Woe of Tyrants - Behold the Lion
Record Label: Tribunal Records
Release Date: May 8, 2007
Remember kids: speed kills. If Behold the Lion is any indication, Ohio’s Woe of Tyrants never saw those service announcements as kids. Acting as though the nineties (let alone the decade we’re currently in) never happened, Woe of Tyrants specialize in thrashy death. In the grand thrash tradition, the album starts with a haunting neoclassical acoustic number ("Conception") that barely has time to whet the listener’s appetite before "Hail the Count" comes barreling along in all its melody-tinged death metal glory. With its barrage of tremolo picking, acrobatic thrash riffs, blastbeats, and soaring leads, the track becomes a blueprint for the rest of the album. It quickly becomes apparent that guitarists Chris Burns and Matt Kincaid know their way around the fretboard, as they’re not afraid to throw a sweep (or three) in wherever, just because they can. Each track bursts with a cavalcade of note-heavy leads and solos that remain just one tapping exercise on the tasteful side of overkill. All that, combined with the snarling speed-demon riffing of "Revelations" and "Yoke of Slavery," probably made for some sore wrists during the recording process.
Chris Catanzaro’s vocals are refreshingly old-school, delivered in an articulate growl with nary a whispered spoken-word or clean vocal to be found. Instead, everything is screamed, which should be commended in today’s girl-pants-and-metal-on-MTV day and age. Drummer Dustin Grooms grinds and blasts through all nine tracks, the omnipresent patter of bass drums keeping time throughout. Things finally slow down during the beginning of "Eureka," which sounds almost doomy for all of 45 seconds until a riff straight out of the Bay Area kicks in, then it’s off to the races again. It isn’t until the end of the song that Woe of Tyrants showcase its more contemplative, atmospheric side with clean guitars and gentle soloing. However, just as you are getting into the dynamic shift, along comes "Role of the Brutes," which borders on black metal territory, with drum pedals fluttering and hyperspeed picking followed by fiery harmonies.
Behold the Lion is nothing if not a solid offering by talented musicians, as is evidenced by any of the blazing melodies scattered throughout the disc. Unfortunately, there is a certain sameness to the songs that betray the album’s relatively short run time. That’s not to say that there aren’t any great parts; the locked-in gallops and incendiary soloing in "The Battle of Borders’ Break" just slay, and when they let a classic rock influence sneak through in the jangly blues leads in "Fable Thy Destination" it’s an air-guitarist’s dream, and it’s during these songs that the band lies on the cusp of something special. This is too bad for the rest of the album, because there are only so many solos and 300 BPM thrashings that one can take before losing interest. There’s a lot to be said for having dynamic range – hell, even Napalm Death dial it down once or twice – and while Woe of Tyrants have the tools necessary to make a great album, Behold the Lion isn’t close yet.