There have been a lot of great rock bands coming out of the woodwork in recent years, and you can add Atlanta’s Royal Thunder to the growing list of bands keeping the flame alive for raucous and soulful hard rock. Bolstered by the golden pipes of bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz and featuring some killer tunes, this band is ready to take on the world. Their debut full-length, CVI, comes a few years after a well-received EP, and is a masterful display of hard rock power.
Opener “Parsonz Curse” starts off dark and mellow, but then builds into some hard-charging rock. “No Good” is a rollicking piano-laden Southern rock rave up, while “Sleeping Witch” alternates between twangy drone and Sabbath-y riffs. “Shake And Shift” starts slowly alternating between bluesy psychedelic accents and crunchy rock riffs, and builds toward a crescendo that features some passionate howling from Parsonz and a solo that wouldn’t seem out of place on side two of Neil Young‘s Rust Never Sleeps live album. “South Of Somewhere” also starts out quietly with the sound of footsteps and wind chimes, and alternates between chilled-out psyche and foot-on-the-pedal hard rock. “Blue” takes a few minutes to build, but when it arrives, it features some inspired playing from the band, especially the interplay between Parsonz’s bass and Lee Smith’s drums, as well as another inspired vocal turn by their charismatic vocalist and great interplay between guitarists Josh Weaver and Josh Coleman.
Throughout the album, they show a subtle mastery of hard rock dynamics, especially the use of the quiet/loud template to build songs that climax in exciting crescendos. It’s quite heartening to see a band work their craft so well, in a day when everyone is going for the quick payoff. Many of these songs are over five minutes long, but they never drag thanks to the band’s songwriting acumen and the ability to make the songs flow naturally. They are pleasing to the ears and the hips when they work a groove.
Parsonz is a hard rock belter par excellence, with a sultry, earthy, and slightly spooky voice. Also, she knows when to play it soft and subtle, and when to let it all out and sing to the back of the theater. She gives a bravura performance on this record.
So if you want a record that is steeped in tradition but is totally of right now, then you should check out Royal Thunder. While the mainstream drowns in soulless, slick cookie-cutter hard rock, it’s nice to know that there are a whole bunch of bands in the underground that are keeping it real and full of unbridled passion.
(Relapse Records, PO Box 2060, Upper Darby, PA 19082)