A SOUND OF THUNDER - The Lesser Key Of Solomon
It’s only been one year since the last album of American East Coast metal band A Sound Of Thunder, but that is hardly surprising, considering that they have released one album every year since 2011. What is more astonishing is how they don’t show any signs of fatigue. Indeed since last year’s Time’s Arrow, the quartet have aspired to such heights that I can’t think of any female fronted metal band doing a better job right now.
Once again it is not easy to categorise the music of A Sound Of Thunder. They are probably inspired mostly by classic hard rock and heavy metal music, but there are also occurences of power, speed and doom metal, and occasional trips into bluesier classic rock territory. A first and possibly cursory take at their music might leave you unsatisfied, because their songs generally take some time to unfold all of their magic.
As in the past, the album is running a little over an hour, with one intro and nine regular tracks meaning that the band likes their material playful and long. The Lesser Key Of Solomon starts with the moody intro Nexus Of Realities that mostly offers a certain science fictional feeling. With Udoroth follows the first regular track, and with four and a half minutes one of the shorter moments featured on the record. This is a more straightforward killer metal track which makes for an ideal entrance point. Fortuneteller is nearly seven minutes long and somehow a more representative track. Here we get a more dramatic atmosphere, with the first part of the song coming at a more moderate pace, before the latter half is adding some steam and fury to end the song in a very kinetic way. The ballad The Boy Who Could Fly comes quite early on, might sound very tame, but is also a great opportunity for Nina Osegueda to show off her vocal skills. It’s otherworldly how she has improved over the years. She never sounded bad, considering that she is a trained opera singer, but it’s only recently that she has learned to use her voice in her very own, idiosyncratic way to set her apart from all other heavy metal vocalists, male and female alike. The album’s highlight comes with the nearly ten minute long Elijah, which also starts like a creepy ballad, and then finds the time for all possible kinds of rock and metal to flow into this extremely variable piece of music, which owes a lot to dramatic American hard rock and metal music, from the early Alice Cooper to the later - if not really modern anymore - Savatage. The chorus comes rather late in the song and surprises with strange chord sequences that may feel a little off at first but later affirm the band’s very special status.
The album’s second half starts with the stomping Master Of Pain, on the surface a simpler mid-tempo song, but of course it is hiding its subtleties beneath the surface, even though the whiplash sound two minutes into the song does sound a little silly. Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb is an eight and a half minute long slab of classic hard rock / metal that betrays the band’s love for all things horror. Black Secrets is another shorter track, running slightly under five minutes, and displaying a bluesier side of the band. With a weaker vocalist, this might have been trite, but somehow it’s always and again a pleasure to listen to Ms. Osegueda’s powerful organ. More horror fare comes with One Empty Grave whose atmosphere reminds me of certain Nineties Alice Cooper material. The CD ends with the nine minute long House Of Bones, another strange blues/hard rock concoction with a lot of drama that sets a fitting end to the album.
Is The Lesser Key Of Solomon better than the preceding Time’s Arrow? At first it may sound a little weaker, but that’s only because the band’s progression wasn’t as dramatic as last time where they really reinvented their sound. This time they tweaked a little here and there, so that in the end I dare say that the new album has the upper hand. The first half is more varied and experimental but also comes with more ballad moments, while the second half feels more homogenous but also a little bluesier. Both sides work well with A Sound Of Thunder, and even if the running order of the songs feels a little strange at first, they still make sense. Fans of classic hard rock and heavy metal music absolutely have to get The Lesser Key Of Solomon. You will encounter a voice you are unlikely to ever forget!