Royal Thunder
CVI

Atlanta, Georgia residents Royal Thunder made a strong statement with their self-titled EP in 2010; blending bluesy, southern-tinged rock ‘n’ roll with sturdy doom foundations.  But perhaps their biggest drawcardwas the commanding presence of singer and bassist Miny Parsonz;a front-woman who could belt the tunes out with full-blooded urgency, or pull back into soulful restraint as the dynamic arrangements dictated.  If the EP planted seeds of great potential, CVI, their debut full-length, is a hydroponic-fuelled growth spurt of epic proportions.  CVI is both a logical progression and fast-tracked development of their song-writing chops and wonderful grasp of dynamics.

Miny Parsonz leads the way; her far-reaching vocal talents complement the rollicking musical backdrop and dynamic ebb and flow of the mostly lengthy compositions.  The aptly titled “Parsonz Curse” kicks off with Parsonz’s wailing vocal riding roughshod over some restrained instrumentation, before exploding into a swaggering groove and instantly memorable chorus.

Parsonz may command the most attention but she is well supported by her band mates.  Although Royal Thunder are now a four-piece, CVI was recorded largely by the original trio of Parsonz, guitarist Josh Weaver and drummer Jesse Stuber (since replaced by Lee Smith who makes an appearance on album closer “Black Water Vision”).   The stellar musicianship and chemistry between the band members resonates throughout the many shifting shades of the album.  The outstanding drumming of Stuber will be a particularly hard act to follow for his successor.

While several songs go straight for the throat, Royal Thunder are not a band to rush things. The moody build-ups and subdued moments scattered throughout the album are skilfully handled, allowing Parsonz to show-off her many vocal personas.  And although the first half of the album is arguably stronger, the quality never lets-up, and if anything the moodier second half rewards repeat listens to uncover the more elusive hooks, intricate subtleties and doomy layers within.

Two of the shorter tracks on the album, are early highlights “Whispering World” and “No Good”.  The former is stacked with expressive guitar work, several outstanding riffs (the riff at 2.25 following a screaming vocal from Parsonz is pure gold),energetic drumming and well-placed fills from Stuber.  The latter has a gritty hard rock base, with an addictive hook and bluesy pulse. Royal Thunder are skilled at arranging winding epics but they are equally adept at less subtle and utterly compelling gut-punches of the raw and rocking variety.

“Sleeping Witch” is a reprises from the debut and is largely recognizable from its original form.   The doomy number illustrates the increased polish and confidence the band has developed in the relatively short period between their first two releases.   The simple chords, and soulful vocals of Parsonz, form a tense, ominous atmosphere on “South of Somewhere” before erupting at the 3.50-minute mark into one of the album’s most scorching grooves.

Royal Thunder has pushed their song-writing to colorful new heights, with an emphasis in sculpting the arrangements around the voice of Parsonz and exploring ambitious new terrain.  Sprawling epics “Shake and Shift” and “Blue” both crack the 9-minute barrier and never feel like they are meandering or losing focus.  This is further evidence of the maturation of their song-writing and willingness to build tension and slip into moments of quieter reflection and restraint.  “Shake and Shift” in particular stands-out with its intelligent arrangement embedded with unshakable vocal and guitar hooks, superb musicianship and a flawless sonic vessel for Parsonz to display her outstanding vocal range.

Production has an organic feel that is full and clear with just enough fuzz and bite to add the necessary grit to the soulful and emotive songs.  The guitar tone is particularly effective; the warm, hefty weight enamored with a vibrant buzz to complement Weaver’s expressive playing and bluesy riffs.  The tight rhythm section forms a solid back bone, while Parsonz’s vocals cut unobtrusively through the mix.

Royal Thunder has the immense talent to match their ambitions, and CVI stands as an accomplished achievement that is at once confident, accessible, raw and intelligent.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Luke Saunders
October 15th, 2012

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