Originally released independently back in late 2009, Atlanta (Georgia, U.S.) act Royal Thunder’s debut self-titled E.P. has been given a renewed chance of reaching a wider audience via a re-release from Relapse Records. Relapse Records in recent years have branched out and tried their hand at diversifying their roster with some musical acts outside their tried and true extreme foundation, and picking up Royal Thunder’s debut is certainly well and truly proof of the label’s broadening tastes.
Although lumped within the doom/rock genre, in truth, Royal Thunder (Who comprise of vocalist/bassist Mlny Parsonz, guitarist Josh Weaver and drummer Jesse Stuber) don’t sound remotely close to that description. Instead, the band sit comfortably somewhere within the lo-fi blues/indie rock genre for the most part, with some subtle dark classic rock influences to help them stand apart from most.
Despite its unimaginative title (‘Intro’), the short introductory piece that opens the album proves a rather strange and unpredictable setting for the E.P., with Parsonz’s hypnotic mantra building over the sounds of waves lapping up against the side of a boat. It all sounds quite haunting and captivating, without giving the listener any real idea of what of what to expect from the rest of the E.P.
It isn’t until ‘Sleeping Witch’ where Royal Thunder finally gets to truly reveal what they’re capable of, and it’s really something. Starting off with the slow tempo of a loose blues framework, ‘Sleeping Witch’ progressively builds in atmospherics and loudness of the instruments, before climaxing in an almost heavy stoner rock sound. Although simple in structure, it’s the trio’s use of atmospherics and Parsonz’s captivating vocal range and approach that provides the song its heart and soul.
The up-tempo southern rock edged ‘Mouth Of Fire’ is definitely one of the album’s livelier efforts, making it a definite stand out cut, while ‘Low’ sees the band crank out the song’s rocking riffs with a lo-fi approach, with much of the song’s upfront appeal emerging from Parsonz’s multi-layered vocals throughout the stunningly infectious choruses.
‘Grave Dance’ is a moody number that once again ebbs and flows with moments of heavy riffs and atmospheric passages, all the while strung together by Parsonz’s captivating voice and harmonies, while ‘Hotel Bend’ maintains a brooding vibe throughout its duration.
Finishing up the E.P. is the lengthy ‘Deacon’, which initially starts off in the same manner as ‘Hotel Bend’, but eventually transforms midway through to allow the heavier side of the band’s sound to flourish more and more before taking over towards the tail end.
If you overlook the genre brackets, the associated acts the label they’ve signed to and listen with an open mind, you can’t help but see Royal Thunder’s debut effort for what it really is - a haunting piece of dark beauty.
For more information on Royal Thunder, check out - http://www.myspace.com/royalthundermusic
© Justin Donnelly