October 24, 2023, 7 months ago

(Roulette Media)

Mark Gromen

Rating: 3.0

review heavy metal thunderstuck


Hesitant to write this review, even though it's negative, because the mere mention of existence will have the opposite effect than intended. Let me explain. Especially post-pandemic, where everyone was forced to stew in their own juices for a couple of years, musicians, some long dormant and well past the expiration date for usefulness, got the impulse to create again. Many bands reformed. 

Few have since contributed anything relevant/viable, not only to the current scene, but to their legacy. Unfortunately, the mere mention of a once established name, even a bit/fringe player, draws attention/promotion/sales away from more deserving, younger/lesser knowns, who truly have a stake in the future of the music we love. 

That $10 download, new t-shirt or (if they get the chance) concert ticket, would be better served helping the survival of bands struggling to establish a financial foothold, rather than a geezer's last bite of the apple. Witness the recently concluded Power Trip corporate rape of heavy metal (taking LOTS of fan money, providing nothing back to the scene. Thank you very much, say the promoters!).

Rant over, review on. First off, at 14 songs (80) minutes, there is NO way that every inclusion is going to be stellar. "Less is more" really is a thing, especially with studio albums. While Thunderstick was the drummer in early incarnations of both Iron Maiden and Samson, it's hard to fathom how he doesn't understand what constitutes heavy metal. "But it's a different project, it doesn't necessarily need to be metal. He may want to go in a new/different direction," I hear you say. Fair enough, and he's free to do so, just DON'T market (try to sell) it to metal fans! 

Truth be told, there are a couple of decent hard rockers in the bunch, but they appear too late, buried in the running order beneath a host of lame stylistic mish-mash. Beyond the cursory listen, few would endure (eventually) getting to the wheat, for the chaff. Thank heavens for playlists and digital skip buttons.

Formed around a repetitive drum pattern and repeated spoken word segment, "Cortege Of The Dark Princess" is a three minute intro. Raven Blackwing gets a little worked up, with her vocals, on "Torn & Twisted", but "Snakebite" (chosen as a pre-release single, is essentially a ‘50s rocker. Mr. Stick, as he's sometimes jokingly referred to, in the UK press seems more content hitting the domestic Radio 1 pop charts than retaining any sense of credibility with old fans. Witness "I'm A Rockstar (In My Head)", which bops along on a sea of dissonant guitars, jangly, almost hip hop melody and copious cowbell backbeat. At 6:57, it lasts WAY too long. What a mess! 

"Who The Devil Are You" (a sentiment I'm sure he's heard a few times over the decades), begins with a passable punky sensibility: a second rate Green Day, if you like. Raven shouts throughout "Those Days", but again, in excess of six minutes. Why? The first tune with any real potential is the acoustic guitar/military snare cadence introduced "Warhead" (halfway through the disc), a male-female duet. About midway into the ten minute running time, they inexplicably switch the electric instruments on, opting for a mid-tempo conclusion.

The second half of the album, as intimated earlier, contains the better/"best" options (relative terms). First up, the oddly titled "Snowfall In Space", with an energy missing elsewhere: simple, but effective hard rock. That said, they tack on nearly four additional minutes of needless embellishment. Keep it simple, stupid! 

Back to the revved up punk mindset, for minimal lyric "Thunder, Thunder 23", but even here, they refuse to stick to just one tempo, downshifting in the final third, before ending strong. "Hold On Me" is a love song, no ballad, but not much either. Although "Valkyrie Warriors" possesses more speed than most, it's not a strong song, offering little more than the titular phrase, in terms of lyrics. Mouthful of a title, "Go Sleep With The Enemy (I Dare Ya)" has a bit of that NWOBHM naivety. It sounds dated. 

"Dawn Of The Crystal Night", with double tracked female vocals is the lone contemporary metal track. Nice, but why stretch it to beyond eight minutes? The full "experience" concludes with acoustic ballad "I Close My Eyes".

Painful. One point for each decent inclusion.

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