Lords of the Trident - Chains on fire 3.5/5

Reviewed: 3-1-11





Tracklist:

1. Skyforce
2. Face of the enemy
3. Chains on fire
4. Fighting for love
5. Legions of hypocrisy
6. The metal sea
7. Foggy harbor town
8. Stranded
9. Beauty of the blade
10. The enforcer
11. Followers of set
12. Wicked touch
13. Man/machine


I didn’t expect much when Madison, Wisconsin’s Lords of the Trident took the stage at last summer’s Warriors of Metal Fest in Chillicothe, Ohio. They had the unenviable task of playing early on Day 2 of the festival, with a sparse, hungover crowd looking on under the blistering Midwestern sun. In speaking to the band’s singer before the show, I feared he couldn’t possibly pull off the metal frontman role. He came across as a soft-spoken short-haired kid in a Sonata Arctica t-shirt. Well, I’ll be damned if Lords of the Trident didn’t turn in the surprise performance of the weekend. Their incredibly fun gig laden with costumes (guitarists as martial arts guru and Roman statesman respectively, bassist as the grim reaper, and drummer supporting a ridiculous red mask/helmet with 2 giant horns), props (foam and plastic weapons and shields of various descriptions, posterboard placards with slogans, etc.), and hooky 80s-inspired melodic metal sometimes crossing over into arena rock territory. Oh and the singer? Somewhere between the time I talked to him and the stage, he went all Christopher Reeve on us, transforming from mild-mannered college dude into Fang Von Killenstein, a flamboyant showman cut from the Harry “The Tyrant” Conklin cloth, albeit even more of a ham, but with a booming clean voice and an impressive, semi-ridiculous falsetto.

I definitely considered myself a Lords of the Trident fan after witnessing them live. So I picked up a copy of their ‘Death or sandwich’ debut CD at the festival; however, it didn’t really capture the magic and instead sounded mostly like a garage band trying to figure out their sound. Nonetheless, I jumped at the chance to check out the band’s new sophomore CD, ‘Chains on fire”, which I’m pleased to report is a significant step forward in all respects. Sonically, ‘Chains on fire’ is a highly professional-sounding recording that belies its do-it-yourself origins. Style-wise, Lords of the Trident have avoided drastic changes. The core of their sound is still guitar-focused 80s U.S. melodic heavy metal mixed with occasional arena rock/glam tendencies. The difference is that they seem more comfortable and confident now. Nearly everything is played at midtempo, with the heavier tunes sounding like a slickened, spit-shined Jag Panzer and the mellower songs calling to mind the likes of Keel or Dokken. Within these sonic boundaries, Lords of the Trident strike heavy metal gold on several occasions. Opener “Skyforce” flirts with full-on power metal, sporting a huge chorus and fine guitar harmonies. The title track, “Chains on fire”, maintains the guitar bite, but is tailor-made for audience sing-a-longs with its “Woahhh-ooohh, with the chains on fire” chorus. “The metal sea” injects a curveball into the middle of the CD, as it is a slow, lumbering skullcrusher about pirates with yet another superb vocal showing from Von Killenstein that dissolves into a sea shanty about getting drunk and pillaging together as we sail the metal sea. Goofy? Sure, but this is enormously fun stuff. And “Stranded” is yet another winner with a powerful riff, a cool vocal, and lyrics about full moons and a gang-shouted “run away” part (an homage to Sonata Arctica, maybe?).

While I enjoy ‘Chains on fire’ quite a bit, there’s still some room for improvement here. It would have helped the pacing of the CD for the band to hit the gas pedal from time to time. And a couple of songs (“Fighting for love” and “Wicked touch”) are so wimpy as to be repellent to any self-respecting metalhead. I suppose these are intended to be tongue-in-cheek (or maybe to help the band score chicks, in case the tinfoil weapons and Transformers belt buckles aren’t enough to seal the deal), but they’re just mostly painful. And, more generally, Lords of the Trident have fallen into the trap confronting many young bands of thinking that more is always better. I don’t think there are enough strong ideas on display to justify the 13-song, 68-minute running time, and invariably the CD starts to feel like a chore by the end of a full listen. Not every one of these songs needs to be 5 minutes long, and several could have been axed altogether without diminishing the overall attack.

At the end of the day, ‘Chains on fire’ may not be the masterpiece that I believe this band are capable of creating, but it unquestionably places Lords of the Trident on the short list of up’n’coming U.S. traditional metal bands. Fans of old-fashioned melodic heavy metal in the American style, with triumphant vocals, hooks aplenty, and a strong overarching sense of fun, are strongly encouraged to check out ‘Chains on fire.’ And for goodness sake, if you ever have an opportunity to see Lords of the Trident perform live, go see ‘em. You won’t know whether to laugh or air-guitar, and you’ll soon find yourself doing both.



KIT




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