A Sound Of Thunder – The Lesser Key of Solomon (Mad Neptune Records)

Sunday, 31st August 2014
Rating: 9.5/10

Productivity is a hallmark of the Mid-Atlantic heavy/power metal quartet A Sound of Thunder. In a genre where many acts consider releasing new full-length records every 2-3 years pushing creative limitations (due to work, touring, or personal obligations), The Lesser Key of Solomon is the fourth album in four consecutive years for the band. If you can deliver high quality ideas on a consistent basis, I’m all for boosting the profile through new songs, so let’s take a look at this 10 track outing that clocks in at an hour and change.

The 2:17 “Nexus of Realities” intro has a futuristic Operation: Mindcrime meets Iron Maiden feel, giving way to the raw “Udoroth,” guitarists Josh Schwartz and Jesse Keen slicing through the mix in classic Priest fashion while the multi-octave Nina Osegueda delivery takes on theatrical, high pitch work, channeling the best of everyone from Doro Pesch and Leather Leone to Ronnie James Dio, Bruce Dickinson, James Rivera, and Rob Halford. A key element to A Sound Of Thunder’s appeal is applying every extra sonic nuance possible to create a multi-sensory metal experience: be it haunting background vocals that evoke King Diamond for “Fortuneteller”, deep organ tones for the epic, exotic 8:28 “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb” that haven’t been heard since UFO and Uriah Heep’s 1970’s glory days or the shimmering Osegueda harmonies on the dynamic ballad “One Empty Grave”, these musicians know how to deliver a full, emotional recording.

Beyond the fact that the songwriting just contains all the right hooks, introspective moments, heaviness, darkness. “The Boy Who Could Fly” has the tenderness of an 80’s power ballad and yet the musical integrity and impact that artists like Zebra and current Helloween make time and again. The follow up 9 and a half minute “Elijah” stirs up chills through dark keyboard/piano parts, Nina’s quieter verse nature before matching the power riffing a la classic Dio or Rush and the feverish lead break interplay gives way to a faster, Chris Haren double bass section- only to end on a quiet, acoustic fade out. Dusan Markovic’s artwork will give people hours of symbolism interpretations, and veteran producer Kevin ‘131’ Gutierrez keeps The Lesser Key of Solomon primal and sharp, throwing back again to older ‘analog’ 80’s metal recordings for a reference point.

It’s refreshing to have a band that keeps one ear on the current power metal movement a la Primal Fear and Hammerfall without forsaking the legendary classic metal template. To those who think America doesn’t have any quality heavy/power metal to offer these days, A Sound of Thunder should quickly change that opinion around. Thrown the horns, don the denim, pledge allegiance to The Lesser Key of Solomon, the future of the genre is just fine in their hands.

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