REVERENCE – Gods Of War

Reverence - Gods Of WarWhen it comes to metal bands in 2015, it feels like there are thirteen a dozen of bands that uses a war theme – and many of them are the kind of metal bands that has the ‘power’ moniker in front of metal. Not my case of beer, so to speak. Just one look at Reverence’s new album, one look at their band’s name and one look at the album’s title and I thought, oh no, not another one of these war-power-metal bands again. And if the newer metal bands don’t play power metal with a war theme, they usually go retro on us and do their best to sound like it was 1980 again pretending they are / were part of NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) movement, which usually means bad production and cliché metal songs that goes in one ear and out the other. Yes, I was around to experience all those bands that started in the early 80’s and no, I don’t think most of them were anything to write home about. A few good ones – shitloads of crappy ones. A quick look at Reverence’s history and I found out that the band consists of some pretty interesting names and that they – according to themselves – play old school metal. Well, old school metal could be either an attempt to go NWOBHM or maybe just plain old heavy metal that bands like Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest and Accept plays. As I wrote, most of the members have a well qualified background in bands that most rockers have at least a small clue of. Lead singer Todd Michael Hall has sung in Riot V and Jack Starr’s Burning Star, guitarist Bryan Holland has a past in Tokyo Blade – one of the few really good NWOBHM-bands (although, Bryan never played with them in the 80’s), drummer Steve ‘Doc’ Wacholz is probably the most well-known name here after his time in both Savatage and Crimson Glory and guitarist Pete Rossi has played in Overland. That leaves only new bass player Michael Massie as the one guy without a big (well…) band resumé. But to be honest, with the exception of Savatage – a band that I love, all of the bands mentioned here really does nothing for me. I mean, Tokyo Blade too were victims of poor production, but yes, they really had some great tunes (if you haven’t heard them, check out their best of album Warrior Of The Rising Sun (1985)), but I would be lying if I said that I listened to them often. The band was formed in 2010 by Holland and Hall and in 2012 they released their debut album When Darkness Calls to critical acclaim. But since I had never ever heard of this band before just now, I didn’t know what to expect at all from this lot. I wasn’t even sure if I was gonna take the time write a review. So, when I pushed play, my expectation level was completely blank.

The record opens with the title track, a blistering classic heavy metal attack, tight as Hell with a killer melody and a big Accept influence. Man, this is some good stuff. “Heart Of Gold” follows, a song that turns out to be a real killer. The sound lies somewhere between Helloween’s first Keeper Of The Seven Keys (1987) and Sweden’s melodic hard rockers turned metal band Dynazty on their latest album Renatus (2014) – very catchy stuff. This song is so good that I had to play it one more time right on the spot just because. “Until My Dying Breath” is Judas Priest around Painkiller (1990) mixed with late 80’s Helloween, great stuff. “Angel In Black” is ultra catchy, it has some mean Accept influenced riffs, but a lot of the melodies make the song go in a more melodic hard rock direction – this very good indeed. “Tear Down The Mountain” is classic heavy metal, you know the drill – Iron Maiden, Saxon, Judas Priest with a touch of Helloween. This should make for a killer tune, but it’s not. It’s not a bad song, it’s ok, but a bit too forgettable, I’m afraid. “Blood Of Heroes” breaks the mold a bit. Sure, it’s a metal tune, but when I hear some of the melodies and arrangements, I wonder if the guys were involved in a melodic rock party or something when they wrote it because I hear stuff that sounds a lot like the Sunset Strip bands did in 1989. I have no problem with that what so ever, the contrast between that and the song’s metal roots just makes the song varied and unpredictable – awesome! “Battle Cry” on the other side is standard metal – very standard. Everything from the song’s title to riffs, melodies, arrangements and guitar solos are predictable and cliché. I go skip button on this one. “Choices Made” that follows is a much better song. Again, the Accept-influences are right there and Helloween also comes back, but just when I thought I had the song figured out, they put a big chunk of NWOBHM into the mix. Great choice, they song really benefits from it and it sure looks like these guys know their NWOBHM as well. “Splinter” is a magnificent metal ballad, emotional and beautiful, yet powerful and rough –  brilliant!  “Cleansed By Fire” is über-catchy all over, but the chorus has a melody that borders to pure pop. It’s very much a classic heavy metal track and it is a damn fine song too. “Race To Obscene” that closes the album is a bit too standard and could have been a bit more memorable, but it is still a good song and it works well as an album closer.

As a whole, this album was a very nice surprise for me and even though these guy aren’t unique in any way – fact is, they sound like they are still searching for their own identity – I still love to listen to this record and I’m fine with them being unoriginal because I really like most of the songs a lot and I think it’s great to find a new metal band that really puts the quality of the songs up front. I would categorise Reverence as a heavy metal, but I have read that some people wants to put them into the power metal folder. Well, of course, there’s a difference between American power metal and European dito, so if we go with American version, I’m game. For a band that wears their influences their sleeves in a very obvious way, I think it’s great that they mix all of them in the songs at the same time instead of one influence at a time, that way the obvious doesn’t feel so obvious, if you catch my drift. How far a band like this could go remains to be seen, but I think they can be really entertaining live on a festival mid-day. If Sweden Rock Festival booked them, I would totally catch their gig.

7/10

Tracklist:

1. Gods Of War
2. Heart Of Gold
3. Until My Dying Breath
4. Angel In Black
5. Tear Down The Mountain
6. Blood Of Heroes
7. Battle Cry
8. Choices Made
9. Splinter
10. Cleansed By Fire
11. Race To Obscene

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