Rise Above – Out Now.
There are many fans of groove-laden Doom Metal, myself included, who still cannot believe that UK legends Cathedral are no longer with us.
During, however, the time that we were left licking our wounds and drowning in our sorrow, one member of the said band, guitarist Garry “Gaz” Jennings decided to invest his time and effort in a new music project entitled Death Penalty – a quartet which has enabled the relatively introverted guitarist to continue serving our beloved music through an outfit whose musical leanings are more classic Heavy Metal in nature.
“Death Penalty”, the band’s debut full length release, is one of these unusual albums whose strongest attributes also happen to be their main impediments, in this case the vocal deliveries of the band’s front woman Michelle Nocon.
Though there is nothing actually wrong with Michelle’s voice from a strictly technical point of view, there are certain times where her choices in terms of the melodies employed and the levels of intensity used during her performances are less than complementary to Jennings’s groove-laden riffs and Maiden/Lizzy-influenced ideas.
One of the most important things about Jennings’s decision to invest in a variety of different ideas in this debut is that there are occasions where Nocon did manage to come out of her ‘shell’ and provide some staggering/passionate vocals and in doing so justifying here place in this newly-assembled band.
While the short and oddly-sounding “Grotesque Horizon” fails to justify its choice as an intro for this album, “Howling At The Throne Of Decadence” is a mid-tempo Heavy Metal piece whose odd Cathedral-style melodies are very pleasant to one’s ear and nicely paves the way for the flamboyant Maiden/Lizzy influenced “Eyes Of The Heretic”.
Slow in tempo and moody in theme, the triumvirate “Golden Tides” / “Into The Ivory Frost” / “Children Of the Night” could have truly benefited from vocals of a more commanding nature and, when finally these do appear in the shape of “The One That Dwells”, they are inexplicably only given a two and a half minute ‘window’ to make their presence felt.
Luckily for both us and this album, things improve significantly in the last three compositions on offer! Seven and a half minute “She Is A Witch” is a thematically varied piece which enables Nocon to put some healthy pressure on her vocal chords, the Motorhead-themed riffs of “Immortal By Your Hand” inject some much needed energy into the album while the equally experimental “Written By The Insane” features one of the rare occasions where Jennings and Nocon really seem to see ‘eye to eye’ in terms of both feel and performance.
While “Death Penalty” is an honest-sounding and pretty enjoyable album to listen to it is true to say that it could have ended up sounding much, much better if certain ‘details’ were better addresses during both its creating and recording process.
The good news is that, as with every young band, there is always room from improvement and, providing that Jennings decides to further pursue his musical goals under this moniker and with this specific line-up, we are almost guaranteed a good quality release in the hopefully not so distant future.
Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)
In his show broadcast on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio on 10 May David Randall played a further selection of artists and albums included in the new Features series, “2020 Vision”.
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Featured Albums w/c 25 May (Mon-Fri)
09:00-12:00 FM Synchronized (Frontiers)
12:00-13:00 THE ROCKET DOLLS The Art Of Disconnect (indie)
14:00-16:00 BEN KUNDER Searching For The Stranger (indie)
Power Plays w/c 11 May (Mon-Fri)
THE MERCY KILLS Alone (Golden Robot Records)
DEAD REYNOLDS By Your Side (indie)
THE JAILBIRDS Watery Grave (Golden Robot Records)
ALI MASS & MICKY MOODY These Times (Last Man Music)
MASSIVE WAGONS Bangin In Your Stereo (Earache)
UDO We Are One (AFM Records)
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