus is restrained — even when it builds, it doesn’t get histrionic. Angelica’s voice is vulnerable, wistful, and that’s also well done. So this is another set piece and another strong track: it’s Pandora, obviously in a relationship that’s been good for her, been healing (“I was a mess / When you came to me… This happiness is cruel”). But she’s keeping secrets (“It broke my heart when I had to be late again / Wish I could tell you / What I do when you’re asleep” and later: “Under the bed there’s a box with bullets / Above the shower, there’s a gun, I use it / We live a lie, you don’t know me, it’s appalling”). That’s great detail, but we still don’t know exactly what it IS that she does. So it continues to be frustrating, as is the puzzling last line in the bridge: “This will end once I am done with / All the loose ends with this corpse”. Like what is the corpse? A literal dead body? Herself? The relationship? This lifestyle of secrecy and lies?
The last track answers that. “Finding Closure”, the 9-plus minute ending, is Pandora trying to do just that, blaming her dad and/or herself (“It all falls on you”) for what she’s done. While finally darker in the chorus, it’s not quite enough, but it’s better. The heat is on, as she says (“It’s getting closer / To my exposure”) for her deeds, which we finally learn in the bridge (“I may or may not have gone on a killing spree”). But again, we never know who she killed or why, and the sound of this confession is just not damn desperate enough, vocally speaking — and the blaming her dad is, as before, contrived (“It’s not my fault / It’s in my blood / Like daughter, like dad”). The instrumental sections are proggy but too long, particularly the second one — we’re getting to a pivotal point (Pandora says: “No more killing, no more, I quit”), but the lengthy solo and final runthrough of the chorus takes us too far out of the action and doesn’t build any suspense. So as to not be a spoiler, I’ll not detail the final act of the album, but it’s definitely a shocker, especially considering the relative lack of emotional resonance leading up to it.
What made “Mindcrime” monumental, among other things, was that Geoff Tate played every single character with his voice — you could feel and hear the action through the nuances of his singing, from anger to madness to rage to regret, and the music was with him every step of the way. The plot, too, developed, peaked, and was resolved. Despite its nods to that classic and its obvious desire to emulate it, “A Gentleman’s Legacy” is sung the same way throughout, set to mostly unchanging music. And while the end is tragic, you find yourself not invested enough in the character — and really not fully knowing her motivation or what exactly went on in the album — to feel that tragedy as you should.