Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Matthias Steele-Question of Divinity

Minotauro Records

For our readers who might not be familiar with the name, Matthias Steele is a power metal/thrash band that hails from Rhode Island and was formed in 1985 by three high-school friends (bassist/vocalist Tony Lionette, drummer Nino Trovato and original guitarist Todd Gencarella). Early on the band drew it's influences from thrash and epic power metal (or more specifically American power metal of the eighties!), the NWOBHM scene, and bands such as Cloven Hoof and Tyrant. Judging by their forthcoming album here not much has changed in that regard, but we'll get back to that notion shortly enough! First things first and that's the last of this ever so brief history lesson. Having formed in the mid-eighties (or as I like to refer to it "The height of the heavy metal fever!"), Matthias Steele spent it's formidable years playing throughout Rhodes Island and Connecticut before releasing their highly-regarded self-titled demo in 1987. With a new line-up in hand (guitarist John Erkan and drummer Jay Jordan were eventually replaced  Todd Gencarella and Nino Trovato) the band would go on to release their full-length debut album, "Haunting Tales of a Warrior's Past", in 1992. A stone cold hit in their stomping ground of Rhode Island, Metal Mark actually covered "Haunting Tales of a Warrior's Past" back in the day (or at least in 2012) and (incidentally ladies and gents) Minotauro Records will be re-releasing Matthias Steele's (must-own!) first album in the near future. And with bonus cuts to boot! But anyway, back to today's short lesson plan. Plagued by line-up changes over the following years the band soldiered on before settling on their most consistent  line-up to date with bassist/vocalist (and sole original band member) Tony Lionette joined by drummer Nino Trovato and guitarist Jami Blackwood. In 2007 this line-up recorded "Resurrection" and that same chemistry-laced trio is responsible for the metal madness that is "Question of Divinity". Now over 30 years old (with the band having celebrated their 25th anniversary in 2010 with a special show in their hometown of Westerly) Matthias Steele sounds remarkably fresh and energetic on their forth release to date.! In truth theses recordings are from studio sessions that took place in 2009 and 2010 at Redbone Recording in the group's hometown of Westerly, Rhode Island, but still, "Question of Divinity" is a damn fine metal album from start to finish! As previously mentioned, Matthias Steele takes it's cue from thrash and epic power metal as well as the NWOBHM scene. On "Question of Divinity" though we're also treated to the experienced sounds of one savvy band that knows a thing or two about traditional/classic heavy metal, eighties metal (think Judas Priest meets Metal Church first two albums) and even progressive power metal! And thanks to hard work of Shawn Allen* these various recordings have a distinct vibe about them that makes the album sound both classic and slightly modern. In addition to the eight (head bang-worthy) studio tracks on "Question of Divinity" there are two bonus live tracks from the band's aforementioned 25th anniversary show. The first one is called "Worthless Soul" and it is an unreleased song from guitarist Jami Blackwood. A great number in it's own right, "Worthless Soul" will be properly put to tape on the inevitable follow-up to "Question of Divinity". "Supersonic Man" is the other live track and this great number comes from the band's 1987 demo. Both tracks show what the band is capable of when playing out live and with Minotauro Records set to re-release both "Haunting Tales of a Warrior's Past" and "Resurrection" maybe just maybe this under-appreciated metal trio will finally get the proper respect that they so rightly deserve!

* Shawn Allen engineered and co-produced the material on "Question of Divinity" with  the band members themselves. Prior to these sessions he worked with Matthias Steele on "Resurrection".

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