By Bill Adams
It’s incredible how much musical values change depending upon which genre a band gets classed under. Obviously retro styling is almost universally abhorred in pop unless such trappings are used to instil a sense of irony, while rock tends to revere them. In punk, whenever a band looks back to either check where their motion is headed or pull a little more than their share of old school information to the forefront, the reception can be very touch and go depending on what the band’s peer group is doing; in that case, it’s a pack mentality and it shifts regularly. In metal though, vintage sounds are not only looked upon fondly, entire sub-genres are dedicated to them; as much as some fans are interested in new ideas, there’s an equal appeal in “the way things used to be.”
Perhaps that nostalgic value is what makes Priestess’ sophomore album, Prior to The Fire, such a welcome change. While the band showed a better-than-healthy love of tradition and wore that fact like a badge on its sleeves on their debut, there was something out of place on Hello Master that kept it from breaking through completely. There may have been some crossover sound that derailed the band’s blend of classic metal and stoner rock or some other faltering point that would foul the band’s plan but, this time, Priestess has nailed it; on Prior to The Fire there are no gaffes or hiccups, only a consistent hard rock drive.
Priestess sets its sights on target right away with “Lady Killer.” With sludgy-sounding but meticulously executed guitars and singer Mikey Heppner’s nasaloid drag, Priestess recalls all that was best about heavy metal circa 1978 (think Ozzy fronting Sabbath or Judas Priest rocking out in John Lennon’s living room and you’ll be feeling it) and projects it back faithfully and large as life into the mind’s eye of anyone listening. There’s nothing fresh at all about it but, because the sound aligns perfectly with the image and it hasn’t been seen or heard so faithfully for so long, it all comes across as frsh as it was the first time. This could only be the work of true believers and it holds up really, really well.
It also holds true for the ten tracks that follow “Lady Killer.” Priestess must know they’re onto something as they blaze their way through songs like “Racoon Eyes” (where Heppner knowingly snaps out the words “The future’s mine” before burning the whole thing down with a phenomenal solo – it’s hard not to believe in that), “The Firebird,” the ploddingly classic “The Gem” and the raucous “We Ride Tonight.” In each case, the band goes for broke as thy re-visit the classic crunch of the metal gods (Sabbath, Priest, maybe a little Coda-vintage Zep and even a little Ted Nugent for good measure) and smoothly slide into the suit they’ve been so desperately wanting to fill for the last six years. That said, Prior to The Fire is earnest but it’s easy to like, solid and tight. Everything just falls into place for Priestess in a charmed way on Prior to The Fire; it’s the ideal introduction to the band, and a calling card release.
(Indica [Canada]; Tee Pee [USA])
Album review courtesy of groundcontrolmag.com