American metalheads Gygax found their formula very early in the band’s existence, so three albums in to their career there are not too many surprises in store if you’ve heard the band before.
The Ventura, California natives, formed from the ashes of the much-loved Gypsyhawk, are merely refining their sound now, content that the basic parts of the sonic recipe are all in place and working well – and you have to admit that they have it just about right. This new album is perhaps a little less immediate than last album Second Edition – it takes a full three listens to appreciate what’s going on – and there are perhaps not as many ‘hits’ on this album as the last or their debut Critical Hits – but a little digging and patience reveals that there is material here that is amongst the best the band have come up with to date!
The Eyes Have It, for instance, totally reduces the Gygax sound to its essence. Eric Harris has a pleasant voice, not perhaps great in the grand scheme of things, but it fits the Gygax sound perfectly. The guitars of Bryant Throckmorton and newbie Wes Wilson take the sound laid down on the first two albums and polish it to a high sheen. Wilson is a slightly more metallic guitarist, meaning that, despite the move to a more ‘friendly’ sound the listener can occasionally pick out more underground influences popping up – I think I heard Cirith Ungol somewhere along the way alongside the more expected Thin Lizzy references!
This is undemanding music in as much as the Gygax sound is totally non-abrasive, built to please the ear rather than test the neck muscles. The band create deceptively simple music despite performing it to a high level of skill. And you’d have to say that, with all these parameters in mind, this is the best Gygax album yet. Let’s hope there are many more rolls of the dice to come from these guys!
High Fantasy is released on June 21st.