Castle – Under Siege (Prosthetic Records)

Wednesday, 16th April 2014
Rating: 9/10

Almost two years to the date later and Castle is back with another quick shot of refined heavy metal and absolutely succulent cover art (seriously, holy shit). This time around, however, everything that was strong about Blacklands has been brought to the front and made much more prominent. The instrumental sections are longer and more refined, the melodies soar higher, any and all fat has been cast aside. Under Siege is, for lack of a better word, awesome.

Opener “Distant Ghost” sets the stage and wastes no time picking up where Blacklands left off in 2012, the familiar gallop of generations past front and center when not giving way to digressions of solos on top of solos. The mix is stellar for the trio setup the band continues to use, the right kinds of positional heft and weight given the instruments involved, the vocals of frontwoman/bassist Elizabeth Blackwell floating overtop and somewhat behind the wall of sound. She and the band alike engage in all kinds of dynamic histrionics on mid-album standout “Pyramid Lake.” Classic feels seethe from “Labyrinth of Death”, the bassline alone enough to slay the many legions of proto/doom/revivalists that have popped up in the last two years and finishing off with a solo-laced groove that is impeccable.

With that, Castle seems to be aware of the difference in the musical scenery around them versus 2012, with Under Siege being an all-to-fitting title. A scene has sprouted up since their last release, and almost none of them worth listening to for any length of time (…I’ve covered enough of them by this point to be exhausted). Under Siege is about succinctness and power, weighing in at 34 minutes and wasting none of those minutes on fluffery or misplaced attitude. The heavy metal field is a burly field nowadays but why waste the time with so many imitations when Castle offer the best?

Seriously, that cover art.

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