It’s tempting to compare a band from New Zealand to Alien Weaponry, but the tribal folk of Shepherds Reign‘s homeland is woven into the fabric of their songs in a manner more like what Sepultura did on the Roots album.
Not to say these guys are as heavy as Sepultura, in fact the opening song is hard rock rather than metal at all. The vocals are bellowed out in a booming baritone with rough edges. As the album progresses it toys with a death metal growl. Their songs are hooky enough in their grooves to take on the classic nineties bounce.
They are capable of ripping a pretty mean guitar solo, which compensates for having a predictable radio-rock sound. There are more guitar solos than the average band coming from this nineties revival thang, so if you are into guitar tricks then this will be a key selling point for you.
“Ua Masaa” is the first song I consider moving in the direction of heavy. The more melodically sung vocal on the song “Ala Mai” works as a better juxtaposition against the hammering drums behind them. This combination might make this the album’s strongest song. You are allowed to hear this band’s potential when freed from the expectations causing some of the other creative choices to conform to the current state of rock radio.
“The World Bleeds” finds them taking a great deal of influence from Slipknot, the vocal trade-off in this song borrowing heavily from Corey Taylor. “Cold Summers Night” is a strummed-out ballad that is just not my thing, but yeah once upon a time Staind sold a ton of albums banging out these kinds of power ballads, so there is something for everyone here.
I prefer the darker shade of introspection that graces “Finally”. It might gather a post-grunge feel as it builds moments that works well for what these guys do. Does a rock album really need two ballads on it? If you ask these guys they are going to say yes.
The album is well-produced and the sounds captured have a larger-than-life feel. Sometimes this reminds me of the post-Black Album Metallica. The last song is “Somoa mo Somoa” is the most metal song of the album. Overall, there are moments that are stylistically too radio-friendly for my personal tastes, but having gone to Welcome to Rockville this year it is clear that there are at least 170,000 other people who are into it.
These guys certainly have their demographic, and I can appreciate what they are doing much more than a band like The Hu as their heritage is blended in with more fluid grace. The cultural foot forward does not feel that they are cashing in on it in a gimmicky manner, they execute what these songs set out to accomplish even while wearing their influences on their sleeves.
The band does find who they are at many points of this album, and that seems to be a band for those of you who just want fun grooves to drink a beer at the beach, while serving up a heaping dose of guitar solos.
So if that is your thing I’ll raise a White Claw in your general direction.
Buy the album here:
7 / 10