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Hunter - Hunter Award winner

by Max Elias at 08 June 2019, 4:29 PM

HUNTER is a clear classic-metal homage; from the first notes of ‘Dominion’ I get instant Black Sabbath vibes—not the band, the song. Even the bends that happen in the intro sound like something Tony Iommi would play. A little over a minute in, the Sabbath-y doom stops, and more NWOBHM galloping riffs take over. Vocally, what we’re hearing is a cross between Rob Halford and Steve ‘Zetro’ Souza; which sounds like it would be weird, but really all it is is a more articulate Zetro. The song fades out after a reprise of the doomy intro, joined shortly by a soaring lead again ripped straight from the Iommi lick book. If ‘Dominion’ took its time developing, ‘Infiltrator’ certainly doesn’t—right away stomping NWOBHM-bordering-on-thrash (and an intro solo) get the blood pumping and heads banging. There’s no doubt whoever wrote this grew up with a JUDAS PRIEST poster on their wall. The lead at around the 2-minute mark is vaguely Glenn Tipton-sounding, which is great, since he is one of metal’s underrated kings of the axe.

And of course, after that dose of vitality, ‘Then Comes the Night’. A similarly to-the-point number, the chorus in particular gives off a major Halford impression. I keep comparing the band to Priest’s heavier side, not to disparage them, but because I find particular the vocal aspect of emulating Priest impressive. No one can accurately be Rob Halford and trying makes people sound dumb, so this is a standout phenomenon. ‘Underground’ starts with a classic IRON MAIDEN riff segueing into Hunter’s classic acerbic NWOBHM, the acidity of which is fueled again by the vocals. I mention the vocals here a lot more than I usually would because firstly, they are amazing. Secondly, NWOBHM is that era of metal when vocals were still a make-or-break part of a band’s appeal, so it is as important to nail that aspect as it is to say, nail the leads. Which is not to say the leads are lacking; though usually short, as on ‘Underground’, they are soaring and only as flashy as they have to be.

‘No Man’s Land’ is the lowest the vocals have gone on this album, at least at first. It makes sense, because the riff that opens the song is also the thrashiest we’ve heard thus far. His voice lifts a bit over the clean sections, which trade off with the thrash pummeling for a nice dynamic contrast. The song also features one of the longer solos on the album, which is refreshingly motif-based and tasteful. There is a definite headbanging build to ‘Knights of the Black Rose’, with the staccato riff intro punctuated by low barks. It develops (after a brief clean section) into a slower-tempo CIRITH-UNGOL-type song. It speeds up here and there, going back to the galloped intro about halfway through and leading to a more drawn-out proto-doom section. The shifting dynamics here keep the song fresh without making it sound like the band is playing three different songs in one.

The album closes on the aptly-titled ‘Glorious’; an epic ride through the best of NWOBHM riffage and most cutting of vocals. Here is another song that’s impossible to resist headbanging to. The riff it’s based on is simple, but driving, and the way they build on it throughout the song never sacrifices its power. It is a strong call to arms for the album to end on, showing what in my opinion the band does, not that I don’t love ‘Knights of the Black Rose’ or ‘Dominion’ for their charms. Maybe not the most unique thing, but it is demonstrably different than most 80s-style NWOBHM both released not and back in the day. And they get all the credit for how well they use their ‘Halford Jr.’ across these seven tracks.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 8
Production: 10

4 Star Rating

1. Dominion
2. Infiltrator
3. Then Comes the Night
4. Underground
5. No Man’s Land
6. The Knight of the Black Rose
7. Glorious
Jeroen Wauters - Bass
Dries Deturck - Drums
Joost Vlasschaert - Guitars
Thomas Abeel Guitars
David Walgrave - Vocals
Record Label: Independent


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Edited 11 June 2023

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