November 4, 2020

Every now and again a band seems to come from nowhere and hits the ground running as a fully functioning and virtually perfect rock band with an album that blows you away. The quite breath taking Spanish Lords Of Black is such a band and they made everyone sit up and take when they released the remarkable self-titled debut in 2014 which was a truly exceptional hard rock/progressive metal extravaganza. Each further release has seen the band progress into the titans that they are today and the new album Alchemy Of Souls Part 1 most certainly continues this growth and development.

Built around the guitar prowess of the sublime Tony Hernando, the band took a stellar leap by introducing us all to the phenomenal vocal talents of the Chilean born siren that is Ronnie Romero. People took notice of this new kid on the block and when Ritchie Blackmore comes a-calling then you know you have hit the big time. We all know what came next as Romero toured and recorded with the newly reformed Rainbow and he has become a hugely sought after singer too and also records with The Ferrymen, CoreLeoni and now with Vandenberg too. Thankfully, he has remained with Lords Of Black although there was a worry in 2019 when it was reported that Romero had left the band and they played several gigs with vocals duties shared by Diego Valdes (Dream Child) and Dino Jelusick (Animal Drive). Hernando then started working on the new songs that became Alchemy Of Souls and he sent these to Romero and, re-inspired, he returned to the fold in 2020 and this brief hiatus plus these new, incredible songs seems to have intensified the band into achieving even greater heights in performance levels. There has been a change in the band though with Jo Nunez taking over the drumming duties from Andres Cobos and he now teams up with Tony Hernando and Dani Criado. It must be remembered that this is Hernando’s band and his song writing and guitar skills are integral to the core Lords Of Black sound and he is fast becoming rock royalty when it comes to guitar playing and is also approaching iconic status. He too is involved in other projects and a check out of his Restless Spirits outfit is highly recommended.

If Lords Of Black is a new name to you then I suggest you get to know the band and real fast too but for those who have been in from the start know that this is a band that specialises in classic heavy metal and very much plays in the style of Dio eras Rainbow and Black Sabbath. Much has been made of the powerful and soaring voice of Romero and he does sound very much like the late Ronnie James Dio (surely the greatest metal voice ever) and Hernando is another of the many influenced by Mr Blackmore with influences too from Tony Iommi and these have helped to make him an immediately recognisable and truly class leading guitarist. Please remember though that Lords Of Black is not a Rainbow tribute act but a seriously good metal band in their own right and with each new release the band is further cementing its place in heavy metal legend. I remember thinking that the debut was a truly amazing metal album with roots obviously back in the ’70s but brought up to date for a new audience and I could not comprehend how that debut could be bettered and then came II and, incredibly, they had improved on what I thought was an unimprovable formula. No prizes for guessing where this is going but the same happened in 2018 with Icons Of The New Days, an album with 73-minutes of some of the finest hard, heavy and progressive metal you will ever hear and an album that should be in everyone’s top 10 of all time.

So now we have Alchemy Of Souls Part 1 and it is an album that I just cannot stop playing. Everything that I want from the band is here with stunning tracks that are genuine epics of metal delight and Ronnie Romero again shows that he is virtually peerless when it comes to delivering hard rock heaven. Guitarist Tony Hernando has most certainly surpassed himself with the quality level of the songs on display here and he seems a man possessed with his playing as he churns out riffs that register on the Richter Scale and his soloing is controlled, inspired and devastating. If you buy this album (and you will) then remember to warn your neighbours as you just have to play this at maximum volume as this is metal designed to shake foundations and to become totally absorbed in. Your ears will scream with feedback for days but this is a badge of honour for us metal heads! The new man, Jo Nunez, does not disappoint with his battery of drumming and Dani Criado is a rock on bass. Keyboards are not credited but I am assuming these are supplied by Hernando and his piano playing is a delight and always a prelude to a full on metal onslaught. I have always loved how much bands delight in starting off with a lovely and gentle piece of piano or acoustic guitar before blowing your head off with a crunching riff. There are many examples of this but, to me, two of the finest are from 1975 on the Bandalero album by Budgie with Napoleon Bona-Part One which leads into Napoleon Bona-Part Two and Sabotage by Black Sabbath with Don’t Start (Too Late) which then leads into Symptom Of The Universe but remember to play them both very loudly! We can now add Lords Of Black to this list with the show stopping title track, Alchemy Of Souls, which begins with a quite beautiful and gentle Flamenco type piece on acoustic guitar before bass and guitar burst in and the song opens up into a huge and glorious Stargazer type epic. In truth, this is an album without a weakness as every track is a sumptuous epic delight and just about as gargantuan as hard rock can get. Further praise needs to go to Roland Grapow (Masterplan, ex-Helloween) for doing such a good job in co-producing, mixing and mastering the album. 

This has been a phenomenal year for absolutely amazing heavy metal (and I include power and progressive metal in this category) and I have been privileged to hear some albums that have been awe inspiring but Alchemy Of Souls Part 1 is pretty much in a category of its own and is a release that you simply have to have and it would have had the same impact if it had been released in the ’70s too, quality music never dates! The amazing thing though is that this is only Part One and I simply cannot conceive how they are going to match or even improve on it but it’s going to be a lot of fun finding out. Alchemy Of Souls Part 1 is an essential purchase from a band destined for greatness.

Alchemy Of Souls Part 1 track list

  1.  Dying To Live Again (4:56)
  2. Into The Black (3:58)
  3. Deliverance Lost (5:41)
  4. Sacrifice (4:35)
  5.  Brightest Star (4:49)
  6. Closer To Your Fall (4:17)
  7. Shadows Kill Twice (6:18)
  8. Disease In Disguise (5:08)
  9. Tides Of Blood (4:44)
  10. Alchemy Of Souls (10:22)
  11. You Came To Me (Piano Version) (2:42)