(Wil Cifer reviews the new album by Royal Thunder.)
This Georgia band have never actually been metaI. They have toured with metal bands, some of their members have been in metal bands, and they certainly came pretty close on Crooked Doors. I really loved Crooked Doors. I wore it out. This means the bar is held pretty high here.
Going into the album there was uncertainty when hit with the slow droning riff that accompanies the more circular chant of the first song. They don’t come out swinging like they did on the previous album. I went back and gave this song another listen after hearing the entire album, and it made a little more sense, but didn’t really grab me.
The snarl Mlny Parsonz summons on “April Showers” sounds almost like Blackie Lawless. This song snakes around but drones less than the opener. She has a greater grit to her voice on this album for sure, but they have really backed off on the distortion when it comes to the guitars.
There is almost an Amorica-like soul to “Tied”. The only problem is they are not the Black Crowes. By the time we get “We Slipped”, which is pretty up-tempo, you might as well resign yourself that the metal trappings on the periphery that gave an undercurrent of intensity to other albums has been shed. The rock jangle is going to be hard-pressed to grow on me in the same way the last album did.
There is a more Led Zeppelin boogie to “The Sinking Chair”. This is much closer to what I want from these guys. The distortion could have been more amped and taken the chugged section to a heavier place, so this is a production choice. Parsonz lets her voice go into a harsher metal scream at some points, though this song is more of a mid-’70s vision of metal than what metal is by today’s standards.
The very stripped-down “Plans” marries a starker version of Janis Joplin to The Black Crowes. I like this one more than I thought I would when it started. Her soulful vocals really sell it. There is much more piano on this album than I remember them using in the past. I also have a much harder time envisioning how these songs would translate live than I do with their other work.
“Anchor” works for me right off the bat. It’s not metal, but has rambling moodiness that feels more powerful. The vocals and guitar work together much more seamlessly than what happens on some of the other songs.
The atmosphere and the brooding that drives the title track also both immediately work for me. It does kick into a harder rock direction. The shadows that color the mood are obviously of importance.
There is a more stripped-down intro to “Push” than what the song ambles into, which feels more like a lost Jeff Buckley track. The vocal performance really sells this song, too. While it rocks more and moves pretty fluidly, it seems like “Turnaround” is one of those songs that is going to need to grow on me.
The hypnotic, winding, western-tinged riffs that these guys do so well are invoked on “The Well”. They do go to the obvious big rock chorus off the back and build tension. By the third act it becomes obvious they have remembered who they are and what they should be doing.
The album comes to a close with ‘We Never Fell Asleep”. There is a dagger-like quality to how the lyrics are spit out on this one, and they gain some punch as the song progresses.
Overall this one shows the band growing away from who they once were, which might take some adjustment if you are invested in their old sound. Overall this album grew on me, and the varied moods themselves show great growth under the surface.
WICK will be released by Spinefarm Records on April 7.