Label : Nightmare Records
Review by Alessandro Narcissus
American heavy metallers A Sound of Thunder are a young yet fast growing act. Fronted by powerful and charismatic lead singer Nina Osegueda, this Washington D.C.-based quartet has released three records – an EP, a non-album charity single and its first full-length – between 2009 and 2011, and shows no signs of slowing down. A Sound of Thunder‘s challenge this year is to confirm the positive impression they’ve given with their critically acclaimed debut album “Metal Renaissance”, which they accepted releasing their sophomore album, “Out of the Darkness”. Will they overcome it? Well, first of all let’s state this clear: in a crowded scene such as that of female-fronted metal, the only means to survive is a strong identity. With this record, A Sound of Thunder proved to have their own with a well balanced, captivating blend of different elements that, by drawing from a wide range of genres, creates a unique, unmistakable sound. We can basically define this recording a power metal-influenced hard rock album which enriches its hues with progressive digressions, gothic touches (used in a very classy, non-clichéd way), even going as far as getting jazzy or slightly folkish at times, including some virtuosity every now and then which, for a change, really fit the songs rather than being pretentious. Moreover, all the instruments, supported by the crystal-clear production of Kevin “131″ Gutierrez, are perfectly balanced and each of them gets the right recognition: Nina Osegueda‘s powerful, versatile vocals become a fitting completion to the other instruments rather than dominating them; Jesse Keen‘s keyboards add many different flavours without being overwhelming or drowning the rest; Josh Schwartz‘s guitars are heavy and smacking without sounding pretentious, and even his solos are truly functional to the song structure rather than being thrown in just for the sake of showcasing his ability; finally, the rhythmic patterns provided by Chris Haren‘s drums and Jesse Keen‘s bass provide variation and avoid being boring, but without getting abstruse or hard to follow. The songs are well designed to stand out individually while giving a cohesive yet not flat ensemble, with only a couple of unremarkable episodes. Some of them venture into more progressive territories, while others exploit old formulas by taking and performing them at their best. The opener, “The Day I Die”, is a true killer track that immediately sticks the listener to the record by providing variety and freshness, filling each of its 8 minutes with something worth its length. With its jazzy guitars and soulish keyboards, it’s an immediate statement: this record is not going to sound like the same old stuff. The second track, “The Night Witch”, is a perfect example of old formulas used in a clever way: it opens with a creepy keyboard melody that manages to avoid sounding clichéd despite its music box flavour, which quickly makes room to a catchy hard-rocking tune with a dynamic verse, a really enjoyable and memorable chorus and a praiseworthy guitar solo. The next songs, “Kill That Bitch” and “Murderous Horde”, confirm the high level of this record, the former with a distinctive hard-rocking sound powered by a simple yet interesting rythmic pattern, the latter with haunting backing vocals that make it sound cinematic, but without overdoing. The eponymous “A Sound of Thunder” showcases the band’s power metal influences in a non-garish way, despite the agressive vocals being a bit annoying at times. Unfortunately, the experiment is not equally successful with the title track, “Out of the Darkness”, whose tacky outright power metal structure, which includes pretty much all the most annoying clichés of the genre without anything diverse to dilute them, makes it the least remarkable song of the album. Generally speaking, this song marks the beginning of the second half of the album, which is slightly duller than the previous despite having its memorable episodes. For instance, the clearly gothic-influenced, a bit clichéd intro of the eight-minute long “Calat Alhambra” may seem pointless, but it works perfectly as a cheesy appetizer that lowers the listener’s expectations to surprise him with a complex, enjoyable and outstanding song. Nevertheless, the subsequent “Fight Until the End” is a rather canonical heavy metal anthem which, despite not being bad, does not add any particular value to the record. Although occasionally skimming over cheesiness, the semi-acoustic guitar and cello-driven “This Too Shall Pass” avoids being a random ballad thrown in just to have a slow song in the bunch and manages to sound, all in all, genuine. It also sets the mood for the sophisticated conclusion of the album: the longest track of the set, “Discovery” summarizes the whole album, giving an insight of all the different elements that make this record stand out and going down smooth despite its length. Besides the technical skills of the musicians, the real strength of this album is a solid songwriting that blends a whole host of influences, something that’s further emphasized by the fact that the only missteps in the album are those two songs that cling to a particular genre without providing variety. “Out of the Darkness” is a rich kaleidoscope that manages to add flavour to classic hard rock and heavy metal, bring some freshness to gothic and power metal elements and present progressive metal in an easily listenable fashion. It’s designed to satisfy fans of many different genres without scaring them with unfamiliar elements, but does so in a genuine, non-calculated way which, together with the uniqueness A Sound of Thunder proved to have, is the only true strength a band can rely on today.
Rating – 80/100
- The Day I Die
- The Night Witch
- Kill That Bitch
- Murderous Horde
- A Sound of Thunder
- Out of the Darkness
- Calat Alhambra
- Fight Until the End
- This Too Shall Pass
- Nina Osegueda – Vocals
- Josh Schwartz – Guitars
- Jesse Keen – Bass, Keyboards
- Chris Haren – Drums
Interview by Alessandro Narcissus
We have already have the occasion to promote A Sound of Thunder with the review of the self titled debut EP in 2009 and before that with the demo’s review of Blood Corps, now instead it’s time to give voice to “Out of Darkenss”, the second album by US heavy metallers A Sound of Thunder, so we took a chance to ask some questions to Nina Osagueda, let’s see what she has to say about it….
Hi Nina! How are you and how is the promotion for the new album going so far?
Hi! I’m doing great. Promotion is going well, looks like we’re getting lots of great reviews and I’m really excited to know how many people are enjoying the album.
The first thing that strikes the eye is how fast A Sound of Thunder is growing, with four valid releases in four years. What’s the secret of such an abundant creativity? How can you be so productive without missing a single hit?
I think the secret is really just that we all love what we do. We have so many ideas because we keep wanting to do more more more, and it’s harder for us to stop writing then to keep writing! We’ve got at least two more albums worth of material already written, and we’re never short of ideas. Since all of us enjoy the songwriting process, it’s probably our greatest strength and deterrent.
Typical question now: would you please introduce to us the new album and its themes? What does the title stand for, what are the songs about?
The title stands for the album as a whole. Each of the songs deal with life and death and your reaction to it, from fear, to comedy, to sadness. We wanted to express the fact that from darkness, there is light, which is why we write about death so often. There’s more than one day to talk about death.
What I appreciate the most while listening to “Out of the Darkness” is its wide range of diverse influences and blend of different styles. How do you manage to keep track of all those sounds during the creative process without having them overlap one another?
I think it’s just a matter of us wanting to do a lot of different things as the mood strikes us. Each of us comes from a different background, so there are times when one of us is in the mood for blues, or power metal, or classic rock. So we’ll write a song in that vein and it will feel right, so we’ll keep it. We don’t believe in limiting ourselves to a specific genre because we hate the idea of being repetative.
With every release, an artist learns new things and grows. How did the experience you made with the recording and release of “Metal Renaissance” help you with the new album?
It helped us to learn how our music can be refined in the studio. With our first album, we recorded the old fashioned way, on tape, with little to no editing. All of my takes were straight through recorded and the sound was nice and raw. However, we had a lot of things we weren’t able to do because recording on tape is quite limiting, so while it was a good learning experience, it didn’t provide us with all of the options we desired.
While not being excessively boosted by the production and having the right place among the other instruments, your vocals are a striking feature in this album. Your style is very versatile and you can easily switch from a more soaring to a more aggressive style. Are you a trained singer or are you self-taught?
I’m mostly self taught. I learned to sing from listening to my hero, Aretha Franklin. The way I felt, if I could imitate what she could do, I knew I could be good. By the time I was a senior in high school, I’d already been a soloist for gospel and traditional choirs and was singing with the Washington Opera as my age permitted. However, I wanted to get better, and I was playing with the idea of being a professional opera soloist. So, I took a few private lessons to learn arias that I might use for auditioning purposes. Not long after, I started college, and I didn’t have time to continue with the opera business. In college, I learned to appreciate metal, so I took all my experiences and influences from opera to rhythm and blues, and used them to create my own sound.
They say you can’t judge something from the cover, but that of “Out of the Darkness” is really outstanding and deserves a mention. Can you tell us about the idea behind it and how it was developed?
When searching for an appropriate cover for our new album, the guys and I wanted an image that could be interpreted in different ways. We were struck by the art and found that each of us could give it a different story, so we purchased it based on that.
How is the live activity going? How are the fans’ reactions to the songs performed live? Do you like to make some variations when playing a gig to add a different flavour that will make the live experience unforgettable even if compared to the album?
We get pretty great reactions live and playing live is probably the greatest feeling ever. We do sound a little different on stage, since we only utilize one guitarist. However, that seems to give us more of the raw sound that we enjoy and makes us work harder to produce a full experience. To make it unforgettable, I ham it up on stage. I crack jokes, grab guys by the collar, strike poses, and generally act like a tiny tyrant dictator.
The so called “female-fronted” scene is something that originated in the mid-Nineties and grew esponentially during the 2000′s. Did you find it hard to start basically anew in this new decade and find your own “living space” in such a crowded bunch?
I sort of find it hard for us to separate ourselves from people’s expectations. They see me as a female and expect one thing, and I give them something else. I’ve noticed that when I do use traditional vocals, like in “The Night Witch”, people either love it or they hate it. I’m alright with that, because even if I dip my toe into the opera metal sometimes, I’ll never do it all the time. It’s just something fun that comes when the mood strikes me. I’m not going to be up there wearing a corset and singing soprano every time I go on stage, so I don’t find our genre to be crowded at all.
Another typical question: what are the plans now? What do you see in the close future of A Sound of Thunder and what do you wish to see in the long run?
Our plans are to continue writing and producing albums until we die. Hopefully we’ll get to the point where we’re writing and performing for a living, but until then, we’re going to keep pushing the creative boundries of our brains.
That was the last question. Thank you for the interview! Would you please say something to see the readers off?
Thanks so much for all your support. It means a lot to us that so many people enjoy our music enough to pay us any attention and we all promise to continue making it worth your while. Our fans are our best friends.
Style switcher only on this demo version. Theme styles can be changed from Options page.
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