In times of brutal tyranny, ruthless pestilence, and a pronounced lack of sedition from the populace (beyond self-serving microcosm) the black mirror should be screaming back at the meek with the utmost damning realization, that they will never inherit the Earth. Stewing now for a decade, preening fire-feathered wings and weathering pipes for the coming brimstone, so rises the Tyrant to have his day. Horns gleaming in reflection of sulphur-splashed and screaming hordes, the white light of salvation a glittery firework in his eyes, the reality of ‘our’ planet reaching its inevitable cleansed state settles in. There’ll be no afterlife, only barren storm-ridden rock after life has ceased. Children of the 70’s and born unto the grave new world of 80’s heavy metal beyond ‘Hell Bent For Leather’, Pasadena’s Tyrant were far too exemplar for their own good leading up to their infamous duo of classic mid-80’s full-lengths, setting an already aging bar higher than anyone’d care to top at the time. The world beyond was barren and long spent lying in wait — Just ask nearby compatriots in Omen, Cirith Ungol, and Ruthless of their similar path(s) unto (eventually, occasionally) welcoming future generations, high on nostalgic fandom and reappearing with mixed results. Thankful for the fans old and new that anyone’d remember and cherish the dynamic wonders of their ire and enjoying a second rebirth from their glowing ‘Hereafter’, Tyrant have managed a potent amplification of their finer traits, blending classic heavy metal spirituality of old with their own timeless and wildly dramatic twists in hand. Their essence undoubtedly lives on, and thrives.
If there was ever an 80’s United States power metal band that’d embodied the grand dramatic tension of late 70’s Judas Priest and whipped it with the chains of early W.A.S.P. it’d been the moderate breakout presence of Tyrant‘s debut ‘Legions of the Dead‘ (1985) perhaps an obscurity considering the adjacent Metal Blade roster at the time but a strong introduction to a band that’d developed their sound both in relation to the scene around them while internalizing enough to understand their own strengths. It was ‘Too Late to Pray‘ (1987) that’d ensure Tyrant were never forgotten, and no doubt it’d be a full-range enough event that few could touch. That second album brought the abupt fanfare of speed metal’s insistent phrasing, the wailing spirit of the early 80’s heavy metal guitar heroics, some powerful balladry, and an out-of-this-world atmosphere that’d come from Bill Metoyer‘s legendary production sense just as he’d truly hit his stride in custom engineered works (see: Cryptic Slaughter, Fates Warning, Cirith Ungol, Trouble, etc.). Los Angeles and the world of heavy metal took a decided turn for the extreme beyond that point and without a keep-it-true ecosystem as we’ve today the future looked bleakly upon Tyrant beyond their righteous artistic breakthrough on that second album. In my book ‘Too Late to Pray’ remains one of the finest heavy metal records of all time and although I found their first ‘comeback’ moment (‘King of Kings‘, 1996) lackluster no doubt they’d wanted to be back into the fray doing their thing for decades but it’d taken about ten years beyond a Keep it True Festival ’09 reunion to figure out to a solid line-up and build some songs around it.
‘Hereafter’ notably features vocalist Rob Lowe (Grief Collector, Solitude Aeturnus) up front as he’d joined the band in 2017. No doubt you’ll have shuddered at the thought of a Tyrant album without the distinct and over-the-top style of Glen May but I have to hand it to Lowe‘s exceptional range, soulful diction, and the smartly arranged vocal patternation of ‘Hereafter’ as it absolutely feels like a classic Tyrant experience through and through. That isn’t to say this is a direct (stylistically speaking) follow-up to ‘King of Kings’ nor a full reworking of the lilt of ‘Too Late to Pray’ but the spiritus that gave life to each record’s epic heavy metal style is powering this experience as well; Think of it as a work on par with recent return-to-power records by Angel Witch or Satan, catchy records with an understanding of what tasteful modern-but-‘old school’ heavy metal is today. Of course the huge personality that Lowe brings to the experience cannot be contained and this actually lends some great power and broader range to Tyrant, spreading the implied wings of epic/heavy doom metal on ‘King of Kings’ to full flapping glory and providing a mystic classic doom metal feeling to the already high-drama narrative the band had brought in the past. This is likewise echoed in the ‘Nightfall’-esque album art they’ve chosen.
As with ‘Forever Black’ the month prior, every piece of ‘Hereafter’ pulls from the strongest and most characteristic acts and aspirations of Tyrant for an album that holds one foot in the historic past of heavy metal they’d innovate within, giving nods to classic Sabbath on songs like “Pieces of Mine” while building their established melodic cadence beyond their past discography. If anything classic Dio-fronted Sabbath is where the mind will go when faced with certain pieces (“Fire Burns”, “When the Sky Falls”) throughout but classic Tyrant is just as prevalent on the tracks that’ll really stick, such as defiant “Dancing on Graves” and the gorgeously loaded rest of Side A including “The Darkness Comes” and king-sized quasi-ballad “Hereafter”. In fact when first firing up this record I’d been so blown away by its rippling, muscular production and swoon-worthy expressive vocalization that Side A was honestly hard to see past for the first few spins. For a ~54 minute heavy metal LP that leans towards the epic and heavy/doom spheres it is remarkably balanced between sides I’d just been smacked to the dirt by those first five songs. Side B has fire of its own to toss around between the memorable NWOBHM-esque gusts of “Pieces of Mine”, galloping doom-bringer “Until the Day”, and the sweetly drifting final moments of “Bucolic”. There isn’t a weak song among the bunch and that’ll be important for folks who appreciate distinction amongst records that extend beyond typical ~40 minute length. My favorite piece in terms of what feels new and old at once is surely “Beacon the Light” where (what I’d consider) a very ’85 guitar arrangement shares its presence with a cathedralesque organ to support a stirring-but-menacing bout of purgatorial pining, a simple but effective punch of tension that arrives at just the right point on the full listen.
I’ve no complaints. Spacious and modern yet tightly referential with its classic tonality, the production from Metoyer is slick and apropos here 24 years beyond their last record. Guitars are on fire throughout, Lowe gives one of his most inspired performances since ‘King of the Grey Islands’ at least, and I could leave this damn record on for a month and it’d sate my non-extreme metal needs entirely. Depending on what nostalgia ‘Hereafter’ may or may not trigger within I figure Tyrant have brought a compelling and diverse enough heavy metal experience on this fourth album to impress most folks who’d recognize ’em. I am always inspired by classic bands that’re able to bring it back around with class and taste and ‘Hereafter’ does it better than most. A very high recommendation.
Very high recommendation. 4.25/5.0
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