By Karen A. Mann. After turning heads with their 2014 Guardian demo, Philly traditional metal outfit Sumerlands is back with a full Relapse debut that’s easily in contention for one of the best releases of the year.By Karen A. Mann
After turning heads with their 2014 Guardian demo, Philly traditional metal outfit Sumerlands is back with a full Relapse debut that’s easily in contention for one of the best releases of the year. Fusing a love of classic guitar-driven ‘70s and ‘80s heavy rock, the self-titled debut is a satisfying slab of ripping leads, powerful vocals, and thought-provoking lyrics of personal and global chaos. It also helps solidify an emerging new American traditional metal scene (along with Magic Circle and High Spirits) that’s not afraid to go clean, be smart and shred.
Sumerlands gets its power from the double whammy of Arthur Rizk’s soaring guitar and former Hour of 13 vocalist Phil Swanson’s massive, multi-octave voice. The effect is evident from the very first song, “Seventh Seal,” which sounds like the perfect tune to blast from an IROC Z while you’re screaming down the road to pick up your buddy and go hang out at the mall on a Friday night. Lyrics like “hear the cries of martyrs, sound the angels call / Await your final judgement, your fate will soon be sworn”, add to the anthemic nature of the song.
From there, the album offers seven more songs, most clocking in around the four-five minute mark, that pay homage to the likes of early Judas Priest, Queensryche, Cirith Ungol and Van Halen while still sounding contemporary. Sumerlands is at its best on “The Guardian,” where Swanson takes it over the top with a Halford-style falsetto. Other standout tracks include the slower, moodier “Haunted Forever,” and “Lost My Mind,” which features an early Def Leppard-worthy riff.