Usually when I attend a concert, I'm there to see the headliner and find that I don't care much for the opening acts. Only once before have I gone to a concert and, upon seeing the opening band, thought “I really wish they'd play a few more! The headliner can wait.” I can safely say, after seeing A Sound Of Thunder open for Fozzy last year at Empire in Springfield, VA, I've made that statement to myself twice. With the recent release of their Queen Of Hell EP, as well as their forthcoming full length record, Time's Arrow, I felt it was high time that I wrote a review for their stunning album, Out Of The Darkness.
Unlike a good music lover, I didn't immediately walk over to the merch table after the band left the stage and grab a copy of the album. At the time, I was too interested in saving my stage-side position for when Fozzy came on (you move it, you lose it), though I did take a moment to compliment guitarist, Josh Schwartz, on his playing and talk to him about his pedalboard. Anyway, by the time the show was over, their table was packed up and being moved out, and I hate to bother people about opening things back up due to my tardiness. Then the holiday season hit and I found my funds tied up in gifts for others. But enough excuses! Eventually, I did pick up the album, and it completely floored me. In my recent memory, I have heard no new traditional heavy metal band that has better captured the great sounds of the '80s powerhouse acts, while forging their own unique image. More than once during their set, I found myself thinking, “How very Iron Maiden...you know, minus the three guitarists.” The vocalist, Nina Osegueda, possesses a sonic power and style that would make Bruce Dickinson take notice. One need simply listen to the album's title track to find a clear Maiden influence, while the eight-minute opener “The Day I Die” reminds me of early Black Sabbath. The group relishes in their musical heroes, raising the banner of their metal brethren each time they take the stage.
Much of the material on Out Of The Darkness is lyrically dark and brooding, such as “The Night Witch”, “Murderous Horde” and “A Sound Of Thunder”, which are full of blood, dragons and magic. However, this group is not so easily pigeonholed as to simply write about the mystical. “Calat Alhmabra” is a historical song about Isabella, Queen of Spain, sung beautifully in both English and Spanish. “Fight Until The End” is an empowering rocker that makes me want to take the world by storm. And things get a bit more humorous during “Kill That Bitch”, a tongue-in-cheek love song where a man is urged to kill his current girl to be with another. This is where I really feel that Nina stands apart from other female metal singers. While I've listened to many talented, graceful frontwomen, Nina ranges from the graceful to the guttural. I can hardly imagine another woman singing, “You know I'm the one that you adore. I've got more cojones than that whore!”
If the band's frontwoman and her talents were not enough, A Sound Of Thunder is comprised of three other excellent musicians. The guitarist, Josh Schwartz, is not only an accomplished riffmeister, building them up like Lincoln Logs made from Sequoias, but his solos are technical and fun! While I mentioned the dark and brooding lyrics of many songs, when the solo kicks in, Josh transforms the mood into something spirited and uplifting. The bassist, Jesse Keen, manages to keep the songs firmly planted, laying out a thick foundation for the riffage. He also plays the keyboards, which may make him responsible for the beautiful string arrangement in “This Too Shall Pass”. The percussionist, Chris Haren, not only keeps the bass drum kicking, very well I might add, but contributes lyrics to three of the songs. It's no surprise to me why the album is so good, as each member of this band has contributed so completely to this effort.
Out Of The Darkness is a breath-taking release, and would be by any band. Each song can stand alone, strong in its own right, but combine to make a stunning album that holds your attention from beginning to end. Not only are the songs well done, but the band sounds like they're having fun playing them. I can't help but smile as I listen, captured by the passion and catchiness. I don't think there's anything I can say further. I'm just truly impressed, and I know I won't wait so long once Time's Arrow is released to pick that up.
For more on A Sound Of Thunder:
Buy "Out Of The Darkness": iTunes | Amazon
Most of the reviews that I write are dedicated to albums and artists which have been cornerstones of my musical tastes. Others, such as my last review, are recommended or given to me, and come out of left field. This newest addition to the blog has its feet planted firmly across the line drawn by my tastes. While I was only introduced to the entity known as Black Table a few days ago, they're new EP, Sentinel, approached me with open arms, embracing me with many of my favorite aspects of music. Still, just as you may happen upon a new friend who holds many of the same tastes, you may be greeted with certain characteristics that put you off initially and to which you must learn to adjust. Such is the way of discovery and growth!
Black Table is an experimental metal act from the New York/New Jersey area. That's not a very precise description, but they honestly aren't sure how to classify themselves at this point. Still, where you aren't prepared, others step up to the challenge. They have been described as “avant garde metal“ and “blackened metal meets post-metal with some progressive post-hardcore for good measure”. Is it any clearer to you? Honestly, to me they sound like an aggressive-progressive metal band with harsh vocals, which are somewhat reminiscent of Cradle Of Filth. This is where I find myself torn between two things: the music and the vocals.
Musically, this band makes me squirm with joy. Each track is filled with magnificent riffs, such as “To Tear Down”, which is like a hammer-to-the-head-from-the-starting-gun. The dual guitars, courtesy of Mers Sumida and Ryan Fleming, complement each other to great effect, doubling for power and layering melodies for depth. While there aren't any clear solos, the melodies make up for their absence through habit-forming musical themes. This is especially effective during the slower sections, where the melodic guitar motifs climb up the pillars built from the rhythm's chords, escalating as it does at the end of the opening track, “Heist”. The group knows how to use the drawn-out portions of the song to their advantage, never slowing so much as to come to an agonizing crawl, but just enough to let the listener breathe before heading into another huge riff. And I'd be seriously mistaken to forget the bassist, Matt Melon, and drummer, Mike Kadnar, in all this praise. Despite the addictiveness of the melodies, the bass lines alone could have satisfied me as a substitute for the lack of guitar solos, and evidence of this is found quite easily in his phrasing during the middle of “Sentinel”. Kadnar, as well, is a constantly stunning musician who impressed me with his performance from start to finish.
It's no secret that I'm not a huge fan of growling vocals, partially due to aesthetics and partially due to not being able to understand the lyrics. Even less so am I a fan of the harsh brand of vocals presented here by vocalist and guitarist, Mers Sumida. However, just because I don't particularly enjoy a certain style doesn't mean that there is no merit in it. Sumida does a fine job bringing an atmosphere of urgency to the music, and despite my lack of taste for it, I must admit that her voice fits it surprisingly well! The track I've decided to share, “1942”, possesses a haunting choral intro, which is a testament to her diversity as a singer. Additionally, my favorite track on the EP, the eight minute long “Sentinel”, is also the song which I think best demonstrates her vocal ability. My only real complaint with her performance on the release is that I feel her singing on “To Tear Down” is weaker than the rest. Compared to the title track, the latter sounds thinner to my ears.
Despite my lack of taste for harsh vocals, the vast sum of the music was just too good for me to turn it away. As you may have noticed by now, minus one review (where it was requested), I don't do ratings. I consider numbering albums to be a pointless practice that tells you little about how you might feel about the music. If I write about an album, it means that I feel that there is some merit worth taking note. Black Table's new EP, Sentinel, is a grab bag full of delectable musical goodies that you should not hesitate to snack upon, regardless of when you're having dinner.
For more on Black Table:
Listen to and Buy "Sentinel" - Name Your Price!