I bet you have that friend that swears they can guess a band’s genre solely from the band name? Well, if your friend is anything like mine, a genre can also be identified by the band’s font style, the album artwork, the attire in the band pic, and the track titles. For those ignoring these words and instead staring drop-jawed at the album cover to the left, you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. However, your friend will mighty upset with themself when they make the assumption that Reign of Fury is just another re-hashing, re-thrashing outfit. They may look the part but this UK-based quintet is just a bit more than many of the retro groups out there (not a lot more, but surely a little bit more). Will you find some ‘80s metal re-hashery on their new release, Death Be Thy Shepherd? No doubt. Will you find a pack of nerds in jean jackets and patches? You better believe it. Will you disappear into utter nostalgia when you swan-dive straight into the concrete of RoF’s pit? You better or we are through. So, hold onto your butts as we set this DeLorean back in time to fuck shit up.
Reign of Fury’s 2012 debut [World Detonation] was a no-holds-barred ‘80s thrash machine full of straight-forward Metallica and Megadeth worship and some interesting death influences for extra emphasis. Though they produced some standouts like “Infernal Conflict” and Envy the Dead,” World Detonation is a simple, self-released re-thrasher. Now, add a label (Static Tension Recordings; which RoF are only one-of-two bands on the roster) and a couple new members, and these seekers-of-the-past drop more ‘80s worship, catchy choruses, fist-pumping melodies, solos, and even longer songs. Thankfully, RoF’s Metallica-itis isn’t bad enough to necessitate a doctor’s prescription. For the most part (minus a track or two), their long songs don’t meander into oblivion and they know when to call it quits before it gets late.
“Faustian Mastery” pretty much sets the tone for DBTS. This nine-minute highlight starts with a big intro before smashing it to pieces with a blasting thrash riff, Hetfield-like vox, and some classic gang shouts. Like many tracks on the album, the opener sports a catchy chorus and some melodic passages that remind me of those written by Metallica, Megadeth, Metal Church, and Iron Maiden. For instance, the mid-section of this song screams of classic melodies and fretboard work from Medageth and Iron Maiden. It’s been done before but this is done quite well.
As far as choruses go, “Harbinger of Decay” and “Death Be Thy Shepherd” rule the roost. Both make me feel like a kid again and I can’t help but come back over and over. Considering that the title track is over ten minutes long, this is a big deal. While most songs follow the intro-verse-chorus-verse-chorus-breakdown-solo-verse/chorus-chorus-end formula, the title/closing track breaks the mold ever so slightly and pleases fans with both a monster breakdown and some of the best guitar work I’ve heard in some time. Both of these numbers are highlights of the album and are some of my favorite so far this year.
The rest of the album pretty much follows the above formula to a tee. However, RoF keeps it fresh with the John Bush-era Anthrax chorus in “Hypnotise the Masses,” the sparing death growls in “Gates of Sanity” and “Death Be Thy Shepherd” (that make me think immediately of Martin Steene on Force of Evil’s Black Empire), and the spot-on Hetfield-isms of the “Fade to Black”/”The Day That Never Comes” ballady hybrid, “All Is Lost.” Matt “Bison” Steed’s vocals add a lot to RoF’s sound, but without the massive riffs and impressive axe work to support his pipes, these songs would all be nothing more than “good.” Fury and Priestley’s solos are rip-roaring and the songwriting is stellar.
So why not a higher score? Well, you’ve all heard this before, some of the songs could use some riff trimming, and this hour-long release is made even longer with fillers like “The Love of a Dying God.” Also, the dynamics are as squashed as grapes used for cheap wine. All that said, this album is super fun and fans of the original thrash period will find something to fall in love with. Strap in, this is one hell of a nostalgic ride.