Elm Street – The Great Tribulation (Massacre Records)Friday, 10th November 2023
From Melbourne, Australia, Elm Street has been carefully crafting this third album The Great Tribulation. Always known for not putting out records before their time, the quartet came on this scribe’s radar early through the Barbed Wire Metal debut record in 2011 on Stormspell Records, then fortunate to witness the band live a few years later in 2015 on a North American tour with Skull Fist and Night Demon. To those uninitiated to the group’s style, the quartet reside in a power/heavy metal platform, occasionally flashing some progressive or thrash aspects depending on the energy level or sophistication necessary to get the ideas across.
Most artists would probably frontload a record with immediate numbers designed to capture the lion’s share of listeners, then evolve with more dramatic material to deliver maximum value in terms of dynamics. Elm Street instead decide to push an eleven-minute epic as the opener with “Seven Sirens”, a breathtaking number that starts off in more of a clean, ballad-like atmosphere before kicking into gear. Encompassing aspects of “In My Darkest Hour” / Megadeth, classic Iron Maiden / Iced Earth, plus a bit of that Aussie power/progressive charm, the song includes stunning lead breaks, intriguing transitions, and stellar main hooks on both the vocal/musical fronts (love the back-and-forth main voicing to gang support) to never lose the plot momentum-wise. Subsequently “Take the Night” and “The Price of War” hit the mark for radio-friendly immediacy, fervent headbangers which sit in that mid-tempo to speedier terrain, guitarist Ben Batres leaning into his vocal melodies with that slightly raspy decadence, straddling the 80’s hard rock to metal/thrash lines (a bit Chuck Billy here, some Blackie Lawless there). The restraint instrumentally allows the heads down metal mainframe aspects to hit with that much harder impact – check out the crunchy attack during “Behind the Eyes of Evil”, the triplet/groove sections giving off an early “For Whom the Bell Tolls” vibe in sections. The record closes on a harmony-fueled note with the seven-minute plus “A State of Fear”, the interplay between bassist Nick Ivkovic and guitarists Aaron Adie and Ben Batres magnificent, the back third of the song accelerating into speed/thrash nirvana that Annihilator fans will treasure.
Another mesmerizing cover art from German veteran Andreas Marschall puts The Great Tribulation into a great step forward for Elm Street in their hopes to develop an even bigger footprint in the global metal scene. Students of the genre, their songwriting and intuitive talent at their craft ensures a record that will be equally satisfying on first passes as much as the ones made years down the line.