A yard long crumble, an ostracon scribbled with artfully embellished hieratic, is all that remains in the ruins of the twelfth dynastic opus the Sanehat. Ruled over by men imposing themselves as ‘gods’ for centuries, the Egyptian warrior and strategist loyal to the living deities past-and-present held within themselves the most potent free will. The tale of Sinhue saw alienated interpretation for decades after its discovery as ‘western’ religious monarchy misunderstood fluid fealty to fellow men, they saw in only black and white. Because of this bias his fleeing from treacherous rumors of a tyrannical uprising was baffling. Was this ‘son of the sycamore’, a hero kin to the Tree of Life a coward for deserting his land, and his doomed king, only to find glory and a life in opposition to a separate rebellion? In fact he lived a brilliant life despite his escape from the pantheon’s sphere of influence, feeling cursed by his endowment of the god’s power and merciful protection. What is the meaning, then, if the story ends with the gods blessing his return to his homeland to prosper under kings and be buried with great honor? He accepted and proclaimed that their reach is infinite and eternal. This is but one of many ancient writings, pious propaganda for the ruling class that’d reinforce the importance of fealty to the gods despite the treachery of men. Keeping the faith without bowing to every sickening deity that’d force upon you some greater influence, or false higher power, is a matter of taste and integrity above blind fealty and nowhere is this more true than within the realm of true heavy metal. This becomes even more vital a thought when considering its many ‘throwback’ permutations. Aschaffenburg, Germany based heavy metal quintet Pulver channel the power of the old gods of heavy metal without cheesily bowing to their grossly crusted and oft-overstretched reigns. ‘Kings Under the Sand’ can be reduced to a crossfire between bands that’d stood out as cross-firing talents themselves in their time yet, within this smartly interconnected weave of influence and from good taste a great work emerges.
Easily some of the best heavy metal songwriting of 2018 the self-titled debut EP from Pulver was a great source of excitement for my own taste. Their grasp of early Iron Maiden influenced guitar runs and gritty NWOBHM inspired inflection hit right at the heart of what I look for in pure heavy metal that happily looks over its shoulder at the greats. Vocalist Dave Fröhlich‘s register should immediately electrocute the British heavy metal deep-diver for its slight resemblance of Tank‘s Algy Ward and though resemblance isn’t a carbon copy by any means the energetic spirit of that band gleefully informs ‘Kings Under the Sand’ from the Zeppelin-esque hard rocking touch of ‘Power of the Hunter’ and the melodramatic lo-fi arena gloom of ‘Tank’ (see: “Blacksmith’s Lament”) the spirit of that classic band is righteously felt within Pulver‘s debut, intentional or not. There is more to their sound than that, though, and you’ll likewise hear the gritty melodic ambitions of ‘Killers’-era Iron Maiden as well as the late 70’s heavy rock flair of Budgie‘s ‘Impeckable’ circa 1978 before they’d adopted full-on 80’s popular hard rock cliches with ‘Power Supply’ in 1980. Throw in a bit of late 70’s Scorpions (see: “Qarînah”) and several hits of Thin Lizzy-esque guitar harmony (“Curse Of The Pharaoh”) and the mood of the album begins to outdo the finer achievements of groups like High Spirits and Ice War thus far in terms of authenticity and primeval rock musician swagger. A classic sense of melody balanced with a love of guitar-driven heavy metal quickly adds up to one of the finest heavy metal full-listens so far this year.
An authentic sound and a set of inspired performances aren’t enough anymore when it comes to heavy metal records that folks are actually going to buy, much less cherish. This is where Pulver has leagues more value than whatever trending-ass true metal approximation might be kicking around at present: They can write a damned unforgettable song. Not just one simple and good idea draped in stretch-pants but, a whole set of leather jacket-ripping songs that could be selected at random and sell the whole damn album. From the first hit of “Phantom Hawk” to the wailing solos of the title track, and the veritable totentanz of riffs that spiral from the speakers as “Warrior Caste” plays there is an already high base level of songwriting here accentuated by the first tier NWOBHM spirit that Pulver bring at all times. Fröhlich‘s snarl brings this buzzed-and-loose feeling to the music whereas the guitar duo of Alex Oster and Lukas Kunkel bring that same high level of refined heavy rock and late 70’s/early 80’s British heavy metal just as speed metal was becoming more than a flick of Eddie Clark‘s wrist. As often as hyperbolic journalism speciously pulls in the new wave of heavy metal spirit in analyzing a ‘new old’ heavy metal band it is almost never as truly applicable as it is when firing up this debut from Pulver.
The passage of time and the refinement of heavy metal by sheer force shows no sign of wearing away at those who would thrive within the eternal spirit of heavy metal’s finest hour(s), be they extreme or formative. Herein lies the placement of Pulver as an important document today, a genuine and steadfast heavy metal recording executed with the fervor and the ambitious talent of their self-appointed pantheon of gods. Were this German band to (at the very least) retain this level of songwriting they could easily sell me ten more original albums in a lifetime and I say that with the highest admiration for ‘Kings Under the Sand’, an album I’d gladly set on the shelf next to ‘Power of the Hunter’ and ‘Bandolier’. Very high recommendation. For preview I’d suggest the title track for its immediate display of Pulver‘s strengths, “Blacksmith’s Lament” for the few late 80’s Tank enthusiasts out there, and “Warrior Caste” as my own personal favorite cut.
Piercing swiftly through… 4.5/5.0
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