CASTLE – Blacklands

VAN RECORDS – Out Now

No one can deny that the 70s has been probably the most important decade in the history of Rock as the sound and style that was developed during this period continues to influence Rock and Metal bands to this very day. Similarly to the Dutch occult legends The Devil’s Blood, Castle is an American trio with a strong attraction towards all things occult but with a sound that is slightly more varied, as it has been influenced as much by 70s groups like Black Sabbath and Black Widow as by heavier sounding acts such as Mercyful Fate and Metallica.  These varied elements have found a home on “Blacklands” – an eight track studio album, their second with the German label Van Records.

I hope that the above description has not led you to believe that Castle is just another The Devil’s Blood clone as this is not the case. Granted, front woman Elizabeth Blackwell’s voice tends to sound more mysterious and eerie, a way of singing “championed” by Farida Lemouchi, however her vocal is less operatic and powerful in comparison, leaving enough space for Mat Davis’ guitar work to impress.

When not indulging in classic Heavy/Doom-influenced riffs, the American axeman comes up ideas that could easily be presented in an early-80s Megadeth or Metallica context. This interesting mixture ensures that, though relatively short, “Blacklands” is not the kind of album that can easily go unnoticed!

“Ever Hunter” kicks off in a flamboyant manner, featuring a dead catchy groovy riff and an equally addictive melodic refrain, followed by the even more impressive and somewhat thrashier riffs of “Corpse Candles” – one of the many highlights of the album. In the simply-crafted “Storm Below The Mountain”, Mat Davis takes over vocal duties and the end result is interesting but not as impressive in comparison so it is left to the same-titled “Blacklands” and the harmony-infused “Curses Of The Priests” to re-instate the lost momentum.

“Versus Pentagram” features a nice melodic opening theme but it sounds somewhat disjointed due to the refrain and guitar solo that do not really work well together.  “Alcatraz” is a song where classic Metal à la Mercyful Fate meets Thrash à la Metallica – a true head banger – while “Dying Breed” is a rhythmically varied piece that wraps things up positively and efficiently.

As I mentioned earlier in my review “Blacklands” is hardly the kind of album that can go unnoticed and it is guaranteed to offer many hours of entertainment to those who will choose to spend time with it, however I do feel that there are a couple of things that somewhat deprive it from reaching the top mark.

Had this album included another couple of impressive songs and had the balance of the individually interesting elements in the two less attractive compositions mentioned above been slightly different, we might just be talking about one of the best albums of the year. As things stand, “Blacklands” is a very impressive album and, hopefully, the beginning of better things to come for Castle. Let’s wait and see.

John Stefanis

 Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)


David Randall plays a selection of new and classic rock in his weekly show first broadcast 14 June 2020 including reference to the Feature series “2020 Vision”.


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