A new, more impressive mountain of sound emerges.
The 2020s may well be remembered as the decade that was put on hold for a couple years, but if the recent studio exploits of the rock scene are any indication, making up for lost time will come to define the middle of it. Case and point, Atlanta-born hard rock staple Royal Thunder, a band that lives up to its name by making a mighty raucous while paying tribute to the royalty of hard rock legends that set the standard back in the late 60s and early 70s. To the uninitiated, their peculiar blend of stylistic expressions that bridge the divide between the contemplative psychedelic trappings of the acid rock glory days with the raunchy edge of the early ascent of 90s grunge, with Rolling Stone Magazine going so far as describing them as “a bit like an alternate universe where Janis Joplin fronted Led Zeppelin”. Since the release of their 3rd studio LP “Wick” in 2017 this fold went on something of an extended studio hiatus marked by the exit of guitarist Will Fiore, rendering the band a trio for the first time since their self-titled debut EP, but a renewed sense of determination and drive has seen them back it with an ambitious new offering in “Rebuilding The Mountain.”
Per the testimony of guitarist and co-founder Josh Weaver, this opus’ creation was a special time for the fold to regroup and reconnect after a period of inactivity and personal struggle, and the result is a highly involved and often cathartic 40 minute journey that takes on an almost conceptual character. A heavy emphasis is placed upon establishing a dense atmosphere and drawing start dynamic contrasts that could be likened to the sonic equivalent of literary world-building, with each song functioning as chapters within a larger codex that could stand on their own, but make more sense as a collective whole. True to their adherence to the psychedelic precursor to 70s progressive rock, Royal Thunder has recaptured the age old practice of an album oriented release, and brilliantly presented it with a series of songs that are wide in scope, yet compact enough to be well suited for terrestrial radio play. The instrumental presentation takes on a blend of the rawness of early grunge and a spacey, shoegaze-like sense of static serenity, which is spearheaded by a highly dramatic display by bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz, whom matches the heavy dynamic range of the music with a performance that runs the gamut between an almost aloof, understated alternative rock croon and a bombastic roar.
The ebb and flow of ideas that round out this excursion move seamlessly, despite often involving jarring fits and starts, with each song being interconnected through extended periods of lingering ambience. The expositional first chapter “Drag Me” kicks things off with a sense of moderation and nuance, with a dense layering of effects-steeped guitars, distant keyboards and an understated, jazzy rhythm section painting the background as Parsonz sticks to an understated croon resting somewhere between that of Hope Sandoval and a restrained incarnation of Ann Wilson. Nipping on said 5-minute prelude’s heels is the more bombastic “The Knife”, which begins on a softer note but rapidly ascends to a raucous roar, with Mlny’s biting wails reminding as to why she is often compared to Janis Joplin. The transitions from song to song wisely avoids the trap of simply seesawing between soft and loud and emerges in a more intricate fashion, with mixtures of the two being the most commonplace formula, be it 90s alternative-leaning bangers like “Twice” and “Pull”, or vintage rock jams like “Live To Live” and “The King” that recall the band’s affinity for old-school hard rock. But those seeking a heavier and nastier mode of rock need look no further than the distorted, bass heavy and generally swift beasts that are “Now Here – No Where” and “My Ten”.
Though getting their second start a bit late in the decade, with a slight hangover from the drama of the past few years still lingering and arguably one person short, it’s a foregone conclusion that Royal Thunder are back and bringing the latter part of their name like they never left. The jury might be out as to how this fold will recreate the massive wall of sound that they’ve accomplished here in a live setting without one or two backing musicians, but insofar as the studio is concerned, this new power trio format is serving them just as well and even sees their sonic horizons expanding a bit in compared to 2017’s “Wick”.
Josh Weaver ultimately steals the instrumental end of the show with a brilliant display of droning, effects-driven riffing and occasional and largely intermitted emulations of Kim Thayil’s noise-steeped lead work, accomplishing something that could trade blows with “Louder Than Love” and occasionally even “Badmotorfinger”, though the total complement of the album is not as heavy on the impact-factor. That being said, Parsonz’s extremely dynamic and impassioned vocal performance continues to be this band’s signature selling point, and she outdoes herself at every point here. The existing fan base of the Royal Thunder will not be disappointed, and anyone with a penchant for the psychedelic not already familiar with the brand would do well to remedy their disposition immediately.
Released By: Spinefarm Records
Release Date: June 16th, 2023
Genre: Old-School Hard Rock
- Mlny Parsonz / Vocals, bass
- Josh Weaver / Guitar
- Evan Diprima / Drums
“Rebuilding The Mountain” Track-list:
- Drag Me
- The Knife
- Now Here No Where
- Live To Live
- My Ten
- The King
- Dead Star
Order “Rebuilding The Mountain” HERE.
Atlanta-based psychedelic rockers Royal Thunder reconnect to construct a sonic mountain of atmospheric intrigue, revitalizing the signature expression of progressive sensibilities with an early 90s edge that has made them a major player for more than a decade