“A modern spin on a classic sound” is a trope of music promotion that I’m getting awfully tired of seeing. In just about every case, it’s nothing more than a tactful way of saying “this album sounds like a watered-down version of [beloved old-school band].” A lack of originality is by no means something that should be praised or encouraged, and the trend towards such an attitude among music fans and publications is a bit troublesome. However, with all of that being said, if there ever was a band truly worthy of being lauded as a classic sound’s modern iteration, it would be British Columbia’s Medevil.
The unique vocal performance courtesy of Liam Collingwood is likely the first aspect of Conductor of Storms, Medevil’s debut release, that one will take note of. Rather than the melodic, high-pitched vocal style favored by most NWOBHM-oriented bands, Collingwood’s delivery could best be described as the lovechild of Overkill’s Bobby Blitz and Fear of the Dark-era Bruce Dickinson. It’s certainly a unique sound, but one that meshes well with the band’s dark, thrashy take on classic heavy metal; tracks like “Nightwalk” and “An Empty Glass” could get by on riffs alone, but are taken to new heights thanks to superb vocal performances.
Beyond vocals, though, songwriting reigns supreme—I can’t think of the last time I came across a debut album boasting such a creative and fully realized set of tracks. Seven-minute power ballad “The Angel of Rain” most clearly exemplifies this; not only does the band have the guts to attempt such a song, but they stick the landing almost flawlessly. Despite the lyrics taking center stage, it’s the progression of the track that makes it such a resounding success; it rises and falls with ease, aided by fantastic basslines and subtle melodic riffing. It’s a surprisingly emotional song, somewhat reminiscent of the narrative format of Iron Maiden’s “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and one that immediately distinguished itself as the album’s crown jewel and one of my favorite songs of the year.
Medevil’s ability to take risks and craft a unique niche while adhering to a coherent stylistic backbone is one of Conductor of Storms’ greatest strengths, a strength that is almost never present so early in a band’s career. This coincides with the general air of confidence exuded throughout the record; this may be a debut, but it sure as hell doesn’t sound like one. In addition to “The Angel of the Rain,” the band takes another leap of faith with epic twelve-minute closer “The Fabled Uxoricide.” Though it’s not quite as triumphant and could’ve used a bit of trimming around the edges, it certainly gets its message across: Medevil is not a band content to simply ride trends or retread old ground. Granted, the classic riff-filled romps are still fantastic (and the addition of another one, perhaps between tracks 5 and 6, wouldn’t have hurt), but it’s their daring steps into more uncharted territory that left more of a lasting impression on me.
I legitimately can’t remember the last time I heard a better debut album than Conductor of Storms. It successfully carves out a unique niche as any good debut should, but exemplifies a maturity and awareness that’s more often seen much later in a band’s career; it’s more of a Master of Puppets or Powerslave than a Kill ‘Em All or Iron Maiden. And above all else, it’s an album that firmly cements Medevil as one of the most promising young bands that the traditional metal scene has had in quite some time. Conductor of Storms is a modern spin on a classic sound, and a damn good one at that—and it may very well be the best debut album of the year.
Medevil performing “The Angel of Rain.”