Reviewed: July 2020
Released: 2020, Fighter Records
Reviewer: Kieron Hayes
Greyhawk’s debut album, Keepers of the Flame, out now via Fighter Records, is an absolute treat for any heavy metal fan, and a stalwart reminder of just why we love this genre in the first place.
This is everything you’d expect from a classic of the genre. Furious solos, hook-laden riffs and melodies, roaring, soaring vocals and lyrics to inspire strength and take the listener off onto a journey into worlds of fantasy and excitement. Most importantly of all is the element that has always helped the leaders stand out among the pack: restraint, of a sort, in the midst of so much wild indulgence.
Like the key ingredient that is only needed in a small dose, a little tempering of the fury here goes a long way. Greyhawk are epic and glorious and over-the-top, happily giving in to all the cheesiness that puts an instant smile on the face, but that epic feel is never a crutch. The heart of every song here is good writing, catchy choruses and effective melodies. There’s never the feeling that Greyhawk are obsessively striving to be the most fast, technical, epic, whatever. There certainly -are- tempo shifts, impressive solos (“R.X.R.O.” being a perfect showcase) and grand, epic moments, but they’re used where most effective rather than just thrown out non-stop. And no one of these elements detracts from the others, all working in tandem.
“Masters of the Sky” calls classic Saxon to mind with its steady, rumbling bass and toe-tapping rhythm. “Drop the Hammer” ups the ante with a faster, harder track and a fierce, gang-roared chorus that will take listeners back to the heyday of bands like Riot or Raven. “The Rising Sign” also emphasises that aspect of restraint in the band, a more mellow number, almost approaching a ballad, albeit with a rocking, fist-pumping chorus. It’s as these sort of tracks should be: enjoying on its own, and serving as a break from the fierce pace elsewhere. A chance to catch your breath, musically speaking. Closing out the album, the title track is an unrelenting onward march, a call to arms full of empowering glory that would do Manowar proud. The classic fantasy vibe so prevalent here will be familiar to fans of Cirith Ungol or, more recently, Visigoth, just listen to the insanely catchy chorus of “Ophidian Throne”:
“Remeeember his majesty,
Will reward your loyalty,
The ser-pent king a-WAITS!”
But to be clear, this framing with other bands isn’t to paint Greyhawk as mere imitators in the slightest, simply to give frames of reference for the quality of the material on show here. Keep this up, and they’ll certainly earn their place among those revered luminaries. Fans of classic heavy metal, give this one a spin, you will not regret it!