Gates of Hell Records
rating icon 7.5 / 10

Track listing:

1. Evil Eye
2. Ritual
3. Summoner
4. Maule
5. Red Sonja
6. Sword Woman
7. Father Time
8. March of the Dead
9. We Ride

A new year has begun and, like clockwork, a flood of bands paying homage to yesteryear's NWOBHM sound has emerged. A few of those bands may breakout from the rest of the pack like HAUNT and NIGHT DEMON have in recent years. However, dozens more will generate records evoking the warm and fuzzies from heavy metal's building blocks, but their record's will not be reached for after an initial listen. Vancouver's MAULE is the latest band to throw their hat into the traditional-metal pool. The group isn't quite ready for breakout status yet, but there are plenty of puzzle pieces within their self-titled debut indicating more to come than mere idol worship.

"Evil Eye"'s opening moments make it clear that the hallmarks of old-school metal sounds are going to be abundant throughout the record. Galloping riffs, warm bass lines from the band's namesake Johnny Maule, and anthemic choruses designed for maximum live-show fist pumping abound from the song's initial moments. Jakob Weel's vocal performance maintains a consistent snarl that matches the energy of the rhythm guitar riffs he is laying underneath. He adapts just enough to each track's individual quirks to avoid becoming a monotone that wavers from excitement to boredom. Tracks such as "Ritual" and "Maule" have a razor-sharp thrash-level pace to their structure, and Weel's vocal performance matches that urgency and escalation accordingly.

Another favorable trick that MAULE pulls off is the seamless pairing of Daniel Gottardo's shredding guitar solos with Weel's rhythm riffs. MAULE make sure that Gottardo's solos stand out on tracks such as "Summoner" and "Red Sonja", while remaining in service to the song itself. There are plenty of blistering moments that make you think that Gottardo doesn't realize that the part of "Super Shredder" was cast more than thirty years ago by the producers of "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze", but underneath that sizzle, Weel's rhythm riffs don't get lost in the shuffle and remain bruising and prominent throughout. Gottardo was recently replaced in the band's lineup by Justin Walker, and if Walker can match Gottardo's intensity and proficiency moving forward, he will melt many faces at live performances.

The one pitfall that MAULE falls into here is a desire to inspire whiplash headbanging. The first six tracks are all fast-paced speed runs that blur together by the end of the record's initial two-thirds. The group finally slows down and settles into an ominous trudge on "Father Time" proving more than capable of dishing out a worthy mid-tempo beatdown on that and "March of the Dead". Their self-titled debut shows breakout potential if on future releases they can better juggle furious speed with that sense of ominous dread.

Author: Jason Roche
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