It didn’t take long for Gaz Jennings to pick up a new project following the unfortunate demise of Cathedral. Recruiting former SerpentCult vocalist Michelle Nocon, Jennings formed Death Penalty. Filling out the lineup is SerpentCult drummer Fredrick “Cozy” Cosemans and Belgian bassist Raf Meukens. I wonder if Jennings likes waffles and beer in addition to Belgian musicians? Whatever the case, he couldn’t have surrounded himself with a better group.
Back in August Death Penalty released the Sign of Times 7” and while it was absolutely killer, it was also a tease. Like dangling a steak in front of a dog. Thankfully this self-titled debut didn’t take long to drop and satiate the hunger for a full course of guitar driven heavy rockin’ metal.
If you’re under the notion that this is going to sound like Cathedral with a different singer you can put that idea to rest. While the style that Jennings possesses is reflected in Cathedral, as it is with Death Penalty, this isn’t anywhere near as doom-laden. Jennings and Nocon are let loose with Cozy and Meukens providing ample encouragement.
After the very doomy intro “Grotesque Horizon” Death Penalty launch right into “Howling at the Throne of Decadence.” Hammering riffs chug along like a freight train running late in a very straight up metal way, while maintaining a shade of darkness. It ventures into epic territory with huge riffs and screaming solos introducing how Death Penalty are all about packing in the riffs. It’s also here that we’re graced with Nocon’s bewitching venom.
Not to downplay the contributions of the rhythm section but Jennings and Nocon are the stars of the show. If you’ve heard SerpentCult’s Weight of Light you know just how talented she is. With Death Penalty she utilizes both her sweet and sultry side as well as the savagery that complements the muscular energy coming from the band.
Dazzling solos from Jennings are to be expected and he never disappoints. Plenty of classic/traditional metal flavours are present as well as bountiful amounts of NWOBHM influence. It seems his crunchy tone and endless supply of riffs can tear shit up in any way he feels like. Including the way we’ve heard in Cathedral.
“Golden Tides” is a shining example of the band with a massive and groovy current running through it with lots of melody. “One That Dwells” is also a very doomy affair with an almost gothic feel carrying over from the creepiness of “Children of the Night.”
A definite highlight has to be “Immortal By Your Hand.” It’s got tremendous drive to its ripping NWOBHM style. Nocon is at her absolute best, snarly and pissed and letting it all out on a killer chorus.
Throughout the album the listener is privy to a plethora of explosive riffs and face-melting solos. Jennings is a treasure of undeniable guitar talent who also knows how to write ridiculously catchy and engaging songs. The guitar works burrows and ripples beneath the skin to invigorate the listener like a shot of adrenaline and reaffirm their faith in the almighty riff.
Death Penalty is all that you could ask for from Jennings post-Cathedral and more. Bringing the three talented Belgians on board to complete the band sounds like the best possible decision he could have made, especially in the case of Nocon. Her performance is commanding and saturated with heart. The energy put forth here is incredibly infectious and everyone involved is at the top of their game. Death Penalty is a must have for metal fans of all breeds but especially for those looking to fill a post-Cathedral void.
Released September 16, 2014 on Rise Above Records
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