(No Remorse 2017)
Good things are happening for Resistance these days. Despite being an active band for more than 15 years, Resistance toiled in relative obscurity until 2015, when they took a massive step forward with an excellent self-released EP, Battle Scars. The band’s muscular take on U.S. power metal and flourishing songwriting skills on cuts like “Hold the Line” and “Vlad” made the international metal community sit up and take notice. High-profile appearances at such vaunted festivals as Frost and Fire, Headbangers Open Air, and Up the Hammers followed. To build on this momentum and (hopefully) take the next step, Resistance have recorded a new album, Metal Machine, due on Greece’s No Remorse Records later this month. Recognizing the need to put their best foot forward, the band enlisted the aid of several industry luminaries on Metal Machine, including Bill Metoyer as co-producer/engineer, Neil Kernon to handle mixing and mastering responsibilities, and Dusan Markovic to paint the cover art. By bringing onboard some of the best in the business, Resistance are playing for keeps this time around.
After spending a week and a half digesting the album, I am thrilled to report that Metal Machine is unquestionably Resistance’s finest effort to date. They have essentially picked up where the Battle Scars EP left off, but managed to raise the bar in terms of songs, performances and sonics. Indeed, the most apparent differences between Metal Machine and the EP are that the new album features a more crushing, in-your-face production/mix and leaner, more focused songwriting. Otherwise, though, this is very much the Resistance we know and love from Battle Scars. The band are still a mixture of classic metal bands like Metal Church, Accept (Tornillo era, especially), and Judas Priest, but also bands like Cage (albeit without the over-the-top speed and screamed vocals) and Primal Fear. The piledriving guitar tone of Dan Luna and Burke Morris is thick and heavy as hell, creating a massive wall of guitars without sacrificing an ounce of melody during the harmonies and solos. And vocalist Robbie Hett has never sounded better. With his powerful mid-range, superb control, and gritty delivery, Hett reminds me a little bit of Blackie Lawless or David Wayne these days, but still definitely retains his own character and personality. The lyrics (mostly credited to drummer Matt Ohnemus) show surprising emotional depth in places. “Hail to the Horns” is an earnest tribute to Ronnie James Dio (“I say no goodbye for you are not gone”). “Some Gave All” is a slightly reproachful first-person narrative from beyond the grave by a veteran who paid the ultimate sacrifice (“As you slept, I answered the call”). “Time Machine” marvels at the power of music to transport us back in time to the glory days of our youth, but does so in a way that doesn’t come across as maudlin or hokey. And “Heroes” includes the plaintive cry in the chorus, “Please don’t take any more of my heroes,” a sentiment that hits close to home for many of us.
As for the songs themselves, the lyric video for the title cut “Metal Machine” has been available for a few weeks now. Upon hearing it, a German acquaintance commented that this song is “U.S. metal at its finest.” I agree wholeheartedly. The same can be said for much of this album. In addition to the title track, “Heroes,” “Hail to the Horns,” “Some Gave All,” and “Time Machine” are all absolutely first-rate smashers, just tremendous songs that mostly hover in a mid-tempo but feature pounding rhythms and intoxicating melodies. All of these tracks would absolutely smoke in a live setting. The disc ends with a somewhat surprising cover of the Scorpions’ classic “Blackout,” which remains faithful to the original but is interesting because of the much heavier guitars and Hett’s mostly successful take on Klaus Meine’s vocal lines. If there’s a legitimate knock on Metal Machine, it’s that it ends all too quickly. At 8 songs (including “Blackout”) and 32 minutes, the album feels just a tad short for a full-length. (Time-wise, it’s almost exactly the same duration as the Battle Scars EP.) I would have loved to see Resistance include a couple more high-quality originals to round this thing out. That said, there is definitely something to be said for the “all-killer, no-filler” approach. Far better to give the people seven killer originals and one cool cover tune than to give them seven killer originals, one cool cover tune, and a couple of mediocre, unfinished song ideas to pad the running time.
Metal Machine is where everything coalesces for Resistance. They’ve learned and grown from years of hard-fought experience and battle scars, written an excellent batch of songs, and refined and focused their attack into something deadlier and more formidable than ever before. If you want to hear U.S. metal at its finest, with one foot in the past and the other firmly in the present, you may be hard-pressed to find anyone doing it better than Resistance in 2017.
~ Review by Kit Ekman ~