Two years on from Zuul’s well-received debut album (reviewed on here, true believers!), the band are back with a follow up that was hoped to be the “Killers” to their “Iron Maiden”, a real step forward with more hooks and a better production.
Last time, I wondered how Brad Moore could make the album cover any more metal than it already is, and he has replied with: Giant Colourful Monster Battle. Again, he’s done a kick ass painted cover, heavy on the detail and made for an LP cover, as there’s a lot to be found in the background – love that.
Opening tracks ‘Show No Mercy’ and ‘Guillotine’ follow the previous album’s style perfectly, fast, punchy and great choruses. ‘In The Cellar’ boasts a killer guitar line and vocal harmonies that come straight off the 1985 template, sounding fresh and vibrant.
I proposed before that the band would really have to up their game on their next LP to avoid being thought of as just a good live band, and thankfully songs such as ‘Skullsplitter’ and ‘Show No Mercy’ have set the quality bar of the album right back up to the debut’s.
However, the production is still murkier than it should be. Traditional metal like this needs to be clear, and there’s the same level of fog throughout as there was before. Perhaps due to the fact it was recorded in four different studios (photos of which are inexplicably included on the insert), there just isn’t the necessary clarity present. It’s still perfectly fine to listen to, but the vocals seem a touch behind the curtain.
Overall, it’s a good enough album, easily on a par with the debut, but considering the band’s skill musically, the songs should really be punchier; the verses are mostly interchangeable, and the choruses don’t really stand up as well as last time. Where the debut was pure NWOBHM, this is pure US metal, and although it’s above average, it just pales slightly compared to the glorious tracklisting from last time.
Part of the reason for this is the lack of a standout track. The songs are all kick ass for the most part, but there’s no classic tune like ‘Backstreet Crawler’ as there was on ‘Out of Time’. The songs on this album could have easily come off the debut, which in its own is a compliment, but for the second album I had hoped for perhaps a little bit more.
One great thing about the album is the sparing use of guitar solos – the one in ‘Smoldering Nights’ fairly lights
up the album and really sticks out. A small criticism can be found in Brett Batteau’s vocals however – they can get quite a bit samey, without the range in style he used on the debut album.
Album closer ‘Waste Of Time’ is a poor choice to end with too, it starts off fast and heavy, but meanders into a slow paced confused jumble with very hard to make out lyrics. The tempo is raised towards the end but it’s still surprising to note just how much your attention wanders during this song, despite repeat listens.
Other than the weak finish, it’s a good album, but the same proposal from last time still stands. The guys are clearly capable of writing great tunes, but there’s still scope for an extra step up – they have the ideas and the talent for sure, ‘In The Cellar’ proves that beyond doubt.
Here’s hoping that album number three will be a faster affair, basically taking the first three quarters of “To The Frontlines” and avoiding the slower stuff, keeping the killer choruses and well-placed guitar solos. They will still obviously kill in the live setting, and I’m looking forward to belting out the likes of ‘Guillotine’ and ‘Skullsplitter’ along with them.
3.6 / 5 – Dónal McBrien ::: 13/01/13