When Ritchie Blackmore announces he’s “getting the band back together again,” and that band is Rainbow, it is impossible not to take notice. When the man in black also taps into the talents of a younger Chilean metal vocalist, it is equally difficult to ignore. While relative newcomer Ronnie Romero does an impressive job filling the prehistoric mammoth-sized shoes of Dio, Bonnet, and Turner, what is more interesting still is Romero’s original full-time gig: Spanish metal band Lords of Black.
Although larger-than-life vocalist Ronnie Romero is undoubtedly the jewel of the Lords of Black crown, there is quite a bit going on with this band as a whole. After all, there is no “I” in “Band,” at least if said band wishes to stay together for any amount of time. Backed up by Tony Hernando on guitar, Andy C. on drums, and Dani Criado on bass, the band is tight and impressive enough to warrant a “where the hell did these guys come from?”
Typically, in music journalism, it is arguably bad form for an interviewer or writer to admit ignorance of a topic. However, it is worth mention that this reviewer had not heard Lords of Black until the new 2018 album Icons of the New Days. The significance in this is that rather than coming at this album as any kind of established enthusiast of the artist, the album was heard fresh with no preconceived notions. Here’s the thing. It rocked.
Sonic Perspectives enjoys a variety of savvy readers and social media followers, enjoying everything from classic 70s prog to modern Swedish “djent” metal. Noteworthy about Lords of Black is that they have something to offer for a variety of listeners. While every song is thankfully unique, the overall sound of the band is a swirling atmosphere of Wylde-era Ozzy, Primal Fear, Firewind, and no small amount of 1990s Malmsteen. It is a fairly solid bet that if a listener is a fan of any or all of this, they are guaranteed at least some quality headbanging from Icons.
The album wastes little time in unloading on the listener with heavy, hooky riffs and grade “A” melodic vocals. The masters of Spaniard metal deliver world-class musicianship from beginning to end. While there is no single superstar demonstration of instrumental ability, the entire product is solid and consistent. The guitars usually live in a sweet spot somewhere between Red Dragon Cartel and Heavy Devvy dialed to 11 on the gain knob. The drumming is always big, clean, and the right amount of busy for any given moment. Andy C. delivers some seriously fun stereo drum fills at the end of the track “King’s Reborn,” and it is impossible not to compare them to Portnoy’s hyperactive wrap-up of the Scenes from a Memory album. The drummer also provides a surprising amount of interesting keyboard work on the record, generally with a contemporary feel, perhaps approaching the sound one might find with Jonah Weingarten or Bob Katsionis; the playing is not quite as “on fire,” but it is respectable and complements the music well. The bass does exactly what a bass guitar should do: it underlines the music and supports a relentlessly pounding low end. The guitar delivers outstanding crushing rhythm work, and respectable post-Malmsteen neoclassical chops during the leads. The most shining example could be found as the song “Wait No Prayers for the Dying” built to a crescendo of killer left-hand sweeps.
Speaking of Malmsteen, it is really impossible to listen to Romero and not imagine him as the Yngwie singer that should have been. Actually, the fact that he was poached by Blackmore only serves to demonstrate this point. Even aside from the obvious Joe Lynn Turner crossover, Romero embodies the Yngwie vocal sound delivered by Michael Vescera and Mats Leven in the 1990s, particularly the sort of sound heard on “Facing the Animal.” This is by no means a bad thing. Although this was debatably past the pinnacle of the YJM era, there were some amazing vocal parts in those albums, and Romero’s work on Icon would have fit right in like USB “Plug’ n’ Play.”
The album was enjoyed in a studio on Mackie powered monitors with a fairly flat EQ. Although the record did not reinvent music as we know it, the mix is nice, chunky, and well-balanced. The guitars are full, with a noteworthy amount of mids that add to the snarl and harmonic presence. Listen to the intro to “The Way I’ll Remember” for one such example. Elsewhere, the nylon and steel acoustic guitars sound clean and warm, as does the piano. The vocals are mixed just right; anything else would have been a travesty with such a singer. As a whole, the ear-pleasing production is a high point of this very solid metal release, once which would find its way into the collections of many heavy metal lovers before the year ends.
Released By: Frontiers Records SLR
Release Date: May 11th, 2018
Genre: Heavy Metal
- Ronnie Romero / Vocals
- Tony Hernando / Guitars
- Andy C / Drums
- Dani Criado / Bass
“Icons Of The New Days” Tracklisting:
- World Gone Mad
- Icons Of The New Days
- Not In A Place Like This
- When A Hero Takes A Fall
- The Way I’ll Remember
- King’s Reborn
- Long Way To Go
- The Edge Of Darkness
- Wait No Prayers For The Dying
- All I Have Left
Bonus Disc (deluxe edition only):
- Innuendo (Queen cover)
- Only (Anthrax cover)
- Tears Of The Dragon (Bruce Dickinson cover)
- Edge Of The Blade (Journey cover)
- The Maker And The Storm (Bonus Track)
- When Nothing Was Wrong (Bonus Track)
Do you like Savatage? Do you like Primal Fear? Hell, do you like any metal that originated sometime since 1990? You will probably enjoy this album. Unless you are hell-bent on winning some sort of Highlander Prize for being the most Brütal metal guy alive, this album has great riffs, melodies, and vocals for almost anyone into well-rounded metal. While not the most original work ever produced, it is nonetheless a treat for listening, and certainly something different if you have worn out your copies of Painkiller and Mindcrime, and just want something fresh and dependable. Go for it.