American power metallers Graveshadow‘s The Uncertain Hour – or, perhaps more accurately, The Uncertain Fifty One Minutes – whips up a minor storm within it’s ten tracks, to be sure… but sometimes it raises more questions than it answers.

The band released a couple of albums in the last decade featuring vocalist Heather Michele – perhaps better known for her stint with Sci-Fi metallers Helion Prime – and now find themselves with a singer potentially even better in the shape of the consistently impressive Rachl ‘Raxx’ Quinn. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a singer anywhere in the world right now singing this kind of music with a better, more dependable set of pipes, but this sometimes seems to act as a slight depressant on the rest of the band in terms of inspiration. When you’ve a ‘sing the phonebook’ talent up front, the temptation, even subconsciously, must on occasion be to let the foot off the pedal and let the vocals take the strain. Hence the intrusion of intermittently mundane material like The Swordsman – coincidentally a track laden with unnecessary death metal growling – when what we really want to hear are all-guns-blazing slices of prime power metal like Soldier of 34 and Gwynnbleidd,  a pair of tracks that together form one of the most exciting introductions to an album you’ll hear all year. Don’t get me wrong – the music here never dips into being actively poor – these guys and girls can all clearly play – but at the moment the real gold is the exception rather than the rule.

Quinn is an absolute diamond, possessed of  the sort of voice most singers would kill for; like most singers of this calibre, she doesn’t feel the need to over sing; however with a mid-range as controlled and powerful as hers there’s simply no need for over egging the pudding. Her performance on the excellent Shadow Battles is absolutely top draw.

Exciting stuff, then, but a good deal of excitement stems from the sheer potential of Quinn’s voice; if the band can up their own ante next time around and deliver an album of similarly classy tunes, then Graveshadow could well be in with a shot at the title…

The Uncertain Hour releases on July 15th.