It’s sometimes easy to forget, given the Claim the Throne ’s often light-hearted public persona as antipodean Vikings on the beer looking for another skull-cracking orgy in which to engage, that there lurks, not too far from the surface, a deadly serious heavy metal killing machine.
In the past the band have sometimes failed to fully harness the beast straining between their collective thighs; Last album Forged in Flame was a fine, fine record yet at times the pudding was thoroughly over-egged, leading to a bit of ear-fatigue on the part of the listener as the attention was pulled this way and that as the band threw the kitchen sink at anyone within earshot.
On this new album, however, everything coalesces, and you’re left the feeling that On Desolate Plains is the album the band have been striving to capture. It’s certainly the band’s most mature release (and I definitely mean this as praise!), with keyboard player Jessie Millea in particular blossoming and playing a vital part in the band’s evolution. Her clean vocals add an otherworldly air often missing in the band’s material, whilst her well-considered keyboard embellishments add real grandeur and pomp to proceedings. A new star enters the Australian metal firmament.
However, it would be wrong to assume the band have become a grim-aced uber-proficient nerd juggernaut; this is still eminently visceral music for the most part, and if more melody than long term listeners might be expecting creeps in here and there the album is, overall, still a rip roaringly enjoyable exercise in ripping death metal extremity.
Glenn Dyson and Brendon Capriotti are a formidable axe partnership, churning out unforgiving riff after unforgiving riff, though their grasp of dynamics (the UFO-style closing coda of My Dying Throes, for instance) means the ears are never far from a bit of respite. Their dramatic interplay with Millea at the start of Everblade is a real highlight.
Tracks like the excellent Mantra see the band really stretching out, but they retain that inner core of steel at all times, meaning this is surely the most universally-appealing Claim the Throne record we’ve been confronted with yet. The band are clearly ready to make a step up – and if you’ve not familiarised yourself with them before then On Desolate Plains is a magnificent place to start.
On Desolate Plains is out now.