‘A Feast Of Virgin Souls’
Razorback Records (March 2015)
The Kentucky duo of Vanessa Nocera (vocals, bass and label owner) and Willie Wardlaw (guitars, drums) have concocted a spectacular vampire-doom epic that brings together elements of King Diamond (musically and in terms of storytelling) and Candlemass – before pouring a huge vat of blood over everything.
This gloriously forthright concept album is inspired by the story of Countess Bathory (who famously bathed in the red stuff while she was busy inventing black metal, or something) and tells the tale of two female vampires battling against a possessed butcher. The tale picks up where the last song from Wooden Stake’s debut album left off, which is a pleasing bit of continuity, especially considering that Wardlaw has joined up since that 2012 release and has written most of the material on offer here.
Talking of black metal, Nocera adopts a demonic, blackened style in addition to her bombastic clean singing, adding a depth and more than a degree of horror to the album. Her fantastic vocal range is one of the band’s defining features, and helps to flip the story between sections and moods.
If there is a complaint (and there’s always a complaint) it’s that the songs have a tendency to rush past the best bits! This means that while all of the ten tracks have plenty of hard-hitting riffs and musical dexterity, it can be difficult to pinpoint each song’s distinct personality within the overall body of the narrative.
With highlights including ‘Cross-Scalded Flesh’ – a masterful demonstration of the band’s talent and artistic ambition – and the instantly loveable title track, this album provides 40-plus minutes of silk-lined, dark doom with plenty of grim charisma, NWOBHM power-play and snarling, blood-soaked fury throughout.