Named for a tune originally written for a previous project, Pittsburgh based heavy metal band Lady Beast remain steadfast in sound and vision as they enter their second decade with a fourth full-length in hand. As an emergent or, now fully emerged, fixture in the Northeastern states’ true metal sphere they’ve not only cranked out a consistent string of NWOBHM influenced heavy metal records since forming in 2009 but the Pennsylvania quartet are also heavily involved in their own Metal Immortal Festival, the second edition of which was unfortunately cancelled this year. A bright and steady light amidst darkening skies ‘The Vulture’s Amulet’ is what most folks would consider a standard heavy metal album, one that speaks to allegorical high fantasy, ancient magick rituals, escapism toward the lost wonder of the world, dogged betrayal, love (for better or worse) and the most traditional of all subjects: Heavy metal. Yes, it is that sort of record and Lady Beast continue to do a fine job being that sort of heavy metal band.
‘The Vulture’s Amulet’ isn’t a plain fourth iteration, though, instead the album speaks to the re-ignition of the band’s fire beyond 2015 when the addition of Argus guitarist Andy Ramage on lead guitars helped to elevate their material to an above average state, which they’ve maintained since the ‘Metal Immortal‘ (2016) EP sparked some serious momentum. Lady Beast‘s third album (‘Vicious Breed‘, 2017) is probably the breakthrough take for their discography thus far yet all of that records triumphs are improved upon within ‘The Vulture’s Amulet’.
Although they aren’t all that similar in motion, the raw 80’s heavy metal sound of Savage Master‘s record from late last year is a fitting analogue for the dive bar presence and ruddy-but-punchy production style that rounds out Lady Beast‘s classic heavy/speed metal spirited sound on ‘The Vulture’s Amulet’. No doubt the band’s sound has aimed for the classics of British and North American heavy metal from the start primarily influenced by, but not limited to, the melodic fringes of NWOBHM or at the very least the third and fourth Iron Maiden records. The deepest cuts I could compare ’em to when considering Deborah Levine‘s commanding vocal delivery and some faster tempos introduced of late would be ‘Postcards from the Asylum‘-era Hellion or modern retro metal bands like Night Viper and Satan’s Hollow. They’re not as geared for speed as some and not necessarily as pure Maiden maniacs as say, Fortress are but Lady Beast find some distinction in their own purist vision of traditional heavy metal.
The requisite heavy metal combustion engine animism anthem kicks things off with “Metal Machine”, a decent enough banger to start but definitely the sort of track you’d expect mid-album to keep things pushing along. “Runes of Rust” is quintessential Lady Beast, in my mind at least, where the best argument is made for their knack for classic heavy metal riffs and some fairly memorable melodic vocal work. I’d also suggest that Levine‘s lyrics have improved across the board and are at their most imaginative within that sort of high fantasy category. That said, “The Gift” is a bit too on the nose for me in terms of the lyrics and would end up being the only song I’d skip on later listens. I’ll refrain from a track-by-track skim here but I couldn’t not mention “Sacrifice of the Unseen” for its snarling speed metal guitar tone, I mean this has to be one of the heaviest songs they’ve ever put out and I personally love it. “The Champion” is the last piece I’ll highlight for the sake of suggesting this is an improved and more all around potent Lady Beast, the arrangement isn’t all that original but it is a great heavy metal song all the same and at no point does the band appear self-conscious about not reinventing the wheel. Side B has the deep cuts, the “guitar” songs that just rip it up between the instrumental “Transcend the Blade” and shredding title track as the album gears up and closes out. The full listen has everything Lady Beast are good at with some heavier strokes, some new sounds, and all of the goods you’d expect from the band up front. They represent themselves well.
Though I’d drafted my thoughts on this record in full a week prior to publish another week of listening was needed for the sake of figuring why I’d been so drawn to this record and compelled to dig into it beyond obvious aesthetics. Pure heavy metal is reason enough for most folks but I’ll rarely peek my head beyond 1988 in that realm anymore and what I’d find so appealing about ‘The Vulture’s Amulet’ wasn’t so much its ‘old school’ flair or early Maiden-ish sound but rather the full range expressed — Different types of songs set in an arc that spans two sides, each one delivered with some personal meaning and distinctive peaks and valleys. A common trait among auld heavy rock influenced 80’s metal. That said, it isn’t the perfect album nor is every piece so memorable that I’ve become a full convert to the Lady Beast cause just yet, instead I’d suggest there is a magnetic charisma within this album that compelled a lot of extra ‘for fun’ spins on my part. A moderately high recommendation.
Moderately high recommendation. 3.75/5.0
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