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Never Quite Dead - 93%

Mitchfynde, May 16th, 2018
Written based on this version: 2017, Digital, Independent (Bandcamp)

For those who don't care to get into history and deeper analysis, this is a folky, NWOBHM / doom metal crossover album from veterans of the style. It's basically the most faithful metal rendition of english folk music spirit. The Room of Shadows is loaded with melody, crunchy riffs, blazing solos, catchy vocal lines, and the atmosphere of spooky folk tales. This album is your grandfather telling you ghost stories by the campfire in metal form.

Now, on to the real review.

When I heard the news of Terry Jones' death, I wasn't sure this record would ever be released. After a year or two of silence, I grew certain that It would never see the light of day. Thanks to Alan Jones, Terry's son and guitarist of the band, I was wrong. Despite the album being finished and then scrapped before Terry's death, Alan managed to pull together what they had recorded, add to it, and release the full album they had planned.

Here it is, at long last, the swansong. The Room of Shadows. How does it hold up?

There are a lot of notable things about this album straight out the gate. The production is much different than past efforts. Much clearer. In fact, that was one of the highlights of this for me. It was a gift to hear Terry's voice with such clarity.

Another difference between this and past efforts is the pace. It's noticeably more restrained. This is maybe the first Pagan Altar record that actually feels like a doom metal record rather than a folky NWOBHM record. The opener, in particular, is very somber. That's not to say the rest of the sound was lost. The folk and NWOBHM aspects are still here in full force.

If you know Pagan Altar, there's a couple things you expect. Riffs that are somehow equal parts doom, NWOBHM, folk, and classic rock. Electrifying guitar solos. Vocal lines that are incredibly somber, yet somehow majestic. That folky atmosphere that brings to mind old ghost stories and the elegance of classic horror. All of it's here.

As with any Pagan Altar record, there are just no shortage of great guitar lines. If you love the golden age of guitar, there's no way you can avoid loving Alan Jones. The man is simply a fucking wizard on the axe. He's the Ronnie James Dio of guitar. Terry's dusty, folky vocal delivery is as enchanting as always. The lyrics are pure poetry.

Are there negatives? Not for me. Are there some big changes that might scare off old fans. Yes. The change in production is very noticeable. The old records all had this dusty, sort of lo-fi sound to them and I definitely preferred that approach. This album is much less energetic than any of the older records. Terry's vocal performance, in particular sounds much more reserved. Then again, this may be a result of the production style.

With all that out of the way, it's simply a great record. It's not THE BEST Pagan Altar record, but that record was released a long time ago and could probably never be topped. The important thing is that this is a very worthy addition to the band's discography and the somber tone of the thing serves it well as a swansong. Old fans who aren't allergic to any kind of change will find a lot to enjoy in the Room of Shadows. I know I sure did.

Rest in peace, Terry Jones. You've earned it.