Durbin – The Beast Awakens
Reviewed: March 2021
Released: 2021, Frontiers Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Let’s address the obvious, shall we?
1) James Durbin was a contestant on American Idol, almost immediately endearing himself to a national audience of repressed soccer moms.
2) Like a poor man’s Ripper Owens, James Durbin fronted an internationally famous metal b(r)and for approximately 15 minutes before being replaced by a previous and more established vocalist.
The less obvious is that Durbin’s debut solo album, THE BEAST AWAKENS, is actually a decent stab at early 80’s inspired traditional heavy metal. Yes, there is absolutely an abundance of saccharine schmaltzy heavy metal clichés that will appeal to the metal periphery and the Daytona Bike Week crowd, but there’s also plenty of genuine moments where you can tell that dude is doing his best to summon the elder gods while living out his heavy metal fantasy.
The 12 tracks on THE BEAST AWAKENS are rooted in an almost palpable worship of Dio and Priest, with heavy emphasis on the kind of sword n’ sorcery, good vs. evil jams that have been imprinted on so many of our collective psyches. At its best, tracks like “Kings Before You”, “Into the Flames”, and “Evil Eye”, offer fresh takes on classic tomes and get you bangin’ your noggin in the process. I’ll go so far as to say that the album opener “The Prince of Metal” and closer “Rise to Valhalla” sound like they could’ve been early Helloween leftovers. At its worst, tracks like “The Sacred Mountain” and “Riders on the Wind” are waaaay too close to their inspired source material, cribbing riff phrasing and vocal passages in a way that will only draw associations to better songs by better artists. But collectively, THE BEAST AWAKENS is a pretty entertaining first stab from an artist trying to define himself.
Going back and listening to Durbin’s contributions to the last few Quiet Riot records, it’s abundantly clear that the guy wasn’t being fully utilized. His range and delivery on THE BEAST AWAKENS is wide and diverse, matching some impressive highs with gravelly lows. Good for him that he’s finally found the artistic freedom to stretch his vocal legs. And while having limited expectations for the debut album from a reality show contestant, it turns out that THE BEAST AWAKENS is a fun and well crafted collection of classic metal tunes. Get over yourself and check it out, you might be surprised as well.