Athens’ own Planet of Zeus have a reputation for big riffage and since forming in 2000 they have toured extensively including being support for the likes of Clutch and Monster Magnet. There’s no surprise then, that fourth release “Loyal To The Pack” contains a bunch of songs that possess colossal might and infectious groove that will possibly reduce you to a sweaty wreck. With influences old and new coming from all angles, the Greek lads have managed to put together a solid slab of hard driving songs.
Launching into the title track in no delicate fashion, the riff is a clean one-two knockout punch with vocals to match. This is an absolute belter full of head banging goodness that feels like a stamp of authority. The moments of slinky bass and smooth vocals explode into a surging, propulsive blast of a chorus that doesn’t mess about. That immediate smack the face takes a turn with “Devil Calls My Name” kicking off a section of the album that has everything from ‘70’s inspired hard blues rock to a more recent Clutch influenced groove. There’s something for everyone here that’s sure to get nods of approval. The production feels big and there’s an accessibility that should ensure a wide audience. “Them Nights” and “Little Deceiver” have a classic rock feel about them that hints at anything from Queens Of The Stone Age to Black Country Communion. These tracks are further removed from the grunt of the opening attack but the intrigue is always there to hear what’s coming next.
The tone starts to shift back towards more boozy rockers that wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the ‘80’s West Coast heyday. However, it’s “Retreat” where that initial fire in the belly feel starts to return. The pure, Southern soaked Lynyrd Skynyrd influence is writ large bringing back memories of “Simple Man” with the muscular riff coming in then fading away.
The latter part of the album is where we hear the return to all out heavy metal thunder. Like Thin Lizzy meeting Black Sabbath, “White Shroud” is a heady mix of everything good as it churns and stomps its’ way along. There’s no retreat either with what follows being more like the encore to a great gig. “Scum Alive” is a fists-raised-in-the-air beast blasting out riffs that feel like they were personally delivered by Zeus himself. With shades of Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks”, the swampy sound that is “Indian Red” threatens to explode any second. This feels like it was birthed in the Deep South with its’ rich aura. Babis Papanikolaou’s vocals throughout the album are diverse ranging from easy and clean through to moments of smooth baritone that would make Clutch’s Neil Fallon proud. Then when the moment strikes, he unleashes mighty roars over gargantuan guitars.
Final track, “Athens” feels like an instrumental ode to their home town. A rich, warm and slightly haunting piece that is subtle and feels reflective of the hard times this ancient city has experienced in recent years. There’s a lovely build towards an uplifting defiance that makes for an apt finale.
“Loyal To The Pack” works on a lot of levels but what is most refreshing is the way in which Planet Of Zeus manage to neatly weld together a bunch of classic influences. All of it is kept fresh with an honest and well executed simplicity that is sure to please. The bands’ energy and enthusiasm is infectious and makes itself felt all the way through. Definitely worth a listen.
(7.5/10 Johnny Zed)