Review of Slash ‘Em All by Omnislash

Band: Omnislash
Album: Slash ‘Em All!
Release Date: 9 June 2017
Buy as mp3s ($8.91) from: Amazon
Buy on CD ($10) from: Bandcamp

Cover of Slash 'Em All! by Omnislash

DCHM writer Tal is back with this in depth review of Baltimore based traditional/thrash metal band Omnislash’s sophomore album. Be sure to check out the video game inspired music video at the end of the post when you’re done reading.

We’re pretty spoiled in the DC area with a good number of local bands that sound like pros, and yet somehow I’m always surprised when I find another one. Omnislash is one of those bands. I had heard of them for possibly years, but had never been in the right place at the right time to actually see them live. Their recent album Slash ‘Em All! convinced me that I need to change that ASAP.

If Iron Maiden was a little faster and thrashier, that might describe Omnislash’s sound. They’re melodic like Iron Maiden, with mostly cleanish vocals, anthemic choruses and an upbeat vibe, but given to blistering thrash rampages. They at once claim to combine “the best elements of glam, thrash, power metal, death metal, hair metal, and classic rock” and to represent traditional heavy metal from “a time before the metal scene became fragmented.” I suppose if we hearken far enough back into the 80’s, it might be possible to do both at once. Certainly, Omnislash seems to combine all those diverging genres into one cohesive whole – thrash outbursts flow into expansive choruses, the vocals go from gritty to near operatic, and heavy riffs give way to melodic bridges or speedy solos, in such an organic way that nothing sounds out of place.

After an acoustic/neoclassical intro, the album starts off with rocking riffs with just a little thrash dirtiness, and a vicious scream from vocalist Jeremy Phoenix. True metal, all right. The first song, “Empires Fade,” is exemplary of the album – at once melodic, groovy and touched with thrash grittiness, and impossible to sit still for. The vocal style, clean yet forceful and sometimes rising into a scream, is reminiscent of harder power metal bands like Iced Earth. In another parallel to Iced Earth, there seems to be a historical theme to the song, which I first noticed with the line “Rome controls the Nile.” In an interview in Shockwave Magazine, Jeremy indicated that the song is about “that moment in time when it could have been the Egyptian Empire but it became the Roman Empire.” The wailed, “Run for your life” in the chorus can’t help evoking Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills,” as well.

There are several catchy songs you’ll be rocking out to in your mind long after the album’s done playing, but the catchiest has to be the title track (and band theme song?), “Metalliation Revengeance (Slash ‘Em All).” With the racing, driving rhythm and insistent, somehow danceable lead guitar, you won’t be able to help starting a toxic waltz wherever you are. Then it goes into a horn-throwing, sing-along chorus and bridge, complete with “woah’s” for the full metal experience. But don’t take my word for it; check out their hilarious video at the end of this post. I can just imagine this as the climactic closing song of their live show.

This is just the middle of the album, however, so the songs keep on coming. The most aggressive songs are in the second half: “Nuke the Moon” and “Not One Step Back,” the former about Project A119, a US Air Force project from the 1950’s that planned to detonate a nuclear bomb on the Moon, and the latter about the Battle of Stalingrad. There’s also a ballad of sorts, “Gothenburg,” if a song with pummeling thrash percussion and machine-gun guitars can be called a ballad just because it has more drawn-out and emotional vocals. “Blood Feud” is a song with furious aggressive verses and a catchy chorus that oddly reaches its anthemic height at the end of the chorus. Since I just finished reading Hillbilly Elegy, I can’t help wondering if the song has anything to do with Appalachia, since that book’s author, J.D. Vance, had some not-so-distant ancestors that took part in some pretty violent blood feuds in that area.

The band’s lyrical themes are another parallel to Iron Maiden, with a more historical bent than most thrash metal, although they still focus on typical thrash themes of war and violence.

One downside to the album, which might have been out of the band’s control, is that the production quality isn’t as good as I’ve become used to for some of our local bands. Some might argue that this is part of the band’s 80’s thrash vibe, but for me, it’s a detriment to the album. For instance, the furious beginning to “Nuke the Moon” sounds like a mess. It would be much more effective at showcasing the band’s technical virtuosity – not to mention more enjoyable as a thrash barrage – if I could hear everything going on. The rest of the album isn’t that bad, but it’s still poor enough that this is one of the rare cases where a pair of good headphones doesn’t help, and actually takes away from enjoyment of the album, since the sound quality issue becomes so distracting.

Sound quality aside, Slash ‘Em All! is a great album, putting Omnislash among the ranks of stellar local bands in the DC area.

Black Sabbath at Jiffy Lube Live

I’ve been to literally hundreds of concerts through the years but there has always been something special to me about seeing Black Sabbath play live. When the band’s final tour, dubbed “The End,” came to Jiffy Lube Live on Sunday, August 21st it would be the last time they would play in the greater Washington DC area. Black Sabbath are the fathers of the metal genre and my favorite band, but they’re also so much more than that. They’re one of the few bands that every time they play, no matter how many other people are there, no matter how close or far I am from the stage, I always feel like they’re playing just for me. They’re the reason I am a metal head today, and probably the reason a lot of you are too.

I have a lot of memories seeing Black Sabbath play Jiffy Lube Live (formerly named Nissan Pavilion) in the past. The original Reunion Tour, when Ozzy Osbourne rejoined Black Sabbath again, which I never thought would actually happen, started its US leg there back in 1997. That’s right, we were the first in the US to see Black Sabbath on the Reunion tour. That was one of the early Ozzfests and I got my first tattoo at that concert to commemorate the event, the letters O-Z-Z-Y on my left hand knuckles. Ozzy played a solo set with his band and then came out and did a full set with Black Sabbath right after, I’ll never forget it. The only original Black Sabbath member missing from that tour was drummer Bill Ward on drums, he was tied up with other touring commitments at the time. Ward did complete the original line up when he performed with the band in 1999 when Black Sabbath again headlined Ozzfest, a farewell tour the band called The Last Supper Tour. Despite this they came back to play for us at Jiffy Lube Live/Nissan Pavilion in Bristow, Virginia, again in 2001, 2004 and 2005. Black Sabbath was forced to change their name to Heaven And Hell when the late Ronnie James Dio returned on vocals, and this version of the band also played here in 2008 on the Metal Masters Tour. When Black Sabbath released their album 13 in 2013, their first studio album with Ozzy on vocals since 1978, they toured to support the album and again played Jiffy Lube Live. Now, on another final tour (which, judging by their ages, seems pretty likely to actually be their last this time), Black Sabbath once again played for us.

It rained earlier in the day but it let up in time for the tailgaters to start pre gaming in the parking lot. I missed the opening band, Rival Sons, because they weren’t even a metal band and really shouldn’t have been on the bill to begin with. At the end of their set I did hear them thank “Bristow,” I guess not realizing that very few people at the venue were actually from Bristow. When Black Sabbath finally took the stage around 8:45pm I was excited. Hell, who isn’t excited when their favorite band plays? The short intro video ended and that iconic opening riff to the song “Black Sabbath” immediately demanded everyone’s attention. I had pretty decent seats, in section 102 on the aisle on the Tony Iommi side. Not lower orchestra but still I had a pretty good view and I was right by the sound board. They played a great set of older classics, though they left some big ones off. No “Sweet Leaf,” no “Supernaut,” no “Electric Funeral” (despite the Shepard Fairey designed tour poster heavily quoting and referencing that song, I still bought one for $40 anyways). Nothing at all from the albums Sabbath Bloody Sabbath and Sabotage. Most surprisingly, their set list didn’t include even a single song from 13. They did play a few songs that weren’t really hits such as “Dirty Women,” “After Forever” and “Behind The Wall Of Sleep” (including the Wasp intro). Every song on the set list besides “Dirty Women” came from the first four albums but it didn’t really matter what songs they played, the riffs just keep coming with Sabbath.

The band doesn’t have the energy on stage that they used to of course. Even when Ozzy played those back to back sets in 1997 (was it really almost 20 years ago?!?!) he had more energy on stage than he does now. He had trouble singing in key Sunday night and even flubbed a few lines here and there, most glaringly missing the classic “I am iron man” line at the start of “Iron Man.” The video monitors had a slight delay, and half the time they used so many psychedelic effects you could hardly tell what they were showing. Other times they focused way too much on Not Bill Ward drummer for hire Tommy Clufetos, the only “member” of the band nobody at the show had actually bought a ticket to see. His extended drum solo during the Bill Ward drum solo song “Rat Salad” seemed to be a slap in the face to Ward and his fans. Geezer Butler was great on bass, no surprise there, but it was nice to see the guy’s still got it. He was getting some sick tones out of that bass too. And Tony Iommi, even after all these years, mutilated fingers and battling back from cancer, he still plays everything so damn smoothly live. I swear he could play those songs just as well in the dark. There were still a few new touches he threw in, like the bonus intro part at the start of the band’s perennial encore song, “Paranoid.” There’s a reason he is nicknamed the riff master and the night’s set was a showcase of some of his most classic riffs played to perfection.

This wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen Black Sabbath, but it was a great show. It really had me thinking about all the times I’ve seen them before, all the people I’d seen them with and the different places in life I was at each time. Black Sabbath wasn’t the first metal band I liked, I already had a few Metallica and Megadeth tapes and the like when I traded for a copy of Black Sabbath’s best hits album We Sold Our Souls For Rock ‘N’ Roll, but that album is what changed me from being a casual music fan to a die hard metal head. While Black Sabbath played songs from that album I thought about the day I first listened to it, I still remember. And I thought about how cool it was getting to interview and then meet Bill Ward in 2014, certainly the number one highlight of my time working on this very blog. I was hoping the show would never end because I didn’t want to deal with the cold, hard fact that I’ll never get to see them perform live again. But reality has a way of always winning out and time waits for no man. After the show ended the band all took a bow and Ozzy’s daughter Kelly came out on stage and shot a short video of the audience still going wild. I talked to a lot of people before, after and even a few during the show. Friends old and new, strangers, people who knew me from this website, random people crammed in line next to me while we waited to buy merch, drunks in the parking lot, everyone there to see Black Sabbath for one last time (or maybe even their first time). I had a great time and yeah, I’m bummed that I won’t have any more great times at Black Sabbath concerts, but I’m grateful that I got to see the band that started it all perform one last time for us and just for me.

Thanks for reading this. Below I’ve posted a few videos I shot at the show. I didn’t have a photo pass and these were all shot on my phone. I think the sound quality came out pretty good though. I hope you enjoy them!

Black Sabbath – N.I.B.

Black Sabbath – Dirty Women

Black Sabbath – Paranoid

Review of Dunsmuir by Dunsmuir

Band: Dunsmuir
Album: Dunsmuir
Release Date: 22 July 2016
Record Label: Hall Of Records
Buy on vinyl with signed lithograph ($24) from: Indie Merch
Buy as mp3 ($8.99) from: Bandcamp or iTunes

Cover of s/t by Dunsmuir

Dunsmuir is releasing their debut album this Friday. While the band’s talented line up has been getting a lot of attention, Dunsmuir stands up strong on its own merits. The concept album is a great launching point for the band. We lucked into getting an advance copy of the full album and I got DCHM writer Buzzo Jr to write the following review. Be sure to stream a couple tunes at the bottom of the post while you read it.

Dunsmuir is a newly formed heavy metal band whose self titled debut will be landing this week. While not an entirely local act, Neil Fallon, the frontman of Maryland’s own Clutch, is teaming up with legendary drummer Vinny Appice, formerly of Black Sabbath and Dio. Rounding out the lineup is Brad Davis of the desert rock band Fu Manchu on bass and Dave Bone of The Company Band on guitar. Having been in the works since 2013, Dunsmuir’s self titled debut is an ode to classic heavy metal, along with being a concept album about the fates of the survivors of a 19th century shipwreck.

Upon the first few notes of the album’s opening track, “Hung On the Rocks,” listeners can tell that they’re in for one hell of a good time. The main thing one will take note of here is that the tunes on this record are filled with a much more of traditional metal influence than vocalist Neil Fallon’s other outings like Clutch or the Company Band; both of which feature a heavy blues/punk/stoner rock vibe to them. This is by no means a negative however, as it’s always a pleasure to hear Neil’s amazing vocals regardless of the music around it. Vinny Appice’s drumming is the main star of the following track “Our Only Master,” with his hard hitting beats driving the head banging grooves onward, and at some points hearkening back to his tenure in the Dio era of Black Sabbath. The band’s traditional heavy metal influence becomes even more prevalent in my personal favorite track on the album, “The Bats are Hungry Tonight;” a grooving track that has guitarist Dave Bone playing Iron Maiden-esque galloping riffs and driving melodies backed up by Neil’s powerful voice. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Neil’s vocals, (as mentioned in my review of Clutch’s previous album, Psychic Warfare) and his instantly recognizable bellows are in part what gives Dunsmuir, and any other band he works with, a unique element that sets them apart from other rock and metal bands. The fast galloping pace of “The Bats are Hungry Tonight” soon give way to the slower “What Matter of Bliss,” a track oozing with doomy riffage and Black Sabbath worship. The slow eerie riffs soon speed up once again on “Deceiver;” a track that combines a great amount of Judas Priest inspired metallic riffs and an infectious chorus.

The grooves keep on coming with the tracks “…And Madness” and “Orb of Empire.” Neil delivers his trademark bluesy shouts and ruff barks alongside Vinny’s bombastic drumming and Dave Bone’s fuzz drenched riffs. The tempo comes slowing down once more for the album’s longest track, “Church of the Tooth.” Dave plays at a crawling pace, interspersing the dark atmosphere of the track with melodic guitar licks and is backed up perfectly by Brad Davis’s bass lines. The penultimate track “The Gate” is a great mid paced track full of hard rocking rhythms. The album comes to an end with “Crawling Chaos!,” which is by far the most sinister sounding track on the album. Neil finds himself switching between his usual melodic croons to an angry growl; all the while telling tales of Lovecraftian deities from another dimension. Lyrics such as “They rise from the desert, from the mountains, and waves, to swallow the sun, cast down their chains, they open their mouths and fill up their lungs, speak the unspeakable, with their terrible tongues” evoke a sense of mystery and wonder, as Neil’s cryptic lyricism often does. Neil’s shouts combine excellently with the bombastic drumming and the grooving riffs, bringing the album to a slow and steady close.

While it’s relatively short run time of 35 minutes may leave you wanting more, Dunsmuir’s debut album is not one you want to miss. Those of you who are fans of Clutch and Dio era Black Sabbath will love this record although they may miss Dio’s signature wails. Here’s hoping that a tour is in the works soon, because I’d love to hear these tracks played in a live setting.

The Bats Are Hungry Tonight:

Crawling Chaos!:

Samhain ticket give away

Samhain at the Howard Theatre

When Glenn Danzig left the Misfits in 1983 he immediately formed a new band, Samhain, to continue his music but this time with a more hard rock/metal approach. This Halloween, that’s Friday, October 31st, Danzig brings Samhain to the Howard Theatre in Washington DC! The band gets their name from a Gaelic festival that traditionally starts at sundown on October 31st, meaning this is your chance to actually see Samhain during Samhain, how cool is that? Since Halloween is the most metal holiday of the year, we’re going to be giving away a free pair of tickets to one of you lucky DCHM readers to this very show. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite Halloween costume of all time is. I’m looking for some last minute costume ideas so help me out! At 5pm EST this Wednesday, October 29th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. Please don’t enter if you know you can’t attend, the contest ends just a few days before the show so I don’t have a lot of time to keep picking winners and waiting to hear back. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets right now for $42.55 from Ticket Master here.

When Samhain performed at RiotFest in September they played their debut album, Initium, from start to finish. I’m not sure if they plan on doing that for this show as well, but I do know that they’ll have Peter Adams (of Baroness and Valkyrie) on guitar for this show. But Samhain isn’t the only band on this bill, there will also be a set by New Orleans based Goatwhore, a band that always gets the crowd moving. And you will want to make sure you get there early enough to catch the excellent opening act, Midnight. The Ohio based blackened speed metal band is a personal favorite of mine and fans of old school Motörhead and Venom are going to love them. Still not convinced? Then check out these awesome videos by the bands playing and leave a comment telling me what your favorite Halloween costume is.

Samhain – The Howl

Goatwhore – Apocalyptic Havoc

Midnight – Violence On Violence

Review of King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

Monday, October 13th of 2014 saw the long awaited return of King Diamond to our area at the Fillmore Silver Spring. Based in Denmark, King Diamond hasn’t played in our area in about a decade and the last time I saw King Diamond live was back in 2003 at Jaxx (now Empire). There was just one opener for this show, Jess And The Ancient Ones, which I had checked out online previously and didn’t really enjoy much. I didn’t complain when I got there just as they were finishing up their set. The band is from Finland and sound like a gothy version of Jefferson Airplane to me. Despite the band sharing a member with the kvlt tech death band Demilich, I don’t think you could classify Jess And The Ancient Ones as metal by any stretch of the imagination. When they finished a curtain went up to obscure the stage as King Diamond’s crew got to work.

It was a long break before the curtain dropped, and people were getting excited for the show. It finally did come down and the first keyboard notes of “The Candle” filled the venue as the show began. And what a performance it was! Even if you aren’t a huge King Diamond fan, the sheer spectacle of the show was something you couldn’t keep your eyes off of. The stage, the most elaborate I have ever seen in a club setting, had a second tier behind the drum kit with stairs on either side, with large upside down crosses at the tops of each stair case that would light up. The center backdrop changed a few times from a large pentagram with a goat head to a photo of King Diamond. And for the first four songs the front of the stage had a large iron fence, I suppose meant to look like something you’d see around an old cemetery, which the band played behind. Unfortunately for those of us lucky enough to get a photo pass, that meant shooting through the fence the entire time since photo passes only allow you to shoot for the first three songs (this is an industry standard, not just a King Diamond thing). It was a unique challenge to say the least. The issues with the fence aside, this was one of those nights you really wished you could shoot the band’s entire set because so much was going on. There were characters that would come out on stage (including Grandma from the “Them” and Conspiracy albums, and Miriam Natias from Abigail), a side show style magic trick and the whole performance seemed larger than life.

When I had seen King Diamond before it was on the Puppet Master tour and while the stage then was nowhere near as elaborate at Jaxx, the performance was just as theatrical. That show at Jaxx was a bit more cohesive, it almost felt like you were watching some macabre heavy metal musical since the performance had a start, middle and ending (then followed by three encores with various classics). In contrast, the show at the Fillmore was more of a “best hits” style set list, and while Grandma made a few appearances, it wasn’t really a retelling of the albums she was on so the performance didn’t quite flow the same way. That wasn’t a major problem though and I’m betting half the audience hadn’t seen King Diamond before anyways. The band also played a couple songs from Kind Diamond’s original band, Mercyful Fate. This seemed to be the highlight of the show for a lot of people, and the crowd went wild for the back to back performances of “Evil” and “Come To The Sabbath.”

When King Diamond is on stage all attention is focused on him, he’s just a natural performer that way. The rest of the band stayed mostly in the background, though they did pump fists and look excited to help keep the crowd’s energy up. There was also a woman off to the side doing back up vocals, but she was pretty much out of most people’s view the entire night. At first I thought she might be helping King hit those high notes he is so well known for, but after watching when she would sing I was certain she was not. I really didn’t know what to expect of King Diamond’s voice going in, the guy is 58 years old, but with this being just the second night of the tour (and he had the previous night off) his voice held up incredibly well.

Despite the very crowded room (and I didn’t even bother going upstairs cause I know how obscured the views are up there) everyone seemed to love it. When the band returned to the stage for the first of two encores they pulled a stunt from the Alice Cooper bag of tricks. While the band played the instrumental song “Cremation” King stuffed his wicked Grandma into some sort of cremation machine that had been brought out on stage. This became a magic trick making it appear as though she had been burned alive by removing the walls on the cremation machine to reveal a smoldering skeleton that resembled Luke Skywalker’s late foster parents in Star Wars. After another encore break the band was introduced and they played a couple more songs, ending with the fan favorite “Black Horsemen.”

The show was entertaining on every level and I think even uninterested significant others that got drug along to this would have found it fun to watch. From the set to the theatrics and characters to the band being on point, this was a performance big enough to fit on a major outdoor pavilion but stuffed into a club setting and it was a masterful performance by King Diamond, one of the true legends of heavy metal.

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

King Diamond ticket give away

King Diamond at the Fillmore Silver Spring

The Danish king of metal, King Diamond, finally returns to tour the US with his eponymous solo band and they’ll be playing the Fillmore Silver Spring this Monday, October 13th! It’s not every day one of the European legends of metal comes to town so we’re giving away a pair of tickets to one of you lucky DCHM readers. To enter leave a comment on this post telling me what your favorite King Diamond or Mercyful Fate song is (if you need help you can see their discographies at these links: KD and MF). At 5pm EST this Friday, October 10th, a winner will be chosen at random (using Random.org) from all valid entries to receive two tickets to the show! Be sure to use a valid email you check regularly so I can contact you if you win. Don’t worry, I won’t add you to any spam lists or sell your info or anything sleazy like that. If I haven’t heard back from the winner in 24 hours another winner will be chosen at random. Please don’t enter if you know you can’t attend, the contest ends just a few days before the show so I don’t have a lot of time to keep picking winners and waiting to hear back. If you can’t wait to see if you win, or the contest is already over when you read this, then you can get tickets right now for $43 from Live Nation here.

Aside from his incredible vocal range, King Diamond is also known for elaborate stage designs and theatrical live performances making this is a show you don’t want to miss! This will only be the second show of the tour so his voice should be in great form, and you can bet he’ll be playing a few classics from his previous band, Mercyful Fate, as well. And let’s not forget Andy LaRocque will be there shredding on lead guitar. The opener for this show is Jess And The Ancient Ones, a new band from Finland that sounds more like they’re from San Francisco in the 60’s. Perhaps this is what a gothy version of Jefferson Airplane would sound like. They’re not really “metal” per se, but they do have an evil vibe going on and they should be an interesting opener. Now check out these awesome videos of the bands below while you tell me what you favorite King Diamond or Mercyful Fate song is in the comments!

King Diamond – Sleepless Nights

King Diamond – Welcome Home

Jess And The Ancient Ones – Astral Sabbat

Review Of The Lesser Key Of Solomon by A Sound Of Thunder

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

Cover of The Lesser Key Of Solomon by A Sound Of Thunder

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.

Udoroth:

Elijah: