Greyhawk – Keepers of the Flame Review

The other day, I was eating lunch with my 6-year-old son Ezkaton, and I swear to God, he gazed out the window with a thousand-yard stare and said the following without any prompting and without any music playing in the background: “Dad, I don’t know why I like Greyhawk so much. I don’t even try to like them, but they just make me like them.” In case you doubt his review qualifications, Ez happens to be intimately familiar with the entire Greyhawk discography. I randomly saw the band play live last fall and drunkenly struck up a conversation with them after they’d effectively melted my face off. Bassist Darin Wall (also of Skelatorschwing!) gave me a copy of their EP Ride Out, and it’s been in my car’s CD player ever since. Needless to say, my son knows every lyric on that disc, and since I’ve been spinning the debut full-length Keepers of the Flame for two months now, he knows all of the new ones too. Let’s see if we can convince you to like Greyhawk as much as we do.

Hailing from Seattle, Greyhawk proudly wave the banner of heavy metal as they ride across the fields where old heroes like Dio and Manowar and new heroes like Visigoth have valiantly waged war against the seemingly endless hordes of untrve posers for untold aeons. If you choose to follow these mighty warriors into battle, you’ll be treated to 44 minutes of anthemic heavy metal, complete with rousing choruses, ear-worm hooks, and the molten Randy Rhoads meets Paul Gilbert shredding style of one Jesse Berlin. Berlin might literally weigh less than one of my legs, but his enchanted Axe ov Power gives him the stage presence of a fire giant — just check out the band’s nod to Racer X on “R.X.R.O” to feel the heat for yourself. Singer Rev Taylor will be divisive — Ezkaton says the vocals are “very pretty,” while his 9-year-old sister Ellzebub thinks they’re “too dramatic” — but his Jake Rogers (Visigoth)-with-a-King Diamond-falsetto delivery imbues the music with a charming energy. Just take a listen to the embedded “Don’t Wait for the Wizard.” If your mouth doesn’t break into a smile after that, I will personally ignore social distancing guidelines to come to your home and punch it for you.

The best thing about Keepers of the Flame is the amount of variety to be found among its tracks. After the obligatory and awesome synth-laden intro track “Gates of Time,” “Frozen Star” and “Drop the Hammer” start things off with a bang with their back-to-back speed metal attack. Ethereal Uncle Ronnie flashes the horns every time “The Rising Sign” comes along with its subdued balladic beginning and its hard-rocking conclusion, and he’d be proud of the Rainbow-esque “Masters of the Sky” and the incredible “Black Peak,” the latter pounding with the energy of a modern-day “Heaven and Hell.” Closing things out is the phenomenal title track. The Manowarian epic “Keepers of the Flame” is so glorious that it quells my usual hatred of the saxophone as it delivers the song we need at just the right time. As 2020 continues to cruise along, crushing our spirits like a bulldozer, take heart as you heed the words “When darkness falls, and hope is lost with the dying sun, the Keepers of the Flame will rise and stand as one!”

At this point, you’re expecting me to go full 4.0ldeneye on this one, aren’t you? I’m certainly tempted, but I’m cognizant of the fact that this is really just a very good heavy metal album. While the entire record is solid from front to back, only a handful of the songs grab me as hard as the highlights from the Ride Out EP did. Meanwhile, the production is spectacular, authentically capturing that classic heavy metal sound in all of its glory. Wall can constantly be heard hammering away on his mighty bass and Berlin’s leads have that about-to-be-electrocuted overdrive sound that Randy Rhoads made famous. If you want highlights, look no further than “Frozen Star,” “The Rising Sign,” “Don’t Wait for the Wizard,” “Black Peak,” and the title track.

When I told Wall how much fun I’d been having with Keepers of the Flame, he responded with “fun is our goal, 100%!” Well, mission accomplished, boys. This record is a very good debut from one of my favorite local bands and a great example of why Greyhawk has become a Holdeneye family favorite. Their positivity is absolutely infectious, and it’s just what the doctor ordered to combat the 2020 blues.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Fighter Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 16th, 2020

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