Shake hands with perfection…
Released on 11 May 2018 through Frontier Records and reviewed by Angie K
When talking about a relatively young band (who only got together in 2014), I don’t normally tend to use superlatives: it is very rare for a band to strike me as much as that. However, in relation to Lords of Black there is only one word that comes to mind: phenomenal! Their second album, Icon Of The New Days, is so masterfully crafted and brilliantly immaculate that it would do proud any renowned and experienced band. This is where Judas Priest meets Yngwie Malmsteen, shake hands and carry on to a newly found path to perfection.
It has been a while since a band I heard for the first time has made such an impression on me. And it is not like there is a logical explanation (e.g. someone’s spin off or a musician coming from a well-known band). It is the other way around: their vocalist Ronnie Romero got picked by Ritchie Blackmore to be the new voice of his reincarnated Rainbow. Lords of Black’s album is the perfect evidence of what a brilliant choice Candice Knight made by recommending this singer to her husband. What Blackmore said in his interview for Rainbow’s DVD ‘Memories In Rock II’ may be unthinkable for Dio’s fans, but is also not far from the truth: Romero is better than Dio! I cannot think of a better compliment for a newly emerged metal singer whose career path has only just started.
Being a member of Rainbow is what put Romero in the spotlight and shot him directly into fame, which also inevitably drew attention to the band he originates from: the Spanish Lords of Black. As much as having Romero on vocals is one of their strongest asset, this is not all the have to boast with. There is no single track on their album that is dull, does not change melody and pace, is predictable or follows a pattern. Each song is a masterpiece of its own. The song writing in this album is astonishing in its imagination, completeness and maturity. This stellar quality would normally be expected from established bands and I can only think of a handful of exemplars of equally accomplished albums. Think along masterpieces such as Judas Priest’s Painkiller, Malmsteen’s iconic Trilogy and Odyssey, and Dreamspace from the yearly years of Stratovarius (with ‘Falling’ and ‘Long Way To Go’ being a prime example of following the footsteps of the Scandinavian gods).
The opening track ‘World Gone Mad’ is clearly outlining the path chosen by Lords of Black: fast paced heavy metal with explicit references to power metal, progressive and melodic metal. They don’t, however, follow any particular standards set by the industry (there are only two tracks which are typical power metal examples: ‘Wait No Prayers for the Dying’ and ‘Long Way To Go’). Instead, they create their own version of the genre they fall into. ‘Icons of the New Days’ is a great example of how their tracks develop, with unexpected (but precisely timed and totally thought through) lyrical solos and purely thrash metal head banging episodes (also blended into songs such as ‘Not in a Place Like This’ and throughout ‘Wait No Prayers for the Dying’). There are also the typical for melodic and symphonic metal background choruses (‘Not in a Place Like This’) mixed with fierce guitar riffs (including the typical speedy Scandinavian solos ala Malmsteen) and passionate, gigantic vocal performance.
Unlike most bands of this kind, this album does not feature a power ballad. There are profound lyrical elements in track like ‘All I Have Left’ (with an amazing long acoustic intro), ‘Forevermore’ (deploying keyboards in Stratovarius’ style) and ‘The Way I’ll Remember’ (crystal piano intro, angelical closing guitar solo like the one from Yngwie’s ‘Dreaming’, and persistently leading me to remember ‘Queen Is In Love’ and ‘You Don’t Remember, I’ll Never Forget’) which are a bit more melodical, slow-paced and throat gripping than the rest, but the core of the album is strong heavy metal in all its best variations.
What strikes me about this album is how they know exactly where to throw in each additional detail to make the songs deeper and more intriguing: the odd lyrical deviation, the change in tune and instruments, different pace, choruses, sudden sky high vocals, steady drums and base, or rocketing guitars. They rise up to the highest standards set by bands as big as Symphony X (whose presence can be felt in tracks like ‘Wait No Prayers for the Dying’ and ‘The Edge of Darkness’). One can even draw a direct parallel between Romero’s and Russell Allen’s singing style: the vocalist being in full control of his voice, deciding when to be husky and restrains himself in emotion, and when to let go fully.
Romero’s unique vocals are making the music an even more exquisite pleasure to listen to. With Rainbow, his voice tends to sound restrained and hoarse, which is very typical of his style. In ‘When a Hero Takes a Fall’ he makes it clear that he can scream higher notes not any worse than any other metal vocalist. This is where you would remember Rob Halford’s high pitched vocals, while the pace of the track takes us back of classics such as ‘The Painkiller’.
It is impossible to even imagine what heights this band could achieve: young talents like this band are truly rare and unique. Metal Hammer declared their first album the best metal album in Spain released in 2014. They are certainly heading that way, this time on a world level.
- World Gone Mad
- Icons of the New Days
- Not in a Place Like This
- When a Hero Takes a Fall
- The Way I’ll Remember
- King’s Reborn
- Long Way To Go
- The Edge of Darkness
- Wait No Prayers for the Dying
- All I Have Left