Do you remember 1997’s album The Dark Command – the album Exciter released in the darkest period for old school metal? If you are a fan of one of Canada’s all-time greatest bands, then you should, because this album was an amazing display of speed metal awesomeness when no one expected it and, also, introduced the fantastic vocalist Jacques Bélanger. He sang for two more great Exciter albums (one a re-recording of old classics), before they split paths.
Fast forward to 2014 when Bélanger emerged out of nowhere with a really promising new heavy/speed metal band, called Assassin’s Blade, aided by ex-Portrait guitarist David Stranderud and the rhythm section of Cult Of The Fox and Void Moon (all Swedish Vikings, mind). Two years later came the debut album Agents Of Mystification, which fell firmly into the classic heavy metal fold, with occasional outbursts of speed metal riffing and the instantly recognizable high-pitched vocals of Bélanger. This was a fantastic start for the band and the following three years proved to be really heavy with expectations for what the future held.
Finally, October 18th will bring us Assassin’s Blade’s sophomore recording, entitled Gather Darkness, once again through Pure Steel Records. There is a line-up change with the arrival of Bruno Buneck on guitar, but the first chords of album opener Tempt Not (The Blade Of The Assassin) immediately convince that not a part of the band’s ferociousness of playing is lost. What we have here are ten brand new compositions in the best tradition of 80’s US power metal speed. The press release hits the spot when comparing the album to a hybrid of the best of Judas Priest and Exciter, but I must mention a few things here that prove Gather Darkness is so much more.
First of all, the album does not have a single filler song – everything sounds extremely consistent and full of energy. The songs are even better than the ones in the debut – melodies are instantly memorable, the riffs and choruses are super catchy and the production sounds BIGGER. Call Of The Watch is a speed metal hatchet to the head, The Ghost Of Orion is a heavy metal anthem with a fantastic guitar solo and unbelievable singing and the duo of Dream Savant and I, Of The Storm are the closest in sound to what Mr. Bélanger did in Exciter but…. better. Gather, Darkness!, Gods and The Thaumaturge are much more ambitious compositions that show so much growth since Agents Of Mystification. Three years later, it is obvious the band know how they want to sound, with all the tiny nuances in guitar tone, vocal gymnastics, and underlying melodies meant to create a feeling of musical wholeness and completeness.
The feeling of something done right is also backed by the great cover artwork, which demands being printed on vinyl. The album hasn’t left my phone for the last month and I doubt it will any time soon. Do yourselves a favor and support this fantastic band. They deserve it. The rating is not higher for one reason only – I know they can even do better.