Voice of the Cult – 4/5
The release that sparked my discovery, featuring the impressive Kate French; the vocalist with more balls than a sports shop who would later go on to front ‘Vainglory,’ and a superb match for the brains behind the operation, guitar mastermind David T. Chastain (who has since gone on to release numerous Neo-classical/Fusion albums). Whilst they may follow the general format of many of the other more aggressive Heavy Metal artists (e.g. Jag Panzer, Omen), bordering on the fringes of the start of Power Metal, with their female vocalist and unusual style adopted by the guitarist, this isn’t just another ‘classic,’ but one with a unique tone that still proves visible today.
This is no light affair, with the riffs coming in thick, fast and furious, and shredded solo’s galore, he never compromises on the melody, this entire album ranks with the most powerful the genre had to offer at the time. Taking turns with the vocals, performing short fills between vocal lines and his more basic chord progressions, he lends a surprising variety in his style of playing, not merely shredding like many others. The drumming keeps the time, adding a limited amount of flare to the proceedings and, the bass makes a notable contribution, particularly during the many solos.
But whilst this may all go to ranking them with the better in the genre, it does nothing to separate them from the pack. Instead, this comes from a combination of two aspects; the often unusual guitar tone adopted, the unusual almost folk-like twang in ‘Voice of the Cult’ for example, lending a unique quality to his playing, even his solos feeling more than just mere scales, capable of an excellent variety of tempo to the proceedings. The final unusual aspect is of course the vocals, powerfully capable of providing a superb, addictive soaring melody and epic-toned chorus lines; this truly is one of the forgotten gems of 80s metal.
Highlights: The Voice of the Cult, Fortune Teller, Evil for Evil
Ruler of the Wasteland – 4.5/5
But lets assume all that wasn’t aggressive enough for you; you wanted more frantic riffs and solos, more shrieking vocals coming through a cacophony of raw-sounding drums. All one needs to do is look two years earlier to their last days with ‘Leather Leone’ at the helm and you’ll find more of the same nail-biting, head banging heavy metal, with all their influences pushed out a little further. The guitars carry more bite, the vocals have more power, the drums are more energetic (even getting their own short solo) and their unique flirtations with other genres make themselves more readily known with the funk-like riffs in “The King Has the Power.”
The tracks too remain remarkably varied in tone, from the ultimately slow and evil toned ‘Angel of Mercy,’ anthemic ‘Fighting to Stay Alive’ or shredded title track, for all these notable improvements to their later work, it still remains flawed. The vocals at times become grating, shrill in her tone, whilst she has greater versatility than ‘French’ who would replace her, she lacks the thickness of voice at her higher pitch to avoid this issue. The production is also notably rawer in tone, lacking the comfortable warmth that makes their later work all the more enticing and memorable. This is one of those releases that could benefit greatly from a re-master, but nonetheless this would remain a valuable addition to any fan of the genre.
Highlights: Fighting to Stay Alive, Angel of Mercy, Living in a Dreamworld