Dying Victims: Coltre, Armagh, and Freeways


Glad that rad trad is not a fad.

I meant to do a post last year featuring Tanith, Flight, and Vision Master, 3 releases I enjoyed which could broadly be subsumed under the header of “trad metal.” I’m not sure if that descriptor means the same to everyone, but I use it for a kind of clean, classic heavy metal with varying degrees of 70s rock influence. “Classic” might be another vague term, so before we end up with multiple paragraphs of definition, maybe we should just look at today’s featured bands and then decide in the comments what we wanna call whatever they do.

All of them are brought to us from different parts of the world via German label Dying Victims Productions, who play a significant role in keeping this particular style of old school metal alive and available. Let’s sample some of their output from the first quarter of the year.

Coltre | To Watch with Hands… to Touch with Eyes | February 23

Dope cover art and a perplexing album title were enough to reel me in, and while the album did not end up sounding as idiosyncratic as I had hoped, its confident rock swagger still has plenty of charm about it.

One of the things I come to this genre for is big hooks, and Coltre delivers those pretty consistently. The choruses of the title track, “Temptress,” “Rat Race” or “Friends Aren’t Electric” are bound to get stuck in your head almost immediately. The way the latter two decry the ills of modern society also gave me Dio vibes, whose solo work I suspect is quite an influence on the band both lyrically and musically. The singer’s delivery over the often galloping riffs made me think of the little legend more than once.

Speaking of riffs, regrettably few songs stand out in this regard, but they usually provide enough drive to keep things fun, and they certainly know how to make an entrance, helping many an intro to get you hyped for where things will go. And things certainly go… on. With all but one song landing north of 6 minutes, the initial enthusiasm is often dampened somewhere near the halfway point. There’s just not quite enough happening to make the duration feel worthwhile. A notable exception to this is the excellent “Through the Looking Glass,” which starts out pretty strong and only ramps up in its second half. More of this or overall slightly less of everything, and maybe another uptempo banger like “Temptress,” and we’d be golden.

Armagh | Exclamation Po!nt | March 15

I had fond memories of Armagh‘s debut EP; details eluded me, but I had a vague notion of blackened, thrashy speed metal. Upon checking out this promo, I quickly realized that they had broadened their scope sometime during the last 8 years.

Indeed, 2022’s full-length Serpent Storm saw a drastic shift towards classic rock influences, albeit without altogether abandoning heavier material. The result, while solid, felt more like 2 EPs on shuffle mode than an album, with songs relegated to either a warm, proggy rock style or a more epic heavy metal style with occasional blast beats. The singer even employed two different vocal styles for these modes.

Luckily, Exclamation Po!nt has found a way to glue the disparate sides together into a pretty cohesive whole. Mind you, with the way that opener “Rough Edges” starts out, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in for some early ’80s thrash. Despite how strongly it leans on speed, thrash, and black metal, however, it doesn’t end up feeling like an extreme metal album, as the band draws from doom, heavy metal, and classic rock alongside the more aggressive styles to create a unique and adventurous sound.

What helps this from becoming a mess, aside from good songwriting, is the singer’s consistently calm, melodic crooning, which he refuses to switch up even in the most aggressive moments, retaining a cool command over the compositions at all times. This slight detachedness befits the music, which never feels overly concerned with fitting an existing mold and instead wanders off into spheres of its own, fleet-footed and free.

Freeways | Dark Sky Sanctuary | April 26

I distinctly remember seeing Freeways’ debut album—who could forget that cover?—but at the time, I wasn’t drawn in. Still, when Dark Sky Sanctuary popped up in my inbox, I downloaded the promo, again intrigued by the cover art: you’re telling me these guys made two albums about cruising through Canada in an RV? I gotta find out what’s up.

What’s up is I’ve been missing out, apparently. These guys are smooth as butter. Low distortion, extremely pleasant vocals, and an organ that pops up here and there make for possibly the most frictionless, dad-friendly experience we’ve got on the docket today. The preview tracks lean a bit on the moodier side, which is not a bad representation of the album; “Fortune’s Favorite” and “Private Myth” operate in a similar vein, tinged with a slight melancholia that the vocals lend themselves very well to and which came as a surprise given that I had foolishly expected hard-rockin’ songs about life on the road.

The real fun starts when Freeways get a jolt of energy though. Opener “Forever Protected” is a short, no-frills, uptempo slapper. “Give Em The Gears” puts the pedal to the metal and reminds me quite a bit of Diamond Head’s “Helpless.” “Travelling Heart” is slightly slower, but somehow even more fun, and closer “Cracked Shadow” brings out the band’s full skill set before ending in a chaotic finale. On top of there barely being a superfluous note on any of these compositions (be they fast or slow), most of them also feature phenomenal hooks.

It’s a close call, but I think this is my favorite out of the three. Maybe just buy it now so it doesn’t get buried in your wishlist in the next 6 weeks.

As said, all of these are or will be out on Dying Victims Productions. If you’re not familiar, you should acquaint yourself, not just for this type of metal, but the harsher old school stuff, as well. Check out the full roster.

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