April 14, 2017 Royal Thunder – WICK (Album Review)
Initially begun as an instrumental band down in Atlanta, Georgia back in 2004, Royal Thunder have come a long way through the years. In fact, it was not until they signed to Relapse Records and released their eponymous EP in 2010 that they began to make any headway, by which time they had added vocals to their repertoire.
Following up with their debut album CVI in 2012, the move coincided with some lineup changes as Jesse Stuber was replaced by Lee Smith on drums and Josh Coleman joined on guitar. Since then, as the dusted settled, it has been steady progress for the band with 2015’s CV1:A EP and sophomore album Crooked Doors. Now a member of Finland’s Spinefarm Records family, Mlny Parsonz (bass/vocals), Josh Weaver (guitar), Evan Diprima (drums), and Will Fiore (guitar) return with their exciting new album WICK.
A big moment in the band’s career, Royal Thunder openly admit how hard it was to create WICK. An album that came from adversity, it was influenced by the loss they experienced, escaping a religious cult, and by them growing up in comparison to their early work. In fact, Parsonz remarks that at times she was dancing along in the studio, while for other songs, she was frustrated and angry. An emotional roller coaster, all these feelings are revealed through the songs themselves.
With a mystical, psychedelic feel, “Burning Tree” has a hippyish vibe while Parsonz voice is surprisingly masculine, and at times it is hard to believe that it is not a combination of male and female vocals. In addition, the sense of control within the music is hypnotic, while understated drums show a more creative approach to composing. Then there is “April Showers,” which features delicate pings and eerie singing which will haunt your dreams. It is powerful and the juxtaposition of agonised screams combined with the calm guitars and soothing rhythms paint a vivid picture of a traumatic event. Keeping things interesting, “Tied” features an unusual vocal style which contrasts with a more obvious female backing vocal. A mixture which highlights the difference in textures, the song remains more up-tempo with shades of Classic Rock.
Speaking of Classic Rock, “We Slipped” takes it a step further while adding a bit of soul. A song easy to dance along with, it features plenty of sway before a Pop-like finale. Displaying different feelings, the animosity that runs through “The Sinking Chair” gives a more grungy vibe. Here, the vocals are high-pitched and very Glam Rock while the guitar riffs are menacing, giving the whole song a dark air. Bluesy and enthralling, “Plans” combines Joni Mitchell songwriting with Led Zeppelin prowess and the dirty, lustfulness of The Black Crowes. This is before “Anchor” starts high and keeps reaching for the sky. It is one of those tracks that defies gravity, richly entertaining and morphing from one section to another seamlessly.
Coming on with a strange and unearthly guitar pattern, the title-track, “WICK,” will entice listeners with an atmospheric and passionate aura. Thereafter, the mournful opening of “Push” leads into a sentimental and tragic anti-love song. The compositions roots lie deep in the ’60s, but the contemporary elements keep it sounding current. With a pounding beat, “Turnaround” provides a backdrop to intense vocals, switching between styles, intricate layers that provokes interest, and each listen, one will discover something new.
With the record nearing its end, complex rhythms characterize “The Well.” Furthermore, it demonstrates the evocativeness of the drums and the pure skill of Diprima, making it ideal for a live setting. Lastly, “We Never Fell Asleep,” winds down with a hymn, Brian Wilson quality of harmonies and a beautiful gospel tone. Quite riveting, it comes unexpectedly and promises amazing things are still yet to come from Royal Thunder.
A band that are impossible to label, Royal Thunder do not fit neatly in a box, instead they jump from box to box with delightful abandonment. While it is fair to say there are echoes of other artists within their work, influences ooze through without taking over, giving each song a quality, a sense of familiarity, but while retaining a uniqueness that demands you listen again. Not a typical female fronted vocal band, Royal Thunder are innovative, different, and that is why CrypticRock gives WICK 4.5 out of 5 stars.