Wick by Royal ThunderRelease date: April 7, 2017
Label: Spinefarm Records
There is an extensive history of artists who have dealt with very deeply personal issues by making albums as a cathartic process, across all genres of music. For Atlanta based Royal Thunder, the existence of the band itself is a redemptive power for overcoming difficult life experiences including teenage drug use, and one-time members of a local church edging dangerously towards extreme cult like behaviours.
The band, Mlny Parsonz (vocals/bass), Josh Weaver (guitar), Will Fiore (guitar) and Evan Diprima (drums), has even survived the marital disintegration of two of its members, Mlny and Josh. It will then come as no surprise that listening to the music of Royal Thunder is complex, deeply emotional, but also a positive experience.
With the release of second album Crooked Doors the band have been garnering a widening circle of critical acclaim. So, with the release of Wick and their first for Spinefarm Records sees Royal Thunder take a step further to really establish, enhance and hone-in on a focused compact sound while maintaining their nuanced intricacies, which makes them intriguing.
Their influences which most closely form their sound range from the intricate guitar playing of Blue Oyster Cult, The Cult, but devoid of any of the latter’s occasional cock-sure male posturing. Plus, add into the equation the soulful, vulnerable elements of Greg Dhulli’s Afghan Whigs, blend into a sound both at once familiar and distinctive.
It does feel like you are prying into Mlny’s personal experiences. As the overriding theme on Wick is loss and, dig deeper, the processes which lead to renewal. Her powerful emotive vocal display throughout this record is like a tsunami wave, striking, and expresses both deeply felt guttural roars, as on the album’s most forthright rocker ‘The Sinking Chair’ through to heartfelt soulful balladry on ‘Plans’. One can only assume she must have been left wrecked and exhausted by the time of the album’s completion.
Credit also to the guitar interplay between Josh and Will as it is incredibly subtle because they allow Mlny to express herself at full range, careful not to compete with her. But when they take centre stage it is never forced, but diligently executed combining delicate finger picking, strum blasts and an emotive guitar solo on the sublime, but absolutely despairing ‘Anchor’, the fine solo on the chugging rock groove of ‘Turnaround’, to the understated guitar harmonies in ‘April Showers’ and ‘We Slipped’. The latter song moves from up-tempo rocker into serene, lush soundscapes of piano tinkering (Mlny) and cello (by Matt Jarrard).
The band swing in unison complimenting the array of moods and time changes which lie within many of the songs. This is an album which with further listens reveals deep-seated depth, whether it is in the profound heartfelt lyrics, or the refined textures and tones of the music.
Wick, and indeed Royal Thunder, do require time and effort to receive the full appreciative listening experience. But the rewards are worth it because this may turn out to be one of, if not the most, emotionally intelligent rock records of the year. And instils further the growing feeling from endorsed converts that we are indeed witnessing the emergence of an exceptional band.