Italian quartet Vultures Vengeance is yet another new band attempting to sound like some long-lost undergrounders from yesteryear – and they look ridiculous with their aviator shades and headbands and Paul Stanley chest-rugs. Put all that together, and you’ve got a pretty good reason to scoff at Where The Time Dwelt In without ever even hearing it. I’ll admit that I did, as visions of White Wizzard retro-trad half-assery danced in my head.
But then, when you do hear When The Time Dwelt In… Well, it gets a bit murkier then… It turns out Vultures Vengeance is actually pretty good, fashion atrocities notwithstanding, although there is some room for improvement.
Clearly leaning back to the traditional classics like Iron Maiden, Omen, Manilla Road, et al, Vultures Vengeance doesn’t fall too far in any one direction, be it speedy, flashy, epic, thrashy… Instead, they sit at the juncture of all of those, snugly wrapped in a raw production that, in its muffled roughness, makes When Time Dwelt In feel like an old cassette of some overlooked Metal Massacre II also-ran.
Vocalist Tony T. Steele snarls and occasionally soars, his voice markedly rougher than the usual golden-throated trad metaller, adding a certain layer of grit to these five tunes. Really, though, the glories of When The Time belong to guitarists Nail and Steele. Their names together sound like a fun-and-cheesy 80s buddy-cop show, and their interplay is comparable – playful, yet serious; loose, yet within the playbook; aggressive, yet balanced. With bassist Matt Savage playing the part of the savvy-and-unsung private investigator who assists them, and drummer Kosathrel Khel as their pilot, the two weave their way through speedy chases, darker times, harder patches, always together, and always moving forward with a combination of raw skill and gusto. “A Curse From Obsidian Realm” rollicks by on a ripping riff, with the requisite falsetto shrieks from Steele, but like its title, “And The Wind Still Screams His Name” goes on a little bit too long after it’s made its point. The instrumental “Where The Time Stands Still” is the album’s best, with Savage’s bass moving up to take a more prominent role alongside the guitars, but at nearly six minutes, even that one feels like two songs run together and could’ve likely been split into two equally strong tracks. (Further homage to Iron Maiden comes in the second half’s galloping spin on that band’s damn-near-patented Em-C-D progression.)
In the end, there are points to like about Vultures Vengeance, for sure, but what good things add up still come to a dated sum that, while quite enjoyable, isn’t going to set anyone’s pants entirely alight. The pitfalls are two-fold – the muffled production does no favors, despite making When The Time Dwelt In sound like a leftover cassette; and like so many bands doing much the same thing, Vultures Vengeance has very little personality of its own. There’s an infectious spirit about them, and that’s good for something – quite a lot, in fact – but unlike, say, Portugal’s similarly epic and retro Ironsword, they haven’t totally overcome the borrowed nature of their aesthetic to create something both old and new enough.
And, seriously, those outfits gotta go…