A Sound Of Thunder – Out Of The Darkness – Review

A Sound Of Thunder is a band from the local Northern Virginia area, which I have seen perhaps three or four times over the past year, and each time has been better than the last, but I think the real potential of the band is now laid bare for all to see with the release of “Out Of The Darkness”. So what are we dealing with here? Formed in 2008, we have a 4-piece metal band fronted by Nina Osegueda on vocals, with Josh Schwartz on guitar, Jesse Keen on bass and Chris Haren on drums.

Confession time – there are very few female fronted bands I have any time for – off the top of my head Doro Pesch is perhaps the only other female metal vocalist I might bother with. The remainder seem to fall into one of two categories; grunters or screechers (I guess some call this operatic…), neither of which does anything for me. Strangely, I once played in a female fronted band back in the 80’s called Targa. I think we characterized ourselves as melodic thrash, but I digress.

A Sound Of Thunder (ASoT) have turned up a real find with Nina, and this album really provides a showcase for her abilities, giving her a platform that ranges from the mellow “This Shall Pass” to an almost punky, harder edge on “Kill That Bitch”. Everything in between delivers a really solid dose of mainstream metal in the mold of Bruce Dickinson, Udo Dirkschnider and Rob Halford. However, while the attention might be on Nina, without the powerful and solid guitar playing from Josh, the record would fall flat. Josh really shows us how to deliver the classic metal riff on this record and it is surprising that ASoT is his first band. For someone with such a polished delivery, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see a list of previous bands as long as the guitar neck he so ably exercises. Underpinning each track, Jesse and Chris anchor the band with a rock solid foundation, doing exactly the job they are there to do – and when they are let loose they pound with the best of ‘em.

The production on this album is crisp and clear, being handled by Kevin “131” Gutierrez (Shinedown, Deceased), and delivers a final vibe that is both current but very much rooted in classic metal. Think of any Black Sabbath or Deep Purple record from the 70’s and you won’t be far from the feeling you get.

The opening track creeps up on you with a swirling keyboard, which becomes a howling guitar, into a classic Sabbath-esq, doom-laden riff, that sets the scene for Nina to open the proceedings and we get a glimpse of all that is to follow with classic metal vocal that soars into the chorus. Some might say kicking an album off with an 8-minute opus takes balls and on some level that would be fair, there is no fast-food, quick-relief in this opening number, but then I think that is what ASoT wanted. You are required to listen. The extended middle section of this track, builds to a crescendo and then pulls the intensity way down to an almost jam-like instrumental section that has Deep Purple and Pink Floyd written all over it. Without the excellent production job I could easily see the longer tracks on the album becoming messy and confusing (there are three tracks that exceed 8 minutes!), but that is never allowed to happen and to be honest the longer tracks are perhaps the most rewarding.

Track two, “The Nightwitch”, picks up the pace after a lilting intro and gets us into a more basic metal mode, but again the chorus pulls you in with a melody that instantly locks itself into your head. Take a moment to listen to the lyrics, there’s some nice work there and throughout the album as a whole.

Now it seems the third track has been a little polarizing in other reviews of this album. For me, “Kill That Bitch” is the perfect foil for the more intense, dare I say it, serious tracks that sit alongside this one. The first time I heard this it caught my ear with the story of a jealous girlfriend enticing her would-be lover to kill – to those that missed it – this is supposed to be fun! And fun it is. Here we find Nina sounding punky, psychotic and menacing all at once. I particularly like the line “If tonight we make it to Vegas, we can get Alice Cooper to marry us”. Nicely done.

The title track brings us Chris Haren’s double-bass drums powering along a track that flies and brings us a soaring duet between Raven’s John Gallagher and Nina. John happens to live in the Northern Virginia area and this is a great match with vocal acrobatics from both singers. Magic. It’s great to hear John sounding so good. I also want to mention some very tasty guitar work from Josh on this track; the solo is perhaps one of the best on the record.

“Calat Alhambra” is another epic that gives Nina another opportunity to work on us with her great lyrical ability, this time pulling on Spanish history to tell us the tale of the Spanish Queen Isabella during the Reconquista. This track perhaps reveals the most progressive metal influences of any here, with no holds from Josh with another sharp solo and some tasteful classical guitar to close the track.

“Fight Until The End” takes us back to some more basic metal, and has one of those annoyingly catchy riffs that just gets stuck in your head. This track grooves with a swagger of a band that knows they’ve got “it” and delivers yet another damn catchy chorus. I suspect this will become a real live favorite, just because it so easy to bang your head to…

The next track is another twist, and “This Too Shall Pass” provides a perfect vehicle for the mellower side of Nina’s voice to be brought to the forefront and smooth as silk it is. Complete with strings and very nicely done orchestration, the whole song slips into your ears in kind of the same way a perfectly aged single-malt scotch slides down your throat. Again, some other reviews have questioned the inclusion of this track since it presents a bit of a challenge, but for me it works to provide a balance and a moment to reflect.

The ten tracks here are closed with “Discovery”, the last of the 8 minute epics, which contains a nod in the direction of classic Iron Maiden at times, particularly in the guitar break around the three minute mark. The song then winds back the pace and builds without rushing allowing the full musicality of the entire band to shine.

So we have a lot to praise here, but what of the dark-side? Surely I’m not suggesting perfection, and no, that would be misleading too. Where there is any criticism, it is not at the individual track level, but more so at the big picture. An album is a collection of songs and the only (small) concern I have comes to the surface when I look at all 10 tracks presented here. As noted, opening the CD with an 8 minute long epic is not for the faint hearted, and furthermore including another two equally long numbers might get a little heavy going for some. Given the simplicity of “Fight Until The End” and “Kill That Bitch” there is a hint of disjointedness. It’s almost as if there’s a question swirling around within the bands collective mind as to whether or not they want to commit to a more progressive path or hold onto the more classic heavy metal core. Currently it seems both plates are up and spinning – the trick is going to be deciding how to resolve this. Can ASoT merge the two, or will they pick one?

The really good news is whatever path the band takes looks likely to work fine. Nina’s vocals are up to the job, no matter what – in fact it’s hard to see what she couldn’t sing. As for the rest of ASoT, each of them has established an unequivocal claim to their place in the band with perfectly delivered performances all round. I understand the next album is already in the works, so I am excited to see where the next record takes the band.

So to close, what we have here is a very well executed mainstream metal album that really should be in every rock fans collection. Approach this with ears wide open and I think any metal fan will find themselves listening to this over and over.

My score for A Sound Of Thunder “Out Of  The Darkness” – a  very solid 8.5/10.

Band website: http://www.asoundofthunderband.com/

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