Before a sound was really heard the buzz behind Californian metal band Huntress was beginning an avalanche like consumption, the coming of a new force in metal being shouted from the rooftops. Good and creative, if not forceful PR is essential for any band to gain attention but it is of course with the sounds where things accelerate or grind to a halt. Spell Eater is the debut album from Huntress following on from just one single and it without doubt declares that this really is a band going places and swiftly. The album is not striving to create new directions and sounds but simply staying true to its metal inspirations, it also will and has spawn divided and often vociferous opinions on the band, but it is impossible to ignore it. The band creates metal firmly veined with classic metal alongside melodic black and thrash metal plus extras all brought with modern thought and intent. Their music is an event, a show that you immerse within or not. It is not world changing or life altering but a show that leaves one satisfied and energised. It is like a musical version of Xena Warrior Princess, bold and in the face, at times over the top and occasionally verging on silly, but always brought with a great quality and drama plus most of all it is just great fun.
All attention and even band info is seemingly centred on front woman Jill Janus which is understandable though a little unfair on the fine musicianship and sounds from the rest of the band who include ex-members of Professor, Dark Black and Skeletonwitch. She is certainly the initial focus the band is gaining attention for, a force with a voice and style as striking as her appearance and demeanour. A classically trained singer who toured Europe as a teenage opera starlet, she has already marked her resume with things like performing with Dave Navarro in a project called Under the Covers, creating Felliniesque cabarets and parties, working as a club promoter, DJ, and appearing in Playboy, but Huntress is certainly her greatest triumph. The seeds of the band began really when she met LA underground metal band Professor in 2009, the moment things fell into place.
Two years on and Huntress sign with Napalm Records, with first single/video Eight of Swords being released just before. The beginning of this year saw the recording of Spell Eater and April 27th its release to what surely will be a great response either positively or negatively, for it is an album that will not simply creep in and out again, it is here to make a noise. Produced by Chris Rakestraw of Sunset Lodge Recording, the release is a rampant and salacious feast for the senses, an easy to get to know and impossible to forget slab of metal. It preys upon and stirs up the senses with the wicked mischievousness of a horny witch and the evil deviousness of a snake, all venomous intent and delicious temptation.
The album opens up on the title track and slicing melodic intrusions from guitarists Blake Meahl and Ian Alden which instantly grab attention before they join in a galloping assault through the ear alongside the strong muscular bass of Eric Harris and the combative rhythms of drummer Carl Wierzbicky. As this takes root Janus steps forward with her startling and impressive delivery and voice. Whether she strikes with elevated clean notes or her imposing and deeply pleasing coarse style she never misses the mark, her training and natural ability put to a full and riveting use.
The song itself is a strong opener without being anything notable but that is soon changed with the following Senicide and its following companions. The growling bass paces behind the expressive guitars adding a menace to the acidic creativity, whilst the eager riffs and commanding rhythms forge a mighty framework for the vocals to mesmerise and thrill within. The song as the album is confident and complimentary to all that produced it, the music allowed to shine as much as the vocals and all individual parts given open clarity without losing the tight group sound.
The album simply gets better and better as it winds its metallic charms around the senses. From the excellent Sleep And Death, where Janus soars the vocals skies whilst bringing a serpentine malevolence, through the slightly bestial Night Rape and the best track on the release Snow Witch, to the predatory Children, the album thrills and lights up the ear with accomplished sounds and ideas. It is not as mentioned groundbreaking stuff but it is damn infectious.
If you liked previous song Eight Of Swords, also on the album, you will love Spell Eater as that is arguably the least impressive song on the album. Huntress might be the beneficiaries of much hype but as the album proves they are not exactly proving it wrong.