RIVETSKULL – Absence Of Time (Album Review)

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The old ways are timeless.

When considering the task of keeping the magic of Dio’s musical legacy alive, there seems no shortage of would-be disciples up to undertaking it, each with their own respective twist on the original. Yet when it comes to accentuating the uniqueness factor and putting the emphasis on emulation over outright imitation, there is something to be said for the quartet hailing from the somewhat unlikely city of Seattle, Washington known as Rivetskull.

Originally cutting their teeth in the Pacific Northwest in 2009 under the moniker of Rising as a tribute band to the aforementioned land, the passage of five years and a healthy number of gigs to boot would find the adoption of a new name and a corresponding mission to create as well as celebrate. With the 2020 release of their debut LP Trail of Souls: Samsara and a 2022 rerelease with an additional song and modified title, the sky seemed the limit for this fold, and their 2024 sophomore follow-up “Absence Of Time” sees them even closer to punching a hole through the proverbial stratosphere.

At first glance, what this second studio outing seems keen to dish out is heavily similar to the gritty and raw character of Dio’s seminal debut “Holy Diver,” but closer inspection reveals a band that covers a good bit more ground and also coming into their own as a creative force. Chad McMurray’s dual function as lead vocalist and keyboardist in the fold mirrors the ambitious character of what Ronnie James took to his 1983 debut, but the timbre of his voice bears a greater similarity to the smoother sound of Blue Oyster Cult’s Eric Bloom and the semi-operatic theatricality of ex-Uriah Heep front man David Byron.

Even when at his most aggressive, McMurray sounds well removed from an outright Dio imitation, yet that same spirit of raging splendor adorns his harsher moments. Mark Plog’s guitar input is where the picture becomes extremely varied, as his riffs do often resemble the manic quality of Vivian Campbell’s early handiwork, while his soloing style and a few of his darker grooves channel Craig Goldy and Tracy G’s latter-day work with Dio. The combined rhythm section of drummer Michael Robson and bassist Mark Hopkins proves a bit more conventional, with the latter maintaining a steady and deep groove while the former often resembles Vinnie Appice’s loose and fill-happy kit work.

“Absence Of Time” Album Artwork

When combined with a songwriting approach that manages to be both concise and formally adventurous, the type of song that emerges from this conjunction of talents proves to be anything but typical. The pummeling fury of opener “Hellbound” hit with the force of a modern speed metal anthem out of Germany, though beneath the amped-up guitars and thunderous drums is a song that functions as a logical continuation of what began with numbers like “Neon Knights” and “Turn Up The Night” from Dio’s original run with Black Sabbath.

The heavy-ended gallop of “Isolation” proves no less formidable, with an infectious chorus hook that is sure to become a live staple. “The King Is Dead” brings a mystical, Mid-Eastern musical twist on the same generally up-tempo galloping approach, almost like a darker and heavier nod to “Gates Of Babylon” in half the time. Throw in some thick, chugging groove machines with a dark coat of sonic paint like “Eyes Of A Fallen Angel” and “Swimming In Mortality”, to speak nothing for the dreary, military march-like ballad turned punchy epic closer “The Unwinnable War” and what results is an album that touches just about every base in the old school rock and metal spectrum.

Though time appropriate for being associated with the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal, Rivetskull is a band that only shares a partial musical affinity with said movement, as underscored by the dual nature of this album. It is, by any respect, a grouping of songs heavily informed by a tradition that is as old as the metal genre itself.

Yet it does not conform to the retro-80s production practices typical to most of the NWOTHM’s adherents, opting for a sonic quality that is more readily associated with the period of Dio’s career in the 2000s when their 80s sound had cross-pollinated with the dank, doom-like quality of said icon’s 90s era. It ultimately endeavors to function as a continuation of where Ronnie had left things in the early 2010s when he departed this Earth and comes off equally as up to the task as the projects that Craig Goldy has co-founded in the years since.

Alongside those who especially enjoyed such classic albums as “Holy Diver,” “Strange Highways,” “Killing The Dragon,” and “Master Of The Moon,” this album’s target audience extends to just about every old and young fan of heavy metal craft, to whom it will ring familiar while still bringing something new to the table.

Released By: Self-Released
Release Date: June 14th, 2024
Genre: Heavy Metal

Musicians:

  • Mark Plog / Guitar
  • Chad McMurray / Vocals
  • Michael Robson / Drums
  • Mark Hopkins / Bass

Absence Of Time” Track List:

  1. Hellbound
  2. Isolation
  3. Not Gonna Run
  4. My Darkest Hour
  5. Eyes of a Fallen Angel
  6. The King is Dead
  7. Swimming in Mortality
  8. Time Will Tell
  9. The Unwinnable War

Order Absence Of TimeHERE

8.5 Excellent

Seattle heavy metal upstarts Rivetskull fire on all cylinders on their latest studio LP, walking a fine line between old school hard rock sensibilities and metallic heaviness while channeling the classic 80s style through their own unique lens

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 8.5
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8.5
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