Harpazo – “The Crucible”


I have long enjoyed Trans-Siberian Orchestra and its predecessor Savatage with their long spanning rock operas that were steeped in either the symphony or progressive metal respectively. When I started looking into Harpazo, I saw a lot of things that are appealing: apocalyptic story based on biblical prophecies told through the story of progressive metal with a guest list that reads like a who’s who of Christian metal.

Harpazo, Hebrew for carry off by force, is the brain child of New Jersey writer and musician Marc Centanni. One day while contemplating a Gustave Dore illustration of “Paradise Lost,” he was inspired with the story for “The Crucible” that would develop into a rock opera. Being a fan of progressive metal bands such as Queensryche and Dream Theater, he accepted the challenge and sought out Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery) as a creative partner. The duo worked for years writing out the music and story for “The Crucible” while gathering an impressive guest musician list.

The story is set far into the future in apocalyptic times when the fulfillment of prophecies from the Book of Revelation begin. A megalomaniac CEO of a medical technology company has ascended to world power and perceives the threat of Christians to his power and sets out to execute them. He sends out his right hand man, “The Messenger,” to lead the suppression in Jerusalem which turns out to be fateful to the prophecies. Elements of the story remind me of Seventh Avenues “Terium” which was an allegorical tale of Jesus in a futuristic setting focused on a fictional drug called Terium. “The Crucible” is more interested with events on the other end of Christian history that makes use of a fictional serum called Ichor.

“The Crucible” is a weighty 70 minute listen that feels more like a musical than a rock album. The music gives theatrical ambiance for the actors (singers) to tell the story. There is a huge cast and it can be difficult to tell who sings what without the script in front, but I can pick out a couple of characteristic vocalists from the mix. The style is very reminiscent of early progressive metal, particularly Queensryche. There are some nice instrumental interludes which show the musicians’ instrumental prowess while not over staying their welcome. The approach reminds me of TSO without the Christmas themes and classical music instrumentals.

The story is a multifaceted affair, juggling macro story elements like world powers wielding fear to control a populace and biblical prophecy with personal elements such as faith, love, and sacrifice. The songwriting does a great job of ebbing and flowing with the story, laying down the right mood for the story. I particularly enjoy the chords and harmonies used that extend beyond the usual major/minor language. The setting by the instruments makes the singers’ performances shine as well as allowing the story to breathe with instrumental interludes that hearken to the progressive masters of the 70s and 80s. There is a lot of swapping narrative between good and evil and some conflict in the story, but it doesn’t push it to the brink as I would expect for something apocalyptic.

It is hard to call the tracks on this album songs. Some of them, like the lead single “I am God,” is more song-like, but the rest have song pieces embedded in much longer tracks. And at least four of them are in excess of eight minutes making replays of some of the cool sections in “Change of Heart Parts 1&2” hard to do. It would play more like an album if there was dissection of the tracks into smaller songs. Often I can see in my mind’s eye how this could be produced as a musical, which does fit well for how the tracks lay.

There is plenteous references to Revelation and Christian culture, particularly the use of the “Jesus loves Me” tune in “We are Weak.” I like when folks use their God-given imagination in exploring what Revelation could mean for us, and I think there are some excellent themes to explore here. Although it should go without saying, this is a musical and not a prediction of the future, so take all elements in stride.

I think that Harpazo has landed a quality Christian musical a la progressive metal. There is a lot of interesting elements used to tell the story and I think some rather endearing moments during the course of the album. I do miss large cataclysmic tension in the music between good and evil which I think could have taken this over the top, but that said this is a truly formidable release. Recommended for fans of theatrical music, progressive metal and Christian metal vocalists.

Rating: 8.0/10

Written by Sean Bailey

1 – Ichor
2 – Legion Program
3 – I am God
4 – Golden Crown
5 – The Crucible
6 – Two Witnesses
7 – Change of Heart Pt. 1
8 – Ultimatum
9 – We Are Weak
10 – Small Price to Pay
11 – Change of Heart Pt. 2
12 – The Book of Life

Harpazo is:
Marc Centanni – guitars
Gary Wehrkamp – lead vocals, drums, keys, guitars, bass

DC Cooper (Royal Hunt) – vocals
Mark Zonder (Fates Warning, Warlord) – drums
Les Carlsen (Bloodgood) – vocals
Rey Parra (Deny the Fallen, Sacred Warrior) – vocals
Christian Liljegren (Narnia) – vocals
Michael Drive Lee (Barren Cross, Worldview) – vocals
Niklas Kah (Lord of the Lost, Flaming Row) – drums
Lee Lemperle (Outside the Wall) – vocals
Bruno Sa (Operation Mindcrime) – keyboards
Enzo Donnarunna (Enzo and the Glory Ensemble Band) – vocals

Release Date: June 28, 2024

Record Label: Rockshots Records

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Video for ‘I Am God’

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