Label:Gates of Hell
Beauty and the Beast
Despite the abundance of good traditional stuff in the current metal scene, some bands still manage to stand tall above the rest as a major step up in quality, something that sounds like a classic immediately. Traveler manage to reach this plateau of the ages on their split with Coronary. Traveler have produced three immediately memorable, shredding, melodic, just balls-out awesome tracks of pure adrenaline on their side of this split. Traveler is a heavily melodic traditional metal band. Taking the lead in this department is vaunted vocalist Jean-Pierre Abboud, formerly of Borrowed Time and currently doing double-duty in Gatekeeper. He is an absolute monster. One part of modern trad that I often decry is the lack of high quality vocalists/vocal melodies. A band can have all the riffs in the world, but a vocalist who can really belt it out takes bands to another level. Many of the greatest heavy metal bands ever were elevated by note only their fantastic instrumentals, but by legendary vocalists (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Mercyful Fate, Rainbow, the list goes on). I’m not sure that JP Abboud is quite at that level yet, but he is cut from the same cloth as those fellas. He is bombastic, has supreme control over his voice, and can change the mood seemingly at ease. He can go from a gentle, haunting croon to an ear shattering scream in the blink of an eye and also has a compelling rasp. Overall he puts on a tour de force performance, and many of the most bone-chilling moments on this album are as a direct result of his screeching. See the pre-chorus, chorus, and third verse of “Behind the Iron,” the chorus of “Mindless Maze,” or the whole damn running time of “Starbreaker” for a taste of what this man can do. Now that I think about it Traveler’s whole side is a real showcase for JP and you should be listening to the whole thing right now if you know what’s good for you.
Luckily, JP isn’t the only one who brought his a-game on this split. Matt Ries’s guitar playing is remarkable. He’s just as comfortable writing meaty, gritty riffs as he is writing more flowery, melodic lines. There is a speed metal urgency to his playing across a lot of the split that injects a lot of aggression into the guitars. A few of his riffs are essentially riff shredding, speedy riffs that have really tricky melodic parts thrown in. And they are exhilarating. Though the riffs don’t really sound at all like Satan, Ries’s reliance on complex melodic riffs mixed with more straightforward XXXXXX does recall how Satan did their thing on Court in the Act and the like. His solos are just as good as the riffs, winding through many different beautiful sections that take each song to new heights. Jan Loncik’s drumming is mostly unremarkable across the album. He is clearly a step below the other two guys on this recording. Thankfully, their playing is so good that Loncik really only had to show up and have some modicum of training in rhythm to make this a spectacular split, and that he did.
I am beyond excited for what Traveler will do next. This is an all too brief glimpse of what I believe is going to be another modern classic heavy metal band. Traveler rating: 9
I’m going to admit, Coronary is absolutely overshadowed by Traveler on this release. With such an amazing performance by their opposite side compatriots, Coronary were just about doomed to failure on this release. And unfortunately, they aren’t just overshadowed by Traveler, they’re not all that good in their own right. Coronary are kind of a generic 80’s heavy metal band with some speed influence. Unfortunately, I don’t love Olli Kärki’s vocals, which puts a damper on the whole affair. I suppose they are passable, but they sound too much like a cheesy 80’s vocalist to me…And they remind me of Sammy Hagar..which is not good. They’re not terrible—they won’t make your ears bleed or anything—but they’re not great. The guitars produce some decent riffs, even if they are pretty run of the mill. The guitars kind of remind me of generic 80’s stuff as well, unfortunately. The driving intro of Bullet Train almost reminds me of Mötley Crüe, complete with some killswitch guitar playing. It doesn’t help that the lyrics are cheesy as all get out, comparing the vocalist’s love (or penis?) to a bullet train. Luckily the guitar solos are pretty good, even if they’re a little repetitive. Completing the 80’s generics, Mestengo starts off with the sound of a super cool car starting up. The guys actually produce a pretty decent groove to start off the song, but things quickly begin to sound like a Van Halen cover band once the verse proper kicks in.
There’s not much that is salvageable on Coronary’s side of the split. Everything just sounds a bit generic. Nothing stands out as being particularly good, with the vocals being particularly unpleasant. They make me think of like if your dad and his friends started a metal band and you went to go see them at the bar. You go and see them to be nice, and you keep your comments friendly, but in reality you really wish that this band didn’t exist. At least you’ve got Traveler on the other side! Coronary rating: 5
Overall rating: 7