This must be Lords Of Black’s second album. I mean, this one is called II, so there must be a debut album around somewhere from these guys. The reason I write this is that I have never heard of this band in my life and yet they already have an album out. I mean, I should have at least read about them somewhere, one might think. And now they’re on Frontiers Records. Ok, let me see, if you’re named Lords Of Black you don’t play AOR. Or melodic rock. Or classic rock. Not likely, anyway. When I saw the band’s name the first time – and the cover of this record – I thought of a black metal band. Or maybe a death metal one. At least a power metal one. But Frontiers is specialized on melodic rock and AOR, I thought. But, when I checked out the press release, one name caught my eye – Ronnie Romero! Wasn’t this the Chilean guy that Ritchie Blackmore hand-picked to front his new version of Rainbow that will be touring this summer? Sure, it was. And all of a sudden it stood clear why the Lords Of Black are on major label for the new record. Lords Of Black are three guys – vocalist Romero, guitarist, bassist and co-producer Tony Hernando and Andy C who handles drum and keyboard duties – they hail from Spain and they, according to the press release, are a heavy metal band played in a modern way. Modern way. Sounds scary. Modern metal makes me think of all those useless Five Finger Death Punches that are all over rock radio nowadays. Oh well, the fact that the record is co-produced by one Roland Grapow, one time the guitar player in Helloween and now in his own band Masterplan, made me feel pretty sure that what we’re talking about here is not that horrible American kind of crap, but old, honest heavy metal. Or if we’re unlucky, power metal. But to be honest, the thing I was mostly interested of with this album was to find how the voice of the man who Ritchie Blackmore decided to be his frontman after almost 20 years in Robin Hood-land.
The opening intro “Malevolently Beautiful” is over fast, brings nothing to the table and could just as well be a part of the real opener “Merciless”. “Merciless” is a fast metal track, somewhere between Accept and Judas Priest that borders to power metal. Romero sure have a great voice and on this track he reminds me of ex- Priest singer Ripper Owens, but where Ripper has a tendency to shout too much, Romero sounds way more pleasant. I don’t go through the roof over the song, but yeah, I like it. “Only One Life Away” continues the Judas Priest Painkiller-ish sound, but this time with fair chunk of Yngwie thrown in. It’s metal, it’s fast and yeah, this one is really good as well. “Everything You’re Not” is more groove oriented but it also comes with a huge later day Yngwie Malmsteen influence, only with better and more memorable melodies. “New World’s Comin'” brings the tempo down a bit which is a good thing. The fast double bass drum screamers can get a bit hysterical at times so it’s nice with a metal track that goes for a bit of a pop feel and a big melody to calm things down a bit. Best song so far. “Cry No More” is another killer track. They mix 80’s heavy metal with plain hard rock, memorable and catchy melody and an instant chorus. “Tears I Will Be” continues down the winning road the band have been on for the last few songs. This is melodic metal with a hit feel all over the melodies and especially the refrain. “Insane” lowers the tempo some and this heavy yet melodic piece borders to a ballad – a metal one, that is. Again, a good one. “Live By The Lie, Die By The Truth” have a title that brings my thoughts to Manowar, but the style of this fast metal kicker is more like Primal Fear and again Judas Priest around Painkiller. It’s a decent track but it doesn’t exactly rock my socks off. “Ghost Of You” is long, heavy and dark and brings Dio to mind and also Axel Rudi Pell’s better days. Of course, there’s also a small Yngwie vibe to it, but the whole vocal melody is extremely memorable and the tune is nothing but brilliant. “The Art Of Illusions Part III: The Wasteland” – part I and II are probably on their self titled debut from 2014 – is a formula one standard metal track. It’s ok but one of those that could easily have been kept in the vault without anyone complaining. Last song – if you don’t buy the Japanese edition – is “Shadows Of War”, a hard, fast and angry track – think Wolf Hoffmann and Peter Baltes (Accept) writing songs for Yngwie Malmsteen and you’re pretty close to the sound of this song – good but not great, but at least the album closes with a jawbreaker.
The Japanese edition includes covers of Rainbow’s “Lady Of The Lake” (Long Live Rock ‘n’ Roll, 1978), a really good version pretty close to the original albeit with a more metal edge to it and Queen’s “Innuendo” (Innuendo, 1991), an almost carbon copy of the original, but again, the metal edge is around. Romero is great on both songs, he really proves to be a really good choice for Blackmore’s new version of Rainbow and on the Queen song he sounds so much like Freddie Mercury it’s scary. The description of Romero’s voice as a mix of Dio and Mercury is really spot on. You also get a piano / acoustic version of “Insane”, a more dynamic and direct version than the original and I actually prefer this one.
To be honest, I’m not really sure if I like this or not. The genre they’re moving around in lies somewhere between standard heavy metal and power metal and sometimes the 100 mph double bass drums can get somewhat annoying. There are some really good songs on the album, but there is a disturbing lack of identity over their sound. Romero pretty much saves the album with his powerful and intense vocals. I really don’t want to come across as a douchebag by any means, but I get the feeling that the only reason Lords Of Black got their major record deal with Frontiers is because of Romero’s connection with Ritchie Blackmore as it makes for a pretty easy sell. That said, I know that there is a market for a band like this and there most likely is an audience for them around the corner. But for me, this is way to standard and middle-of-the-road for a top rating. They’re not bad, but this do not make me tick at all.
1. Malevolently Beautiful (Intro)
3. Only One Life Away
4. Everything You’re Not
5. New World’s Comin’
6. Cry No More
7. Tears I Will Be
9. Live By The Lie, Die By The Truth
10. Ghost Of You
11. The Art Of Illusions Part III: The Wasteland
12. Shadows Of War