posted on 12/2010 By:
In case you were worried that the classic power trio format was dying or dead, Royal Thunder is here to straighten you the hell out. The Atlanta three-piece plays a spooky, occult-tinged blues rock that sounds like some dark ritual brewing down near the bayou. The fact that the band’s centerpiece is frontwoman Mlny Parsonz’s soulful vocals will certainly draw comparisons to Jex Thoth, The Devil’s Blood, and Christian Mistress, but the members of Royal Thunder have definitely got their claws fixed on a sound unique enough to set themselves apart with these mysterious voodoo hymns.
The sound in question is sumptuously rich, and the production is remarkably clean for a self-recording. The production on Jesse Stuber’s drums is suitably loose, especially on the toms, which shuffle and echo like they’re made of animal skin stretched haphazardly across hollowed-out tree stumps. Parsonz’s bass playing is thick and clear, and it plays at counterpoint to Josh Weaver’s wailing blues guitar licks just as often as it doubles a song’s main riff. What Royal Thunder may lack in distorted metal tonality it more than makes up for in hypnotically catchy songs and a devilishly sultry swing. All of this is somewhat beside the point, however, as the listener is constantly drawn to the mesmerizing and powerful vocals of Mlny Parsonz. Though not quite as gritty as Christine Davis of Christian Mistress, Parsonz’s vocals are dark and pure in the low range, while her higher intensity upper register occasionally comes across like Brody Dalle of the Distillers or even Debbie Harry.
Entrancing sound aside, Royal Thunder has also got some persuasive and powerful songs. Following a spooky atmospheric intro that captures the creaking timbers of a ghost ship, the clean guitar bends of “Sleeping Witch” recall the doomed Americana of Earth’s recent albums. Even when the heavier riffing storms in, the band still takes a languid approach to the tempo, leaning heavily back on the beat. Album standout “Mouth Of Fire” has a chorus that just won’t quit, in which the instrumentation is every bit as notable as the vocal turn – the fluidity with which the band drops from the straight-ahead blues swing of the verse to the triumphant half-tempo drive of the chorus is honestly breathtaking. “Hotel Bend” features some of Parsonz’s airiest and most angrily-impassioned vocal spots, while “Deacon” finds her doubling the guitar line in the verse before diving into a heavier, syncopated section. In short, Royal Thunder kicks out some righteous fucking jams.
Royal Thunder will surely appeal to fans of the recent glut of dark, moody, female-fronted music, from Jex Thoth and the bewitching Sabbath Assembly album to the whisper-soft doom of Black Math Horseman, but will likely also find common cause with the more psychedelic wing of Southern-fried sludge, in bands like Zoroaster, Kylesa, and Baroness. Royal Thunder is a band that sounds like it would be equally at home opening for Clutch or The Devil’s Blood, which is high praise indeed. Some of you out there likely won’t find this metal enough for your taste, but that’s not really the point. These songs gain their power not from their particular genre or degree of amplification, but from the emotional intensity and honesty of the delivery. By that token, this album is every bit as heavy as your favorite death/doom disaster. This is a confident, supremely coherent opening salvo from an exciting young band for which the future looks brightly doomed indeed.
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