Label: Nightmare Records
Release Date: March 27, 2012
There hasn’t been much reason to smile in Washington D.C. these last few years, but a light shines in the Capitol city, and that is A Sound of Thunder. The quartet, led by vocalist Nina Osegueda, along with guitarist Josh Schwartz, bassist Jesse Keen, and drummer Chris Haren, return with their second album, Out of the Darkness.
Produced by Kevin ‘131’ Gutierrez (Shinedown, While Heaven Wept, Deceased) at Assembly Line Studios in Virginia, Out of The Darkness sees the band moving well past 2011’s Metal Renaissance sonically speaking.
As a whole, Out of The Darkness is a tale of two albums, often times brilliant and adept, but at moments confused. Fortunately the former outweighs the latter by far. What elevates the entire project is frontwoman Osegueda. Her vocals are inspired and refreshing. For those metal fans who tune out to female vocalists, Osegueda’s gonna catch your ear. She sings like a devastating collision of the best voices metal has heard, more in line with the likes of Bruce Dickinson and Ronnie James Dio than Doro Pesch. While the band doesn’t delve into the highly female-fronted genre of symphonic and goth metal, she does at times evoke those styles, as she does numerous others. In fact, it is Osegueda’s chameleon-like vocal ability that helps breathe life into ASoT’s occasionally lesser song arrangements.
The album kicks off with the eight-and-a-half minute opus, “The Day I Die” which could very well have been an anthemic 70s hard rock classic. Even here I am torn. The song is undeniably dynamic, with a nice grooving riff and a stunning melodic chorus, but the three-plus minute breakdown which stretches it out borders on self-indulgent. Yet that’s exactly what our favorite bands of the 70s did. This is a stellar first impression for the album and it give a clear showcase of the band as a whole and the wealth of talent in Osegueda’s muscular pipes. They keyboard nuances and atmospheric textures add real depth to the song and give it a darkness and depth that’s almost introspective.
“The Nightwitch” begins with a gloomy nightmarish soundscape of an urban legend made real. Osegueda recalls Within Temptation‘s Sharon den Adel here, but the song doesn’t get lost in that genre, though it does tread along that path. The verse riffs are classic metal, and Schwarztz throws down some nice solo work here.
Next up is “Kill That Bitch”. Break out some crackers, cause there’s some serious cheese on this one. Seriously, they rhyme “slut” with “Pizza Hut”. Nina gets vocally playful with it, and manages to keep it in the ballpark lest it fly over the fence into parking lot of parody. Still, it’s a quirky bit of fun, tongue-in-cheek, but a questionable addition, perhaps better left as a bonus track.
The album’s first single and video is for the track “Murderous Horde” which takes another dark lyrical twist similar to “The Nightwitch”. Sonically, this one has a more modern feel than the album’s first few tracks.
“A Sound of Thunder” is an anthem for the band’s wall of auditory mayhem. Though one could say the band’s name is simply a descriptor of Osegueda’s voice, which is once again impressive and massive on this track.
Legendary Raven frontman, John Gallagher turns up for a duet with Nina on the album’s title track. Perhaps no other vocalists could have blended so well on this song. The duo have a certain vocal chemistry. More excellent shredwork from Schwartz here, and Haren just thunders along, lockstep with Keen’s rumble.
“Fight Till The End” is another in-your-face metal anthem that gets the neck twitching to headbang, while “Calat Alhambra” has an epic feel to it. Spanish tones flavor this track, which takes us on a journey with its progressive tendrils winding throughout. At its heart is a galloping riff which propels the song forward, and Osegueda evokes a wonderful traditional Spaniard-style vocal. Like the opening track, the band extends this song with a nicely done jam on the breakdown.
On “This Two Shall Pace” the pace is slowed, and we get to hear the softer, more vulnerable side of Osegueda’s voice. Yet even here she sounds as if a cacophony of fury is running like a current just beneath her ethereal vocals.
The album’s closer starts with a tasty acoustic moment before a classic metal build. Here again, another solid song, but at eight-and-a-half minutes, like the album’s opener, it tends to lose focus at times. Unlike the lead-off track it’s not as memorable.
In all, A Sound of Thunder has created an important album with Out of the Darkness. One which reminds us of our metal roots, while embracing the best of all the genre’s eras. The musicianship is first-rate, and as I’ve said repeatedly, Osegueda’s skills at the mic make one drop the “female-fronted” tag. This is simply one serious kick-ass new metal outfit bound to turn some heads. Out of the Darkness is the first hammer to fall for A Sound of Thunder.
Recommended tracks: The Day I Die, Murderous Horde, Out of The Darkness and Calat Alhambra