Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Death Penalty - S/T

Sometimes I just want to give Racer a big hug.  This gem of an album showed up in my email box and it has been bringing me happiness ever since.  I didn't know they made music like this any more.  Yeah, that means its a throwback to an earlier time when metal was just getting its feet under itself.  There have been many years and some pretty successful bands that have laid the foundation for this stuff, and then you get something like this that builds on that foundation.

If you're looking for the latest and greatest thing in metal, its not here.  But Death Penalty have brought us what I can only call a NWOBHM masterpiece.  Looking at the pedigree of this band, that's a bit of a surprise.  This is the new band of one Gaz Jennings, who spent two decades plus as the guitarist and songwriter for doom legends Cathedral.  The man can flat out write a riff.  This is some of the catchiest stuff I've heard in a long time.  He's joined by singer Michelle Nocon and drummer Fredrik “Cosy” Cosemans, both of doomsters Serpentcult.  Raf Meukens joins in on bass.  That's a lot of doom metal musicians but this is not doom.  Most of this takes place at a tempo that would drive doom bands insane. 

What we do have here is stuff that will put a smile on your face if you are in any way a fan of Iron Maiden, who are unarguably the most successful NWOBHM band.  Not to say in any way that this is just a Maiden copycat band.  Far from it.  But that is firmly where they fall to my ears.  And there ain't nothing wrong with that.  A careful listen also shows some death metal flourishes, and “Children Of The Night” is a perfectly plausible Black Sabbath track.  There are certainly some touches of doom, in which all these musicians are well versed.  But this is solid, satisfying music.  The guitars crunch and crush, the drums are just right where they should be and hit hard, and the bass lays it down, solid and heavy.

The two stars of this release for me are Michelle Nocon's vocals and the songwriting.  Her vocals are just fantastic and fit this music like a glove.  Which means that the songs were written for her and with her in mind.  This is just heavy music, nothing light or “girly” about it.  “The One That Dwells” is probably the best example on the whole album of what this band can do.  It's a slower tempo track, and at times it's just vocals and guitar, but when the whole band joins in it feels like a cannonball to the gut.

Standout tracks for me are “Howling At The Throne Of Decadence” and “Eyes Of The Heretic”, both of which are outstanding examples of what this band can do at a gallop, when they unleash what they are capable of at up tempo.  “She Is A Witch” is just gorgeously heavy as it slips back and forth between tempos, sometimes mid paced, sometimes crawling like a beast out of the primordial muck.  The lyrics are great and it moves so fluidly.  Probably my favorite on the album.

If you consider yourself at all a fan of what gets called “classic metal” these days, pick this one up right away.  This is one of the better albums I've heard all year and it just makes you feel good about this metal genre we love.


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