Class. I think it’s something you have to be born with at least in seed form. Like talent it has to be nurtured but there has to be something there in the beginning. Obama had it, Johnson couldn’t dig it out of his over educated arse.
Class. In the beginning?
Here’s a thing, before Bathory and Celtic Frost stirred in their catacombs, when Venom were The Most Dangerous Band On The Planet, there was the band from the shadow of a twisted spire in the UK that went on to have a deep, profound and decades long effect on my mind. Saracen. Sounding somewhere between early Magnum and Judas Priest their ‘Heroes Saints And Fools’ debut album and an astounding Friday Rock Show session just cleared the decks in my soul and planted something that still shines to this day.
Rob Bendelow was the pivot point of Saracen; songwriter, distinctive guitarist, pathfinder. Saracen still play, yes, thankfully but this? This is what happens when one of my teenage heroes teams up with one of my current heroes; the ludicrously talented and graceful under pressure Marta Gabriel, singer guitarist and clothes designer of Crystal Viper and here bass player. Joined by Saracen keyboard player John Bradder and drummer Andy Green (Pagan Altar) you can see for fans of true metal and NWOBHM this is built on that word; class.
That is a hell of a lot of talent to let loose in a studio. A hell of a lot of expectation from and older, more cynical Gizmo…
‘De Temporum Ratione’ begins with Marta Gabriel’s magnificent unaccompanied voice and then…then the guitar line snakes in and I swear it couldn’t be anyone else than Mr Bendelow. It has an instant hook, a glorious melody and we are just heads down off. Ms Gabriel stretches more vocal muscles here than her extraordinary range; soft mid section, glorious crying refrain. The lead work is just gorgeous. This is just soul touching stuff for me, shine for me indeed. Perfect classic rock/metal.
Ok so can this possibly continue? ‘Only’ is a slower, less bombastic track. A semi-ballad? Softer yes but no less magnificent. Just listening to Marta here you realise that she really uses only part of her range for the harder, heavier Crystal Viper. The amusing pun of ‘When Stakes Are High’ comes in next; imagine Wolf doing a hammer horror song with the voice Ingrid Pitt should have had if she’d been a metal singer. And, man, that chorus…it will haunt you for goddamned days. The way the vocals and these awesome guitar refrains and leads work together is just…ah…shit… Heaven.
The epic ‘Ravenmaster’ has some fantastic Saracen style keyboards and again that voice that voice that beautiful voice. A bouncy, pagan folk tinged melody conjuring mist topped hills and the mysterious cowled figure. It’s a song with a great grounding in gritty rock but a melody that, well, takes flight. It eases into the ballad of ‘We’ll Find A Way’; it may be a touch too soft for some but frankly with song-writing of this quality and a band of this touch I’ll embrace it without qualm.
‘The Nine Ladies’ (you are getting the fantasy/folklore theme here, yes?) has a low down, lazy, blues tinged swing to it, a sensual swagger that weirdly has echoes of ‘Black Velvet’ in its sumptuous folds. A warmth pervades the song, a bright eyed beckoning that entices you from the path. ‘The Goddess And The Green Man’ again has outstanding vocals, a soft deep register up to a roof shattering scream. A song that moves from pastoral to a deep heavy stomp of a riff, and maybe that doesn’t marry up perfectly but still a fine song. ‘Crystal Wind’ picks things up though with a rich sound, another classy composition. ‘The Plague’ brings back the thumping bounce, pushed on by the pot on drumming and a guitar line and melody that weaves around the harsher edge to Marta’s voice. Last song ‘Knight Errant (My Son)’ is a fitting, rocking closer of castles and kings and yearning.
I am a bit floored by this. Between the true class of the song-writing, a magnificent display of classic metal playing and, frankly a virtuoso vocal performance Moon Chamber have dropped a stunning album for anyone who likes to keep a part of their soul True. It overflows with the joy of performing, the love of the music and you can feel the smiles of the band just happy to share and to play together. With Rob’s son Richard taking over bass duties moving forward I hope this means Moon Chamber are here to stay as this is the best bit of classic rock/metal I have heard in an age.
You. Yes you. You need it.