Byline: Alaskans kick ass. What, you got a problem with that?
For: Slayer, Harvey Milk, Torche
I wonder if it’s THAT obvious already from my posts, but I’ll cut the crap and just be honest... I’m no metal-head. In truth, I’m probably the last guy who should be reviewing this CD. But hell (pun intended), I came across this disc when I stayed at Throne of Bone singer Mike Freiburger’s home, the famous “Fir House” in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle while on tour with my own band, and a pleasant surprise is a pleasant surprise no matter which way you slice it. Throne of Bone is a band that is absolutely slaying it up in the Northwest, and dammit. Well. That deserves some words... and what better way for me to take a crack at it than here at Tome?
Merlin’s Magick, the band’s first collection of songs, comes in a radical DIY package folded around a disc and stamped shut with a wax bead (candle wax = metal... just taking notes here...). Musically, the record comes off as I think most metal albums should: loud, abrasive, technical, dark in tone/content complete with the deep, rumbling growl of vocals. Because of my sadly limited knowledge in the land of thrash/fantasy/HEAVY-metal, the only stylistic comparison I can faithfully draw upon is probably Slayer - you’ll hear a lot of fast guitar-playing, double-bass drum, unison ensemble accents amongst the band members, etc.
Throne of Bone shares another feature with the band, though, and that is musical discipline. “Minotaur” opens the album with a rolling bass line and quick hi-hat rhythm, as if the two are pulling back a slingshot of inertia before the guitar enters into the mix with a pile-driving, forceful riff. The song is a fitting first track, as each member is separately featured - from Freiburger’s grumbling roar (which admittedly, could use some umpf in the mix), to a wicked set of mini-drum solos that makes yours-truly (you guessed it... I’m a drummer) blush a little.
The remainder is sewn up extremely tight, but what’s satisfying here is that it’s also a sound that’s bursting at the seams, mostly with energy. And most of that energy comes from drummer Sean Donovan, who is sadly no longer with the band. The tones of the instruments are consistent throughout, though, and so at the modest length of 23 minutes, this is probably the album’s biggest strength. Spanning from faster, punk-style songs to 1/4 and 1/2-speed epic jams, the sheer pace of the song-arranging is key; it’s more than enough to keep listeners on edge and attentive.
In conclusion: it’s a sound. A sound I’m not very accustomed to, but a sound I happen to like. I’m not used to digging tunes to the title of “Cyclists in Satan’s Service,” but therein lies another plus: these guys have a great sense of humor. They’re aware of what they are doing and the stereotypes that surround their style, and they seem exploit them for no one but themselves. It’s refreshing to hear them buying this much into their own sound (there’s nothing worse than a band that doesn’t believe in what they’re doing), and the results tell the story. It gets the blood pumping, it really makes you want to see it live, and it’s basically a helluva a good listen. Get these guys into a studio and see what happens. I dare you.