The pride of San Antonio, Texas, Jessikill may be an unfamiliar name to most underground metalheads; however, vocalist Jessica “Jessikill” Espinosa may have popped up on your radar screens before as the vocalist for Chicago rockers Hessler on their 2014 ‘Ghost Dance’ EP. From what I understand, Jessikill has now parted ways with Hessler to focus 100% of her energies on the band that bears her nickname. ‘Metal Knights’ marks Jessikill the band’s debut EP, and they are selling the 5-song (plus intro), 25-minute effort through their website (www.jessikillofficial.com) for a reasonable price. Enthusiasts of physical media may be a bit disappointed to learn that the disc (despite its excellent cover artwork and band logo with lightning-bolt S’s a la KISS) is just a CD-R that comes packaged in a cardboard sleeve (no booklet), which definitely diminishes the value-for-the-money proposition. Still, it’s the music that matters most, and on that score, Jessikill deliver the goods.
It’s not so easy to pigeonhole Jessikill into a particular narrow box on this EP. It’s definitely melodic, traditional-minded heavy metal through and through, but the band do manage to cover some ground. Opener “Midnight Rush” feels like Euro power metal out of the Primal Fear / Gamma Ray school, with speedy melodic riffage and soaring vocals culminating in a triumphant powerful chorus. “Metal Knights” hits with more speed, power, searing fretwork and compelling vocals in true metal anthem style. By contrast, “The Beast” goes for a more restrained, slower, epic, bombastic keyboard-driven approach, with both male and female vocals, before turning into a furious sprint just shy of the 3-minute mark. Then there’s the near-balladry of the 6-minute “Give It All,” which gives way to the galloping, thundering closer “Don’t Let Go.” The two constants throughout the proceedings are the impressive, powerful female vocals of Jessikill Espinosa and the shredtastic lead guitars of Jyro Alejo. These two definitely have talent for miles. The other players are no slouches either, particularly bassist Arturo Alvarado, who offers some tasty licks and some fine vocals in his own right. The only trick is harnessing the band members’ formidable skills into compelling songs. There are times on this EP (“Metal Knights” and “Don’t Let Go,” especially) where everything clicks and the band sounds awesome. However, there are also places where Alejo’s lead guitars seem out of place, way too hot, and oddly overpowering in the mix, like he’s overplaying the song. Same goes for Espinosa’s vocal lines, too. It’s never bad, mind you. It just feels like Jessikill would have benefited from a strong producer to rein in the players a bit from time to time, all for the benefit of the songs.
Through all of this, it’s important to remember that ‘Metal Knights’ is a debut EP, so it shouldn’t be judged too harshly. I firmly believe that Jessikill are onto something here. I love the fire and flair in Alejo’s playing, the passion and power in Espinosa’s voice, and the promising songwriting in the traditional melodic power metal style. All the ingredients haven’t quite gelled yet, but that’s to be expected. If, as I fully expect will happen, Jessikill puts the pieces together for a full-length album, the results could be nothing short of amazing. For now, though, ‘Metal Knights’ makes for a fine appetizer, and an intriguing promise of better things to come.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~