Ever since I heard their song "Guardian" on MP3 last year, I have been talking up this band to anyone who will listen. After what seems like for-frigging-ever I finally have the full-length debut from BLACK MAJESTY in my greedy little fingers and I have to say it is fully as awesome as I was expecting.
When I first heard them, I though this band was like the second coming of FATES WARNING and that's not too bad an indicator of their overall sound. BLACK MAJESTY play crunchy, mostly midpaced Power Metal with much more complex arrangements than is usual for this type of band. They have an awesome guitar team and a wicked twin-axe attack that at times reminds me of old CRIMSON GLORY and at other times a bit of TAD MOROSE. The FATES WARNING comparisons are made even stronger by singer John Cavaliere's at times uncanny vocal resemblance to Ray Alder. Despite the dense compositions (with a distinct lack of generic anthemic choruses) these are excellent songs that do hang together coherently, though it will take a few listens before it all sinks in. This is an album I like better each time I hear it.
It's difficult to pick standouts, as these are all good tunes. "Fall Of The Reich" opens things up in grand style with excellent riffs and a memorable yet complex chorus. "Legacy" is a double-bass speedster, a bit more standard than the other tunes, but still enjoyable. "Guardian" is probably the best song here, with amazing musicianship and another atypical but instantly catchy chorus. I think there must be a rule that Australian bands have to do a song called "Sands Of Time", this one is a very good one, even if it takes a while to get into it. "Destination" is a short instrumental to give you a break before plunging into the second half of the CD which features monster cuts like "Colliding Worlds" and the show-stopping "Beyond Reality". This thing finally calms down a bit with the mostly acoustic "Lady Of The Lake", which closes the album on a high but more mellow note.
With the awesome vocals, rich and complex guitarwork and the overall depth and proficiency of the songwriting, what you have here is an album that just oozes class. The production is clear and sharp without sacrificing crunch and the musicianship is just spot on. This is an album that sounds pretty good the first time you listen, but every spin you hear something you didn't catch before and the end result is a very rewarding and satisfying listening experience. I am so pleased that this album lived up to the promise of the band's promo songs and now that they have arrived, I look for BLACK MAJESTY to make a major impression on the international scene. It's been a long time since QUEENSRYCHE were called "The Thinking Man's Metal Band", but I think we finally have another band worthy of the name. This is Metal for true connoisseurs of the form and while others may prefer the more accessible sounds of the HAMMERFALLs and GAMMA RAYs of the world, I will take BLACK MAJESTY any day. Stellar. (Online January 5, 2004)