By Kyle Harcott
When the bands manage to get it right, I’m a fan of the trend of new classic-sounding power metal bands cropping up. There are a handful of bands that pull off the retro sound flawlessly enough to sound as though it comes naturally to them. But, as with any trend, the majority have a tendency to sound a little forced or insincere – to my ears, it’s almost like the difference between a real metalhead and some poseur who gets a hold of an Iron Maiden t-shirt and a ‘rocker’ wig and dresses up as a ‘banger for Hallowe’en (or the Steel Panther gig). This ain’t no costume, lightweight – for some, it’s a uniform.
Fortunately, Seattle’s Skelator (goofy band name aside) fall firmly into the ‘comes by it naturally’ crowd. There’s real passion heard here. After all, it doesn’t matter how many bullet belts or studded gauntlets you slap on, it’s either in your blood or it isn’t, and it’s definitely in Skelator’s blood. Just take a listen to “The Birth Of Steel” as its intro comes shuddering down like an Iron Curtain, only to give way to a righteous (and righteously un-ironic) Steve Harris gallop, and the first of several paint-peeling wails courtesy vocalist Jason Conde-Houston. That wail tells you as much as you’ll need to know: singing like that isn’t something a weekend warrior is going to pull off – verily, Skelator are the Real Deal. Of course, as they should, the album’s lyrics read like some Hyborian-Age life manual (Rule #1: Cleave thine enemy’s skull in twain. Rule #2: Asketh questions nigh).
Follow-ups “The Truth” and “Victory” are also absolutely smokin’, showcasing the searing twin leads of Robbie “Guitar of Power” Houston and Rob “Guitar of Glory” Steinway. I mean, really, what else is there that needs to be said about tracks with titles such as “Circle of Bloodshed”, or “For Death and Glory” – either you’re in as soon as you hear those titles, or you’re just in the way.
Of course, no modern-day retro classic is truly complete without at least one anthem, and here it’s “Stand Up (For Rock And Roll)” [no relation to the tepid, same-named Airbourne song], a mighty fist-pumper that rightfully deserves its place in the pantheon of seriously-rocking songs about, well, seriously rocking. After all, you’re not really a proper retro/classic metal band unless/until you have at least one song about rocking, banging your head or otherwise being metal. Remember, kids – rocking is a privilege as much as it’s a right, so you damn well better stand up for rock and roll.
The best review I can possibly give this record is to tell you, in all honesty, I have never ever before even remotely wanted to have in my possession a two-handed broadsword. But now I can’t stop thinking about owning one… would look great with the kutte, once I finish it. By the fiery breath of Crom, do yourself a favor and go listen to this record.
8 / 10
(Metal On Metal Records)