Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Royal Thunder: CVI (2012)


The whole female-fronted hard rock / metal thing is getting to be a competitive field. With bands like The Devil's Blood and Christian Mistress getting huge press and rave reviews, not to mention a notable touring gig for the former, it's tough to ignore this reemerging phenomenon. After wowing us with Christian Mistress, Relapse has presented us with Royal Thunder, a band from the fertile ground of Georgia.

I admit I am a bit of a sucker for this kind of thing. Or maybe the quality of the releases really is as high as I think it is. Either way, I'm digging CVI. It's a close call, but I don't think Royal Thunder qualifies as metal. They're awesome anyway.

Their hard-rocking, blue-collar doom/rock sound incorporates many of the elements of Witch Mountain and Christian Mistress. First and foremost, you'll hear that in the voice of Mlny Parsonz, who has equal parts Uta Plotkin soul and Christine Davis swagger. Don't think that's lost on the band--the titles "Sleeping Witch" and "South of Somewhere" could be nods to Witch Mountain.

The songwriting sounds like the most energetic kind of doom metal spliced together with pure rock and roll. They do a nice job of changing up between the faster, harder tracks (which are the real standouts) and the slower, mellower ones, so pacing is no issue. They even throw in some nice curveballs, like the desert rock vibe of "Sleeping Witch" or the brief No Doubt resemblance on closer "Water Vision." However, they seem to have front-loaded all the best songs into the first half of the album, the way many groups used to do when vinyl was the format.

Speaking of analog, the production has a very natural sound. The drum recording deserves special praise, although they seem to be turned down in the mix when they hit their most aggressive. Sadly, the bass is buried. A louder bass mix could have put this over the top.

The Verdict: Royal Thunder is another strong entrant into the growing field of FMA-approved female-fronted hard rock. A loss of songwriting steam as the album progresses and some mixing issues keep CVI from standing out as strongly as a few others in that arena. But it's a great album nonetheless, earning 4 out of 5 stars. They have found a worthy, distinct voice, and are definitely a band to watch.


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