Characters in Time
is a great example American power metal album from the late 80s. Full of tasty riffs, an operatic vocal performance and a healthy dose of shredding, the band shines through with its ability to make just about every song on this album feel “epic” and exhilarating. An added bonus are the subtle progressive sections that add flavor and variety to the songs. Apart from a few, none of the tracks stick with the same rhythm or chords. Prime examples are “Kamikaze”, which breaks towards the end of the song to build up an explosive outro, and “Heroes Road”, which doesn’t hesitate to explore slower more melancholic territory. Other songs stick to what works, such as “The Entity” which revolves around one radical cyclic riff.
The album, however, is not void of flaws. There are a few missteps in the songwriting, as a few filler tracks are present. The attitude-abundant “Snake Eyes” frankly sounds too much like commercial hard rock, perhaps an attempt to hit some radio airwaves. The most annoying track is “Eternal Mercenary”, which tries a little too hard to achieve that epic feel and ends up sounding disjointed with an off-putting (and unfinished?) chorus, where the vocalist yells an extended “Eternal Mercenar-“ without that final vowel.
In another regard, Characters in Time
is undoubtedly a product of the times and borrows from many popular influences. Vocalist David Taylor really has that late 80s high-pitched vocal flare, but there is no denying that he really sounds like a Geoff Tate impersonator. Instrumentally, nothing on this album hadn’t already been done by other bands. Album-closer “I Need the Night” could have easily been written by Dio. Mainstream media-bashing “Sinister Minister” sounds like a Toxik song. This shouldn’t discourage anyone from listening to the album as fans of Queenryche, Iron Maiden, Fates Warning etc. would surely enjoy it. It is nonetheless important to note that Drive is not the most original of bands.
Overall, Characters in Time
showcases a lot of talent from a small band from Texas. Though they had a penchant for writing songs that were heavily influenced by top metal acts of the time, Drive are metal band and they did a fine job at it with this album.
David Taylor - vocals (R.I.P. 2009)
Rick Chavez - guitars (R.I.P. 2017)
Mercy Valdez - guitars
Michael Anthony Guerrero - bass
Valentine San Miguel - drums