In the ancient days of 1986 a mysterious band known as Lords of the Crimson Alliance would release a single album and then vanish into the night. With members boasting names such as Zan Zan, Far Cry, Cutterjon, and Grom, this 4 piece unleashed a totally unique and otherworldly slab of US power metal that would stand the test of time as one of the best releases in the genre. Well okay, so this mysterious band is most likely the dudes from Grudge, who also released a killer album under that name that sounds pretty similar in certain aspects, but we’re here to talk about Lords.
Take a look at the album cover and you might get a good idea of what to expect with the music. Three grim, inhuman warriors preparing to lay the death blow on some hideous creature stalking an alien landscape – this album weaves familiar USPM tropes into something like you’ve never heard before. Tight, driving riffs make up the base of the musical attack with the other instruments and vocals busting their way into prominence at various parts. The vocals definitely deserve a lot of the attention here – more reminiscent of King Diamond than other USPM bands, but certainly no copy-cat. At their calmest they’re already frantic and high-pitched, but the singer often kicks into an even higher gear, absolutely shredding ears with his power – in a good way. Don’t come in expecting a Conklin or anything like that and just embrace the absolute weirdness of the vocals, which lends this album a lot of its otherworldliness. Despite the unfamiliarity, there are some insanely catchy vocal lines on this album that will be stuck in your head for long after you turn it off.
It’s hard to find a direct musical comparison – I definitely hear some Mercyful Fate in the guitar leads and the previously mentioned Grudge has some similarities too – but the massive opening one-two punch of “Firedancer” and “Dragonslayer” gives you a good idea of what to expect for the album. Mid-paced powerful riffs make up the structure of most of the songs with the wild vocals flying in at just the right time. Plenty of opportunity is given to the bass guitar to pummel you into submission. Grim voice-overs precede most of the songs and set the stage for the lyrical content to follow – its something that doesn’t always work for bands but definitely amps up the fantasy factor here. Most of the songs here clock in at 3 or 4 minutes and never overstay their welcome, nothing is repeated too often – they just show up, rock your face off, and then move on to the next one before you can catch your breath. The only exception is “The Sorcerer”, a 6 minute long ballad-type song with the vocals at full front and center and the wild music taking a back-seat.
The album’s production is also a huge star here – the perfect combination of rawness without losing a single aspect of any one instrument’s performance. The guitar has a very satisfying crunch to it, the drums are nice and punchy, the bass guitar here is very audible and thumping and often has plenty of moments to be the star of the show. The vocals soar over the music and are pretty loud in the mix, but these guys know how to use them at the right moment to accent the moments of jam-out riffing. There’s also an undefinable sense of “airiness” in the sound of the album, especially the vocals which I assume are some kind of effect or multiple tracking, whatever it is it sounds fucking great here and gives the album a ton of its character.
Even though they’d only have one release it’s fair to say this band will never be forgotten by fans of true metal, as the music here is some of the most unique and unforgettable songs in the style that you’ll ever hear. Grab your war-axe and join your alien brethren on a death-march across the frozen planes of Mars – this album will be your perfect soundtrack.
Favorite Track: Death Crusade