There is a particularly bitter feeling of disappointment that only comes from realising that an album – though good – is not QUITE as awesome as you thought it was going to be.
When ‘Udoroth’ came thundering out of The Lesser Key Of Solomon’s (Mad Neptune) intro like the vengeance of True Metal – all churning riffs, portentuous keys and Nina Osegueda’s throat-shredding Metal shrieks – I had my 9/10 review half-written already, and there are other moments across the album that are as good. ‘Elijah’ wouldn’t be out of place on a classic King Diamond album, and the epic swagger of ‘Blood From The Mummy’s Tomb’ is exactly the kind of high that the brilliant artwork promises. A couple of listens in, however, the initial kick starts to wear off and it becomes clear that these are peaks rather than the general standard.
With the exception of the tracks named above, the album largely sits in a quiet intro/big verse/anthemic chorus format that fits them comfortably but feels repetitive over several tracks. Aside from ‘Udoroth’ they never hit quite as hard as they clearly can, largely defaulting to a middle-of-the-road Stadium Metal level which works well but feels like they’re selling themselves short. Some of the longer tracks also suffer a little from their own length – closer ‘House Of Bones’ in particular – and succumb to unnecessarily meandering.
I absolutely must stress that The Lesser Key Of Solomon is a catchy, effective and extremely classy collection of stadium-friendly big Heavy Metal songs from a band who are great at what they do. Even as I’m writing this I’m wondering if I’ll regret these words in a month’s time when the album clicks and I realise what a depth of song-writing A Sound Of Thunder achieve here, but at the time of writing it feels like a band who’ve not quite pushed themselves as hard as they could.
Recommended for anyone who likes their Metal pure and unburdened by extremity – and anyone who’s enjoyed the last three Iron Maiden albums – but I hope their masterpiece is still ahead of them.