Following the release of their three track demo Satanic Panic in 2016, STALKER have been back in the studio working on their debut record Shadow Of The Sword. The New Zealand trio are made up of bassist and vocalist Daif King, guitarist Chris Calavrias and drummer Nick Oakes, the latter two both former members of RAZORWYRE, and take on an intriguing mix of thrash, punk and classic heavy metal.
The record kicks off with Total Annihilation, which begins with an explosive riff to set the tempo. It’s hard, fast and aggressive, which all sounds very promising. However the quality of the track is dragged down by the vocals, which do sound as if frontman Daif is shouting a long distance from the microphone, and it is hard to distinguish what is being said throughout.
The following track, The Mutilator, is a better overall package. The intro starts off relatively slow, but soon the speed picks up and another crushing riff really gets things going. The vocals are more audible too, though the style doesn’t really seem to suit the particular genre. The title track is definitely one of the better tracks that feature on the album, and there are more generic heavy metal elements that feature, but the overall recipe is pretty much the same throughout the record.
While STALKER‘s sound may be a mix of different genres, the main feature is thrash, which is known for being aggressive and loud in all departments, including the vocals. Sadly that doesn’t seem to be the case for STALKER and it does let things down a fair bit. For want of a better word to sum them up, the vocals really are too echoey.
Having echoes in vocals is all well and good if you can make it work well for you and it doesn’t feature consistently throughout the album, as it helps to add to the atmosphere and overall feel to a track, but it does feel overused in Shadow Of The Sword. It also detracts from any of the sound quality in the vocals. As mentioned before in the opening track, it did sound like frontman Daif was performing his vocals on one side of the room while the microphone was on the other, and because vocals are such a vital part for any artist it really drags the overall sound down.
On the technical side of things, looking at the instrumentation of the band, the sound here is exceptional. There’s plenty of killer riffs which highlight the thrash and punk elements of the album, and when you put them all together it works very well – it is very much a fresh take on a genre which has been visited so many times across the years by a huge number of bands. However, if there wasn’t so much focus on the echoes in the vocal department, then the overall sound of STALKER would be much better and thus make Shadow Of The Sword much more enjoyable to listen to.
Shadow Of The Sword is out now via Napalm Records.
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