Sleepy Hollow‘s Tales of Gods and Monsters, out this coming Friday (19th) on Pure Steel Records, is the fourth release for the self-styled US Metal Veterans and the second since their reunion for 2012’s Skull 13. Interestingly, it’s the first album without original singer Bob Mitchell and after listening to the previous outings I have to say I prefer the new “dramatic, plainly deeper vocals” approach from replacement singer Chapel Stormcrow; Mitchell‘s all out air-raid siren attack just seems like an ill fit to me.
In the face of such a massive change in band dynamics the promo sheet confidently declares that “Recorded at Dirge Studios in Newark, Delaware, the eleven tracks obtained a modern, but classic metal sound. With Tales Of Gods And Monsters SLEEPY HOLLOW will release a masterpiece of their career, that will elate old fans and recruit new ones!” and I have to say I pretty much agree…now either The Meister is being kind to me when it comes to sending on review albums for Decibel Geek, or it just proves that there’s a lot of amazing music out there to be found, because what we have here is another kick-ass album.
For a start, any LP called Tales of Gods and Monsters coupled with a cover that uses the Wizard painted by Benigne Gagneraux should let you know what to expect, and the band don’t fail to deliver on that score. This is an album crammed full of crunching metal riffs, sweeping themes, and lyrical declamations in the realms of both music and vocals; it’s fucking cinematic, man.
Alongside Chapel Stormcrow on vocals, the band features Rich Fuester on bass, Allan Smith on drums, and Steve Stegg on guitars and does indeed provide us with some instantly classic old-school Metal through a modern filter. The liberal use of soundbites and effects is something I always enjoy hearing on albums, especially when it’s done as well as it is here, and the creeping keyboard sections all add to the positives.
If I had to choose stand-outs I would go with “On Blackened Seas”, “Baphomet” and “Bound By Blood” but really each track is killer in its own right, and earns a rightful place on the album. Initially, there were a few tiny niggling things that rubbed me up the wrong way, but after a week or so listening to the album I’m happy to admit that these things now add to the overall charm rather than detract from it. Ultimately, for me, the effect Stormcrow‘s vocals seem to have had on the band can’t be overstated (similarly the way that John Bush‘s vocals affected Anthrax‘s sound), they have a solidity, power and depth that simply gets lost on earlier releases and this album is so much the better for it. I don’t know if I would describe it as “A masterpiece of their career..” but it’s certainly a masterful start by the band in this new incarnation.