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.
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Buy "Out Of The Darkness": iTunes | Amazon