Horns For A Halo

Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Bitter Pill
02. Blind Leading The Blind
03. Dead Man Walking
04. Dirty Pig
05. Do Or Die
06. Downfall Rising
07. Ghost Of You
08. Horns For A Halo
09. Lights Out
10. White Horse

Apparently not content with cheating death and being a general badass in JUDAS PRIEST, guitarist Richie Faulkner has found another way to fill his schedule. ELEGANT WEAPONS is a genuine supergroup, on record at least. "Horns For A Halo" was performed by Faulkner, alongside drummer Scott Travis (JUDAS PRIEST),  bassist Rex Brown (PANTERA) and vocalist Ronnie Romero (RITCHIE BLACKMORE'S RAINBOW / LORDS OF BLACK): a drool-worthy lineup that effectively guarantees that these songs will rock like an absolute bastard. And so it turns out, as Faulkner deftly muddies the waters between PRIEST-style classic metal, gritty hard rock and, most notably, the glowering grunge of ALICE IN CHAINS and SOUNDGARDEN.

Meanwhile, Romero's voice is a melodic marvel. As a recipe for an excellent, heavy metal time, ELEGANT WEAPONS have everything sorted, including the slightly ambiguous band name. It's not quite WHITESNAKE, but it's in the same genital ballpark. Maybe.

The most important thing to observe here is that "Horns For A Halo" is full of exciting, memorable and highly energetic hard rock anthems. As formulas go, it's hardly ground-breaking, but Faulkner's songwriting chops have audibly evolved and expanded, enabling him to give this record an irresistible diversity and a character all its own.

"Bitter Pill" and "Blind Leading The Blind" are the perfect entry point. Both are steely and strident enough to nod toward Faulkner's day job, but there's a bluesy swagger to them too. Similarly, "Dead Man Walking" is rooted in '80s metal and IRON MAIDEN in particular, but there's a dark churn to the riffs that wouldn't feel out of place on a BLACK LABEL SOCIETY record, and a tangible frisson of RONNIE JAMES DIO in Romero's vocal. ELEGANT WEAPONS may only be gently original, but it's enough to make this album compelling from start to finish.

Elsewhere, the blues is a frequent and welcome intruder. "Dirty Pig" is a grubby, grudgeful shuffle that brings the grit out of Romero's soulful croon. "Do Or Die" leans towards full-pelt speed metal, with a strong whiff of "Painkiller". "Downfall Rising" verges on southern-fried doom metal, with its ALICE IN CHAINS-like melodies and harmonies, but again Romero's voice nails that connection to rock's old school. On dark ballad "Ghost Of You", ELEGANT WEAPONS show off their dynamic and dramatic flair; on the title track, they slip into an effortless, insistent funk rock groove, and Faulkner's solo scales new heights of audacity in response. In fact, you can practically hear the guitarist grinning his way through his new band's absolutely ripping version of UFO's "Lights Out". It segues neatly into epic closer "White Horse": a lithe and fluid seven-minute sprawl, with more bluesiness and a dash of BLACK SABBATH bombast adding to this album's heaviest moment.

If you know what Richie Faulkner can do, giving ELEGANT WEAPONS a chance should be a no-brainer. One of modern metal's true survivors, he's whipped up a storm of classic-sounding good stuff here. That Romero fella can really fucking sing, too. A huge thumbs-up on all fronts.

Author: Dom Lawson
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