The RMR crew has a weakness. It’s not going after everything ancient mariners did for once, old pirates included. But it’s definitely lusting after the good ol’ and long-lost world of traditional Heavy Metal. And come to think of it, both are actually connected in some way. This was a time when metal wasn’t splintered into a gazillion fiercely defended fiefdoms. But it just came as a monoblock, kind of the counterweight to the almighty Hard Rock thing. Metal souls easily served, right? This is what turned those music halls into sweaty cauldrons, believe it or not.
And all that is long gone now of course. Some of those very same old bands still exist, though, like some ever-returning undead.1) But they’re not getting younger and new blood is difficult to come by.
When Lisa Mann appeared on our radar with her new project Splintered Throne, the deckhands over at the RMR flagship had concerns. We had her down as a fiercely talented bass player with a penchant for all things blues. But as a seasoned Heavy Metal vocalist that would make us raise our mutual tired heads? Nope. Even if her late project White Crone should have warned us off, right? After all, her crone-ish ways are no straight blues. And she did that Stargazer stunt some time ago in best Dio fashion from back in his Rainbow times.2) But having her as a Heavy Metal front? That’s a pretty stealthy sneak attack, albeit a good one.
Now, to be fair, Splintered Throne – the band – ain’t one of those new trad bands that rush in on adrenaline and bad interpretations of an old genre deemed easy by some. They’ve been around the block a few times in the Portland, Oregon scene. After Brian Garrison‘s departure, they added Ms. Mann as the front screamer, spiffed up their sound, and rode off into the good ol’ sunset to find new shores to conquer.
And this just worked beautifully. The Octagon and Redline are okay records but nothing that would have ended up on this ‘zine. The Greater Good of Man, however, is quite another dimension. Once it roared off for the first time, the RMR office suite stood still for a moment. Not only did Mann not play bass, but instead lent her voice in best Heavy Metal fashion. And for once, we don’t get crazily tilted metal screams that – to this day – aim at outdoing Bruce Dickinson‘s early offerings.
Somehow the band found just the right balance somewhere in between Iron Maiden and the aforementioned Dio. And for once, this is a band that goes for their own mix and sound and doesn’t play the imitation game. And that, by itself, is exactly where any new Trad and Heavy Metal piece should locate itself. To improve their wares further, Splintered Throne lean ever so slightly into Power Metal territory. And that will certainly net them a few more fans without stealing outright from the likes of Unleash the Archers.
And this mix of power and heavy already manifests itself once The Reaper is Calling roars off. The RMR crew truly loved the almost perfect balance on this track, complete with some pretty neat shredding by about mid-point. Yet, calling the review complete because the first track is a true killer would be unfair. Because you do get a ton of variation on The Greater Good of Man.
The somewhat thrashy, (and again) power-laden mix called The Crossing primarily showcases the musical prowess of the Moser/Dorado guitar team. Their work positively coalesces into one big fat offering of thundering riffs and snazzy solos scattered throughout the record. That said, we took some insane liking to Morning Star Rising. This track finally delivers some Sabbath-esque meat and combines it – yet again – with dreamy Dio flavors. In tandem with Mann‘s perfectly aligned bluesy vocals you got yourself the perfect storm, the center-piece of Greater Good. But there are truly no weak tracks on this album. Even if the reissue of Immortal from the 2017 album Redline made us scratch our heads some.
At first, we didn’t expect much from The Greater Good of Man. Yet another new Heavy Metal record, that kind of thing. Instead, the band delivered the Trad and Heavy Metal surprise of 2022. A steady offering of well-paced perfectly arranged metal songs that truly shine with variation. Delivered by a band that knows its stuff and doesn’t shy away from going cross-genre at any time without losing track of their metallic aims.
This saddles us with one of the best new Heavy Metal albums that we came across over the last few years. To get to the final verdict, let me quote Lisa Mann from her Metalutopia interview of June 2022: “It would be a dream to play Wacken Open Air, or Psycho in Las Vegas!”. I quite agree, The Greater Good of Man is that good.
Ed’s note: And if you yearn for some more traditional fare, try Iron Kingdom.
Record Rating: 8/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Band Site
Release Date: 19 August 2022