CD Review of Hello Master by Priestess

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Hello Master
starstarstarstarno star Label: Sony/BMG
Released: 2006
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Being a fan of a niche genre can be very irritating at times. Ever try to rent a good horror movie from the video store? It can be a royal pain in the ass. Between the lousy remakes, straight-to-video travesties and countless numbers of lame “Friday The 13th” rip-offs, it’s damn near impossible to find a quality flick. But every once in a while, you get lucky – you pick up something like “Suspiria” or “Dead Alive,” and your faith in the genre is restored.

The same is true for heavy metal. For every great metal band, there are hundreds of bands that are just as forgettable as the latest straight-to-video gorefest. But just when you think you’ve had your fill with nü -metal hacks, Alice in Chains wannabes and countless hardcore bands that mistake unintelligible growling for honest emotion and energy, you find something truly worth your time, like Hello Master, the debut album from Canadian rockers Priestess.

This is balls-out non-stop rock for everyone; metalhead dudes can get their mosh on to insane thrash tracks like “I Am the Night, Colour Me Black,” while their drunken girlfriends can strip naked to glorious grooving jams like “Run Home.” Hipsters can even get in on the act with blue-tinged rockers like the single “Lay Down,” which sounds like something the Black Keys might record if they were huge Slayer fans.

While essentially a heavy metal band at heart, on Hello Master, Priestess show that they can adapt their style to encompass nearly every single sub-genre of metal – without comprising their hard-rocking sound or coming off like rip-off artists – two complaints commonly given to many hard-rock revival bands like Wolfmother. They get their classic rock on with tracks like “Talk to Her” and “Shakes,” take it up a notch and crank up the tempo to near-thrash levels with the effects-laden “Living Like a Dog” and the previously mentioned “I Am the Night, Colour Me Black” and then slide it back down into chorus-happy potential sing-a-longs like “Time Will Cut You Down.”

Another common complaint you hear about newer metal bands is that they lack recognizable riffs and chords. Where is this generation’s “Smoke on the Water” or “Iron Man?” While comparing anything on Hello Master to those classic tunes is a bit much, Priestess certainly embraces their riff-heavy spirit on tracks like “Two Kids” – a morbid tune about dead children that also embraces the type of heavy subject matter that used to abound in heavy metal, before the singers became more obsessed with scoring chicks than being cool and worshipping Satan.

And while Priestess’ ability to bring in the chicks remains to be seen, their musical ability should grant them the respect of their peers and metal fans in no time. Mikey Heppner has a hell of a set of pipes on him, and if his career in Priestess doesn’t work out, then he should contact Audioslave about replacing Chris Cornell. The dude can also play guitar too, delivering one memorable solo after another. Also standing out on the album is Vince Nudo, a drummer with such power, energy and raw talent that between him and Rush’s Neil Peart it might make you wonder if there is something in the water up north that leads to the creation of legendary drumming skills.

Hello Master is a debut album by a young band, so it does have a couple of weak spots. “Performance” is a tired and cliché song about the tired and cliché problems of living on the road and trying to give each performance your all. And while Priestess usually only hint at their influences, the finale of the album, “Blood,” is such a blatant and obvious attempt to sound like Queens of the Stone Age that it’s almost funny.

Still, this is the best hard rock album in recent memory, and is an ideal choice for people who find bands like Mastadon just a little too heavy and Wolfmother a little too derivative.

~James B. Eldred