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West of Hell - "Spiral Empire" (CD)

West of Hell - "Spiral Empire" CD cover image

"Spiral Empire" track listing:

1. Father Of Lies
2. Water Of Sorcery
3. Demon Sent
4. Faceless The Droids
5. Unworthy
6. Singularity
7. To War
8. Soul Taker
9. Spiral Empire
10. Onslaught

Reviewed by on May 31, 2012

"West Of Hell's 'Spiral Empire' is more than worth a spin for any fan of early thrash."

An excellent album that blends the virtuosity of the New Wave Of British Heavy Metal a la Iron Maiden with some thrashy fury, West Of Hell's "Spiral Empire" is an excellent mix of anger and potent riffs. Just when you think you've got the band pegged as some kind of early-'80s throwback, though, they up the brutality factor with guttural growls or a lightspeed drum figure, just to keep things interesting.

The undisputed star of the album is definitely singer Chris "The Heathen" Valagao (which is kind of ironic since the band originally formed in New Zealand as an instrumental combo before heading to Canada). Valagao at his most melodic will remind you of Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson on "Father Of Lies" and "To War," with an almost operatic feel. On the other hand, he can do a thrash growl with the best of them on "Demon Sent" and the album's almost Slayer-speed closer, the appropriately named "Onslaught."

Then again, it's not like guitarists Ivan Vrdoljak and Sean Parkinson are exactly slouches either. "Faceless The Droids" and "To War" both give the two a chance to do the Dave Murray and Adrian Smith twin-ax attack thing, and they pull it off well. They're just as good on more straight-ahead thrashers like the aforementioned "Onslaught" and the slower "Singularity."

There are a few lesser tracks, most notably "Water Of Sorcery," which are sprinkled throughout the album, but none of them are terrible. Also, the band sometimes has a little trouble with song endings, especially on the otherwise excellent "Onslaught," which ends with a bit of a whimper. Still, those are pretty small complaints.

Production-wise, I wish the guitar sound was a little warmer, but at least there's plenty of bass and drums in the mix.

West Of Hell's "Spiral Empire" is more than worth a spin for any fan of early thrash. It's got enough virtuosity to please the Maiden and Megadeth crowds, mixed with speed and brutality that will set Slayer fans' heads a-banging.

Highs: "To War," "Onslaught" and "Father Of Lies"

Lows: "Water Of Sorcery"

Bottom line: An excellent album that recalls the sounds of early thrash.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)