Tyrant – Hereafter Review

Aside from the enigmatic Brocas Helm, Tyrant may be one of the least prolific American metal bands ever. Starting out in 1978, the band dropped their Legions of the Dead debut in 851, followed by their best known, most respected work, 87s Too Late to Pray2. Both were no-nonsense platters of traditional metal in the vein of early Jag PanzerVirgin Steele, and the sadly forgotten Cities. Though I always considered Tyrant a second tier act, they delivered some enjoyable meat n’ taters metal with a healthy side of cheddar. After Too Late they went radio silent and I forgot about them in the fullness of time. Apparently they released a comeback album in 96 which I only just found out about because they’re attempting a  brand new comeback, the result of which was just hauled out of the promo sump like a waterlogged carcass. Hereafter is their second ‘back from the dead’ effort, this time featuring Rob Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus and Candlemass fame in place of original vocalist, Glenn May. So what has 24 years of inactivity done to Tyrant? Well, they’ve adopted a heavier, doomier sound that compliments Rob Lowe’s delivery, sounding somewhat reminiscent of Sabbath’s Heaven and Hell era. Style shift aside, it’s still 100% pure 80s-centric metal without artifice, untouched by the decades of evolution the genre has undergone. In a way Hereafter is the ultimate time capsule album. It could have been released any year from 1980 to 1989 and it would have fit right in. It’s here now though, so let’s carbon date the fook out of it.

After a nostalgia grabby intro, the new olde sound of Tyrant is unveiled on “Dancing on Graves.” It’s like a form of upbeat quasi-doom anchored in classic 80s metal. Amid the burly riffs and Rob Lowe’s always great vocals, I hear traces of early Helstar dancing through the cemetery, which is always a good thing. It’s effective in a simplistic, uncluttered way, and one of the best cuts on offer. “The Darkness Comes” is also good, with meaty riffs driving the gravy train as Rob emotes in a most metal way. The nagging issue across these tracks is the length. Despite both songs running just over 5 minutes, there’s a feeling they’re still too long. You get everything the band is doing within the first 2 minutes and the stripped down, bare bones compositions work, but they just keep going and become overly repetitious. Naturally, the 8-plus minute title track poses similar problems. It’s akin to the epic doom-ballads Dio did so well with Sabbath like “Children of the Sea,” replete with great guitar-work and vocals, but the song idles in the same parking spot for too long before finding the off ramp.

If it sounds like Hereafter is a miss, it isn’t. Even with some editing flubs, most of the songs are good and some are very good. “Until the Day” is like a rocking Candlemsss number and Rob is especially in his wheelhouse here, belting out his lines backed by powerful leads and doomy, groovy swagger. Likewise, “When the Sky Falls” is a riff-driven winner with a nicely anthemic feel. While no song is a loss, the Solitude Aeturnus-esque punch of closer “From the Tower” is minimized by the feeling that it ends before it should, which is especially frustrating on an album with several songs that DON’T end when they should. All that said, the band’s new direction is effective. It’s like a beginner’s guide to doom – heavy but not too slow or crushing. Doom-lite if you will, and it works for them, especially with Mr. Lowe on board to Always Be Closing.

With a production handled by big money studio luminary, Bill Metoyer, Hereafter sounds quite good. The guitar has weight and bite, and the drums have a satisfying punch. Rob’s vocals are prominent but not overly so, and everything sits together well. Mr. Lowe brings a big dose of class and polish to the Tyrant sound, and while I always enjoyed Glenn May’s over-the-top vocals, Rob makes the material feel far more serious and somber. Original guitarist Rocky Rockwell is a talented chap and does a fine job adapting his style to the album’s doomier approach. He drops some impressive playing into the cracks and joints, connecting them all with simple but memorable riff-work. Tyrant still has it after all these years, and if they would trim the gristle off the songs, they’d be delivering the more impactful goods.

I can’t say I expected much from Tyrant after so long on the sidelines, but I’m enjoying Hereafter, warts, liver spots and skin tabs notwithstanding. I’m suddenly back on the Tyrant train again 30 years after I last disembarked, and it feels like home. I’ll be looking forward to their next album circa 2035.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7  | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Shadow Kingdom
Website: facebook.com/tyrant
Releases Worldwide: May 15th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which sported one of the worst album covers of all time.
  2. Which also featured a really bad cover, but one that now seems interestingly black metal in hindsight.
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