Attacker - Giants of Canaan 4.5/5

Reviewed: 5-1-13


1. As they descend
2. Giants of Canaan
3. Trapped in black
4. The hammer
5. Washed in blood
6. Sands of time
7. Curse the light
8. Black winds calling
9. Steel vengeance
10. Born into battle
11. Glen of the ghost

New Jersey’s Attacker have never made a bad CD. Over their 30-year career, the name Attacker has been synonymous with high-quality, stalwart, rugged U.S. metal. So it comes as no surprise that ‘Giants of Canaan’ extends Attacker’s winning streak to 5. What frankly surprised the hell out of me is that ‘Giants of Canaan’ makes a strong case for being Attacker’s magnum opus. How many bands deliver their musical masterpiece after 3 decades of existence? This state of affairs becomes even more improbable when one takes into account the significant recent line-up shuffle that resulted in the replacement of 2 original members (out with singer Bob Mitchell and bassist Lou Ciarlo, in with Bobby “Leatherlungs” Lucas and Jon Hanemann, respectively), and the 7-year gap between CD #4 (the excellent ‘The unknown’) and CD #5.

Be that as it may, the fact of the matter is that ‘Giants of Canaan’ is a state-of-the-art U.S. power metal release that should be absolutely mandatory listening for any fan of the style. Superlatives come fast and furious in describing this CD, so you’d better duck and cover. In terms of individual performances, I was immediately struck by the fantastic guitar work of Pat Marinelli and Mike Benatatos, who have filled the CD to the bursting point with mighty riffage, killer leads, and a seemingly endless array of catchy ear-candy bits. The rhythm section of bassist Hanemann and founding drummer Michael Sabatini is locked-in and rock solid. As for the vocals, the selection of Bobby Lucas (whom many will remember from his work in Overlorde, Seven Witches, and others) to fill Bob Mitchell’s large boots was truly inspired. Lucas possesses the grit, rasp and upper-register David Wayne-isms to sound similar to Mitchell, but also has a range, flair and emotive quality all his own. I liken the Lucas-to-Mitchell comparison in Attacker to that of Tornillo-to-Dirkschneider in Accept. He doesn’t change the sound of the band, but he isn’t a clone and somehow he makes the band better than it was with the original singer. Sonically, the production is full and powerful. Even the cover art (courtesy of Metal on Metal co-label boss Jowita Kaminska-Peruzzi) is striking, eerie and a perfect visual representation of the auditory content.

The true stars of this CD are not the musicians, but the songs. Each of the 10 tracks (plus intro) is stellar, with not a single tune coming across as uninspired, undeveloped or filler. In terms of highlights, the title track starts things off with a bang, sending me scampering for my wife’s Bible to understand the Old Testament subject matter (key passage is Numbers 13:33). But the 3 songs that really lift ‘Giants of Canaan’ over the top are “Trapped in black”, “Curse the light”, and “Glen of the ghost”. “Trapped in black” rides a glorious, galloping Benatatos riff, an almost Maidenish harmony, and a magnificent display of vocal gymnastics from Lucas to a fist-pumping, sing-a-long chorus that screams 80s without ever sounding cheesy. Songs about being buried alive are just flat-out cool. “Curse the light” once again features an earworm guitar melody before giving way to uptempo verses and a stupendous anthemic chorus: “While their voices are cursing the light/I still fight for what’s right!” Perhaps the most remarkable tune of the batch, though, is the somewhat different closer “Glen of the ghost”, which reminds me of vintage Jag Panzer at their very best. The song is as haunting as it is riveting, as nuanced as it is immediate. Slower and perhaps more overtly melodious than many of the other songs, “Glen of the ghost” is a simply beautiful song, interspersing clean/quiet guitar bits with powerful marching verses and a truly ascendant chorus, with lyrics about a gray-robed dark angel who wanders a misty glen to spirit men away at the end of their earthly journey. Let us pray that she remains in a place far away, indeed. Scintillating!

Look, I know we praise a lot of new releases here at Metal CD Ratings, as well we should, given the volume of worthy heavy metal CDs coming out each year. Our beloved genre is thriving. The problem inherent in this embarrassment of riches, however, is that it becomes extraordinarily difficult to sift through all the good CDs to identify the truly amazing CDs. I say without hesitation or reservation that ‘Giants of Canaan’ lies squarely in the “truly amazing” category. If you enjoy bands like Jag Panzer, Helstar, Overlorde, Steel Assassin, and Pharaoh (or for that matter any of Attacker’s discography), then ‘Giants of Canaan’ is a slam-dunk no-brainer. Any U.S. classic metal band that wants a shot at the #1 CD slot in 2013 is going to have its work cut out to approach (much less surpass) the greatness of Attacker. I was always fired up to be attending the Warriors of Metal Festival in Ohio this June, but my enthusiasm has been ratcheted several notches now that I am familiar with ‘Giants of Canaan’. For all the classics in Attacker’s songwriting canon, I’d be pleased as punch for Sabatini, Marinelli & Co. to show up, plug in, and rip through this CD from beginning to end. All other bands on the bill are on notice that they better bring their A-game to WOM Fest, lest they find themselves eating Attacker’s dust.




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