It doesn’t matter how closely you pay attention to labels, hot new bands, the NWOTHM Full YouTube channel, or whatever your method of keeping up with new music is – there will always be surprises each year and it’s one of my favorite things about the experience. No demo, no promotion, a wonky name, some poorly photoshopped artwork (honestly it’s probably Microsoft paint) that looks like it belongs on an early 2000s power metal album cover, just a few years of playing small live shows in the hipster paradise of Portland, and a self-released “pay your price” demo on bandcamp – that’s it. That’s all we have to go off of for Magnabolt’s self titled debut. In reality, none of this matters at the end of the day. What ultimately matters is the quality of the music, and in Magnabolt’s case they certainly bring quality.
Magnabolt describe themselves as “true metal played with power and intensity heavily influenced by shred guitar virtuosos”. Let’s dissect this statement for a moment. When you distill it and apply it to music already out there, that description would translate perfectly to Helstar’s Nosferatu, and that is exactly what Magnabolt sound like. They play a blistering fast adaptation of US power metal packed to the brim with neoclassical guitar leads that place them in good company with bands such as Destiny’s End, Sacral Rage, and of course the previously mentioned Helstar. True to their word, there are also plenty of solos that sound like they could have come directly from shred master Yngwie Malmsteen’s early albums like Marching Out.
It’s rare for bands to incorporate such heavy neoclassical and shred influence without letting songwriting fall to the wayside, but Magnabolt manage to do this exceedingly well. The reason for this is relatively simple – riffs are still at the heart of Magnabolt’s approach. Neoclassical shred is a key element of the music, but not the sole focus of the sound. Magnabolt don’t use any keyboards on this album either, successfully avoiding a pitfall that many power metal bands seem to find themselves in when using heavy neoclassical influence. However, it’s really Peter Sylvia’s vocals that tie the album together so magnificently. The guitars are undoubtedly the driving force of Magnabolt’s style, but Sylvia’s vocals never take a backseat to them and he’s still able to find plenty of room to compliment the music. His range is impressive and his relaxed, but gruff vocal delivery brings to mind the legendary J.D. Kimball of Omen.
Magnabolt strike at the very heart of my sweet spot with their consistent, non-stop barrage of US power metal. This is an undoubtedly excellent debut album, but it’s this very consistency that stands out to me as one of this record’s small flaws. Aside from a couple acoustic passages and “The Fox Chase”, a minute long interlude, the songs follow a similar pattern and structure. They definitely nail the sound down, but I would have liked to see more variety from them in this regard. The production is really the only other minor complaint I have about the album. It’s got a very old school feel to it all, but the mix sounds a little too buried for me. While I would have liked to hear a production that brings more out of the instrumentation, the distinctly 80s sound to it strikes me as an artistic choice and part of their overall approach to music.
There’s something really admirable about their overall approach to music. Magnabolt are just a bunch of dudes who don’t give a damn about anything but the music itself. Don’t let any of the peripherals bother you, because they are the real deal. Magnabolt have a solid grasp on their craft and they’ve managed to put out one hell of a promising debut. They are definitely an awesome surprise so early in the year.
Album rating: 91/100
Favorite track: Don’t Question the Master