Sometimes “heavy” is more than the notes coming out of the stereo. Sometimes “heavy” is more than the drums, bass, guitar and vocals. Sometimes “heavy” is even more than the visuals associated with the band or the audience they play for. I’m thinking of old Sabbath, Vitus or even modern interpreters like Witchcraft. Heavy is something deeper in those cases. The latest album from Georgia rockers Royal Thunder fits solidly into that vein. In this case, the heaviness is in both the soul of the music and the intense subject matter of the record. This is a breakup record in the many senses of the term.
Of course, there’s the romantic split between lead singer/bassist Mlny Parsons and lead guitarist Josh Weaver, but there’s also a narrative on the dissolution of several different bonds wrapped in the many layers of the songs. When Mlny sings “I’m looking for a time machine; but i cannot go back; and change one single thing; its staying all intact” in album opener “Time Machine” she’s speaking to ALL of the bonds in need of breaking.
All of these words and subject matter are one thing and would tell their own story if only as a story. What makes the album truly compelling is the music hooked onto those sentiments. It’s at once harrowing and emotive. Royal Thunder’s first album “CVI” was solid and muscular; a gothic/blues elbow strike powered by Mlny’s Ann Wilson-meets-Janis Joplin voice and Weaver’s groovy 70’s guitar work. On “Crooked Doors” some of that over powering confidence is replaced by a seething anger and disappointment; the ties that bind are breaking and this is their soundtrack. It’s got all of the impact of the first record only even more compelling.
There are several highlights (including the aforementioned opener) and “The Line”, which sounds like an outtake from a Josh Homme side project with its skittering dirty guitars and stop/start rhythm. Perhaps the most cutting track on the record is “Glow”. The plodding tom-driven beat powers Weaver's narco-slide guitar. It’s a deceptively complex song. It seems fairly straight forward at first listen, but the layers reveal themselves. By the time the solo hits in the 3rd quarter it’s arena sized as Mlny sneers “you’ve got a lot of nerve spending it like it’s free; you got a lot of nerve to lie and lie again; you got a lot of nerve but you ain’t foolin’ me”. Ain’t love grand?