Band: A Sound Of Thunder
Album: The Lesser Key Of Solomon
Release Date: 9 September 2014
Buy digital ($4) or CD ($10) on Bandcamp: Here
Northern Virginia based A Sound Of Thunder, a band with classic metal elements that does not like it when I call them a power metal band, has put out their fourth full length album in as many years. The band funded this album via Kickstarter back in November of last year and it’s finally available to the masses. The album review below is by Tal and if you like his writing you can also find his blog here. There’s a kick ass animated video for their song “Udoroth” below and be sure to come out to Empire in Springfield this Friday, Sept 19th, for their album release show (details here).
I’ll confess, I tend to obsess over A Sound Of Thunder’s fast, heavy, thundering songs – like their theme song “A Sound of Thunder,” or “Walls,” which generally shakes the walls when they play it live. But listening to this album, I had to admit I’ve been living in a fantasy world; raging heavy metal in the vein of Accept really doesn’t define A Sound Of Thunder. They’re much more varied and complicated than that, from bluesy musings to heavy riffs, with lyrics that are more than just a fist-pump chorus.
So while I was initially disappointed that there’s only one thundering song on this album – the first song, “Udoroth” – I was able to enjoy the album a lot more once I realized the fault in my perception. Not that “Udoroth” isn’t a great song, with its charging classic guitar riffs and Nina’s powerful vocals – sometimes belting out high notes, sometimes venturing into a lower throaty sound, and gracing us with a few harsh screams and high wails. It does, however, set a tone that’s not representative of the album.
In stark contrast to their energetic 2013 release Time’s Arrow, most of the new album actually hearkens back to A Sound Of Thunder’s first full-length, Metal Renaissance. In particular, Nina’s jazzy vocal stylings on songs such as “Fortuneteller” and “House of Bones” on The Lesser Key of Solomon remind me of songs like “Flesh and Blood” or “The Buried Truth” from Metal Renaissance, as does the overall slower pace of the album. Of course, Nina’s vocals and the band as a whole sound more polished, developed and mature on the new album than on their debut, but the stylistic resemblance is strong.
And not unlike their previous work, The Lesser Key of Solomon focuses heavily on storytelling, which comes through particularly strongly with the clear vocals and more relaxed pace. Even the trudgingly heavy “Master of Pain” is brought above the standard serial killer fare with lines like “The horror of your actions/ Has torn your soul in two,” which hint at underlying story. But the peak of the album is the nine and a half minute epic “Elijah.” Most of the story is told through Nina’s evocative lyrics, including parts delivered in a vicious shriek for the evil “mother” character, but the climactic part of the story is told as much through music as through words. When the mother’s dark secret is revealed, tension builds as the bass begins to gallop; then the guitar paints the narrator’s agony and determination as she decides what to do. A tense instrumental interlude follows, then launches into heart-pounding adrenaline as the climactic moment arrives. Frantic guitaring depicts a chase scene, and then soars into epic riffs, perhaps depicting escape and or the inferno that ensues. Nina’s vocal line rises epically too as she proclaims the rise of a veritable army of ghost girls to take their vengeance on their “mother.” It’s a hair-raising experience, all right. Check out the lyric video at the bottom of this post to experience it for yourself.
Almost as haunting is “The Boy Who Could Fly.” It begins with acoustic guitar and dreary vocals that seem at first to depict a lost love, the references to a boy flying away hinting that this may be Wendy longing for Peter Pan. It sounds like a nostalgic romantic song, almost pop-like in its simple sentiments and the catchy vocal line of the chorus – until I listened more closely to the lyrics and caught the twist at the end of the song, when we find out what really happened to Peter Pan. Suddenly the sad beauty of the song is completely turned on its head. Moments like this bring a new level of interest to these songs that aren’t necessarily catchy on the first listen. They’re worth savoring and listening closely.
Unfortunately, the last third of the album suffers from the same problem as Metal Renaissance – after all those slow songs, it’s hard to pay attention by the end of the record. The last two tracks, “One Empty Grave” and “House of Bones” seem like they might have interesting stories, but I never seem to be able to keep my mind on them by the time we get there. Just one more well-placed thundering song would probably have done wonders for keeping me “fighting till the end.”
It took me a few listens and an adjustment in perspective, but I gotta admit, The Lesser Key of Solomon is a solid album. It isn’t the skull-crushing record that “Udoroth” may have promised, but it’s still an intriguing journey into the band’s darker fantasies, and amply shows off their talents.