Album Review: Thunder Lord – ‘Prophecies of Doom’

I will admit, Chile is not a country which I am all that familiar with in terms of the local metal scene (or in general, if I’m honest, but let’s save my godawful knowledge of geography for another time!). Maybe it’s because most of what I listen to tends to be from one of six countries (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Japan, the U.S. and the U.K.), but Chile is not a country which I was really expecting to have a metal scene before Thunder Lord arrived in my inbox. Some quick research on my part showed that I was VERY wrong with that assumption, as the country has over 1,200 active metal bands in it (which, admittedly, isn’t a large number for a country with a population of around 18 million people, but that’s still more than I was expecting!) and some metal bands have recorded live albums in Chile (Anthrax did one on their tour supporting Worship Music, to name just one example), which indicates that there is a decent sized metal scene in the country. Much like Poland, it seems that the big reason for this error is simply that no band from Chile has reached the level of praise and attention of some of the greats of the metal scene: Chile hasn’t really had a band on the level of Iron Maiden, Helloween or Metallica to hold up as one of the greats, as far as I can tell. Maybe I’ve just been looking in the wrong places, but it says a lot that the closest example I can think of in terms of both popularity and location to a band fitting that description is Sepultura, which is still not exactly close when you consider that Brazil and Chile are about half a continent away and don’t even share borders with each other (I checked this one: the countries bordering Chile are Bolivia, Peru and Argentina, which DO also share borders with Brazil, but Chile and Brazil are on the other sides of those countries from each other, so their borders do not actually overlap at all).

So yeah, this is the first time I’ve heard an album from a band from Chile at all, and Thunder Lord are certainly an interesting choice. Forming in 2002, the band have previously released two studio albums (2008’s Hymns of Wrath in This Metal Age and 2012’s Heavy Metal Rage) and a live album (2014’s Thunder Storm (Battle In Santiago)). The band’s style of music is noted as being heavy metal, although clarifies it as heavy/power, and none of the members have been part of previous bands, as far as I can tell. The band’s lineup is comprised of founding members Esteban Penailillo (who is the band’s vocalist and one of their guitarists) and Francisco Menares (who is the band’s bassist), longtime drummer Eduardo Nunez (having been with the band since their second demo in 2005) and relative newcomer guitarist Diego Munoz (having joined in 2012), none of whom have been part of any other bands, as far as I can tell.

Being completely honest…I wasn’t overly impressed with Prophecies of Doom. I didn’t dislike it at all, but I can’t say that this a record that I’m going to be looking back on at the end of the year and saying “This was one of 2016’s highlights”.

Cover_THUNDER LORD_Prophecies Of Doom

The material on the album is noted as being classic heavy metal on the promo sheet, which I find a bit hard to believe, if I’m honest. The band’s sound seems equally rooted in speed metal and thrash metal to me (with lyrics appropriate for power metal as well), which I GUESS could overlap with classic heavy metal, depending on how you look at it, but it still seems a bit off to me. Regardless of how you define it, though, most of the album seems to alternate between very fast (as in, thrash metal speeds) material and a slower style that is somewhere between ballad speed and slow rocker speed, but doesn’t quite fit either properly at the same time (certainly, nothing on the album could be accurately described as a ballad). There’s nothing bad about it on paper, but I feel like I’m listening to a band who can’t decide if they want to be a melodic thrash/power metal band or a thrash-tinged speed metal band and decided to handle it by doing both at the same time, which ultimately hurts the record because neither style entirely meshes with the other. It’s not the worst case of this I’ve ever heard by any measure, as you can tell that it’s still the same band across the whole record and the two styles do make some degree of sense together, but I would probably urge the band to focus on making the two sounds work better together or, if they can’t do that, to pick one to be their main focus.

The overall songwriting is competent and certainly results in some songs that are enjoyable, but there is one thing that I personally find a bit irritating and feel that I should highlight: most of the band’s songs take a while to properly start, often taking about thirty to forty five seconds before the vocals kick in. This might seem a bit of an unfair complaint on first glance, but here’s the thing: bands who can do it and do it well usually tend to have progressive elements or atmospheric elements to their intros. Thunder Lord don’t do either and, as a result, the intros just don’t add much to the songs except a longer runtime. If it was one or two songs, it wouldn’t be a big complaint, but, when it’s just about every song, it does start to grate on you! Other than that, I can’t say there’s anything bad about the songwriting: it’s competently done, so you can tell that the band definitely knows how to write a song properly, and the choruses can be actually kind of catchy. Think things could afford to be a bit more memorable overall, but there’s definitely memorable stuff on the record, so it’s not like the record lacks any distinguishing features.

Panailillo’s vocals, I’ll admit, are not my cup of tea. He has a fairly limited range and his singing style is probably best summed up as a baritone rasp (kind of like a lower ranged Udo Dirkschneider or a much less skilled Chuck Billy…or, if you want a speed metal point of reference, a less skilled Rock ‘n’ Rolf/Rolf Kasparek) and, unfortunately, I don’t think that they work on the album very well. He isn’t necessarily a bad vocalist per se, but he’s going to be a vocalist who you’ll either love for his fairly unique voice (at the very least, I can’t think of anyone who sounds a lot like him) and obvious enthusiasm and passion for performing in the band or hate for his limited vocal range, singing style which doesn’t entirely suit what the band are going for and moments when he isn’t quite in key. I personally feel that the flaws to his voice just grate on me too much to enjoy his performance as a vocalist, but some people might well like his voice. If so, more power to you, just don’t expect me to be agreeing with you!

The performances are, for the most part, solid, if unremarkable. The drums are performed well and the rhythm guitar is pretty good as well, but don’t really do anything that you haven’t heard before. The lead guitar alternates between adding good solos that definitely took effort and basically replaying a previous part of the song as a guitar solo, but don’t really do much that’s going to impress most people who are already familiar with metal music, and the bass guitar…well, it’s not very easy to hear, but it mostly follows the rhythm guitar, as far as I could hear, so there’s not a lot to say there.

The production is a bit flawed, but, for the most part, it’s serviceable. The guitars have a nice bit of crunch in the mix, the vocals are mixed well enough that they don’t dominate the record too much, the bass guitar is pretty hard to hear and probably could have done with more of a bass presence in my honest opinion and the drums…sound pretty good, actually, avoiding sounding like they’d have too much studio stuff done to them. The mastering is good as well, so…yeah, production probably could have done with a better bass presence, but, beyond that, there’s nothing to complain about.

Really, there’s nothing particularly bad about Prophecies of Doom. It’s very much a competently done metal record which I can see a lot of people liking, but nobody losing their minds over it. That’s really the biggest problem with it: there’s nothing to it which is either so badly done that it becomes worth hearing just to see how badly the band messed up, but there’s nothing to it which is so good that it becomes worth hearing just to see a band do something absolutely incredible. That’s what I meant when I said that I found this album disappointing, despite not disliking it at all: everything just feels merely OK, with nothing of any real note either way except for the vocals, which aren’t really enough to make or break the record for anyone. I’ll begrudgingly say that huge fans of speed metal and thrash metal may find this worth a single listen, but, beyond that, there’s not enough to this record to make it worth checking out.

Prophecies of Doom will be released on the 26th of February by Iron Shield Records. A promo copy of the album was provided for review purposes.