Release DetailsRELEASED ON 9/6/2013
Arriving at a breakneck gallop, spewing venom with slaying in their wake, they commanded wild steeds with nary a care — chaotic yes, but still quite good.
Knights of Darkness
We at the Last Rites cabin in the woods are often greeted by all sorts of feral characters carving their paths through the realms. When I heard a young Finnish band named Ranger would be visiting to share their wares in their first proper release, here gathered as the Knights of Darkness EP, I was rarely been so relieved that they were neither Knights in Satan’s Service nor any breed of Night Ranger. Arriving at a breakneck gallop, spewing venom with slaying in their wake, they commanded wild steeds with nary a care — chaotic yes, but still quite good.
Demanding we remember just who they were, Ranger opened with their eponymous lead track, igniting comfortable warming flames with a triumphant riff, inflammatory screeches reminiscent of dear old uncle Tom [Araya] in his younger years, and declaring themselves “rulers of the night” (politely, no one made mention of their inadvertent allusion to Slaughter’s debut when they also shouted “Stick it to ya!”). Incidentally, I doubt they’re the type who would fly to the angels, but more likely than not, make it standard practice to be up all night and sleep all day.
Razor-sharp and whiplash-inducing, their brash, barebones approach had the older gentlemen in the room waxing nostalgic for the halcyon days of the early 80s. Solid use of echo effects — from enhancing Dimi’s lacerated vocals to punching up Miko’s claustrophobic drums — rattled the walls around us. Even when they launched into centerpiece “Steel Dawn” and half the staff couldn’t stop talking about Patrick Swayze, there was reflexive nodding in assent to Jaakko’s furious fretwork, raising fists and horns as the bass ably punched through the mix. They were too busy shredding to answer whether their new second live guitarist was Verneri or Kode or Mikael; cursory searches online yielded no definite answers.
All who heard the earlier versions of “Touch of Death” and “Supreme Evil” from the Combat Metal demo assented to the improved execution and more confident delivery, with a better balanced production that still seemed to radiate with the hiss of a first-played cassette. While many of us agreed that, despite the obvious thrashy speed metal tag, some ironically longed for lengthier compositions, so tunes like “Supreme Evil” didn’t quite get a strong foothold. Sensing this, Ranger brought the place down with their title track. “Knights of Darkness” left the crowd with a nicely charred taste in our mouths — maybe from the music, maybe from the spitted goat — but it was smiles all around as they concluded with victorious riffage. Pointers were dropped; like how we imagined folks such as Sepultura proudly wore forebears on their sleeves in the embryonic years, yet the sheer veracity of both bands’ passion were likewise clear, and reminded Ranger that with enough work, unique voices find themselves eventually.
A short visit it was, scarcely half an hour, but being newcomers and all, didn’t want to overstay their welcome. Parts of the crew began to dissipate into contemplative blackened space, some in cleaner traditions, and others in unavoidable doom. Still, there was clear respect as the young Finns rode off snorting and sneering into the lovely, dark, and deep woods. We knew they would return with even more to offer next time. But fast, fun, dirty, and raw? Yeah, that’s the way first times should be, no matter what the context.