Huntress // Spell Eater
Rating: 4.5/5.0 — Left me spellbound
Label: Napalm Records
Websites: huntresskills.com | facebook.com/huntresskills | huntress.bandcamp.com [No music yet]
Release Dates: EU: 2012.04.27 | US: 05.08.2012

Huntress - Spell EaterWhen I first listened to Christian Mistress a fan of the blog told me “Bah, wait until the new Huntress comes out.” Since then the two bands have been inextricably linked in my mind, despite the fact that they’re not very much alike at all—with the exception of the gender of their vocalist. In fact, using Christian Mistress as a reference for Huntress in the first place is kind of useful. Because in reality, these two bands are like opposites of each other. In my mind they represent the difference between northern and southern California. Like northern California (sure, they’re actually from Oregon, but it’s all the fucking same to me), Christian Mistress are homespun, dirty hippie-lookin’ hipsters who play old-fashioned heavy metal like it was in 1982. Literally. Their vocalist isn’t theatrical and she doesn’t have a huge range, but she’s honest and she is who she is and she unapologetically kicks ass. Huntress, on the other hand, is from SoCal (for real, actually). They’re ridiculous, bombastic, over-the-top and apparently 100% theater. Their vocalist has a huge range, is a classically trained vocalist and is trying to hock her (forthcoming) jewelry line in the first interview I read with the band. She’s a platinum blonde who looks like she’d be just as comfortable on the Swedish Bikini Team as fronting a thrashy power band, but she also kicks ass: just in a very, very, very southern California kind of way.

Jill JanusWith all of that in mind, you should have an idea of what you’re getting into. Spell Eater is a 42 minute long thrash fest, with ripping riffs, modern blasty Dragonforce-style riffing and a vocal approach from Jill Janus (Oo! Two-faced! She’s all cultured n’ stuff! And it alliterates!) that is reminiscent of Nitte Valo from Battle Beast more than it is of Christine Davis from Christian Mistress. Her voice rips through the higher registers, where she nails notes with a sharp, clear, piercing voice—often forgoing vibrato entirely for a crushingly powerful sound. Opening (and title) track “Spell Eater” is a great example of her range. In the lower registers she growls like a beast, á la Udo Dirkschneider or Hansi Kursch, throughout the song she does voice acrobatics and hits some seriously high notes with perfect clarity and just enough vibrato, but at the end of the song she breaks out her choir girl voice for creepy harmonies before ending on a creepier whisper. Her voice is definitely the highlight of this album. It’s obvious that she is an immense vocal talent with training in her (handmade and soon for sale!) bag.

Musically Huntress plays a thrashy power metal that is representative of a lot of modern power metal, but isn’t really orchestral at all. Instead, it’s more akin to the thrash approach of Iced Earth or Blind Guardian’s earlier stuff—with a huge nod to the classic German melodic thrash bands—and with the drums of the modern more ballsy power metal and bass that is felt but not heard. But guitarists Blake Meahl and Ian Alden are not afraid to wander into more black metal or melodeath  territory sometimes, while at other times they really just dropping back to the NWoBHM guitar harmonies, without rhythm tracks. Aside from moments on “Seniside” and maybe a couple other places, there is basically no “modern thrash” chug on this record. When this Huntress 2012band chugs, it gallops and recalls Judas Priest and Iron Maiden way more than wandering anywhere near the kind of stuff that Nevermore was doing (or Atheismo forbid, breakdowns).

So while Huntress embody everything we love to hate about SoCal, it’s important to remember that metal is a theatrical, over-the-top and ridiculous genre at times. Where would metal be without Venom or Yngwie Malmsteen? What is Rhapsody (and its several variations) if not over-the-top ridiculousness embodied in silly, Italian men? Huntress is right up there with them, producing kick ass thrashy metal tracks that you want to bang your head to, with a talented front woman who really knocks it out on this record. If this band can do what they’re doing on Spell Eater live and produce more records of the same quality, I think we’ve got the real deal on our hands. Take 45 minutes to get rocked.