Album: Walpyrgus Nights
Label: Cruz Del Sur Music
Genre: Straight Up Heavy Fucking Metal
Release Date: June 9, 2017
From the first glittering notes you know you’ve been transported back in time to that lost realm of proto-Power Metal, a time in the early to mid-eighties, when Heavy Metal itself was in a state of flux. The NWOBHM was dying, Thrash was a beast born, licking its chops but not fully grown, and Power Metal was a fledgling dragon, testing out its wings for flight. In this mix you had a number of bands that were heavy and melodic, mostly American, with high-pitched frontmen, keyboard flourishes, and solid, rocking drummers. Think Dio, just a bit less majestic, and you would have Walpyrgus, a band who would have been lost in the mire back in the day, but now, since not too many people do this style anymore, are given a chance to shine, to show off their prowess. And shine they do.
Formed in 2012, a group of musicians from North Carolina, all parts of other, stalwart bands, joined together and decided to form Walpyrgus. Such luminaries as Scott Waldrop (guitar/chief songwriter, from Twisted Tower Dire), Jonny Aune (vocals, also Twisted Tower Dire and Viper), Jim Hunter (bass, from While Heaven Wept, Twisted Tower Dire, and the mighty October 31), Charley Shackelford (guitar, from Daylight Dies) and Peter Lemieux (drums, from Viper) combined their love of old Iron Maiden, the Scorpions, Black Sabbath, and early Slayer into one solid, cohesive unit. They put out one EP (Walpyrgus) in 2014 and later saw the departure of Lemieux (replaced by Carlos Denogean of Salvacion) and the addition of Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept on keyboards. Lineup completed and ready to move forward, the boys from North Carolina bring us this new release, Walpyrgus Nights, their introduction to the metal world at large.
The album is ripping from beginning to end. The guitars are bright but still heavy, melodic and yet carry plenty of heft. The shredding is controlled and direct; there are no flights of fancy or “look Ma, see how flashy I can play” moments. Everything is in service to the songs. The vocals are high and melodic but never descend into parody. There are no shrieking moments, just straight from the gut, tell-the-song’s-story. The bass and drums carry the bottom end, propelling songs forward or holding them back as needed. The keyboards are about perfect in the mix; just under the surface, augmenting the songs but never, ever overwhelming anything. This isn’t Dragonforce-videogame-excess, but perfectly executed notes and chords that, again, service the songs and not the individual player. If all of this sounds safe and boring, it’s not. There are plenty of moments for each band member to shine, and they take every opportunity to do what they do best. Think Ozzy solo in the eighties, where the songs were solid and catchy, and you knew you were listening to a bunch of guys that could not only play, but could curtail that massive talent so that the song itself was the star. Riot is the band that most immediately comes to mind, an outfit that should have been bigger than they were, one that rocked and brought the metal like a regular, working man would do. Sold, blue collar metal here, and played with pride.
“The Dead of Night” opens the album with soaring guitars that both rip and chug, letting you know instantly what you’re in for. This is the perfect plate-setter, the vocals and the music working together to bring the song to life. The last minute or so of the song, with the melodic soloing and rumbling drums, will bring a smile to any fan of eighties metal.
“Somewhere Under Summerwind” is a song that could have quickly descended into a Power Metal farce, but it does not. Instead, it tears along, (Summer)wind at its back, cruising with heft and authority. The vocals are just right, reaching those heights of glory and (Valhalla) honor without going overboard. Tasteful is the word that comes to mind, but that makes it sound tame, which it isn’t. This song rocks.
Closer “Walpyrgus Nights” is an epic. It starts slow, ballady, and then builds before erupting in the end with a shower of furious guitar and drums. The opening is all sinewy, snaky keyboard atmosphere. You can almost feel the mists of the plains rise and surround you as night falls and the story begins. Epic chorus, fantastic singing, and the guitars scale the mountain to blare triumphantly over the lands. All this in the span of 4:50.
The only real complaint would be that the songs in the very middle kind of come across as samey, although they are nothing to sneeze at. The beginning and end of the record are so excellent that maybe this causes these few songs to stand out less. The brevity of the album helps, though, because not once do you feel like you’re getting fatigued or growing bored. They keep things moving.
This is a great summer record, with a bright production, sweet guitar work, driving songs, and soaring vocals. It has that magickal blend that makes you want to roll down your windows and let the wind blow through your hair while you sing at the top of your lungs. If you’re a fan of traditional Heavy Metal, the kind that’s a lost art these days with all the sub-sub-sub genres of Metal, you’ll want to give this a spin. Walpyrgus will make you a fan, and the excellent music will keep you coming back for more.
1. The Dead of Night
2. Somewhere Under Summerwind
3. Dead Girls
6. She Lives
7. Light of a Torch
8. Walpyrgus Nights
Total Playing Time: 37:22