Label: Mars Hill Records
Released: July 1, 2007
Concept albums are a difficult endeavor with a variety of pitfalls. Only the very best avoid all of them. Most of these complex albums fall into at least a few of these traps and Torman Maxt’s The Problem of Pain Part 1 is no exception. Nonetheless, that shouldn’t completely overshadow its strengths.
As the title suggests, the album deals with the difficulty in reconciling a benevolent and omnipotent God with the pain of His creatures. To accomplish this, the album revolves around the Biblical story of Job, a “blameless and upright” man, and the trials and tribulations that put his faith to the test. The first difficulty that Torman Maxt faces is the literalism of the lyrics. They do too much telling and too little showing, giving the words little emotional appeal. The trick here would be to retell the story in a way that is creative and evocative and that just doesn’t happen here.
Luckily for Torman Maxt (and most rock artists for that matter), the lyrics don’t have to stand on their own, because songs rely just as heavily on music. Another concept album pitfall is that the constraints of the story force the album to be uneven and once again that’s the case with The Problem of Pain. The first three tracks come across as technically proficient songs in the realm of Styx or Kansas, not bad for a band that hasn’t hit the big leagues yet, but not exactly a ringing endorsement for their ability to rock either. However, beginning with “Satan’s First Song,” they really draw a lot more color into their music, showing Satan as dark and sinister, the angels as holy and pure. Psychedelic elements evoke the torture of Job’s life during these trials. There are a few steps backward into more straightforward arena rock which makes it an erratic ride, but over the course of the album, Job’s story is told much better by the music than the lyrics.
As this is only the first part of Torman Maxt’s effort to tell Job’s story and explain the problem of pain, it is neither the whole story nor the final word. Part 1 is promising enough to generate anticipation for Part 2, both to see where they go with it and how they grow as writers. It’s not a perfe3ct concept album, but supposedly better bands have done worse with ambitious undertakings of this sort.