Duel – Valley Of Shadows

It’s a soulful, heavy trip with Texan quartet Duel. Formed largely from the ashes of Groove rockers Scorpion Child, new album Valley Of Shadows (Heavy Psych Sounds) is their third album in three years but despite the prolific nature, there remains a certain impact from the tracks on offer here.

The gentle, Country opening to first track ‘Black Magic Summer’ soon moves into a growling Blues-Rock romp, the dual vocals of Tom Frank and Shaun Avants switching between Folk and those heavy soul vibes. There’s also a definite Stoner feel but that Mississippi Delta influence adds an element of Black Stone Cherry to the arid sounds of the desert. ‘Red Moon Forming’ initially rips out of the blocks, some serious riffs and Black Crowes-flavoured harmonies firing off the back of Avants’ languid bass notes, while those dry voices are the perfect foil for an emotive solo.

There’s a real heaviness to the sound despite the melodic ingredients. The lazy yet powerful groove of ‘Drifting Alone’ is underpinned by a throaty riff and even though it’s infected by some woeful lyrics (“Kettles whistles when the water’s hot”, for example), it’s fuel for the hot rods among us. The opening strains of ‘Strike And Disappear’ are delivered as a pretty wooden ballad before the second half rips up the road in true Stoner fashion, an element of speed which is carried into the ensuing ‘Broken Mirror’: possessing a riff marginally reminiscent of Metallica‘s ‘Seek And Destroy’, its pub-level vocal is laughable but is bizarrely enjoyable alongside the motoring rhythms and howling leads.

The NWOBHM influences continue with ‘Tyrant On The Throne’, a Saxon-esque Trad metal underbelly with its revving engine riff graced by excellent leadplay and, sadly, vocals that make Biff Byford sound like Freddie Mercury. Again, despite the dated nature and obvious drawbacks there’s nothing tedious about the music: even the draggy ‘I Feel No Pain’, which initially does Thunder‘s mellifluous tones a disservice, wakes the listener with a ripping chorus. It’s this lively nature that partially rescues what is essentially an uninspiring album: closer ‘The Bleeding Heart’ lifted from mid-70s obscurity by more nifty rhythm and lead guitar, and JD Shadowz‘ meaty performance on the sticks. It’s a shame that undoubted efforts to inject energy are so often overshadowed by unimaginative structures and delivery, but overall Valley Of Shadows isn’t without a spoonful of charm.

6 / 10