Band: A Sound of Thunder
Album: Tales from the Deadside
Label: Mad Neptune
Release Date: September 25, 2015
In 2013, in the midst of promoting their third album, Time’s Arrow, and while recording their fourth, The Lesser Key of Solomon, A Sound of Thunder approached Valiant Comics about writing their fifth album centered around the story of The Shadowman. With Valiant’s approval and encouragement, an 18-month journey began.
As guitarist Josh Schwartz is quick to point out, the band loves to tell stories through their music, and with Tales from the Deadside, A Sound of Thunder has delivered its most compelling story to date. The album features 10 tracks which cover the story arc of 20 editions of Valiant’s initial Shadowman series run, all recorded under the skilled touch of producer Kevin ‘131’ Gutierrez (Shinedown, While Heaven Wept, Raven).
A Sound of Thunder has never been a band that plays it safe. While their sound is rooted in traditional heavy metal, various elements and ideas may be fused into an album, even a song. With Tales from the Deadside, all of the tracks are fused together with narration connecting each song, telling the Shadowman story. The story’s dark protagonist calls Louisiana home, so the band has included the vibe and flair of New Orleans into the tone of the record, including the opening of “Children of the Dark” with its tolling bell, slow-rolling glide, and finger snaps. It is perhaps the most challenging song on the record for new listeners with its somewhat progressive leanings. At times the pace of the song moves along at a casual clip, but by the end it is a driving beast. It is immediately clear that A Sound of Thunder put everything it had into each track on this record, more so than any previous effort. There is more nuance to the instrumental performances including notably inspired fretwork from the highly underrated Schwartz, and intelligent stick-work of drummer Chris Haren. Bassist Jesse Keen (who also adds keyboards here and there) is the band’s quiet weapon, and he shines on Tales from the Deadside.
Nina Osegueda wastes no time putting her powerful vocals through the paces, setting the tone for an album which contains many of her best moments to date, including the album’s second track, “Sandria (Carry On)”. Likewise, Haren is a pummeling force on Tales from the Deadside, but his skills truly elevate the second half of this track.
Easily the most melodic and infectious track on the album is the moody and emotive, “Can’t Go Back”, which also features some of the best harmonies on the record. Haren’s almost military-like drum work opens the song behind an atmospheric undercurrent. Each moment of the song builds behind Osegueda’s impassioned delivery.
“Deadside” begins with some eerie narration and Osegueda’s broody and beckoning vocals calling across the gothic, foreboding rhythms laid down by Schwartz and Keen. Haren’s understated drum work plays nicely here. At the midway point the tempo picks up, and the song becomes a driving rager led by Schwartz’ blazing fretwork. The pace slows again down the stretch, pulling the song into the darkness.
“Tower of Souls” is a spiraling behemoth in the middle of the record. Perhaps the heaviest overall track on the record, it also features fantastic shifts and subtleties. “Losing Control (The Unquiet Shadows)” carries the story forward, winding and bending in fiery grandiloquence.
A Sound of Thunder has always had a twisted sense of humor which comes across in the playful and frenetic vibe of “Punk Mambo”. There’s even a jazzy saxophone interlude at the midway point: A nod to the Jack Boniface Shadowman character who plays the sax in N’awlins. It is the grooviest track the band has yet recorded.
The hauntingly beautiful “Alyssa (Life in Shadows)” winds the story down toward the story’s final battles. If you haven’t fallen in love with Osegueda’s amazing vocal waltz by this point, this song will have you on bended knee asking for her hand.
“Tremble” is a straight-forward rocker that resonates with a Dio-esque spirit; riff-driven with a heavy groove. Keen’s bass rumbles like a relentless fiend and Osegueda is at her Queen Diamond best, howling like a barbarian. Meanwhile the album closer, “End Times” builds on a doomy Sabbath-like groove. Iommi would be proud. Once again the toll chimes to ring in the song’s intro. The song moves like a monolithic metal creature.
With Tales from the Deadside, A Sound of Thunder continues to find new ways to impress. Stunning vocal work and bombastic performances that fuel intelligently crafted songs continue to be the band’s modus operandi. The band has taken itself to a new level with Tales from the Deadside. Their collective passion for The Shadowman story and their love of metal have combined to make one of the most dark and compelling records of 2015. Take a walk on the Deadside–you will not be disappointed.