Priestess has made fans wait a long time for the follow-up to their 2006 debut, Hello Master, but the U.S. release of Prior to the Fire is finally here and it delivers the riff-heavy goods we’ve all come to know and love from this Montreal rock group.
Priestess certainly owes a lot of its chugging retro vibe to the pre-glam metal era, but Prior to the Fire finds the guys solidifying their sound a little to come up with a broader arrangement of tunes. The record swings out like a hulking epic, telling tales of retribution and passion amid a sea of deadly guitars.
The real shame of Prior to the Fire lies in the fact that it was actually completed and ready for release in 2008, but those bastards at RCA were reluctant to put it on the shelves. The fear was that the album lacked a “good single,” so the label put the band back to work at coming up with something for the “charts.” When that didn’t work out, RCA dropped Priestess and the four-piece was picked up by TeePee Records.
The rest, as they say, is fuckin’ history.
Prior to the Fire is the sort of record that requires high volumes and shirtless tees. It coasts through its 11 tracks with ease, all snaking riffs and thrashing drums.
The guitars of Mikey Heppner and Dan Watchorn do battle throughout the experience, scaling towers of melody with ferocity and fearlessness. Drummer Vince Nudo and bassist Mike Dyball fill things out with a harsh, thunderous attack.
Fittingly named “The Gem,” the record’s centerpiece is a furious, dashing sort of epic that revels in tempo shifts, volatile riffs and dramatic vocals from Heppner. Clocking in at a blistering eight minutes, the track bleeds screeching guitar and devastating drums together beautifully.
Album opener “Lady Killer” imposes its will with a surge of metal guitars evolving from the band’s desire to compose music about serial killers. “We set out to write a theme song for Jack the Ripper,” Heppner told Spin magazine.
Prior to the Fire is packed with crisp jams and lean cuts, splitting time squarely between the driving thrill of “Raccoon Eyes” and the surging spaciousness of “It Baffles the Mind.” The songs mesh together perfectly, creating a cloud of loud and fun rock music that any Sabbath or Maiden fan would do flips over.
RCA may have passed on Priestess and Prior to the Fire, but their loss is TeePee’s gain. This is a commanding, dynamic album that does everything but buckle under the load of its own awesomeness.