Sometimes, a record comes along and reminds you of exactly why you fell in love with metal in the first place. Especially when much of your time is spent exploring black metal, it’s easy to get lost in a void of grimness and discord, forgetting the joys of music that simply makes you want to bang your head and throw devil horns, rather than take you on some esoteric journey. Praise be to Bulletbelt, then, for serving up Rise Of The Banshee, an album that is so thoroughly and enjoyably metal, right down to the cover art and band name, that only the most resolutely kvlt and cold-hearted will not be swept along by it. It’s black-thrash that remembers the roots of both sub-genres, and is quite the ride.
From the very beginning, it’s clear that Rise Of The Banshee is possessed of an incredible energy, the sort that the best heavy and thrash metal taps in to; indeed, there’s a strong heavy metal feel throughout, even though the album is undeniably extreme. The up-tempo sections race along like the black steed on the cover, whilst the slower moments are ominously full of dread. And when the band move from one extreme to the other, as they do during opener “Death Tinted Red”, it’s incredibly effective. The band are hugely talented, and each member contributes performances that are both impressive in their own right and play to the strengths of the song – there is no show-boating for its own sake here. The riffs, leads – including tremolo-picked, black metal inspired ones – and solos are strong throughout, the drumming intense when it needs to be and restrained when that better suits the song, and there’s some impressive turns on the bass, which come through clearly thanks to the superb production job.
Even among such virtuoso performances, though, what really steals the show are Jolene Tempest’s vocals. Her voice is like that of the titular banshee, other-worldly and full of scorn, and so very, very powerful. Even more impressive is that most of the lyrics come through clearly, which adds greatly to the album.
As far as individual songs and moments go, there’s an embarrassment of highlights to pick from, whether they are the blistering likes of “Murderer’s Collar” or “Numbered Tomb” – which features a tremolo-picked passage that would fit right in with any second wave black metal album you care to name – or the more mid-tempo “Minnie Dean”. “Deathgasm” is a definite stand-out, full of hooks and shout-along sections, but their cover of “Sniper”, originally by The Nod, really steals the show for me. It’s the kind of song that perfectly sums up the appeal and strengths of metal, and is an absolute joy. Closer “Black Banshee” is another highlight, rounding out the album in style with the excellent closing passage showing how powerful restraint can be, even in music that is largely characterised by raw power and force, both of which this album has in abundance.
What’s most notable, though – in case it isn’t clear yet – is that Rise Of The Banshee is a hugely enjoyable listen. It’s the kind of album that takes you back to the days when your younger self first discovered the joys of Iron Maiden or British Steel – even if doesn’t really sound like those classics, it creates a comparable feeling of excitement and energy. And as such, there’s huge appeal here to metal fans of all persuasions, even if black-thrash isn’t normally something you’d be in to. And if you’re the sort of person who gets excited at by the likes of Midnight, Aura Noir, or even the more relatively mainstream likes of Skeletonwitch, then Rise Of The Banshee is something you really should be checking out.
Rise Of The Banshee can be streamed and downloaded through Bandcamp; CD copies of the album can also be purchased there, and via Headless Horseman. Cassette and vinyl versions are due to be released by HOTA Records later in the year.