Starlight Ritual – Sealed In Starlight [Canada]
Released: June 22nd, 2021 via Temple Of Mystery Records
With a shit ton of Di’Anno-fronted Iron Maiden (check out “Burining Desire”), David Wayne-era Metal Church (check out “The Riddle Of Steel”) and Grim Reaper (check out “Marauders”) informing their sound, these Canadians are positively drowning in 80s influences and their debut album, Sealed In Starlight, rocked harder than David Coverdale in his favourite rocking chair!
With more than a little of Dio’s power and might informing Damian Ritual’s vocals and lyrics, this was chest-beating stuff. However, from the riffs to the vocal hooks to Starlight‘s whole damn aesthetic, much of Sealed In Starlight sounded very familiar, even overly familiar – for example, “One For The Road” sounds like its been ripped straight from Rainbow‘s Rising – but there was something so damn insistent and so damn engaging about Starlight‘s debut album that you just couldn’t help be swept along for the ride.
Starlight Ritual are reaching for the stars….who are we to stop ’em?!
Black Soul Horde – Horrors From The Void [Greece]
Released: Independently on November 10th, 2021
When slimy, tentacled Lovecraftian horrors come creeping from the void, intent on separating you from your succulent spleen, you need a suitable soundtrack to accompany your battle against this most hideous of creatures….which is where Greek trad metallers Black Soul Horde come in.
Causing the kinda damage usually saved for the townsfolk of Dunwich, the combative, gritty, nasally (we’re in Ozzy singer territory, so be warned) and slightly charred horror stories told by these trad metallers was vintage in nature yet shockingly visceral.
The likes of Cirith Ungol may have done this type of trad metal to death but there’s no denying that Black Soul Horde held a mystical, cosmic charm all of their own!
Tower – Shock to the System [USA]
Released: November 19th, 2021 via Cruz Del Sur
God damn. This is the shit right here.
Like a W.A.S.P meets Warlock bunk-up, Tower‘s formidable grasp of all things METAL (well, 70s & 80s metal) was writ large over Shock To The System‘s virtually faultless 10 tracks! Brimming over with raw energy and supreme talent, this was one of the most convincing albums we heard all year, regardless of genre. With massive songs intent on honouring the greats of classic heavy metal, punk, NWOBHM, speed metal, thrash and doom, Tower‘s skill at taking influences from all and fashioning something this exciting out of it was nigh on short of incredible!
However, as good as these songs are, they’d pale into insignificance if it weren’t for the astonishing vocal performance of Sarabeth Linden. What a voice! Like a banshee mix of Stevie Nicks, Doro and Coven‘s Jinx Dawson, the unstoppable machine at the heart of Tower is undoubtedly this most talented and committed of performers.
You’d better run, you’d better hide…..as this shock to the system’s likely to stop your heart!
Honourable mentions (there’s loads of ’em): Accept – Too Mean To Die / Ancient Empire – Priest of Stygia / Bloody Hell – The Bloodening / FireWölfe – Conquer All Fear / Iron Fate – Crimson Messiah / Kryptos – Force of Danger / Lucifer’s Hammer – The Trip / Lunar Shadow – Wish to Leave / Manimal – Armageddon / Mega Colossus – Riptime / Morgul Blade – Fell Sorcery Abounds / Running Wild – Blood On Blood / Ryghär – Thurmecia Eternal / Significant Point – Into the Storm / Usurper – Master Of The Realm ….and probably many more that we just didn’t find the time to listen to!