Royal Thunder

CVI

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For a while there (well, most of the '90s and part of the 2000s), alternative rock and heavy metal were like oil and water: genres diametrically opposed both musically and philosophically, even though the four major Seattle bands that helped usher in the "modern rock" era to begin with were all somehow indebted to heavy bands in overt (Alice in Chains, Soundgarden) or subliminal fashion (Nirvana, Pearl Jam). Ironic, huh? Thankfully, Atlanta's Royal Thunder represents a new generation of bands -- and the fertile Georgia music scene, in particular -- capable of looking beyond those prejudices, and finding new ways to mix and match both styles, along with numerous musical antecedents and later developments, into curious new aural shapes. As a result, the quartet's debut full-length, CVI (literally the Roman numerals for 106, which apparently has cryptic importance to the group), frequently sounds like some ungodly jam session between Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Hüsker Dü! Especially when powerful statements such as "Parsonz Curse," "Whispering World," and "Blue" see singer/bassist Mlny Parsonz wailing like an SST-period Chris Cornell, while her complicit bandmates, Josh Weaver (lead guitar), Josh Coleman (rhythm guitar), and Lee Smith (drums) bash away on an endless sequence of hard/soft contrasts. What's more, because the rest of CVI‘s unpredictable track listing never commits to any single aesthetic (with the possible exception of "No Good" -- a no-fuss, bluesy hard rocker in the Zeppelin mold), but rather moves from post-rock atmospherics ("Shake and Shift") to occult-laced doom ("Sleeping Witch") to bad-trip psychedelics ("Drown"), Royal Thunder ultimately sound like no one but themselves. Obviously, that's no mean feat nowadays, but apparently that's what can happen when musical foes are forced to reconcile. Who knew?

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