posted on 10/2012 By:
There are basically two ways to view Lethal Waters, the sophomore album from Nova Scotia’s Black Moor. On one hand, it largely fails all of the typical “critics’ darling” tests. The execution of a melodic, galloping, somewhat triumphant and ever-slightly-thrashed-up traditional metal mold has been done, thousands and thousands of times before. The lyrics often take on themes that had long become cliché in the hands of past (and lesser) bands. Mostly, there’s nary an ounce of true originality to be had over these 37 or so minutes, and that tends to anger or at least frustrate those who make a hobby of penning words about the music of others.
On the other hand, it rocks, like a metric friggin’ ton.
As we learn in the world of sports, winning forgives all, and when it comes to their particular craft (which one could argue isn’t even their craft at all), Black Moor wins. Hard. Their success begins with a time-honored sound – a blend of technique and attitude in the vocals, a well-practiced rhythm section, and an unabashed worship of lead guitar – but continues with an understanding of how well simplicity can be molded into pure rawk glory. Opener “Hellraiser” and the subsequent “Thunderhead” basically lay down the formula: a catchy intro and verse, a memorable, addictive chorus, and heaps (upon heaps (upon heaps)) of leads. The hooks draw you in, but it is the guitar heroics that give Lethal Waters its real shine, separating it from the hundreds of other clone bands that have attempted to draw from this well of tradition over the decades. From shredding and well-constructed solos to a mass of harmonies and dueling leads (many of which are stylishly presented sans a rhythm track), Black Moor is quite adept at handling the upper parts of their guitar necks, and have no qualms about being downright cheeky in their delivery. If the first couple tunes leave any doubts, the no-holds-barred outro of “Lost in the Shadows” ought to fix that right away.
Perhaps best of all, Lethal Waters grows as it goes, offering the slightest hint of variety while saving some of the best tracks for the latter half. The drug-addiction-themed “Night Danger” brings a touch of menace (and harsh vocals), while its chorus takes things into full fists-in-the-air territory. “Hatred’s Maze” then shows off the band’s strong skill with hammer-on-pull-off lead harmonies, while the title track uses the same left hand technique for some winding verse riffs (both give off a bit of a “Pharaoh light” feel). Finally, closer “Frozen Tombs” empties the vaults of every wild lick and lead line that the band has left, all delivered over some of the most well constructed songwriting on the album.
It’s always nice when one of these staunchly traditional acts is talented and charismatic enough to inspire more than the cookie cutter “they sound like Band X, Band Y, and Band Z” reaction. Black Moor certainly does that, totally nailing their aping affinities and causing a real case of riff addiction with this particular writer. Like a care package of hot licks and juicy leads that you weren’t expecting, Lethal Waters proves once again that you don’t necessarily need to be original to excel. As with all things of this ilk, it won’t appeal to everyone, but for a good corner of the metal populace this ought to be one of 2012’s sleeper trad hits.
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