Priestess

Prior to the Fire

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Canadian retro hard rock band Priestess kept fans of their debut CD, 2005's Hello Master (released in the U.S. in 2006) waiting quite a while for a follow-up, but Prior to the Fire is highly worthwhile. Their combination of crunching riffs, hard-driving rhythms, and howling vocals isn't exactly unique, but their spin on the sound, which adds some touches of classic, early-'80s pre-glam metal to the usual blend of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, et. al, has a lot of appeal. This is a band that knows how to crank it up and boogie ("Sideways Attack" crashes along at a practically hardcore punk tempo), but can also make you pump your fist and shout along. Album closer "Trapped in Space & Time" is positively ferocious, leaving the listener breathless as the disc crashes to a halt. Most of the songs here are short and punchy, except for the eight-minute "The Gem," which might be mistakenly expected to be a wanky guitar jam. It's not -- it's a hard-rocking epic that slows down around the five-minute mark for some unison guitar work that develops into a second, even heavier riff than the one that propelled the piece's first half, followed by a quite beautiful melodic outro over marching drums. Between this track, the acoustic intro to "Communicating via Eyes," and the cover art, somewhat similar to this year's The Resistance, it seems like Priestess, with their occasionally outsized ambition and their way with a melodic hook, could be retro hard rock's answer to Muse.

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