THE DEMO CORNER
I was very impressed with Royal Thunder's self-titled debut EP. The band's brand of southern doom rock really hit the spot and was difficult to classify due to its unique sound. Ever since that 2010 release I have been waiting anxiously for a full-length; the EP showed tons of promise, but how would the band fare over the course of a whole album? After what felt like an eternity, the full-length has finally arrived in the form of CVI.
The previously mentioned EP was raw, sparse, and relatively simple. These were all traits that initially drew me to it and helped give it a unique style. As I began my first listen to CVI, I was a little turned-off by the fact that it had a much fuller sound. For some reason, I was caught off guard. Yet, this disappointment soon turned to delight as I continued to progress through the album for the first time and began to realize that this was the direction the band needed to take to achieve its potential.
Royal Thunder's new fuller sound makes CVI a much stronger album than it would have been if the band had chosen to stick with the softer sound of the EP. The thicker sound is partly due to the addition of a second guitarist, but it is also due to many more layers within the songs themselves. The parts are now thicker and more "involved." The tunes are much more dynamic and feature many types of contrast. For instance, the album utilizes loud versus quiet, tension versus release, and beauty versus violence. The ebbing and flowing of CVI helps engage the listener, whereas a more simple full-length built upon the model of the EP might not have fared as well. These changes also add more variety between each of the songs and make them instantly distinguishable and memorable. Even the songs that approach the ten minute mark are catchy and powerful throughout their duration. These longer tunes never lag and easily qualify as "epics." They certainly don't feel drawn-out just for the hell of it. Nine minutes of one of these songs can fly by as though it were a three-and-a-half-minute single.
Besides the song-writing itself, the instrumentation really adds to the power and individual character of CVI. The guitars are more distorted this time around and come off much heavier than on the EP. The original Royal Thunder style is still present in the guitars, but the parts are a little more intricate and varied. The guitar work now also employs more dissonance and drone which helps add to building tension within the tunes before it is released in a fury of distorted chords. Much like the EP, the drums are tasteful and a perfect fit. The well-chosen rhythms and accents combined with a "live" tone help the drums lock together flawlessly with the other instruments. Mlny Parsonz's bass fills out the bottom nicely underneath the jangly guitars, but where she truly shines is on the mic. All of the members of Royal Thunder make vital contributions that allow the band to unite as one mesmerizing unit, but in all honesty Mlny's voice is the focal point; it is even stronger and more versatile now. Her vocals can be soulful ("Parsonz Curse"), soft ("Minus"), or threatening ("Whispering World"); sometimes it's all of the above within one song, which shows her strengths as a singer. Parsonz also adds a new "riot grrrl" voice to her repertoire in "Whispering World." As with the EP, there are plenty of drool-worthy layered vocal harmonies that will surely be missed in the live setting. "Blue" even features some amazing "sour" vocal harmonies reminiscent of Alice in Chains.
Female-fronted doom and classic-rock influenced metal has been getting a lot of attention lately. While I love bands like Witch Mountain, Christian Mistress, and The Devil's Blood, CVI shows that Royal Thunder deserves as much attention if not more. Royal Thunder has begun to unleash its full potential through the broadened sound of this album and through its epic and emotional songs.
CVI is a nearly flawless album from start to finish, and it places Royal Thunder at the top of the heap as one of the most unique and impressive bands today. With CVI Royal Thunder proves that southern metal still has plenty of new ground to cover. It really doesn't get any better than this.
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1. Parsonz Curse
2. Whispering World
3. Shake and Shift
4. No Good
6. Sleeping Witch
7. South of Somewhere
10. Black Water Vision
Total playing time: 62:45
Release Date: May 22nd, 2012
Label: Relapse Records
Royal Thunder - CVI
June 2, 2012