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Listen To The Outcast Who's Telling You No Lies - 87%

CHAIRTHROWER, March 2nd, 2019
Written based on this version: 2016, CD, Underground Power Records

So keen was I to glean Rebel's The Wild Hunt, released in October, 2016, pressing means were employed last Winter to ensure its swift retrieval. Alas, said quarry proved frustratingly elusive despite my folks' best efforts to return from Mediterranean Spain with a conducive memento (i.e. coveted CD). Short of steering them to Portugal and the Azores, I figured it was solely a (s)matter of time, Grim Reaper style, before authorized distribution hit cyberspace. (Consolation prize Barón Rojo's Volumen Brutal - apparently, an Iberian old school heavy metal classic - cushioned the blow, to say the least.)

At long last, here's the lowdown on this shadowy leviathan of a sleeper, not to mention souped up "Thunderheart" - an affiliated Madrileno trad metal quartet and scruffy side venture of meat n' potato front man Javier Pastor, also co-"staff" (electric ax) wielding herdsman for the Spanish-extirped Wild.

Before we proceed with the sagacious fan-boyism, keep in mind this accessibly traditional and non-committal uni-guitar quartet is inherently more melodic and mercurial than its corn-fed "John Smith" band name implies. Besides, their German label, Underground Power Records, delivers nothing but solid, reputable fare such as Angel Sword's Rebels Beyond The Pale, Frenzy's Blind Justice (also from Madrid, but on the right side of the law), Satan Hallow's titular n' singular masterpiece, and, crankily enough, Stälker's Satanic Panic EP/Shadow of the Sword LP; effectively, all cult favorites here at the Metal-Archives, so there's good cause for celebration, if not seditious intrigue, regarding "La Caza Salvaje".

Logistically, the production is superb. All instruments resound clearly and fiercely, from ex-Rancor-ite Vascan Durán's steady and stentorian, oft (jimmy) jangling guitar riffs - examples include a maniacally clattering/snare-happy "Viper's Bite", along with the haranguing-as-fuck breast plate pierce-r, "Warrior's Code" - to Sergio González's swarthy, pummeling bass lines compounded by Rubén Santos' sinfully slamming skins amidst roundabout thwackers in the vein of "Coming Home", by all rights, a chunky and squat, yet tumble-some, dead-ringer for Sin Starlett's sophomoric stand-out from 2012, "Beholders of the Claw". ("Behold" the slackened sound of my dropping jaw!).

Aside from wistfully "libatious" Holy Grail vibes permeating upper highlight "Ivory Towers", don't immediately expect too many band reminiscences. Some might pop up during the odd wicked and deadly guitar solo - which aren't lacking, if the brief lead-laden opener, "Mind Revolution", is any indication - but in general, these care-free-wheeling Latin European dudes follow the beat of their own drummer (no lame, cheeky pun intended). That's not to say intense, "roadster cruising" feelings of alt(ernative)-rock familiarity fail to surge across roughly a dozen highly voluble and absorb-able cuts, including my present top pick, the snazzy-ly titled "Lightyears Away From Sanity", which I shall laud like there's no tomorrow.

Fresh and lively surround notwithstanding, Pastor's trademark tenuous warble takes on a leisurely languid and portentous Gord Downie (RIP)-meets-Oscar Carlquist of RAM sheen which commands its fair share of amiably shocked, awe-struck returns. Note how the kick-ass opening verse alone corners you like a pimply locker-stuffed, wedgied nerd: "Calming that sense of despair/I crawled a million miles/To find out what's in these dreams/Deep inside my mind/I feel that nothing can be right/Can't see the light!" (frugal albeit gripping as all-get-out chorus "aquí, por favor"!)

Its fluid yet dire shuffle driven motions are made all the more poignant by Pastor's indelibly concise exhortations, which, to date, count among the most salubrious English-sung, albeit internationally-grounded, vocals this side of Gibraltar. The rhythm section also packs a helluva mighty punch as well, with team Santos/Gonzalez providing the necessary stout backbone for both vox and guitar - Duran's mid-way kaleidoscopic foray, for example - as it does for my original top selection as well, the A4 batting power hour anthem, "All For One" (Raven approved, of course).

See, I can always count on this mildly occultic chest-thumper to lift my spirits whence feeling glum or (d)ejected, as its tough, lofty tempo, kick-starting (ax) chops, and immense deal of heartfelt altruism are, coyly put, too chill. The first stanza alone suffices to wrangle. Check it!:

"In the night when creatures rise up and evil creeps
When you feel your heart is going
There's no time to grieve
Scary hands are coming closer as we speak
Hold your ground and draw your blade quick be free!"

(A faint auditory hallucination near "hold your ground" duly augments the mystique.)

Again, the chorus, gang yelled this time, rocks with both its cock and balls out, and even though it's the sole facile and repetitious track, always gets my adrenaline going. Hence, heavy metal provides a great deal more than simply incredible musicianship symbolized as a stiff middle finger aimed at conformity; it also engages and implies the very best of un-sexual-ized bonhomie. In the winsome words of Patrick Knup, one-time, erudite e-guitar teacher from my (addled) youth and sinewy hatchet man for long dissipated Quebecois qrypto-thrasher Foreshadow, "playing music - i.e. metal - amongst pals is the closest you'll get spiritually without actually sleeping together". Indeed!

On the downside, I wouldn't hesitate to drop "Rush Hour", a hurriedly onomatopoeic and militant, reedy thrash-er indubitably crammed betwixt bo-jingler "Warrior's Code" and said super tuneful mental health humdinger, "Lightyears Away From Sanity". Paling in comparison as sole felonious filler while also decoupling the latter, even on its own, "numero ocho" ill-suits the album like a square peg to a round hole. (Worth noting, this feral, fifty-odd-minute foxhunt - and ferocious rag of battle-charged hell horses - blazed a conducive path to vinyl, as well.)

Elsewhere, a wandering black sheep (i.e.outlier) is herded in "The Wild Hunt" proper. Although a tad dodgy, it fills its role nicely as the token epic title track, but, in fairness, it's also sort of plain and slow-going due to its lugubrious wind-swept atmospherics/jingoistic drum beat which eventually yield a grotty, doom-like riff followed by mellifluously phrased chanting. Appropriately enough, it saves the best for last with a sped up "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" evoking development comprised of fleshly accelerated bass/frenzied snare drumming. These come at the behest of nascent (early) Iron Maiden styled leads, which, in turn, are briskly clamped shut with a blunt, uncompromising return to stolid form. As a feature presentation, it's not bad, but still far from my favorite track.

A pleasantly rustic and melodic, bow wrapped denouement consists of twin, tritely titled finales "Lord of the Underworld" and "Life Is Too Short". While the former ascribes to a a similarly placid and "chthonic" template as the six-minute long title track, consider the latter a triumphantly sapient power ode which succeeds with flying colors (or victory banners).

In brief, Rebel's The Wild Hunt is blessed with killer (band) chemistry and wicked flair, so if, as I, you've an "eternal thirst" for hard-driven and spirited Spanish heavy metal (i.e. Leather Heart, Steel Horse, Thunderheart, Frenzy, Barón Rojo, et cetera, et cetera), consider it your officious duty to finagle it faster than a hellbent and billowing williwaw!