Is it really that time of year already? Well, not quite, but Steel Druhm needs to correct a grievous error. I admit when I blow it and entirely miss a worthwhile release. I may do so grudgingly and with bitterness, but I do it. Well, this may be my biggest miss ever, since Trail of Murder is not only a great band, but features one of my all time favorite singers, Urban Breed (ex-Tad Morose, ex-Bloodbound). After my review of the latest (and quite disappointing) opus from Tad Morose, I was alerted to the existence of this band and their debut by both an AMG reader and the band’s drummer Pelle Akerlind (Bloodbound, Morgana LeFay). Apparently released with little fanfare by Metal Heaven in late 2012, Shades of Art is a winning mixture of late period Tad Morose (think Modus Vivendi) and Bloodbound‘s Tabla Rasa with some Queensryche and Shadow Gallery mixed in for shits and giggles. It’s everything I wanted the new Tad Morose album to be, and it even features their former guitarist Daniel Olsson. It’s heavy enough to satisfy, addicting as hell and Urban Breed reaffirms why he’s one of the best in the business with a HUGE performance. Better late than never, eh?
The opening title track is a old school beast of pure metal with Breed’s big vocals providing plenty of power and punch in what is a very immediate, hooky tune. It’s in line with the better Bloodbound material and possible a bit better. It screams replay and gets the ball rolling with aplomb. From there you get the earwormy charm of “Lady Don’t Answer,” the darker, melancholy of “I Know Shadows” (which could have been on Tad Morose‘s Undead) and the slick, but edgy “Nightmares I Stole.” Then there’s the cool-as-hell way “Child of Darkest Night” expertly mashes up Operation Mindcrime era Queensryche with vintage Tad Morose for a real slobberknocker of a ditty. I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the anthemic kick in the arse provided by “Some Stand Alone” and “Higher.”
I’m a big Urban Breed fanboy and never has he disappointed me with a performance, so it’s no surprise that he takes this collection of well-written, catchy songs and blows the fucking roof off of them. The man his pipes til Tuesday (of NEXT week) and he’s a pro at knowing when to turn the gravelly, Dio side of his voice on and off so it never gets overdone. The guy just has that “it factor” and he could sing the scripts from 1970s Mexican soap operas and make them sound classy. Daniel Olsson and Hasse Eismar provide plenty of heavy, razor-sharp riffs and some surprisingly delicate solo work, and to their credit, though this is very straight-forward, catchy material, they manage to keep it hard with their thick, crunching axe-work.
It isn’t often that you get an album with twelve tunes of equally high quality, but that’s what Trail or Murder deliver on Shades of Art. If you hated the last Bloodbound (which I surely did) and feel let down by the new Tad Morose (id.), this is exactly the elixir of excellence you need. If I heard this last year it certainly would have made my “Best of 2012” list and that oversight is a big ugly blot on my permanent record. Thanks to those who showed me the error of my ways and introducing me to a great album. Track this thing down as Steel Druhm chains himself to the Rock of Metallic Shame.