Black Royal

Finland’s Black Royal stormed into prominence with their powerhouse 2018 debut LP, Lightbringers, an impressive slab of doom-laced death with an abundance of killer riffs and piercing hooks. Eager to build upon the sturdy foundations of their impressive debut, Black Royal return to strengthen and refine their beastly, riff-centric style of death and doom on their formidable sophomore album, Firebride. The same basic template remains in place, as Black Royal channel old school Swedish death, classic UK doom, and bluesy NOLA-esque sludge. The formula is not dissimilar to Warcab’s mighty mode of destruction, but despite dabbling in a similar meshing of styles, Black Royal easily carve their own identity with a sound both fresh and timeless.

Firebride thrives in its rather straightforward and simplistic song-writing approach. Make no mistake, these are well crafted and tightly executed tunes, but Black Royal keep things uncomplicated, building each song upon massively heft and insanely infectious riffs and oodles of headbang-friendly grooves. There’s a lively death n’ roll feel to some of the songs and despite the eyebrow raising that tag may induce, here it’s a positive thing for listeners that are craving stomping, addictive metal without the need for flashy embellishments, technical overkill, or endless blasting. After all, there’s ample death metal out there catering for these attributes. It’s the rather simple, destructive and focused delivery that sings to me throughout Firebride.

Firebride opens with one of the stronger bursts I’ve heard in some time, setting the album in pummelling motion. Opening with delicate strings and calming melodies, “Coven” quickly unfurls in all its addictive, riff-driven glory, unveiling the clever and dramatic orchestral elements and Satanic themes prevalent throughout the album. Equally impactful duo of follow-up tunes, “Hail Yourself” and Pagan Saviour,” bring imposing heft and earworm hooks aplenty, forged with ironclad riffage, hoarse growls and rumbling grooves. At a compact 38 minutes, there’s little time wasted. Only short instrumental “313” could be considered filler, though it’s a decent acoustic breather which doesn’t overstay its welcome.

Performances are solid and inspired across the board. The urgent, feral growls of vocalist Riku Niemelä unleash rabidly addictive and largely decipherable vocal hooks. Meanwhile the rhythm section excels and holds down a rugged, groovy platform for guitarist Toni Majores to punch out A-grade, Stockholm-styled buzzsaw riffage, riddled with emotive sludge and doom influences, stirring melodies and bluesy swagger.  And if my earlier mention of an outstanding opening stretch indicated the album is frontloaded, the middle and back half stacks up remarkably well. The bluesy riffs and swagger of “The Reverend” is lively and crushing, “Firebride” is a riveting tune featuring seismic riffs and seething aggression, while closer “For the Dead Travel Fast” unfolds into a rumbling, doomy delight, beautifully adorned with an inspired female vocal. These little variables are what keeps Firebride from stagnating or becoming too predictable. The individuality of each song also holds the album in good stead regarding longevity and replay value.

Firebride is an outstanding early year highlight that is likely to stay in regular rotation. Don’t be fooled by the straightforward structures and riffs, Black Royal crafted an album with substance and character, delivering a ripping collection of bruising and infectious songs, which will not soon be forgotten. Putting their own creative and highly addictive stamp on tried and true old school death and doom values, Black Royal have honed their craft to release an album oozing with an abundance of sledgehammer grooves, killer riffs, and ridiculously catchy hooks.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
April 2nd, 2020


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