The first full-length album from Seattle’s Greyhawk is a particularly interesting iteration of the NWOTHM scene. A focus on hooky songwriting with an epic tone makes for easy comparisons to such contemporaries as Visigoth and Traveler as the production carries a polished sheen similar to the likes of Haunt or Idle Hands. While these factors would initially suggest that the band is just another notch in a long line of derivatives, they find a lot of ways to set themselves apart on Keepers Of The Flame (Fighter Records).
This is best exemplified by ‘The Rising Sign,’ which packs an interesting assortment of influences within a near six-minute timeframe. It’s a largely brooding affair with verses defined by a more gothic overcast and vocals channeling Warrel Dane at his most contemplative, more uplifting choruses, and a climax set by rising drums and backing choirs. A combination of a steady mid-tempo pace and gradual transitions throughout keep any notion of mood whiplash at bay.
The album’s other songs opt for more conventional Heavy Metal territory in comparison, but there’s still quite a bit of variety to work with. There’s certainly no shortage of fist-pumping anthems as ‘Drop The Hammer’ is reminiscent of classic Jag Panzer with its punchy vocals and aggressive chugs while ‘Halls Of Insanity’ and ‘Don’t Wait for the Wizard’ lean more on upbeat Power Metal hooks. Elsewhere, ‘R.X.R.O.’ is a shredding instrumental in classic Yngwie fashion while the title track ends the album in triumphant mid-tempo fashion.
Through it all, the musicianship is incredibly tight. The vocals draw the most attention, largely consisting of a heady baritone similar to Visigoth’s Jake Rogers that is often supplemented with gang chants and the occasional King Diamond-esque wail. The guitars are also quite effective, greatly benefitting from that eighties friendly gloss and dispensing a steady mix of choppy rhythms and flamboyant solos. The rhythm section doesn’t get to be quite as flashy but the bass emphasis on ‘Black Peak’ makes for another strong highlight.
Overall, Greyhawk’s first album is an excellent listen that uses familiar ingredients to create something catchy and distinct. The lower-pitched vocals and eighties-friendly production job draw the listener’s attention and the varied songwriting makes for an even deeper impression. It’s more polished than many of their peers but with enough edge to still keep things engaging. I can imagine these guys becoming a staple in the scene and Traditional Metal fans won’t want to pass this one up.
9 / 10