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Your Time Is Up, Your Doom Is Nigh! - 91%

CHAIRTHROWER, March 17th, 2022
Written based on this version: 2022, CD, No Remorse Records

Whenever our good pal at "NWOTHM" "premieres" a new release, you know it'll be a doozy, so as soon as I saw the wickedly colourful and evocative artwork of Knight & Gallow's debut, For Honour And Bloodshed, made a direct wasp line for its nine pounding amalgams of, according to MA band page, "doom, heavy, power and thrash".

Upon listen, I was awed by the Cali quintet's combination of fresh innovation and youthful ingenuity, as each largely original track grooves along without adhering to formulaic or predisposed song craft whilst assailing listeners with all manner of instrumental dominance, from archaic multi-ranged vocals and mercurial low-end derivation to variably toned and eclectically riffed guitars which randomly switch gears at drop of an alchemist wizard's pointy star cap.

Dreamy instrumental "Middle Earth" assimilates to mammoth, almost eight minute Lord Of The Rings lore in proper opener "Men Of The West" - this is when we glimpse, preferably under glow of moonlight, front mage Nick Chambers' shaky time-worn equivocations, sounding as they mythically do like (en)chanted verses off musty 'n' dusty old tomes dug out of long lost catacombs. Pragmatically speaking, his sinuous delivery brings to mind a blazing cross between Trouble's Eric Wagner RIP (at full tilt) and Megaton Sword's Gargamelian Uzzy Unchained, but much easier to decipher and ride wind to.

As such, the first few tracks permit ample showing of Knight & Gallows' unorthodox methodology (or lack thereof). A spirited fast-burner ensues, a hardy and more contemporary attempt at singularity in "Godless", whilst top bell-rung grand slam "Soul Of Cinder" features Sacramento sacrament at top of its name-making game. Double axe men Ryan Younger and Carlos Sanchez proffer no end of stealthy tag-team solos - one of which emanates from bassist Twitch Holman on the Striker nod "Lord Of The Sword". Providing a solid back bone is drummer Ryan Keeley, who greatly ups tempos on substantial thrash fest "God's Will", also an outlier as Nick's screechy, diabolic screams lend malevolence amidst background sung refrain fit for kings and queens.

Flourishing, tumescent leads introduce a light punk rock essence on Deep Purple reminiscent "Stormbringer's Call", followed by free run, shuffling liberator and catchiest karaoke candidate, "Blood Of Wolves" (whose sly refrain inspires lycanthropy, however amateurish). Naturally, things terminate on a festive, triplet based fly note as six-minute, "épée" wielding "Black Swordsman" pushes and shoves a final battle-encrusted harangue into our by-now reconfigured, fig-leafed faces. Worth noting, even though Knight & Gallow's For Honor And Bloodshed lasts forty minutes, feels more extensive thanks to aforementioned qualities.

Shredding throats in the name of fun - 74%

gasmask_colostomy, March 17th, 2022

I’ve been trying to decide whether Knight And Gallow should be counted among those bands reinvigorating the spirit of old-school heavy metal without any particular feature to mark them out or whether the Californian quintet represent a fresher proposition for the genre. I can give numerous reasons for both (and I will), though let me begin with my confusion over the cover art for this debut album. For Honor and Bloodshed greets listeners with a grotesque bluish-green figure that I first mistook to be overweight; however, closer inspection reveals the pot-belly to be an outlandish belt, while the hollow helmet strikes a weird expression somewhere between horror and chuckles. The album as a whole occasionally exhibits some of the same distorted tendencies, partly in execution and partly ideas, but it too conforms to convention in other ways, just as the pose of a warrior in a fantasy land cannot be mistaken on the cover art.

Overall though, Knight And Gallow provide very solid heavy metal with some epic tendencies. Compared to what I’ve listened to lately in that style, I get a more fun and speedy vibe from these guys, even reminding me of Enforcer’s speed/glam cross at moments like 'Soul of Cinder', which exhibits a lively mid-paced rhythm and more ephemeral melodies to bring the song a bit of seriousness. By contrast, the whole opening movement of the album couples mid-paced triplets, journeying melodies, and the soaring search of Nick Chambers’ vocals to amp up the scale, quite clearly making a point with Lord of the Rings themes on 'Men of the West' and its introduction 'Middle Earth', which together amass almost 10 minutes of pomp. Nothing else swells to that scope, nor do Knight And Gallow outdo the careful construction of tempo changes and vocal hooks in 'Men of the West', yet 'God’s Will' and 'Blood of Wolves' rank highly among the more elevated cuts, taking the listen beyond mere revisionist heavy metal of stock type.

On the other hand, one of the stretching points contained in For Honor and Bloodshed can be glimpsed in the opening moments of 'God’s Will', when an almighty cry erupts from the vocalist, something that Chambers replicates during the verses and even more persistently in the chorus. Simply put, some will find the vocals a bit much. I’m on the fence about them, because they do bring the heavier chassis of 'God’s Will' some necessary force, while also stretching my credulity about how far one can take the high-pitched elements of a Harry Conklin (Jag Panzer) or David DeFeis (Virgin Steele) singing style. Look no further than 'Stormbringer’s Call' for some truly overpowering moments. All the same, I’d argue that this kind of all-guns-blazing heavy metal is precisely the antithesis to the sometimes downplayed, slower albums that epic bands can produce. For Honor and Bloodshed produces more adrenaline than most of the material released by Manilla Road or Gatekeeper, at the same time still heaping on the pounding beats, massive gang vocals, and roaming exploits of melodic guitar work. Knight And Gallow attempt to hit the jackpot rather than settle for a more modest prize.

In the end, this wins out for me as a mostly positive experience due to the constant presence of things happening. I don’t get bored as 'Black Swordsman' moves into yet another solo in its instrumental break, even if I might question the need for more lead guitar in the same key, an issue that also comes up in the lengthy bridge of 'Men of the West'. None of the songs slump, partly because only the couple just mentioned go over 5 minutes, but also because Knight And Gallow have both speedy and more measured tempos in their arsenal, like the fleet-footed knight and the impending doom of the gallows suggest. I’d prefer to put this on after a beer or two when the outlandish force of the vocals registers as necessary exuberance instead of misguided optimism, while the less reverent style of epic metal may indeed feel less serious as a result, thus adding to potential fun. And, if you’re looking mainly for fun alongside shredding throats and shredding guitars, you’ll be satisfied with your new acquaintance in For Honor and Bloodshed.

Originally written for The Metal Observer -