Priestess | Hello Master (RCA)

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As a young band still mapping out the extent of its rock powers, Priestess brings an energy of excited discovery to the proceedings.  

RIYL: Black Sabbath, Queens of the Stone Age

Put this on your Top 40 Most Metal Moments, you VH1 bastards: a band that hits hard, fast, and intelligibly. That's right, no ear-rending shrieks here, no blunted and sludgy riffs, no second-rate Satanic incantations in the lyrics sheet. Really, the fact that Priestess supplies bracing, workmanlike melodies without masturbatory excess or gimmickry shouldn't come across as all that revelatory. But in today's metal climate, one seemingly dominated by unfocused aggression and ridiculous posturing, Hello Master is a refreshing chunk of gritty glory.

As a young band still mapping out the extent of its rock powers, Priestess brings an energy of excited discovery to the proceedings. On opening track "I Am the Right, Colour Me Black," the lads pummel the opening phrase over and over again, for no discernable reason other than the joy of creating sound that can so easily destroy. Of course, this is not the only band in the world that likes to detonate stereo speakers. Thank goodness they brought a few melodies along to translate their intensity into actual songs. This is, of course, the pivotal second step to being a legitimate band that so many contemporary metal outfits neglect.

So let's run down the highlights, starting from the back end. "Blood" takes the venerable "his girlfriend is a vampire!" metaphor, adds some cooing harmonies and a couple of epic-sounding guitar lines, and wraps it all up in a concise package that is surprisingly bubblegum-flavored. "Talk to Her" also seems radio-ready, with lyrics that sound like an early Lennon-McCartney composition dressed up in a leather jacket and ripped jeans. Still, don't let the relative accessibility of the material fool you: Priestess will still slit you open with a ceremonial dagger should you look at them the wrong way. Guitarist and secondary vocalist Dan Watchorn seems to embody this element of danger, and his guttural snarls do a lot to spice up tracks such as "Everything That You Are" and "Two Kids," where he briefly takes up the mantle of lead singer. For the rest of the tracks, however, that responsibility falls to Mikey Heppner, whose vocals successfully stride that fine line between sounding hard and actually staying tuneful.

Those looking for any sort of technical wizardry in their metal stew should look elsewhere. While certainly not lacking in chops, the band leaves the elaborate soloing for their live shows and the 13/8 time signatures for the prog wankers of the metal kingdom. Hello Master's straightforward charge makes for an immediate thrill, but one with slightly diminishing returns over repeated listens. The group would have done well to vary the pace with a true power ballad, a subgenre perhaps more overdue for a renaissance than any other. They're still a bit scruffy, but once Priestess rounds out its arsenal, the aggro legions of modern metal should prepare themselves to bid a meek "hello" to their new masters.

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