From the cover of their new album – a zombie priest cradling a mutated octo-baby above a church font filled with radioactive goo – it’s easy to have plenty of preconceptions about Reign of Fury’s second album, Death Be Thy Shepherd (Static Tension); chief among them that it will sound like Toxic Holocaust or Municipal Waste.
But looks can be deceiving and the UK-based Melo-thrash quintet definitely value a catchy hook and clean vocal above Slayer-like shredding. There’s no shortage of heavy riffs, but the band has far more in common with the likes of Iron Maiden and the NWOBHM than the Bay Area or any Thrash-revivalists.
There’s still plenty of bite – this isn’t a cheesy Swedish retro-metal record – but this isn’t for people who like their thrash gritty. ‘Harbinger of Decay’ has some definite Maiden references – especially in Bison Steed’s Bruce Dickinson-esque phrasing during the verses, ‘Hypnotise The Masses’ and “The Love of a Dying God’ have an aura of early 90s Megadeth and classic Anthrax. Guitarists Fury and Bielby know their stuff and aren’t afraid to show off their ability to interplay throughout a song. ‘All is Lost’ starts as a slow ballad Metallica would have been proud of before the second half introduces some nice twin guitar solos and harmonies.
As well as melody, the band have some progressive ambitions; only one of the album’s eight tracks clock in under six minutes long yet the band play with such energy you don’t really notice. As with most thrash and heavy metal outfits, the majority of the album is repackaging familiar sounding riffs with some new hooks. It’s no bad thing – Reign of Fury have plenty of catchy choruses, ambition and a vault full of quality riffs at their disposal.
Historically, UK Thrash has never been much to shout about. Reign of Fury haven’t really changed that, but in Death Be Thy Shepherd they have a pretty decent modern heavy metal record that pays tribute to the classics but brings plenty of energy to the proceedings.