Monday, 17 November 2014

Amulet - The First (Album Review)


Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 22/09/2014
Label: Century Media Records

The First’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

Side 1

01. Evil Cathedral (2:46)
02. Glint of the Knife (3:12)
03. The Gauntlet (4:36)
04. Bloody Night (2:55)
05. Heathen Castle (3:16)
06. The Flight (2:27)

Side 2

01. Talisman (2:37)
02. The Sacrifice (3:22)
03. Mark of Evil (3:01)
04. Wicked 'n Cruel (3:05)
05. Black Candle (2:48)
06. Trip Forever (2:29)
07. Nightmare (4:38)

Bio:

Many choose to play metal, but it’s only a dedicated few who actually are metal. It’s the fanatical, die-hard devotion to the cause that sets these genuine metal maniacs apart; it’s the spirit of metal madness that flows through them. And in London’s AMULET you have five such individuals, all proudly banging like maniacs in the name of all that’s good and heavy metal.

Their debut EP, 2011’s “Cut The Crap” 7”, was a nails-hard statement of intent. With the brawling street spirit of early 80’s metal – think of Iron Maiden’s days in rough boozers rather than sports stadiums – AMULET capture the sound of classic metal, but more importantly, they bring the feeling of fist-to-the-chops-and-don’t-spill-my-pint grit firmly into the 21st century. And what else would you expect from a band formed of such die-hard underground metal fanatics?

Since 2010, the men of AMULET have been proudly flying the flag for British steel, both onstage andoff. Guitarist Heathen Steven is the man who helped set up London’s Live Evil Festival in 2010 – run with support of Darkthrone drummer Fenriz – to showcase the best of what the underground scene has to offer. Singer Jamie Elton has spent his entire adult life recording metal bands and putting on gigs by underground legends like Pagan Altar and Cloven Hoof before the retro resurgence took flight. Drummer ‘Dave Sherwood on Drums’, meanwhile, is something of an UK mascot for passionate fandom internationally. And then there’s incredible shred-king Nippy Blackford on guitar, who has been burning the frets since the ‘90s and adds some truly exceptional flare to the album. Finally Bill Dozer not only channels Cronos on four strings, but works as a respected tattoo artist while creating all of AMULET’S artwork - including the incredible painting made for the cover of their debut, “The First”.

The Band:

Jamie Elton | vocals
Heathen Steven | guitar
Nippy Blackford | guitar
Bill Dozer | bass
Dave Sherwood \ drums

Review:

From Merry England comes the group Amulet, and from the very first track you can get exactly what these guys are going for. Their sound seems to be extremely targeted in the "New Wave of British Heavy Metal" era of Iron Maiden, or even Vardis, with a little Motorhead thrown in, but without Lemmy's unique vocals. In fact, it seems to be a bit heavy handed. With titles like "Glint of the Knife", or "Heathen Castle", they seem to be trying REALLY hard to convince you that they are a throwback to those days. In fact, so much so, it's a little hard to swallow. It's as though they are smashing the idea over your head, instead of letting you come to that conclusion by yourself.

If you didn’t get enough of that era's sound, or just think that everything should sound like early Maiden, then you might very well dig Amulet. The music IS solid, and the song writing isn’t bad at all. My only complaint would be that several of their songs tend to sound very much alike, and there isn’t quite enough versatility. I like a band that can do a fast heavy song, and then change it up a bit, or throw in an interesting part in the "Middle Eight".

Amulet doesn’t mess around with that crap, they keep the pace. That’s fine, if that's your cup of tea. However, as with any band, they are only as strong as the weakest link in the chain, and with Amulet, for me, it’s the vocals. When I think of NWOBHM, I think Iron Maiden and Bruce Dickenson, or Judas Priest and Rob Halford. Now, not everybody can match up to those guys. We are talking about some of the best metal vocalists ever. Yet, such a band needs a powerful voice to go along with those lyrics of London's back-alley stabbings, and nightmare hellscapes. Amulet doesn't quite deliver on that front.

The vocals are decent. But not great and at times, even a little choked. I don’t mean to imply that the singer is terrible. Far from it, but I was hoping for a dynamic voice to go along with my vision of Union Jacks and spiked armbands, unfortunately I was left a little cold on that front.

So, bottom line, did I enjoy this or not? Yes, but I wasn't enthralled. I like what Amulet is going for, but honestly, I think it comes off as "Trying too hard". I think the sound seems intentionally manufactured, instead of grown organically. None of the band's musicality is questionable. Each of the members of Amulet play quite well. Even the vocals, which I didn’t love, aren’t too shabby., it's just that overall, what you hear seems to be very much trying to be a lost Iron Maiden album.

So, what? You don’t like bands that have that sort of "retro" sound? Yes, I do! In fact, I love it. However, let me give you an example. Wolfmother. They have a serious retro sound especially with their guitar tones and song writing. They sound like something you'd see in some dirty club in 1974 opening up for Sir Lord Baltimore. Dirty, fuzzy and loud. Wolfmother pulls that sound off, YET, also somehow manage to sound new enough to be interesting. It's a delicate balance, when you use that kind of sound that has been done before by bands better than you. You REALLY have to try hard to distinguish yourself.

Amulet comes close to having that NWOBHM sound, but doesn’t go quite far enough to really stand out, at least for me. Not to worry, even despite this, "The First" is a solid album and if you really, really love Judas Priest, or Vardis, or especially Iron Maiden, you will probably, at least enjoy Amulet "The First".

Words by: Mike Borsum

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