Traditional Heavy Metal from Italy
The year is 1986 – heavy metal of all varieties is booming across the globe. There is a lot going on in the metal world and a number of historic releases are set to come out. Narrowing our scope a bit, Damien Thorne have just released their aggressive US power debut titled Sign of the Jackal and Warlock, the female-fronted traditional metal band from Germany, released their third record, True as Steel. For one modern Italian band, time has stood still and they are still living the glorious days of 1986. Sign of the Jackal are a female-fronted traditional metal band from Italy named after the aforementioned Damien Thorne album. Their sophomore full-length, titled Breaking the Spell, released just a few months ago and is an exercise in the tried and true.
Despite being named after a Damien Thorne album, Sign of the Jackal’s sound isn’t very rooted in the aggressive strain of United States power metal. Damien Thorne are hyper aggressive and pay little attention to melody. Instead, Sign of the Jackal play a fast-paced, vocal melody driven style of traditional heavy metal that lies somewhere in between Germany’s Warlock and Belgium’s Acid in spirit. Clocking in at just over thirty minutes and with every song being around four minutes or less, Breaking the Spell wastes absolutely no time delivering that classic sound.
The album starts off with a synth-laden, lead-guitar filled instrumental intro titled “Regan”. Given its striking similarity to the introduction of Dokken’s Tooth and Nail, it properly sets the stage for the old-school show we’re about to witness. The first full song, “Night Curse”, kicks off with an up-tempo, high-energy riff accompanied by Laura “Demon Queen” Coller’s powerful vocals. It’s an all guns blazing opening that shows Sign of the Jackal aren’t here to mess around.
The rest of Breaking the Spell meets the expectations set by the openers and follows suit to give us half an hour of pure, classic heavy metal. Laura’s triumphant vocals are front and center and immediately bring to mind the legendary Doro from Warlock. Her tenacity and grit certainly warrant the comparison. The buzzing tone and rockin’ riffs of Max Pinkle and Roberto Condini’s guitars harken back to the height of the NWOBHM. With one catchy riff after another, these guys do justice to our heroes of yore.
The bass and drum work on Breaking the Spell is solid throughout, but this album is 100% guitar and vocals oriented so don’t expect anything groundbreaking here. Often it feels like the bass is just there to be a double for the guitars, some more variation in this department would have been welcome. The production is crisp and clear without sounding overproduced and plastic-like, allowing for the band’s talent to shine through. My only major gripes with the album are the instrumental, which feels a little unnecessary, and “Class of 1999”, which doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. It’s a fun song with a killer guitar solo, but the riffs aren’t as high-impact as the rest of the album.
As I reflect on the first half of 2018, it has been a bit dry in terms of quality, traditional metal. Sign of the Jackal’s sophomore album is a welcome breath of fresh air for those of us seeking out that sound. There’s nothing breakthrough or particularly unique here, but that’s part of the charm. It’s heavy metal played well and sometimes that’s all you really need.
Favorite Track: Mark of the Beast
Album Rating: 85/100