Castle – Under Siege (Prosthetic Records)

Castle - Under Siege (Prosthetic Records, 2014)Castle – Under Siege (Prosthetic Records)
Castle’s anticipated third album sounds deceptively simple at first listen. Some might embrace or dismiss it as old school/retro “vest metal,” but once you’re sucked in (and you will be if you have any taste in decent metal), you’ll hear plenty of complexity and evolution. The San Francisco based trio featuring married couple Mat Davis (guitar) and Elizabeth Blackwell (vocals) were identified primarily as doom metal, though they always incorporated more than that, giving themselves a somewhat tongue-in-cheek label, “witch thrash.”  Sabbath are always lurking in their music, particularly on the Ozzy-ish homage in the intro to “Pyramid Lake.” But  for the most part on Under Siege, they have more in common with local legends Slough Feg than tourmates Witch Mountain, sharing a love of Iron Maiden style gallops and some straight-up rifftastic American power metal along the lines of Cirith Ungol and Jag Panzer.

Blackwell’s singing has evolved nicely, projecting more forcefully and yet melodically, reflecting an affinity for classic Mercyful Fate and some accessible, catchy hard rock riffing that could win over fans of Ghost and In Solitude. The production is smoother but not too slick, hitting a sweet spot of heavy grit and shine.  Davis’ layered riffery and changes hold my interest on every single song, a rare thing. At only eight tracks in under 34 minutes, that’s a good thing. My favorites right now are the pummeling  “Powersigns” and dramatic “Labyrinth Of Death,” but this might change daily.

Fans are lucky to be able to see a band like Castle in their prime as they play in mostly small venues, aside from bigger festivals that are giving them increasingly higher billing and respect in Europe. If I were given the chance to time travel to 1980 to see, say, Angel Witch in a small club in England, or Castle now, I’d pick Castle so I could see them rock out these great new songs.

The second half of their tour in progress:

5/28     Atlanta GA – Drunken Unicorn
5/29     Raleigh NC – Maywood
5/30     Baltimore MD – Metro Gallery
5/31     Brooklyn NY – Acheron
6/1     Boston MA – Great Scott
6/2     Burlington VT – Nectars
6/3     Cleveland OH – Now Thats Class
6/4     Chicago IL – Cobra Lounge
6/5     St Louis MO – Fubar
6/6     Lawrence KS – Jackpot
6/8     Salt Lake City UT – Lo Fi Cafe
6/9     Sacramento CA – The Colony
6/10     San Francisco CA – The Knockout

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