Released: 2012, Pure Steel
The relatively new label, Pure Steel (and it’s affiliates Pure Rock, Pure Prog, Pure Legends etc), is rapidly becoming one of my favourite Metal record labels. In light of a number of great releases and the high quality from the label, I want to do a little feature and look back at seven PURE STEEL albums from 2012 you may have missed including Alltheniko, Custard, In Aevum Agere, Phantom X, Power Theory, StormRider and Sleepy Hollow. Please feel to enjoy the reviews of all these fine releases in our Pure Steel feature, as well as previous published reviews of New Eden, Emerald and Axehammer.
It's been a good year for some classic American Metal bands that have been away and inactive for a long time! New Eden, Axehammer, Gothic Knights all made raging comebacks after years and years of being away and we can add Sleepy Hollow to this list.
This New Jersey, quartet was formed in the late 80's, put out one album, that I never had the pleasure of hearing, then disappeared (as in off the global Metal radar, they could have doing local gigs for all I know) until just recently. So, the band is back and have released their second full-length studio album, SKULL 13. Three quarters of the line-up from the debut album have returned and they have added Mike LePond (most noted for his tenure in Symphony X) on bass.
The first thing I noticed about this 11 song, hour long album is the odd production, especially the bass drums. It's not bad by any means but just quite different and in your face, which suits me fine as the pounding, mid-pace double kicks really jump out of the speakers sitting very high in the mix. The next noticeable quality are the rough ' n ready vokills of Bob Mitchell. His powerful performances, channels the gravelly sound of Dirkschneider, very well maybe with a blend of Gallagher from Raven. He may not have that classical training or an operatic presentation like some if the European dudes who sing in the higher ranges, but his style is more of the 'wall of sound' that mows down the pretenders.
Musically Sleepy Hollow could easily share a stage with Savage Grace, Omen, Manilla Road and Hallow's Eve, and back in the day, probably did. I like the darker, horror inspired lyrical themes and presentation, something that would put a smile on the face of King Fowley. There are some darker tones on this album, it's not squeaky clean with shimmering highs and those guitar tones accentuate the mid-paced, classic USPM sounds. Even the slower songs like 'Eternal Bridge' work very well with some understated but effective soloing and and a cleaner vocal performance from Mitchell. The songs are engaging and structured around conventional verse, chorus songs but not too happy or catchy as to interfere with the mood. There is one longer song, the appropriately titled 'Epic' (A Legend Retold) running nine minutes but it never drags.
I really enjoy SLEEPY HOLLOWS sound, it's true and pure, but truth be told, not very popular in North America and not fast enough for the speedy Euro-crowd. There are some niche bands that do this classic sound so well, and I believe if they wanted to the band really could go to the next level, by appealing to (hate to say it) older fans like me and the few cool Metal kids who are exiting the roots of good Metal and not getting bogged down in the commercially successful US bands, like Unearth, Lamb Of God and that whole pack. SKULL 13 sounds old, reeking of metallic history and dusty cobwebs and vintage Metal tones, which suits me just fine.