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It's as if they had never left. For those of you not familiar with Overlorde, their only official release up to now was a 5-song EP released back in 1987 (which I've seen being sold for as much as US$200 just a year ago!) "Return of the Snow Giant" could very well have been released just a year or two after that. The style is essentially the same, Overlorde not falling into any of the "modern metal" trends and playing some pure and powerful, catchy heavy metal in the best tradition of the 80s. I must have listened to this album more than 30 times since I got it and I must say it is a dangerous album: Very often while riding the bus I stopped myself short of air-guitaring, air-drumming, or even trying to follow Bobby "Leather Lungs" Lucas' vocal lines (now THAT would have been enough for the driver to drop me off on the highway... without stopping! (I couldn't sing even if my life depended on it) :)) The songs here could hardly be any catchier and most important they just don't get boring even after listening to the album all day.
The highlights here are the vocals, courtesy of Bobby Lucas (ex-Seven Witches) - that guy just has it all: Aggressive, melodic, hitting the high notes perfectly, and most important of all his voice is simply pleasant to listen to. Another highlight is the guitar work by Mark "M.E." Edwards. It's everywhere (and note that there's only one guitar here), it's crunchy, catchy, and some of the solos are quite wicked if I may say. That guy really deserves a comment by a journalist who described him as "New Jersey's Satriani". Of course the bass and drums follow in the same standards of excellence - everything just feels like it's in the right place on this album. There's no filler on this album, all the songs fall at least in the "very good" category. "Mark of the Wolf" distinguishes itself from the others as a lengthy epic (almost 9 minutes) that's filled with variety - when you listen to it, it's as if it's been playing forever, but in the good sense of the term. :) Bobby Lucas has a bit of a Bob Mitchell thing going on at times here, especially in the quieter passage between the 4:00 and 5:00 minute marks (and during that time I was also expecting to hear Bobby mutter "...in the misty morning..." but that didn't happen - strangely the feeling never goes away even after several listens!) Of course I need to whine a little bit: The song "Starcastle" not only has the title repeated a bit too often (and most of the time it sounds like he's saying "Sarcasm", which is just a bit bewildering.) Anyway, this is very minor and depends on the listener I guess - especially since other than that, this is a very good song.
For those who have at least heard the previous material (the 1987 EP and the Overlorde 2000 demo), there's some known territory here: The songs from the demo are here, as well as the song "Overlorde" from the EP. Personally that doesn't bother me since those songs are all excellent, but some people may have wished for 13 new songs instead (well, I can't say I would have minded that myself. :)) But again, the quality of the material makes up for it...
I guess I could go on but there wouldn't be much point. I think I like this album even more than the new Hanker, which is saying a lot! :) This is the embodiment of pure traditional heavy metal done right. The new label Sonic Age Records could hardly have found something better as one of their first signings. Definitely the comeback album of the year, and a strong contender for best album. A classic to be. That is all. You may go and buy it now. ;)
Originally written for http://www.metalcrypt.com