Welcome, friends, to our latest Crusade… As ever, we’ve a lot to get through so I’ll waste no more time gabbing – enjoy the metal we’ve got lined up for you this month!

Seventh Servant Crusade

We last caught up with Knoxville natives Seventh Servant – who, you will remember, feature former Iced Earth throatsmith John Greely on vocals and guitar – some four years ago when they offered up a two-tracker which we felt oozed potential. Well, they’ve finally realised that potential in the shape of debut full-length effort The Tree of Life!

A seven-song retelling of the Bible’s Book of Revelation – word for word! – the lyrical slant of The Tree of Life may not be to everybody’s taste, but the metal – resolutely trad, with symphonic flourishes on tracks like Forevermore – will definitely appeal to anybody reading this column. Well produced but with an appealingly raw guitar tone, Greely and company definitely display a firm grasp on the principals behind catchy, hard-hitting metal. Miah Lajeunesse adds concise and fluid lead work to Greely’s rhythm playing, whilst the rhythm section of drummer Shawn Walker and Ginger Sizemore (bass) make sure that the bass over which the guitars soar and swoop is never less than rock solid.

The title track is a stomping, pompous slice of classic metal, based in the tradition of Rainbow, Dio and maybe Fifth Angel but fans of heavier metal (especially Iced Earth in this case) won’t fell left out of the fun when the band really cranks things up and goes for broke. Well worth your time!

Lunae Crusade
Vastly more pompous and overblown – but no less enjoyable – are Mexico City’s Lunae Lasciva, who are back with their first full-length effort in nine years in the shape of No Muero Mi Transformo, a blustering, bullocking triumph of raw, unrefined power. This band takes the kitchen sink approach to album production, resulting in a sometimes chaotic maelstrom of noise where two guitars, keys, drums, bass and voice jostle one another to achieve primacy in the mix.

They aren’t always successful – the sound is, at times, a bit of a cacophony if we’re being honest – but that shouldn’t detract from the fact that anthemic tracks like Dulce Entropia are actually well written and played with honesty and sincerity.

Ensueño (Lux Interium Ignite) mixes prog ambition with eighties europop melodicism, the result being rather memorable thanks to an impassioned vocal from Reniere Luna that really catches the imagination.

Despite being extant since 2010, Lunae Lasciva aren’t quite the finished article yet – but they show enough here at least in the quality of their song writing to suggest that their third album – which they say they are working on already – might be something well worth waiting for!

Steelfaith crusade

To the Czech Republic now, and the more straightforward, no-holds barred metal of Steelfaith; This is another band returning after a longish hiatus – six years this time around – and they certainly reflect that time off with the raw hunger to be found in the first couple of tracks on their new album MMXXII; The memorable Led especially caught out ear on first listen, thanks to the commanding vocal presence of Miri Holemá, who – and we don’t want to damn with faint praise here – has a little bit of  Doro about her in the way she manages to convey emotion even as a force ten gale is blowing up instrumentally all around her.

Everything is sung in the band’s native tongue, so we’re not really sure what’s going on lyric-wise, but in all honesty that doesn’t detract from the sheer melodic punch these songs manage to pack. Each song comes complete with memorable hooks and the sort of chunky, modern guitar sound that is high on chug but manages to still stay melodic thanks to the skillful work of the band’s two guitarists, Honza Štok and Ondra Vašaš.

Standout cut 11:55 brings everything together best, with the less traditional-sounding but no less compelling Den poté not far behind; both combine strong vocal melodies, thrilling guitar work and pounding rhythms thanks to drummer Jirka Skalický and bassist Štěpán Vojta that make for a truly exciting listening experience. This is really good stuff in anyone’s language, and therefore I have no hesitation in making it the Crusade’s release of the month!

Cauldron Born
Cauldron Crusade
Back to the US now for some traditional steel courtesy of the superbly over-the-top Cauldron Born, who hit all the right notes with their splendid new offering Cold Steel For The Necromancer.

The epic Full Moon Revenant is one of the most glorious slices of deliriously extravagant true metal we’ve heard round these parts in a long, long time, bringing together names like Manowar, pre-descent into madness Virgin Steele and Manilla Road into one triumphant package, but luckily the grandeur doesn’t stop there as the band come up with another seven tracks here, all of which have a hell of a lot going for them.

Vocalist Matthew Knight has a formidable vocal repertoire, mixing an aggressive mid-range reminiscent of Jon Oliva and David DeFeis, but he’s got the confidence to throw in some truly frightening screams – we’re talking King Diamond here – meaning that as a complete package he would appear to have few to fear in the current trad metal market. He gives a compelling performance on every track here, and, when in harness with the band’s masterful six stringers Howie Bentley and Alex Parra, the trio cause real and palpable metallic sparks to fly. Utterly compelling, absorbing heavy metal of the highest order!

That’s it for this month – please don’t forget to support the bands we’ve featured in any way you can if you have enjoyed their music as much as we have!

Until next time

Hail and Kill