Durbin – Screaming Steel (Frontiers Music)Monday, 12th February 2024
James Durbin may have hit the radar for most thirteen years back through his American Idol season in 2011 where he would finish in fourth place – but to readers of this site, they know the man has a potent, high octane vocal range perfect for classic, traditional heavy metal. That’s what we heard through his debut Durbin effort The Beast Awakens back in 2021– which continues on this sophomore outing Screaming Steel. The lineup contains seasoned players from the USA (bassist Mike Roberts) and Italy (guitarists Aldo Lonobile and Luca Birotto, drummer Marco Sacchetto), beyond the numerous guest solo spots from members of Exmortus, Paladin, Archer Nation, and Aldo himself. Take thyself on a journey into 80s landscapes – magical fantasy churning as guitars glide, bass pulsates, and thunderous drums collide while James’ superior control of all low to high pitches mesmerizes in all ten tracks.
Where things differ from the previous album is in the refinement of the smaller details. Key vocal harmonies in all the ideal spots – along with twin guitar lines that evoke the spirit of when Iron Maiden ruled arenas as the Smith/Murray tandem schooled youngsters in the ways of the genre. Razor sharp riffs reflect the versatility in Durbin’s multi-octave attack – he can be bluesy in a Jon Oliva-esque way for the Savatage-like “Power of the Reaper”, or resolute in his Halford meets Dio paint melting falsetto or scream holding nature for the energetic opener “Made of Metal”. Concise arrangements keep the focus on stronger hooks, even adding in a bit of a thrashier penchant when amping up the speed for sections of “Blazing High”, while elevating the art of the cultural, hypnotizing gallop in a Thin Lizzy / Iron Maiden atmosphere for back half highlight “Beyond the Night” (kudos to Mike sneaking in a subtle yet very effective bass solo). Clichés abound when it comes to the lyrical content – its meant to be over the top, praising the conventions of metal, taking fantasy into a powerful new reality where you can overcome any challenge that seems insurmountable.
Colorful cover art, ideal songwriting, exhilarating performances top to bottom – Durbin once again illustrates that younger artists can deliver classic, traditional heavy metal to an audience clamoring for more material beyond cranking up the oldies but goodies for the thousandth time. Screaming Steel hopefully helps get the band more touring / festival opportunities to build an even deeper, faithful following.