Royal Thunder – Wick

4 out of 5

Label: Spinefarm Records

Produced by: Joey Jones

Not to overlook Will Fiore’s major riffage on Royal Thunder’s Wick, or drummer Evan Diprima’s tight percussive work, which surprises with bursts into violent majestry, but the band’s focus – its standout – is undoubtedly vocalist Milny Parsonz. Banshee-ing songs through arena rock and touches of hardcore, it’s like listening to Steve Nicks leading a metal group, which is not something I knew I’d be into until finding myself mesmerized by Parsonz’s singing. And it works without accompaniment, which can be witnessed on more stripped down tracks like Plans, in which a swooshy sturm is carried into the stratosphere by Milny’s howl.

A couples track aside, Wick is a loud album: the group is never more than a few moments away from a big chorus and a distorted lick kicking in, linking back to their Relapse roots which find bridges swinging into heavier, Southern-tinged metal, often redirecting songs in surprising directions.

Joey Jones’ production supports this generally well, with a very “large” sound that helps pump up the other layers to match Milny, but there are some hints suggesting the band wants to lean in to a more mainstream sound, and it doesn’t always blend well: extra touches like keys and strings feel somewhat out of place, and when a verse starts to drift away from the noisier edge, it feels like a slight misstep. But – instead of finding myself disappointed by where those missteps lead, Thunder always self-corrects: they’ll take a big swing back into noise, and anger, and big guitars and drums and banshees.

Milny’s lyrics are interesting: subject matter-wise, she does seem stuck on two topics of loss – loss of, perhaps, a family member – due to suicide, in one of the songs – and loss of a significant other, and in both cases, she writes with a similar cycle of feeling trapped or lost at first, but then overcoming the emotions or limitations by track’s end. However, what elevates this is that she always tells a full story, taking us from a problem statement to a conclusion, and while the subjects may repeat, her imagery surrounding those subjects does not, and is always sharply related.

Wick is a very accessible hard rock album, but rewarding in how it becomes heavier the more you dig into it: ‘neath a layer of arena rock gloss is still an ear-bleeding metal band.