Released: 2002, Indie
At last!! The long awaited and triumphant return of…who? Thunder Rider?! Seriously, this disc is called TALES OF DARKNESS AND LIGHT-CHAPTER II. Where the hell is Part I?
Well, a little research revealed that Thunder Rider is a Canadian band that was formed as far back as 1980. They had one independent release (TODAL-Chapter I) back in 1989. The band seem to be setting the record for least productive metal group of all time, earning them the prestigious ‘Chinese Democracy’ award for a pace of one release every 10 years or more. It’s fairly safe to assume that except for perhaps some local gigging the band never quite made it. Yet, you can’t keep a good band down and here we are a dozen years later and Thunder Rider is back.
It warms my heart to see bands of this caliber surviving and thriving deep in the Canadian wilds. Not a nation traditionally know for it’s power metal, Thunder Rider join an elite, northern strike force of new (ish) Canuck bands like Crystal Castle, Dragon Warrior, Forgotten Tales, Hanker, Three Inches of Blood, Destiny Calling and of course Eidolon. If you know you Canuck metal history they were probably active along with other such lesser-known early bands as Zion’s Abyss, Storm Warning, Zero Option, Labyrinth, Angel Beast, Kingsbane, Thor and Sword. But I’m just name-dropping now. Nostalgia for this sound does play a factor in my (admittedly) high grade but even so, very few bands even try to play this style today so credit where credit is due for adhering to the prime origins of the genre and getting it right.
I’m glad that the band have regrouped for a second release because TR actually do have something to say in 2004 and seem to fit extremely nicely with the global resurgence of true metal I sincerely hope the band gets the recognition they deserve and I’m here to help wave the flag.
TR do an amazing job for an independent band. Nothing is spared the package includes a long and fully loaded disc with lots of songs, photos, artwork, lyrics, an enhanced component for your PC, as well as all sorts of surprise goodies. Every other new band (and some veterans) could learn how to present a professional and kick-ass package like these guys. It’s better than some major label releases I’ve seen!
The band puts the music where the metal meets the meat for a high quality metal experience. TR play a style of metal that really does pay tribute to the very early 80’s sound of metal. Lots of bands play in a so-called ‘retro’ style (hate that term) but these guys genuinely have creatively recaptured that early metal vibe. Bands like old Virgin Steele, Savage Grace, Attika, Medieval Steel, Axehammer and of course vintage Manowar are all potential reference points. I hate to say this but old metal fans who actually recall many of the early 80’s US power metal bands will be absolutely delighted with the sound and style of this band. I am!
The vocals of John Blackwing and quite deep and sonorous, not the high-pitched squeals of some of today’s Italian neo-classical metal vocalists. His delivery is very impassioned and perhaps overwrought tending to the melodramatic in terms of phrasing and pronunciation but I like that approach. His lyrics are clear and easy to understand and quite unique. I really like his voice and he has the slightest shades of Geoff Tate’s circa 1983.
The riffs are meaty and chunky, the guitar tone thick and full but without the layer upon layer of distortion of some the young bands today. The songs are full of little extras, sound effects, female vocals, acoustic interludes, short instrumentals and other flourishes. Lyrically the band present a thematic pattern as described by the title. A quick glance at the song title gives you a basic idea of the epic clashes, good vs. evil, dark vs. light and other religious concepts that are being presented. Not religious in a spiritual sense but religious by singing about Satan, the Devil and other classic metal themes. My favorite cut is the longest tune, ‘Heavy Metal Wizzard’ putting me in Dungeons and Dragons heaven.
The whole disc has many splashes of flavour on this very tasty and welcome slab of metal. I heartily enjoyed this album from a band that truly understands the roots of metal and is strong enough in their conviction to play true metal without making fun of it, changing it or pandering to today’s metal trends. Long live Thunder Rider.