Silent Reign Of Heroes
CMC International Records, 1998
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/27/2004
It is far too easy to write off the second coming of Molly Hatchet as a "cover band" trying to replicate the original. It is also an incorrect assumption.
No matter what your opinion of the resurrection of the Southern rock band's moniker may be, there is no denying that Phil McCormack and crew were most definitely trying to find their own unique voice while maintaining a healthy respect for the band's first decade of life. Silent Reign Of Heroes, their 1998 effort (and second under the new lineup), finds the band still searching for that voice while staying a little too close to the pattern they created with their previous effort Devil's Canyon, down to the prerequisite acoustic cover version of a Danny Joe Brown-era track. Yet there are signs that the band was close to coming into their own; they just hadn't made it there quite yet.
The first part of the disc does seem to be too much of a clone of Devil's Canyon for their own good. "Mississippi Moon Dog" has the same bayou-style opening that "Down From The Mountain" did, even if the former isn't as hard of a rocker as the older track. Likewise, "World Of Trouble" shares quite a bit of familiarity with "Rolling Thunder" - and, look, the third song on both discs is the title track, and both tracks clock in over the six-minute mark! (The difference here, though, is that "Silent Reign Of Heroes" is a fairly decent track, conjuring up images of "Fall Of The Peacemakers" - but we'll get to that one in a moment.)
For all of the parallels between the two discs, though, Silent Reign Of Heroes does try to distance itself from Molly Hatchet's past through its songwriting and performances on a select few tracks. "Miss Saturday Night" sounds like it could have been the hit single from this disc, while "Just Remember (You're The Only One)", the love song of the disc, turns out to be the strongest performance, and is anything but a disappointment.
Silent Reign Of Heroes is a disc of paralells and opposites. Whereas the track selection sometimes seems to mirror their previous release, the average length of the tracks is shorter this time around - and that actually works to Molly Hatchet's benefit. In a sense, it's almost like the band was forced to deliver its musical payload without allowing itself room to noodle around, and the overall sound is much tighter. Tracks like "Junk Yard Dawg" and "Dead And Gone (Redneck Song)" are proof positive of this shift.
I do wonder, though, what made Molly Hatchet choose to do another cover of a first-generation number, especially when "Fall Of The Peacemakers" already had an acoustic vein to it. Make no mistake, this is an interesting version and is well worth your time, but it is a bit perplexing of a choice. (Not that I could identify a track off the top of my head which they should have performed as an alternate.)
So the ultimate question remains: How does Silent Reign Of Heroes rank in Molly Hatchet's discography, and is it worth your money? While there is not as much musical growth as I'd like to have seen this time around, there are signs that the band is becoming less a caricature of who old-time fans wanted them to be and more of a musical force for the here and now. It's a start.