Saturday, October 11, 2014

Sunless Sky-Firebreather

Pure Steel Records

Released this past August (appropriately enough on Pure Steel Records as it's a match made in heavy metal heaven), "Firebreather" is the full-length debut from Cleveland, Ohio's Sunless Sky. Having only existed since 2012 or so this five-piece traditional/U.S. power metal outfit might sound young (at least on paper), but in actuality Sunless Sky is made up of heavy metal veterans who (collectively) have well over 20 years worth of experience in the field of U.S. metal. Scratch that. Let's make that the Cleveland metal scene as guitarist Harry Hillock spent over 15 years with the band Erecto-Hector while Sunless Sky's front-man is none other than Juan Ricardo (Dark Arena, Ritual of Torment, ex-Attaxe, ex-Ritual, ex-Tormentor, ex-Zyklone, ex-Arenah, ex-Stryker)! Rounded out by guitarist Dave Kirk (Vile Indignation), bassist John "Jocko" Jerman (Blessed Sickness, ex-Embalmer) and drummer Rob Brandt (Swallowed By Apathy), Sunless Sky is loaded with experience and it shows here on "Firebreather"! Move beyond the odd choice of album art that surrounds "Firebreather" and you will find opener that "Subzero" is some of the best melodic power metal that Ohio has to offer! Co-written by Dave Kirk and Juan Ricardo (with Dave providing the song's exceptional intro and solo!) "Subzero" sets the stage for the triumphant album that is soon to unfold. Guitarists Harry Hillock and Dave Kirk make for a formidable duo (just check out the pair's soaring delivery on the heavy, "Air Raid"!) while the nearly operatic voice of  Juan Ricardo gives not only the opening number a distinctive epic vibe, but the better part of this album! And speaking of Juan Ricardo, Sunless Sky's impressive front-man makes his talent known early on and for fan's of James Rivera (Helstar, Seven Witches and so much more!) and Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden, Samson) you simply could not ask for a better "new favorite vocalist" if you tried! That Bruce Dickinson reference point brings to mind "Deathmachine" as this one sounds like Iron Maiden in an alternative reality where their greatest influence was Slayer! From there the title cut kicks in and we're treated to more suburb material and for this Cleveland band it's all gun's blazing as N.W.O.B.H.M. and traditional metal influences spill over into classic power metal. Obviously it's a bit odd then when "Immorality" cuts in on the dance. More rock-based than the album's first few numbers it's nonetheless enjoyable and it clearly shows off Sunless Sky's expansive style. With "Pandemonium" it's a heavy take on Iron Maiden (an enjoyable heavy take on Iron Maiden!) while "The Whaler" moves things back into more of the U.S. power metal territory. As do "Fear", "Grind You Down", "Human Time Bomb" (featuring guest vocals by Michelle Nader) and "Planet-X" but it's never an issue seeing as the power metal influences here on "Firebreather" range from the likes of Seven Witches to Dio! Next there's "Solitude" which opens with the pondering line "Why is death so hard?" before settling into some N.W.O.B.H. M.-infused U.S. power metal and with the lead solo of Harry Hillock reminding me for all the world of the late/great Randy Rhodes it's a key moment that will stick with me for some time to come! The cut "Warlords" is perfectly placed as the album's 13th track as it's dark and epic giving "Firebreather" the feel of a concept album. Technically the album ends there, but as a hidden track you've got "Candys Gone Bad". Featuring one time Sacred Few member Sandy Kruger as a guest, "Candys Gone Bad" is more along the lines of the earlier track "Immorality". Oddly enough it reminds me of the N.W.O.B.H.M. sound of bands like Saxon as much as it does "Brick By Brick"-era Iggy Pop! And no, it's not just because of the "Candy" connection LOL! Instead I find "Candys Gone Bad" a nice change of pace and I absolutely dig what it brings to the party! Again it showcases the versatile appeal of Cleveland's Sunless Sky and it shows how easy it would be for this Ohio band to break out and become a leading voice in the field of U.S. power metal! As a Sunless Sky's first showing there is nothing here to complain about (other than the album's artwork which might give some prospective a cause to pause and ponder what it's all about) and in fact this CD might just battle it out for top debut-album honors at the end of 2014! "Firebreather" can be purchased at the link below while you can find Sunless Sky right here:   


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Blogger Metal Mark said...

Am I the only one that sees the font for this logo and the baby and thinks of Black Sabbath's Born Again?

6:46 AM  

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