Gygax_Critical HitsIf you were to ask me what my hobbies were in high school, you would get three answers: listening to metal (duh), playing video games (Final Fantasy VI, baby!), and… playing [Advanced] Dungeons & Dragons [2nd Edition™]. Yep, I was one of those kids in high school and I’m quite proud of it. After all, some of the closest friends I have are from that bygone era. So when AMG himself dropped a promo on me from a new band, from former Gypsyhawk members, called Gygax, named after the Godfather of D&D himself, E. Gary Gygax, I was both intrigued and skeptical. I love my metal and nerd tendencies, and Gygax had better come in with a decent THAC01 and saving throw vs. death if they wanted to withstand a lashing from yours truly.

And they made every damn saving throw they rolled. As soon as “Lesser Magick” gets its swagger going, the Thin Lizzy-esque hooks dig deep into you. Bryant Throckmorton (Gypsyhawk) and Armand John Lizzy have the twin-guitar melodies and riffs down pat, and Eric Harris (Gypsyhawk) sounds absolutely phenomenal on here, reminding me of both Phil Lynott and a little bit of Lemmy’s (Motörhead… RIP) grit. In fact, by the time the chorus rolls around, you may bang your head somewhat, but you’ll definitely boogie. This is retro rock done well, kids. Any and all apprehension about Critical Hits being too goofy or riding the coattails of the retro craze melted away as the song progressed forward. And those solos! Throckmorton and Lizzy channeled Lizzy legends Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson beyond effectively. The year just started, and already we have a strong candidate for Song o’ the Year here [Everybody calm down!Steel Pragmatist].

Anybody looking for a continuation of Gypsyhawk may want to look elsewhere, as Gygax is even less metallic. That said, there’s no shortage of great songs on here. “Draw Breath” continues with a driving backbeat supplied by drummer Justin Dempsey, who also lays out a mean beat on follow-up “The Rope of Shadow.” But the real stars are the twin guitar attacks of Throckmorton and Lizzy. They studied their idols well, and the entire album is peppered with incredible solos and phenomenal guitar melodies throughout. Even instrumental “Dirge for a Deposed Duke” recalls the finger-picked majesty of Ritchie Blackmore (Deep Purple/Rainbow).

Critical Hits is aided by a warm production. The guitars have that old school fuzzy drive to them, the bass is fat and clear throughout, and the drums sound organic and lively. The only bone I have to pick with Critical Hits is it starts to drag a bit near the end. Not badly, mind you, but compared to the heavenly front half of the album, it is a bit noticeable. That said, there really isn’t a weak point on the album, though maybe a bit of a shuffle of tracks may be in order.

Gygax_2016

Here I was, all set to slag Critical Hits for being another retro cash-in, and they nearly rolled a natural 20 on my sorry ass. Next time you’re ready for an adventure or have some mana in need of tappin’, let Gygax supply the soundtrack. You won’t be disappointed. Now, ROLL INITIATIVE! [I got a 1… – AMG]


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Creator-Destructor Records
Website: facebook.com/GygaxUSA
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2016

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  1. 2nd Edition Ruleset, mufukka!
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  • BaboonKing

    I really enjoyed Gypsyhawk’s Revelry and Resilience, so I’ll make sure to check this one out. As another of “those” kids, thank you for a great review, Grymm!

  • I’ve really enjoyed this record. It’s a lot of fun, and the run time is also old school. Not long at all, and the songs are slick and tight. Great title, too.

    • Grymm

      It’s such a fun album. Been playing it almost non-stop since getting it for review.

      “Lesser Magick” is playing on ny headphones as I write this.

  • El_Cuervo

    I’m no D&D fan but this sounds real damn fun.

    • El_Cuervo

      Dude I have to buy this. I don’t much fancy importing it from the US but it’s supposed to be available digitally at some point *crosses fingers*

      • grooben

        This is top stuff – just what I need to cheer myself up during this miserable Scottish January. It’s on Bandcamp – full release 22nd Jan.

        • El_Cuervo

          I’m down in England, at least it’s actually become more cold this week! Maybe we will actually have a Winter.

  • William Hebblewhite

    Holy damn 4/5…Must check this out

  • Diego Molero

    Finally, the first 4.0 of the year! Nice one Grymm, this is really good.

  • Worldeater

    Thx for bringing up some good memories, can’t remember seeing the term THAC0 in a long time – 2nd edition really ruled! I like the album teaser, will check the guys out!

    • 5e recaptures the feel, but doesn’t bring back THAC0.

      • Worldeater

        Thx for the hint, will download the basic rules pdf asap!

  • groverXIII

    That fucking band picture… I’m in. I’m totally in.

    • Was thinking the same thing…

  • lennymccall

    Hey Earnest Gary called, he want’s his Gygax…

  • [not a Dr]

    Initiative…
    5 for my longsword, 2 for my dagger.
    Also, I’ll be splitting XP evenly between Thief and Ranger, but never be more than a level apart in both classes (even if they have different progression tables).
    AND, I’ll need you to calculate the XP for each HD of enemy I defeat (for the ranger), and the GP value of my part of the treasure so I get the XP per 5 gold pieces (for the thief).
    Crap: up another level. I get the weapon proficiencies of the ranger and the non-weapon proficiencies of the thief? and I’ll split my allotment of percentages among Climb Walls and Pick Lock (I have Boots of Elvenkind, so I can stomp on dry twigs and still have 95% chance of Move Silently, paladins beware).
    Now I draw breath.

    • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

      UPDATED MY JOURNAL

  • KingKuranes

    Maybe these guys can tour with Visigoth. I’d see that.

  • Boom.

  • Guillotine of Papal Crowns

    One of the few times I´ve skipped the whole review and went STRAIGHT TO THE SCORE… Because you have to be very confident about your project if you call your band Gygax and your album “Critical Hits”, but it seems they hit the spot, so aftwerwards I read the review and kudos, as usual… But I tap two islands and I counter your Final Fantasy VI and I tap two mountains to get red AS FUCKING BLOOD mana and I summon DOOM II

  • I always thought Gygax was an epic last name. Now I don’t feel alone. Will check it out.

  • Debskills

    Lesser magick~!!!!! Can’t stop listening. Dat sound’s f8cking awesome!! Hell virus! Repeat again and again! GREATE JOB!!!!! From Rus metal community m/_ and D&D fans!

  • OzanCan

    HOLY SHIT! HOW DID I MISS THIS??? xO xD aaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrgggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    PS: DM since 15 yrs old \m//