Sumerlands – Sumerlands (Relapse)

Sumerlands – Sumerlands (Relapse)

Not just an exercise in digging up the past...

Those of you in the know will, of course, remember that I featured Sumerlands in the first of my Crusade of Power columns a couple of months ago; In that little mini review I likened the band to such eighties luminaries as Icon and Malice, and, though I stand by my frothings from that piece, having lived with the album for a little while now I have to say that there’s a lot, lot more to this band than first meets the ear…

Of course what meets the ear is pretty good, too, and as the band opens with Seventh Seal and a guitar sound that can only really be referred to as being ‘from the Edward Van Halen sonic palette’ all listeners of a certain age will be strapping themselves in for what they know is going to be a wild ride…

…And it is. Led from the front by superb guitarist Arthur Rizk (who also produced the record) and the out of this world vocals of former Hour of 13 man Phil Carlson, Sumerlands have all your trad metal needs covered on their debut record. Carson’s slight Ozzy inflections have an instant warmth and familiarity to them – but make no mistake, this man can sing – whilst Rizk is a one-man guitar army with all the tricks in the book but, perhaps more importantly, the knowledge of how and when to best deploy them. His relentlessly good rhythm work is one of the highlights of an album that doesn’t really have any weak points (apart from brevity – it’s only half an hour long) , and the relentless chug at the end of Spiral Infinite will undoubtedly be one of my metal moments of 2016.

To say this is just a rehash of eighties metal however is to do the record injustice; there are moments of pure Warrior, or Fate’s Warning, for sure, but what you’re getting here is the absolute best of what was probably the best decade for straight up heavy metal. Which means you get the big snares, the avalanches of toms and enthusiastic employment of clawhammer guitar techniques, but you don’t get the annoying synth parping and over layered vocal performances that ended up suffocating and stifling the music at the latter end of that storied decade.

So, tracks like The Guardian and the excellent Blind absolutely stand on their own feats and bear repeated – and very close – inspection. I’m already looking forward to album number two, but in the meantime I’ll be enjoying Sumerlands and have no qualms in recommending it to all of you.

Ferry Templeton

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