Walken

Walken

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On their debut album, San Francisco-based quartet Walken show in their own way that, despite all the various subgenres and descriptions that have accrued around metal, there's still room for something classic-sounding -- though of course what one considers classic all depends on the era. In this case, rather than aiming to be yet another Black Sabbath clone, Walken clearly are out to celebrate '80s metal -- pop-glam aside -- in all its kaleidoscopic glory. The spirit of early Metallica hangs heavy, but there are nods to Iron Maiden, Death, Celtic Frost, and plenty of other acts that defined the genre for a generation. So the galloping introductory riffs on "Nadir" have the same sense of dramatic power as those on "The Trooper," say, while the presence of three elegantly powerful instrumentals further cements the connection. There's even some full-on boogie strut courtesy of "Running Out of Time." One of the best touches of the band lies in the dual vocalists, with bassist Shane Bergman and guitarist Sean Kohler splitting the singing between a cooler flow and a rougher, halfway to black metal rasp; it provides not only variety but more of that sense of working with a variety of approaches rather than simply cloning one thing over and over again. There's also plenty of celebratory humor -- "Beast Toker" is a funny enough title, but it's made even better by the sole lyrics being "So low/Get high." On balance, it's still an enjoyable debut by a smart act rather than a breakthrough album defining the field, but if Walken keep playing to their considerable strengths, their next release could be that full step forward.

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