Relapse Records (Release: 7 April 2015)
Review by Mike Bax
Lately, I’ve been thinking a fair bit about what defines a classic album. With the re-issues of the Zeppelin catalog currently upon us, Physical Graffiti being the most recent release, I’m replaying these albums and wondering what it must have been like to be taking them in for the first time, as new releases – to actually be that 18 year-old buying the albums off the rack as new releases, exploring the material for the first time as brand new music. That must have been so magical. These classic releases are still awesome but are now 40 years old, and often duplicated by other musicians.
I’d like to believe there is an element of this experience happening still, even though it’s arguable there are not as many ‘NEW’ musical experiences to be had these days. When I play Crooked Doors, the sophomore release from Atlanta’s Royal Thunder, I feel like I’m listening to something that is both old and new; something destined for a similar timeless quality. The eleven tracks that comprise Crooked Doors are all drenched in some form of 1970s nostalgia. Royal Thunder manages to craft material on Crooked Doors that doesn’t sound like they are ripping off their peers, but more like they are building upon the path these majestic musicians have set them upon.
The songs on Crooked Doors show a real progression from Royal Thunder’s previous recordings. The howling vocals by Mlny Parsonz cast against the dual guitars of Josh Weaver and new addition of Will Fiore, backed by the steady percussion of drummer Evan Diprima, effectively channels the essence of bands like Zeppelin, Uriah Heep and Grace Slick. In this current climate of cookie cutter musicianship and auto tuning, it’s genuine albums like Crooked Doors by bands like Royal Thunder that keep me excited about music.
Crooked Doors is a genuine rock album, crafted by musicians who seem hell-bent on delivering the most perfect jams they are capable of. Together, Royal Thunder has produced an album that really holds up well as a complete unit of songs. While I can’t really pull single songs out as being better than others, I do feel like Royal Thunder built this album to an obvious crescendo with songs like ‘Forgive Me, Karma’ and ‘Glow’ at its midpoint. Opening song ‘Time Machine’ teases us with some delicate guitar work before kicking into the progressive rocker track to open the album, and two parter ‘The Bear I’ and ‘The Bear II’ winds down the aural experience perfectly.
If you are that dinosaur music fan who says there’s nothing being released that sounds like the stadium rock of yesteryear, Crooked Doors is an album that will take that notion to task. It’s a beautiful album that genuinely deserves both an audience and a chance to flourish. Here’s hoping for both in 2015.
Crooked Doors track listing:
01 Time Machine
02 Forget You
03 Wake Up
05 The Line
06 Forgive Me, Karma
08 Ear On The Fool
09 One Day
10 The Bear I
11 The Bear II