There’s a lot to be said for first impressions, especially in an age where new releases are coming out faster than listeners can possibly hear them all. This first impression could be one of many things bands rely on for their albums to catch the ears of potential new fans: flashy album art, a well-versed PR blitz, or a much-buzzed about demo recording can go a long way in catching the attention of listeners.
And then there’s Magnabolt.
First riff on the opener “Surveillance” is the only first impression needed. The grit behind the guitar puffs its chest out in a display of all-out might. The rolling thunder of the kick drums isn’t far behind. As the leads strike, it becomes abundantly clear that Magnabolt is channelling the heavyweights of US power metal, striking their steel under the tutelage of master smiths such as Jag Panzer, or perhaps the faster, almost thrashy era of Manilla Road circa Out Of The Abyss. The song chugs along at full steam, carried to full power with the throaty lead vocals, full of might and destined for glory.
And then there’s the solos.
Magnabolt isn’t here for quick sprints and short-winded feats of strength. The soloing on the opening track alone showcases their sheer endurance, managing to switch tempos and feel with the skill and fluidity of seasoned warriors dancing gracefully through the battlefield with their instruments of destruction. There’s what sounds like a touch of Spanish guitar to the style of the solos that, upon retrospect, is present in the leads as well. This becomes more fully transparent on “Master Of The Cosmos.” Among more delicious leadwork and all-out strength and fervor, the song features a particularly enchanting passage of full-on acoustic Spanish guitar work over the ever-pulsing palm-muted riffs. The latter run beneath the currents of Magnabolt’s entire style with the crackling hum of high-voltage energy that never relents through the album’s 46 minute runtime.
Not like it feels that long, however.
Magnabolt stays fresh from track to track, as the underlying surge of electromagnetism pulses through “Don’t Question The Master,” with it’s even more blistering solo shredding, to the triumphant gallop of “Tongue Of Fire.” The piercing wails that accompany the robust lead vocals show that Magnabolt still has plenty of surprises in their ever-expanding war chest of finely-honed weaponry. Even in their overall composition, the band show plenty of diversity with the more Celtic feel of “Knocknasheega” and especially (and obviously) the instrumental cover of the Irish traditional “The Fox Chase.” It’s not an outright cut-and-paste of these traditional styles, as Magnabolt is firmly rooted in US power metal, but rather suggestions/traces of influence that make their presence known beneath the surface and add fuel for seemingly bottomless inspiration within the frameworks of their chosen style.
And then there’s a song called “Power Squelch.”
The sparks fly from the frets as the guitar is ablaze with full-on power riffs and lead licks – Magnabolt is pulling out all the resistors and bringing it all together to complete the circuit. Between the speed metal fury of the aforementioned track and the return to the overdubbed acoustic strumming of album closer “Art Of War,” Magnabolt revisits many of the elements that have made the album so enjoyable to the end—without falling into the trap of feeling like rehashed ideas. Instead, it feels more like a declaration of intent; this is the style Magnabolt plays, and they have plenty to offer.
This begs the question of the future of Magnabolt. While I rarely like to speculate on the future of a band, I would really like to see how much further they can go with their style. They have struck quite a balance of remaining in the realm of epic traditional heavy metal while flirting a little more heavily with progressive elements. It would be very interesting to see what would happen if they lean just a bit into the progressive side of things. They certainly have the chops for it, and don’t lose the honesty of the songwriting amidst the display of technical prestige. Magnabolt is a helluva debut that seemingly came out of nowhere, and shows promise for a band capable of great things in the not-so-distant future.