They don’t make ’em like Vicious Rumors anymore, that’s for sure! Or at least, they don’t make ’em like VR’s fabled leader, guitarist Geoff Thorpe. Alongside Iced Earth‘s Jon Schaffer, the man has stood as a figurehead for the US power metal movement through seasons of wither and fruitfulness. He deserves props for that if nothing else!

But he also deserves full praise for sticking by the VR brand itself for so long, when surely it must have seemed easier simply to scorch his historic earth and simply start afresh. Last time I saw the band live, in San Antonio, Texas in 2018 on the Digital Dictator thirtieth anniversary tour, there were signs of a possible rebirth in the VR camp, but nothing really prepares you for just how fresh and re-energized the band sounds on Celebration Decay.

Thorpe himself heaps much praise for this state of affairs at the feet of new guys Nick Courtney (vocals) and guitarist Gunnar Dügrey, but he himself has to take his fair share too; his riffs and songwriting sound revitalised too, and, even if there’s still a reliance on ‘the chug’ as an easy getout on some songs, it’s still a mighty fine chug at that. If you’re a fan of the minutiae of guitar playing, you’ll be pleased to note that Thorpe’s tone on this album is absolutely fantastic, thanks in part to another fine production job by Juan Urteaga.

So, where it was pretty much universally accepted that 2016’s Concussion Protocol was a step in the right direction for the band, I think it will come to be seen that Celebration Decay was truly Vicious Rumors’ ‘renaissance’ album. They simply haven’t matched tracks like Long Way Home since their ‘glory days’, if at all, and when you mix this kind of radio-friendly classic metal with the heavier likes of Pulse of the Dead or the excellent Ripper-era Priest crusher Cold Blooded you’re faced with an album that has all the heavy metal bases covered… and then some!

Celebration Decay is out now.