If you have a soft spot for some of the great American metal of the '80s, like bands such as Queensryche, Savatage, Fates Warning, Cities, Omen, Cirith Ungol, Metal Church, Sanctuary, Lizzy Borden, and Warlord, then you'll need to make sure you get quickly acquainted with the debut from Sumerlands, which features the union of former Hour of 13/Atlantean Kodex vocalist Phil Swanson and guitarist/producer Arthur Rizk. Along with drummer Justin De Tore, guitarist John Powers, and bassist Brad Raub, this new band is a powerhouse of dark, melodic, and adventurous heavy metal, and their album is chock full of power, majesty, texture, and emotion.
Seriously, this is some great stuff, and you'll instantly recall the first time you heard the debut from Ghost, and how you just KNEW that band was going to go places. It's the same here with Sumerlands, a band that is just clicking on all levels throughout the album, with the musicianship as well as the songwriting just off the charts. Deliciously old school but still modern sounding, songs like "Timelash", "The Guardian", the catchy "Seal", and "Blind" crackle with energy, the blistering guitar leads weaving around some inventive riffing and intricate rhythms while the powerhouse vocals of Swanson either soar to the heavens or slay with menace. The melancholy "Sumerlands Haunted Forever" contains plenty of emotion to go along with a proggy sensibility, while "Spiral Infinite" rampages with some thunderous grooves and relentless riffs for a wild metal ride. The only real weak track here is the throwaway title cut, a 4-minute spooky instrumental that just seems like filler and a momentum killer.
Let's be honest here, a lot of bands get tagged with the 'retro' or 'throwback' tag, but in the end the songs have to not only offer up a vintage sound but also be memorable and kick ass at the same time. That is indeed the case here, as Sumerlands have done their homework and delivered a must hear debut that has signaled the arrival of a real player on the heavy metal scene. Highly recommended!
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2. The Guardian
5. Sumerlands Haunted Forever
6. Spiral Infinite
7. Lost My Mind