Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Bakken - Death Of A Hero (2012)

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Death Of A Hero

Bakken - Death Of A Hero
Not too long ago, my attention was waylaid by a new band out of Northern Ireland called Bakken. The appeal of their old-school sound was overshadowed only by their collective musical skill and songwriting ability - traits that were immediately apparent even though the band had only released one track off of their forthcoming debut LP. Now, after hearing their album Death Of A Hero in its entirety, I fully stand behind my earlier praise of Bakken as first-rate musicians and a band deserving to be on the radar of all classic metal fans.

With that familiar NWOBHM sound as its bedrock, Death Of A Hero is an eight-part structure incorporating bits of early thrash, touches of progressive flair, and even a hint of an Irish melody. Frontman Simon Pickett leads the charge with a gritty, compelling voice that reminds me at times of a younger James Hetfield. On "Mystic Mogul", the first single from Death Of A Hero and my favorite song on the album, Simon works with some great vocal melodies and gets a little backing help from drummer Niall McGrotty. Bakken does a nice job with the gang choruses on Death Of A Hero, displaying a bit of an early thrash element in their sound.

As enjoyable as the vocals are, Bakken's real strength lies within the intricate melodies and complex variation of riffs that permeate each and every song on Death Of A Hero. Together with Mark-Anthony McGinnis, Pickett delivers an electrifying performance of six-string acrobatics. After a lengthy intro of battlefield sound effects and an anthemic twin-guitar lead, the two axemen launch the album off to a blistering pace with the galloping "Darkest Day". The quality continues on in an upward trek, from the outstanding driving riffs and exquisite leads of "Mystic Mogul" to the Irish melody built into the extensive solo of "Sasquatch". "The Cursed" and "Fortress Of Evil" contain riff structures a bit more complicated than most of Death Of A Hero's tracks, giving the album just a touch of a prog quality to it.

Even with all of the guitar strings set ablaze by Pickett and McGinnis, the band's rhythm section of McGrotty and Brian O'Kane are fully involved in the Bakken sound. While McGrotty's thunderous beats provide a staunch backbone throughout the album, his ability to put the pedal to the metal or dazzle with a well-placed fill is key to Death Of A Hero's appeal. O'Kane's contributions are subtle, for the most part, and ever-present without being flashy - his slick bass solo on "Mystic Mogul" the exception. What is not subtle is the way the distinctive presence of the bass helps shore up the overall NWOBHM quality of Bakken's style.

Death Of A Hero is not a paint-by-numbers album by a band who are aping their influences. Taking inspiration from some of heavy metal's purest qualities, Bakken has constructed a sound that will unquestionably appeal to "old school" fans while also turning the heads of those with somewhat more contemporary tastes.

Track Listing
1Darkest Day8:22
2Mystic Mogul4:35
3The Cursed3:12
5Back To The Future4:47
6Get Back To Your Feet5:54
7Fortress Of Evil3:46
8Voyage Of Aodh7:43
Total Runtime43:47

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