Royal Thunder Crooked Doors - 01Kudos to the guys and gal in Royal Thunder and the folks at Relapse Records for their intelligent pre-release strategy for the band’s anticipated sophomore album, Crooked Doors. A series of track-by-track streams preceding a generous full album stream a solid week before release, coupled with some excellent album bundle options, resulted in a refreshing way to promote the release and perhaps put the smallest of dints in the piracy epidemic. The Atlanta four-piece’s stunning debut full-length CVI blew me away in 2012, a superb album that saw Royal Thunder expanding upon the potential from their debut EP a couple of years earlier and fleshing out their music into the sprawling and dynamic rock ‘n’ roll sound of CVI. Sure there were nods towards the past and a healthy classic rock influence, but Royal Thunder’s formula was no retro sounding retread, but rather a hard rocking contemporary beast with an endearingly vintage feel, led by the gutsy and charismatic vocals of Miny Parsonz.

Riding a wave of turbulence generated from the relationship break-up between Parsonz and lead guitarist Josh Weaver, along with a couple of line-up shifts, Crooked Doors represents a melancholic, tumultuous and emotion-charged chapter in Royal Thunder’s career, where relationship fractures have been patched up in the name of unity, while the scar tissue remains raw and sensitive. Musically, Crooked Doors takes a slightly different and reflective song-writing approach from CVI, exploring more diverse terrain without straying far from Royal Thunder’s signature sound. Whereas CVI had a revved-up growling engine, Crooked Doors by comparison is a smoother, well-oiled and more refined machine, featuring a complex emotional core and confident, matured sound. Many of the elements that were so crucial to CVI’s success are retained, from the band’s wily compositional prowess and wonderful handle on song-writing dynamics, to the impeccable balance between their charged-up hard rock roots and the moody restraint and vaguely psychedelic musings that defined slow-burning epics “Shake and Shift,” “Blue” and “South of Somewhere” from CVI.

Parsonz remains Royal Thunder’s focal point and the bleeding heart core of the band’s sound. Here she sounds positively inspired, delivering an incredibly emotive, biting and at times fragile performance. Her predominant and signature belting vocals shine on cuts like the seething “The Line” and heavy first single “Forget You,” and she frequently demonstrates her improved croons and melodic vocal lines on songs like the pop-infected dynamics of “Wake Up.” However, the most telling example of her growth as a singer is featured during two part closer, “The Bear I” and “The Bear II.” The former is a somber, bluesy ballad led by a heart-wrenching vocal, while the latter is even more sparse and stripped back, as Parsonz’s soft and emotionally raw voice rises and falls against a backdrop of haunting cello and piano lines.

Capitol Photography Parnters

Not to be outdone, Weaver, joined on second guitar by new member Will Fiore (Zoroaster) and backed by a solid rhythm section, gets wonderful mileage out of his instrument. His expressive guitar work combines simplicity with more intricate and eerie melodic passages, particularly on moodier offerings, “Forgive Me, Karma” and “Ear on the Fool.” A couple of slightly less remarkable songs aside, Crooked Doors keeps the momentum going consistently, with the track sequencing well constructed, the execution top-notch, and loads of variety in the song-writing department. There are plenty of gems, though perhaps the album’s finest moment is epic opener “Time Machine,” a hazy, nerve-poking rocker with a haunting psychedelic groove and sublime chorus.

Arguably some of the individual song peaks reached a little higher on CVI, which had an edgier sound, both sonically and musically. Regardless Crooked Doors is by no means a disappointment. Front to back it’s a more consistent and diverse album, while the emotional side cuts deeper due to the dramatic circumstances surrounding the album’s conception. This is a highly anticipated album for me, and while I can’t proclaim Crooked Doors to be quite as powerful and impactful as its predecessor, it’s a fine sophomore album nonetheless. Crooked Doors marks the sound of a wounded and resilient band pushing through the turmoil to deliver a dynamic and cracking hard rock album, signalling a confident stride forward for the band.


Rating: 4.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 192 kbps mp3
Label: Relapse Records
Websites: RoyalThunderOfficial | Facebook.com/RoyalThunderMusic
Release Dates: Out Worldwide: 04.07.2015

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  • Monsterth Goatom

    Really like Parsonz’s voice. Great range and just the right amount of gravel. Nice review, L.

  • hardysponge

    Her voice is great indeed. Musically I hope they won’t turn into Skunk Anansie.

  • RuySan

    I really like the cover art. I don’t need to know anything else.

    Went directly to my wishlist.

    • RDGEEK

      I had the opposite reaction, at least to the rest of the album artwork. The CD booklet is really poorly designed in terms of its look, and especially in the unreadable text itself. But, yes, the cover is pretty cool.

      • Luke_22

        I like the cover art itself, but indeed the writing in the booklet is very difficult to read. Especially considering i have pretty bad eyesight for such things..

        • RDGEEK

          I wonder if the designer was using the LP as the default media for the design? Still, the gold on purple color of the text is really hard to read no matter the size.

  • I can’t seem to stop playing this record. It is simply infectious, these guys are destined to be huge or something terrible is going to happen to one or all of them. I hope I’m wrong about the latter, just get that feeling.

  • RDGEEK

    Had this one on pretty much non-stop for last several days. Love the opening track. The thing about “The Bear, II” that struck me was: Tori Amos, especially in her version of “Raining Blood”. Or even Amy Winehouse in a weird way.

  • Wait, does this mean Zoroaster is no more? please say it ain’t so

    • Luke_22

      Not sure on their band status. But a minor correction to what I wrote, i just received a hard copy of the album and Weaver is credited with playing all guitars, so Fiore must have joined after the album was recorded.

  • James Ingold

    I saw these guys live shortly after CVI came out and have been a solid fan ever since. Parsonz is every bit as wonderful live as on the albums and that’s no small feat. That said, my mind’s still not made up about this one; I think it’ll just take a few more listens to get used to the new sheen.

  • Greg Hasbrouck

    Nice review. I need to spin this a few more times. It’s definitely different than CVI, which I loved. However, any record with Miny Parsonz is bound to have upside.

  • Martin Knap

    Finally a promo picture which signals that these guys understand that mainstream culture and counterculture, the bourgeois and the bohemian are all one now.

  • Carlos Marrickvillian

    I’ve been aware of these guys but not got around to checking them out till now. Wow her voice passion and delivery are just so impressive and compelling, you really feel it.
    I’ve been flogging time machine. It could end up being my favourite song this year!
    I’ll have to pick up CVI I’m kicking myself for not investigating these guys sooner!

  • HeavyMetalSusan

    Astute review; I agree with most of it! Though I do find this a better
    album than CVI, even though I love that one dearly. Cannot stop spinning
    this. Excellent from the first note to the last.

    • Luke_22

      Yeah who knows my opinion might change in time, as I’m finding this pretty addicting at the moment. Either way this is a great follow-up to CVI.

  • Here’s Johnny

    I like them but don’t really get the hype or the 4 score. Someone please explain.