Bizarre as it sounds, but it has been an all too long five years since the rather excellent debut by Age Of Taurus, namely the doom laden majesty that was ‘Desperate Souls of Tortured Times’, a fact that surprised me as it was only a few weeks ago that I last played it. And what has the band been doing in all that time, specifically, the founder and creative heart guitarist/vocalist Toby Wright? Firstly he has had quite a re-shuffle in the band: guitarist and Cimmerian War God lookalike Alastair Riddell is away plying his trade with Brule, and has been replaced by Daniel Knight, whilst helping bring the thunder with sticks-man Darius Claydon this time round is ex-Cathedral bass master Leo Smee.
The other thing I think Mr Wright has been doing is subsisting on a non-stop auditory diet of New Wave Of British Heavy Metal music, played loud and proud as he works his way through a massive library of heroic fantasy fiction from the likes of Robert E. Howard and Michael Moorcock. The opening bars of ‘From The Hills To The Halls’ that launch ‘The Colony Slain’ are dripping with swagger and majesty, and could frankly be equally heralding either the arrival of Iron Maiden on stage at The Hammeo as an oiled up eighties Schwarzenegger as he crushed bejewelled thrones beneath his sandalled feet on the screen of your local cinema. That same NWOBHM sensibility runs throughout ‘Taken To The Tower’, all pounding drums, thunderous bass, and twin guitar interplay to accompany the ongoing tale of swords and sorcery that makes up the lyrical theme of the album as a whole. ‘The Trial of Blackwynn Chaise’, surely a character in ‘Game of Thrones’ follows, complete with lyrics of confessions gained on the rack, and a howling female vocal that sounds like the it has escaped from the dark side of the moon, or maybe some other great gig in the sky, adding some Prog pomp into the mix, a style that comes out in the gentle harmonised vocals found in the middle of ‘In Dreams We Die’, sandwiched between neck wrecking riffs that practically demand studded leather gloved fists to punch the air.
Whilst the first album was threaded through with the sort of down-tuned riffage that any true fan of Iommi would insist upon, in ‘The Colony Slain’ the band explores a wider range of sounds: ‘Beyond The Westward Path’ veers towards the Dungeons and Dragons Power of Blind Guardian; ‘The Walls Have Ears’ has the bass gallop of early Maiden; and ‘To Seal A Mountain’ almost verges at the edge of Manowar for sheer theatricality, without falling into the trap of parody that puts me off listening to those particular true metal furry cod-piece wearers. By the time the album closes with the title track ‘The Colony Slain’, it is obvious that Age Of Taurus have undergone an evolution in style over their hiatus. No longer are they just the Candlemass devotees that some who heard their first album considered them. Instead they have absorbed and assimilated a wide range of influences, from mystical seventies Prog and hard rock to the early NWOBHM sounds of Angel Witch, and rather than thinking of them as flare wearing doomsters, it is equally easy to imagine them now planting high top sneakers out of which grow drainpipe jeans atop the stage front monitors as they launch an imaginary fusillade into the audience from their guitars. With this new album, new line up, and evolved style, ‘Age Of Taurus’ will be garnering fans from across the metal spectrum, and I can only hope this release will lead to a matching tour, new found popularity, and less of a gap between releases as it is pretty damn good and I want more.