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Castle: Under Siege

West Coast trio take trad metal through the looking glass

The third album from this San Franciscan trio once again confirms them as one of the best trad metal acts to emerge in the last few years. Unless you crave the clichés of fast cars, fast living and even faster women, Under Siege offers pretty much everything you could want in a heavy metal album, and a few extras besides.

It’s epic, heroic and tastefully melodic, but at times also offbeat and unusual. Opening duo Distant Attack and Be My Ghost, for example, set out the band’s steel-laden stall with gusto, but subsequent numbers such as Powersigns and Labyrinth Of Death demonstrate a willingness to experiment and expand, the usual rulebook be damned.

In this sense there’s an overlap here with contemporaries such as Christian Mistress and Dawnbringer: bands showing that old-school metal needn’t remain completely fossilised. And as with Christian Mistress, in Liz Blackwell Castle also have a frontwoman who absolutely does not conform to rock’s gender stereotypes. Thumbs up, too, for Billy Anderson’s (Neurosis, Eyehategod) production, which suits the material here absolutely perfectly.