Stallion – Slaves of Time Review

This Stallion album may have arrived at just the right time for the band’s review fortunes. Having made my way through middling (at best) retro metal albums from TerrifianT and Slaughter Messiah over the past month, my standards for this style of music may be lower than normal. That, or Stallion have managed to address the main complaints I had with their 2017 release, From the Dead. Song length, crappy drum sounds, and iffy vocals had me shaking my head. How about now, on their third album, Slaves of Time? Well, either these issues are fixed or I’m a much more forgiving reviewer today.

The band has definitely addressed two of the issues I had with From the Dead. Only one song exceeds the five-minute barrier, and the production is much better – not at all like many other bands that incorrectly think it’s cool to make an album sound like a worn out cassette. Rather than doing it all themselves this time, the band obtained outside help on the mixing from Marco Brinkmann, and he brings some professional polish to the table. The songwriting has been taken up a notch as well. Right from the anthemic opening of “Waking the Demons” to the frantic closing notes of “Meltdown,” the songs have bite, vitality, and compelling arrangements. Much like bands of yore that Stallion seek to emulate, we are graced with fist-banging anthems, riff-heavy speed metal, and even a token power ballad.

“No Mercy” and “Kill the Beast” are both blazing speed metal hymns, the former in the style of old Metallica, the latter a more harmonious blend of speed, power, and NWoBHM harmony. Album closer “Meltdown” has a definite Teutonic flair to it. The duelling guitars of Axxl and Clode are on point throughout Slaves of Time, delivering tasty riffs and solos in nearly every song. Even when the band settles down to groove, like on the Dirty Looks-ish “Time to Reload,” guitars are still the highlight of the song. Musically, Stallion’s best song is the epic power ballad “Die With Me,” a seven-minute beast that opens with subdued and clean guitar lines, but by the end has morphed into a killer double-time anthem with epic guitar solos. Color me more than satisfied with the music here.

This all sounds great so far, but we still haven’t talked about the elephant in the room. Namely, Pauly and his vocals. Sadly, while the band’s songwriting has matured, Pauly’s vocal delivery has not. At his best, his high-pitched wails actually do ring out trve and loud, and at times do hit that metallic sweet spot. Too often, however, he comes across as Gonzo the Muppet, going way too far down the caricature path. The biggest test comes on the lengthiest song, the power ballad “Die With Me.” Again, a great number, and I was wondering how the vocals would be for this style of song. Unfortunately, Pauly insists on warbling and shrieking in exactly the same manner as every other song. It makes me wonder if he thinks in that voice. It’s too bad, because some restraint is all that is holding Stallion back from bigger things.

This isn’t the easiest album to assign a rating to. One the one hand, I find little fault with 90% of the music on Slaves of Time. The songs are a step up from the usual retro dreck we are dealt. On the other hand, Pauly’s vocals take down 90% of the lyrics. That will be too much for most people to overcome despite the top-notch songs. If Stallion could just rein Pauly in a touch, they could leap to the fore of the new wave of old school metal bands. In the meantime, much like when I see my best friend’s new girlfriend, I’ll just smile, shake my head, and move along.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: High Roller Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 28th, 2020

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