February 13, 2021

Hailing from Santa Cruz in California, there have been a lot of column inches written about James Durbin and he has carried the weight of great expectations now for quite some time. Durbin came to prominence as a participant in season 10 of American Idol in 2011 and he bared his soul as a heavy metal singer, but as we all know, these sort of shows are not interested in metal so James didn’t win but he struck a chord with many watching metalheads and was invited back for the shows finale where he got to sing Livin’ After Midnight and Breaking the Law live with Judas Priest. Living the dream indeed. Durbin became lead singer with Quiet Riot in 2017 before quitting in 2019 but he did re-record the vocals for Road Rage and then sang on Hollywood Cowboys before quitting the band in 2019. He has subsequently signed up with Frontiers Music and this is his debut album for the label and is rather appropriately titled The Beast Awakens as Durbin is now the man in command and we really get to see his true worth on the metal stage.

Now, I know that he could sing as he impressed on the Quiet Riot albums but he sounds like a man anew on the wonderful heavy metal album and I guess this new freedom has allowed him to express himself in ways never previously allowed. It seems that his love of rock has allowed for a number of bands to influence his style and approach and his metal is very much of the Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses school but, then again, these bands have influenced thousands of budding musicians to take up an instrument or pick up a microphone! I was expecting this album to be something special but it feels almost as if he has taken all of my favourite metal bands and taken the essence of each of them to produce a quite spectacular and rather heavy rock album that comes to us direct from the late ’70s/early ’80s and you can almost hear Dio, Dio era Sabbath, Rising era Rainbow, Judas Priest and Accept in every song that he and his band delivers. Some may consider it derivative but, to me, he is very much wearing his heart on his sleeve and sharing with us the bands that have been critical to him throughout his life. I have also said many, many times that if any band has a hint of Judas Priest about them then I am onboard and then, again, how can any band or musician not have need influenced by the heavy metal masters?

James Durbin plays guitar too which is a neat touch but he has drawn on some great guitarists to crank up the metal power and the team he has brought onto this album is simply fabulous. His voice is spectacular too and he most certainly has a sound of Geoff Tate, Rob Halford and Harry Conklin about him and boy can he hit those soaring and sustained high notes. The album kicks off with the most appropriately titled Prince Of Metal, a Sabbath type riff and then Durbin comes in and nails it right from the off with his soaring and powerful voice. The songs are hard and heavy but with plenty of hooks and great melodies and crammed with stunning guitar plus fabulous Dio type lyrics which is my idea of metal heaven.

If you love your hard rock, heavy metal or even power metal delivered with style and passion then, quite simply, this is for you and you’re going to love it. It’s only February and one of the positions in my end of year top ten has already gone!

The Beast Awakens track list

  1.  The Prince Of Metal (4:16)
  2. Kings Before You (Ft Chris Jericho & Phil Demmel) (4:08)
  3. Into The Flames (3:55)
  4. The Sacred Mountain (5:16)
  5. The Beast Awakens (5:01)
  6. Evil Eye (4:33)
  7. Necromancer (3:17)
  8. Riders On The Wind (5:04)
  9. Calling Out For Midnight (4:41)
  10. Battle Cry (4:54)
  11. By The Horns (3:40)
  12. Rise To Valhalla (6:19)

James Durbin – All Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Rhythm Guitars
Barry Sparks – Bass
Mike Vanderhule – Drums
Chris Jericho – Guest Vocals
Phil Demmel, Jon Yadon Jr, Marc Putnam, Dylan Rose & Nick Gallant – Guest Lead Guitarists:
Ryan Heggum, Ellison & Jeremy Locke – Additional Guitars
Earl Salindo – Keyboards/Synths
Paul Grimm – Textures/Pads