Accompanied as it was by one of the politest written requests for review it’s ever been my joy to receive, North Carolina’s own Temptation’s Wings are a band I’d never heard of but are one that immediately intrigued me, the album cover of ‘Skulthor Ebonblade’ looking as it does so much like the cover of the Dungeons and Dragons modules I remember from my long distant youth (yes folks, I was a nerd, albeit a rugby forward lump of a nerd who confused and vexed the average school bully!), so I was more than happy to pop the CD in the player for a spin.

Opening effects laden instrumental ‘Burning of Hjalmar’ offered little clue as to what could be to come. Slow enough to be the prelude to doom, yet dark enough to segue into blackened metal shrieks, following track ‘I Destroyer’ was a real curve ball, being a fantasy themed slice of straight metal. Yes, there are hints of the sounds of Blind Guardian style power metal, and lashings of NWOBHM, but there is no need to put the sound of Temptation’s Wings into a pigeon hole (no pun intended), rather it is Heavy Metal that has heartily earned the capital letters. The album continues apace with a story that is equal parts the dark sorcery of Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion, the sword and sandal adventures of Robert E Howard’s Conan The Barbarian, all mixed in with the pomp of Iron Maiden. ‘Into The Maelstrom’ matches chugging riffs with pounding rhythms to carry along lyrics of myth and magic, complete with tempo changes guaranteed to have heads banging and a solo which surely required the player to have one foot firmly atop the stage monitor whilst throwing their best axe-hero shapes. ‘To Forge A Legend’ follows, a number that could easily come from the canon of Iced Earth, no mean feat when I found out that Temptation’s Wings are actually a three piece, something I discovered only after several listens to the CD, and to be honest, there is surprisingly little layering and reliance on studio tricks, the track being one that could be recreated live with just guitar, bass and drum, a testament to the obvious skills of the band.

All the tropes of classic metal are on show in the album, be it the Prog like opening to ‘Lair Of The Gorgon Queen’ which quickly develops into a tune as heavy as the petrified victims of the Medusa, or in the gentle acoustic instrumental of ‘Solitude’, a track in which the band can show that they are sensitive artists not just bludgeoning metal heads, an album addition that was once practically mandatory in the eighties. ‘Skulthor Ebonblade’ is an album on which Temptation’s Wings show they are unashamed fans of metal, and don’t need to try and appeal to the modern “insert chosen word here”-core fans by modifying their sound, or by writing lyrics of fake teenage angst and screaming about how unfair the word is. Rather they unapologetically tell a single fantasy story, spread over the nine tracks of the LP, even fading out with a cry to “raise your horns!”

There are too many sub-divisions and sub-genres of metal. A bold statement, I know, but even with coming up to four decades of listening to hard rock and that which is heavy, I will stand by it. New albums arrive for review, and I have to go scuttling off to Google (other search engines are also available, apparently!) to try and work out what the hell is going on. If you ever get the chance to see his show, “Occult Comedian” Andrew O’Neill has a bloody good shot at explaining it in his ‘History of Heavy Metal’, but I imagine even his encyclopaedic knowledge has limitations. That is why, with nothing but a combination of passion, enthusiasm, and lavish heaps of cliché piled upon glorious cliché, ‘Skulthor Ebonblade’ demands to be played, and Temptation’s Wings deserve your attention!

(8/10 Spenny)