Return Of The Snow Giant
A heavy metal giant that leaves nothing alive in it's wake
Rarely do you find that one spotlight, shining in the middle of a vast wasteland. A rare occasion indeed to find that one special moment where the stars aligned just right, and something magical was created. So rare an occasion that it only happens once every six or seven years. That magical light comes to surface, lighting the way for a new cause and a new direction, leading to a rich oasis of epic beauty and serene bliss. That special place does indeed exist, beyond our hearts and dreams, delivered rather surprisingly into the palms of our hands. Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to the album of the year, the album of this millennium, and quite possibly the best record of the last ten years. I welcome you to Overlorde's "Return Of The Snow Giant".
New Jersey's supreme metal militia, Overlorde, have unleashed a sonic firestorm of epic proportions, one that rivals everything else in sheer power and might, a record that beams forth with the most amazing strength and muscle. "Return Of The Snow Giant" is exactly that, a return to of the most colossal force, a heavy metal giant that leaves nothing alive in it's wake. This is Overlorde, this is the beginning of something truly special. With a vengeance, this group of heavy metal scavengers have taken it upon themselves to bring the brain back to the brawn. This band understands the key to success, they understand that it isn't strength in numbers, but simply the ability to go against the storm, to spit in the wind and create something completely refreshing, straying from the pack of spotlight seekers and following their own beacon in the night. With the same tools as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Rainbow, and even Rush, Overlorde have built their own "star castle", a monumental heavy metal classic that will surely shine for decades to come.
It has been twelve years since Overlorde released their now legendary debut, the self titled five track EP through Strike Zone records. Since then the band have been calmly waiting, lying in the undergrowth ready to attack at the first sign of weakness. Now with so many headbangers focusing on the hardcore trends of today, Overlorde rides from the shadows to take the music back, and sweep a new breed of heavy metal fans back into the pastures of good, quality metal madness. Since '87 the band have always been on the tip of metal collector's tongues, even creating a bit of a stir in the late 90s in Europe, with fans and bootleggers stirring the cauldron with a circulation of the debut EP. Sensing the buzz, the group decided to reunite, putting Bobby "Leather Lungs" Lucas (Seven Witches) on vocal duty. The band played a few shows here and there, and made an appearance at both Powermad Festivals in Baltimore, MD. In 2000 the group released a four track demo featuring the cuts "Hell Hath No Fury", "Ogre Wizard", "Metallic Madness", and "Blackness". The demo managed to get fans worldwide fired up again, with the end result a recording of a brand new album.
In April of '04 the band signed with Greece's Sonic Age Records, and now "Return Of The Snow Giant" is a reality. The challenge has been met, with the band meeting all expectations and crafting a solid full length that stands head and shoulders above everything else. As if it was '81 all over again, Overlorde have created the perfect metal opus, thirteen tracks of heavy metal dy-na-mite! This is truly a masterpiece on every level, with the band's stellar production job on par with the likes of Martin Birch. The album manages to create that perfect metal sound, with the drums sounding bombastic, the bass very audible, the guitars mixed high, and Bobby Lucas' vocals earsplitting but not completely over the top. This album can be played at a reasonable level and still get the same effect as if it was cranked to maximum volume. That can't be said for a lot of records, but it is the case this time around. Along with the quality production comes some of the best artwork I've seen. The cover was created by famous Greek fantasy artist Giza Di, and does justice to the album's title. Boys and girls, if you want a real heavy metal poster adorning your doors and walls, request this one above all others.
We all know beyond the cosmetics lies the real element, that internal will to survive and thrive with brilliant storytelling and skillful playing, which this album achieves on all levels. Mark Edwards' guitar playing is absolutely extraordinary. He keeps this album moving with a diverse layout for each track. Every cut is pure groove, not stomp riff groove, but simply the groove of old, where bands like Maiden and Sabbath kept everything flowing with the ability to PLAY their instruments and switch up the patterns. From groove to solos to outright shredding, Edwards does it all. Don't expect simple chop riffs here like Jon Schaffer or Jack Frost, although I do enjoy that stuff, but these are creative monster riffs on a level that few can achieve. This man is just scorching with the raw ability to deliver quality riffs throughout each song, not just a hit or miss mindset, but simply the brainpower to make the listener contemplate on what will hit them next. Along with the talented axeman comes John "Kong" Bunucci who manages to pick his bass lines like Geezer Butler or Steve Harris, delving deep into his pockets to offer up some of the most rhythmic bass of recent memory. One listen to "When He Comes" will solidify that point, with it's Sabbath worship and deep bass grumbling. The same high marks can be said for Dave Wrenn, who manages to create some of the most catchy drum patterns, bringing to mind Neil Peart with his calm demeanor and resolve, but hard hitting like Bill Ward or Bobby Rondinelli. Vocalist Lucas rounds the event off with his leather lungs, hitting impossible highs with the greatest of ease. At times you have to wonder how he holds those notes, how he gets that much air. The man is simply on fire here, from his highs to his mid-range to his simple storytelling evident on "When He Comes" and "Mark Of The Wolf". These singers are few and far between, and just like this album, it is truly a magical performance for it to fit so well.
Fans of classic metal will just bask in the atmosphere of this record, easily soaking up every moment as a clean, fresh breath of air. With tracks like "Snow Giant", "Overlorde", and "Hell Hath No Fury", the band dig into the roots of heavy metal's origins, recalling the finest moments of Sabbath and Maiden. This album really could be best described as the meshing of those two giants together, with Sabbath's groovy numbers crossed with Maiden's thought pattern. The flashy European style is in full swing here, with the Helloween styled "Ogre Wizard" and the upbeat Candlemass vibe of "Starcastle". The Sabbath altar gets plenty of worship with "When He Comes" and "Trapped By Magic", both tracks being full doomy swingers with enough zest to keep it up-tempo. My favorite cut is the eerie "Mark Of The Wolf", which makes full use of Lucas' entire range. The same could be said for "Colossus (Island Of The Cyclops)". Each song shows musical integrity, each cut is a perfect piece to the puzzle. With these songs you never get bored, with each track always keeping you guessing and on your toes. Five hundred listens in and you will still hear new things here and there, but it isn't overkill by any means. You won't shake your head wondering what is going on. It isn't progressive in anyway, just simply a fast moving freight train that refuses to derail, always taking the traveler to a different place and time. That is ultimately the goal for every record, and with this one, that goal is achieved beyond a shadow of a doubt.
So there you have it, the full commentary for "Return Of The Snow Giant", the best record of 2004. This is pure magic, pure brilliance, and the perfect way to wrap up this year. It has been years, and I do insist on YEARS since I have heard an album this good and this refreshing. From start to finish I am just mesmerized by it, completely caught up in its shiny glow. This is just an incredible piece of work, and I feel so proud to have been able to hear it in it's entirety. It is one of those rare occasions where "just being there" is bigger than anything else. One listen to this record will have you hooked, another listen will have you committed to this band, committed to understanding and enjoying this masterful record from start to finish.
Indeed, it is the "Return Of The Snow Giant".
Note-The band has also recorded a cover of Queensryche's "Queen Of The Reich", which will be featured on an upcoming compilation soon.