Royal Thunder is a four-piece rock band from Atlanta, Georgia. They were founded in 2004 and released their first full length album in 2012 after being signed by independent record label Relapse Records whom they remain signed with today. Two weeks ago Royal Thunder released their second full length album Crooked Doors which I was given for review. Unfortunately I’ve been so backed up I could only finally get to writing my review on Crooked Doors now, but it was well worth the wait.
I listen to Crooked Doors and I hear something I don’t often hear. Royal Thunder blend so many rock elements in to every song all while sounding refreshingly original, so much so that I can’t help but stay entertained throughout. The opening track Time Machine is the first song I listened to upon being given the album and being asked if I would be interested in reviewing it. I was immediately struck by vocalist Mlny Parsonz‘s vocal melodies on the song and her voice in general. She kind of has a touch of Lzzy Hale and Emily Armstrong (both singers have also released albums in the past few weeks with their bands) while having a power of her own that makes it her voice and her voice alone.
Time Machine is followed up by the slow and grungy Forget You. As far as Time Machine goes, Forget You is a bit of a disappointment, but as far as most other bands go, Forget You is still a leap ahead. It is a good example of the bands mixture of influences, because along with the grunge sound of the song, there is also a bit of a bluesy scale to it and a doom-ish guitar solo to boot.
While Crooked Doors isn’t defined by this, there are a few other slower songs on the album. One of these songs, Forgive Me, Karma, would tend to stick out in anyone’s memory due to its guitar riff. It’s played throughout the song and gives Forgive Me, Karma a psychedelic vibe. At times the riff can get a little too repetitive, but if you take your attention away from it and listen to Mlny sing, you’ll forget about it. Glow has a classic rock beat to it and some of the finer vocal melodies on Crooked Doors. One Day is one of the closest things Crooked Doors has to a ballad, with its slow tempo and Mlny completely singing her heart out. Wake Up is both slow and fast. It’s dazed out sound would only work as a slow song but then when the chorus hits, Royal Thunder really does “wake up” and picks up the pace perfectly.
Other great Royal Thunder songs that are not on the slow side and rather add a great texture to Crooked Doors include Floor, which has a clean guitar sound that reminds me of R.E.M. only a little bit harder. The Line is a song I find I under appreciate. Listening to it now as I write this I realize it’s a lot more than I usually give it out to be considering it’s the last song on Crooked Doors that I tend to think of, yet it has one of the better tempos and some of the best vocal ranges heard on the album.
While many songs on Crooked Doors impress me, Ear on the Fool‘s progressive off-beat instrumentation convinces me that Royal Thunder are not only gifted songwriters, but they’re also as comfortable as ever playing with each other. It takes a lot of comfort for all four members to tighten up and play something this well crafted. On the opposite scale, it takes a lot of comfort to play loose, particularly when a band is just jamming out, because it’s important to know where each member is going with the song. Royal Thunder show at times how good they are at being both loose and tight as a band, but the best example of either is how tight and progressively they play Ear on the Fool.
Royal Thunder end Crooked Doors with a two parted song called The Bear. The Bear I is a soulful ballad that only lasts just over two-minutes before The Bear II starts. What makes The Bear II such a unique closer for the album is that the only instrument featured throughout is a piano (and some strings) behind Mlny Parsonz as she gives one of her many great vocal performances on Crooked Doors. This is the perfect closer for Crooked Doors because Royal Thunder has shown throughout the album that they can just never seem to run out of new ways of incorporating their influences into their songs, and just when you think you’ve heard it all they break out into this soulful conclusion.
I can’t think of many albums, independent or major label, that are as diverse as Royal Thunder‘s Crooked Doors while remaining consistent and true to a sound that is indefinitely the bands own. Right from the first listen I was taken by the music. The instrumentation is what I wish most bands sounded like, and the vocals at times are near perfect. In fact, most of the album does come down to Mlny Parsonz. Crooked Doors is what rock music has needed lately. It’s that resurgence in adrenaline that only comes every now and then. I last heard it with Monster Truck‘s Furiosity in 2013 but even that album was hardly diverse, especially compared to Royal Thunder’s output here. Crooked Doors is going to be a tough album to beat for 2015.
“Time Machine” – I’ve reviewed countless bands, and much of them have had songs over the six minute mark and a lot of those songs were songs that I ended up liking. However, none of those songs had the magic of songs like Black Sabbath‘s Heaven and Hell or The Doors‘ L.A. Woman in the way that those two specific song, as well as a few others, don’t lose my attention at any point and don’t even seem to be as long as they actually are. Now in all honesty I wouldn’t say Time Machine is up to par with those two immortal classics, but it too never wanes and I never think to myself “is it over yet.” I wish there were a shorter song to pick as my highlight, but not only is there really no better selection that I can think of, but the album is mostly made up of songs over the five-minute mark.
9.5 (Out of 10)
|1||Time Machine||Royal Thunder||7:08|
|2||Forget You||Royal Thunder||5:22|
|3||Wake Up||Royal Thunder||3:51|
|5||The Line||Royal Thunder||5:19|
|6||Forgive Me, Karma||Royal Thunder||5:53|
|8||Ear on the Fool||Royal Thunder||6:31|
|9||One Day||Royal Thunder||6:25|
|10||The Bear I||Royal Thunder||2:19|
|11||The Bear II||Royal Thunder||5:35|