As you may gather from the album’s title, Prayers for the Damned, Vol. 1 is only a piece of a larger puzzle; this is the first half of a planned double album, with the second half coming later this year. It does a good job of setting the tone for what’s to come, with a solid concept and sonic direction that carries throughout the album. In fact, the album’s sound could easily be described as ambitious; so much so that it ventures into overdone territory, attempting to create a grand backdrop and sticking to it far too rigidly for its own good.
Compared to the varied styles of hard rock explored on Modern Vintage, which wasn’t afraid to get funky and inject some pop into the mix, Prayers for the Damned aims for a much more concise, grandiose style. The guitars are constantly blaring, the drums are pounding along aggressively, and lead singer James Michael twists his vocals in ways that attempt to convey an epic feeling, something furthered by the chorus of vocals constantly backing him up, with their higher registers injecting some gospel into the mix. While Rise initially opens the album on promising ground, from the catchy chorus to the top notch guitar solo, You Have Come To The Right Place instantly sheds light on the album’s main problem; regardless of whether they’re good or bad, the songs almost always sound the same.
There are a few moments that attempt to break the mould, with the low key rock balladry of Better Man and the thrilling bridge and solo of I’m Sick being the major mentions here, but they do little to alleviate the problem. Even Belly Of The Beast, which attempts to individualise itself with a grungier introduction and simpler instrumentation lead by the twang of a guitar rather than the screech, falls back into the same grandiose, familiar hard rock style that the album thrives off of. Despite this, though, the album isn’t unlistenable; its only entirely questionable moment comes with When We Were Gods, which takes on a haunting slower style to increase the grandiose feel of the song before jumping into a chorus that sounds as if it were taken from a different song, changing keys entirely and giving the song an awkward, disjointed feel that removes any pay-off the grandeur of the song could have had.
Worst offender aside, though, there are moments to enjoy on the album. While it lacks the forward appeal of Modern Vintage, it has its own spark that makes it worth listening to, and could be the entry point to a much more compelling second part to the collection. It’s safe and familiar territory that they may not have needed to cover, but they don’t come off worse for doing so. It’s not exactly a revolutionary piece of work, and instead feels like a slight step back, but Prayers for the Damned, Vol. 1 isn’t worth ignoring entirely.