Friday, April 13, 2018

Review - A Sound of Thunder "It Was Metal" (Mad Neptune Records)

A Sound of Thunder's seventh studio release "It Was Metal" is due to drop on June 15th. These guys will probably never have a release qualified with the statement "long awaited". The way these guys write their next one is written and probably the one after that too. Detractors would say that being that prolific leads to less than stellar output but in the case of A Sound of Thunder they would be very very f#%king wrong.

According to guitarist Josh Schwartz, "the mission statement was to write fast, heavy, catchy songs that are fun to play and fun to listen to. I Think we've accomplished that goal and then some. This is an album meant to be blasted in your car while you speed down the highway at 100mph singing at the top of your lungs." Interestingly, that pretty much matches up with one of my litmus tests for a good metal album. And it's exactly what I was doing while listening to it. So does that mean "It Was Metal" aces the test? In a word, yes but not without at least one speed bump.

So the last few releases have shown a good chunk of the prog metal side of this band (not counting the covers album) with a healthy dose of humor from vocalist Nina Osegueda but on this one they go for those fast punchy songs that leave the hook in your brain. I gotta say I've been waiting to hear this side of ASOT again and I wasn't disappointed. This, for the most part, is their version of classic hard rock and metal and they're wearing their influences on their sleeves. I've been cranking this one for about ten days now so I think I've had a good chance to absorb the whole deal.

So let's dig in...

11 tracks with a running time of 59 minutes. So a bit longer than a classic LP but still in the ballpark. Most of the songs come in around 5 minutes so again I'm a happy camper on that score.
A cool note on this is that the mix is awesome. Rather than go with the current trends of massive low end this sounds like both the album and the digital media may actually be mixed very similar. It's quite possible that this vinyl like mix brings the old school vibe of the album on on a subconscious level.

"It Was Metal" kicks off with Phantom Flight. Great 80's style intro that hooks you right in. This is the perfect opening track. Super hooky chorus that gets stuck in your skull. And if that wasn't enough it also feature Accept singer Mark Tornillo trading vocals with Nina. So right out of the gate you're in classic metal heaven.

From there we head to Lifebringer. Again impeccable sequencing. This is a one-two opening salvo. Opening hook just screams Maiden and the segues to a sweet galloping rhythm. About halfway through we get treated to some Theremin and some classic ASOT atmosphere. Not sure how they're gonna pull this one of live, there's a lot of stuff going on in this break. Not even mentioning all the Nina vocal tracks here. I used to be amazed at how Brad Delp of Boston could track against himself but I think Nina takes it to a new level. We also get some tight soloing from Josh at the tail end of the tune too.

Track three is Atlacatl. The rhythm section of Jesse Keen on bass and Chris Haren on drums are the all stars of this song. Let's just say tribal rhythms with a sheen of crunchy guitar. So far this puppy is hitting on all cylinders.

Track four is The Crossroads Deal. It's a quick swampy bluesy intro to the title track. With a final harmonica whimper and a scream from Nina the title track It Was Metal blazes from your speakers. This is a tune that coulda been on any of the classic Dio albums. It's got the Vinnie Appice drum swagger from Chris and right before the break Jesse steps in for a little solo bass grooving. Speaking of that solo, dunno why but it's one of my favorites from Josh. This is another tune that will stick in your head for days. I think it's an unqualified metal anthem. It's even got a brief appearance from the Thunder Choir.

So five tracks in and it's all going really freaking well and then there's that speed bump. Track six Obsidian & Gold just ain't doin' it for me. At over 9 minutes long it's already got a big strike against it. This album should be all about the get in get out, next song please. Don't get me wrong the playing is top notch. There's some great Hammond going on that just says Deep Purple. There's also some great bass that really benefits from the great mix since it sits perfectly in there. Besides Nina's always impeccable vocals we've also got former Rainbow player Tony Carey dropping by to lend some keyboard prowess too. And the guitar is solid too but i'm just just not connecting to it. I think between the length and the overall slower tempo it would be a great song on The Lesser Key of Solomon but it just doesn't sit well on this one.

I like to think of it as a palette cleanser to prepare for what I like to think of as side two. Second Lives kicks off slow and moody and builds to a nice tempo. More great Hammond in here and another one with a Rainbow/Purple vibe. Not a bad thing in my book. But this one is just a runway to get to track 8 Els Segadors (The Reapers). Yes this one's slower but it's got a killer anthemic feel. Probably cuz it's a defacto legit national anthem for Catalonia (if your keeping score at home). If any band can pull off a metal version of a national anthem its A Sound of Thunder. This track has been an international success for them and deservedly so.

Back to the more uptempo with Tomyris. Been really trying to think what it is about this track that connects with me and I thinks its because it reminds me so much of their sound on Out of The Darkness blended with an extra flavor shot of classic metal. So now we're on the backside of this puppy with two more tracks to go.

I instantly liked Charles II. It's a four and half minute run through a bit of history. I could totally see Maiden covering this one. This one is a great example of the versatility of Nina's voice as she voices multiple characters and tonalities. Great soloing from Josh backed by some solid rhythmic backing. on this too.

Sadly this bring us to track 11 Fortress of The Future Race. I'm surprised that Mark Tornillo isn't on this one as it sounds like modern Accept meets ASOT with some fine contributions from the Thunder Choir.

So what's the score on this one? 10 tracks that I can give a solid  out of five and one that although it's a  I'm still not totally seeing it fit on this release. Most of the tracks meet Josh's stated mission. They are catchy and you'll find yourself singing them once they are trapped in your skull. We get Mark Tornillo guesting. The mix is top notch and really adds to the depth of the album and goddamn this really has some sweet classic metal vibes going on. I should also mention the stellar artwork from Dusan Markovic too.

The only real downside besides track 6 is that there's no Nina evil freak out song on here. I've always looked forward to the next "Kill That Bitch" or "Hello Nurse".

So my final takeaway? Buy this thing!!! If you're already an ASOT fan it'll be an instant classic for you. Otherwise it's the perfect gateway to discovering this killer band. Nina has stated that she can't wait to play this stuff live. Well Nina, bring it on cuz I for one can't wait to hear it live.

"It Was Metal" is currently available for preorder at all the usual spots plus you can get special formats including vinyl and  the "It Was Metal" comic at

1. Phantom Flight (featuring Mark Tornillo)
2. Lifebringer
3. Atlacatl
4. The Crossroads Deal
5. It Was Metal
6. Obsidian & Gold (Desdinova Returns) (featuring Tony Carey)
7. Second Lives
8. Els Segadors (The Reapers)
9. Tomyris
10. Charles II
11. Fortress of the Future Race

Total running time: 59 minutes

       Vocals: Nina Osegueda
       Guitars & Keyboards: Josh Schwartz
       Bass & Keyboards: Jesse Keen
       Drums & Percussion: Chris Haren

  Produced by Kevin '131' Gutierrez
  Recorded at Assembly Line Studios

Twitter: @asotband
Instagram: @asotband

No comments:

Post a Comment