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Castle - "Blacklands" (CD)

Castle - "Blacklands" CD cover image

"Blacklands" track listing:

1. Ever Hunter (4:23)
2. Corpse Candles (5:32)
3. Storm Below The Mountain (3:19)
4. Blacklands (4:23)
5. Curses Of The Priests (5:19)
6. Venus Pentagram (2:52)
7. Alcatraz (3:52)
8. Dying Breed (6:04)

Reviewed by on September 18, 2012

"It comes and goes like a sun shower, illuminating in certain spots and making a wet mess in others."

Hey look everybody, another U.S. metal band looking to evoke the spirits of doom’s forefathers for a new generation. Castle is a Californian trio dead set on making the ‘70s seem cool again with their sophomore album, “Blacklands.” While other bands like Slough Feg have made a career out of this, while injecting their own brand onto it, Castle doesn’t have the chops to pull it off. “Blacklands” is competently done, but that’s about the lone takeaway from an utter bore of an album.

What is clear from the first few minutes of the album is that the band has a love for that era where bands like Thin Lizzy and Saint Vitus ruled over the lands. There’s the dual guitar harmonies and thick riffs that ‘70s rock/metal was prevalent in, though “Blacklands” doesn’t have the fiery temper or the hum-worthy aspects that the greats during that era possessed. These songs appear, do their thing, and disappear with no fanfare. After a dozen listens, the same feelings of ineptness the first time around still run rampant.

The first half of “Blacklands” is most guilty of evoking these kind of feelings. Each song is a slight change from the last one, and while Castle is not the only band to deal with this, they also don’t do anything that could warrant that not being a disadvantage. There are some cool parts, like the bass-led break on “Corpse Candles” and the NWOBHM-ish guitar leads on the title track, so at least the first 20 minutes of the album are not a total face palm.

A breezy clean intro on “Curses Of The Priests” gives life to “Blacklands,” and comes off as the first complete vision fulfilled by Castle on the album. The quick-paced “Venus Pentagram” takes less than three minutes to allow enough of an energetic movement to push the album towards the finish mark. Throughout all these tracks, the lifeless vocals of bassist Elizabeth Blackwell are around to greet us. Her voice is unspectacular, though having guitarist Mat Davis screaming from time to time at least shows an effort to make “Blacklands” more appealing.

“Blacklands” fits in with the rest of the prototypical doom albums, not being an embarrassment, but also not having any definitive standout moments. It comes and goes like a sun shower, illuminating in certain spots and making a wet mess in others. There are parts of each song that come together well, but few whole ideas worth getting excited about. Castle is not an incompetent unit, and “Blacklands” has just enough oomph to be more than borderline average, though the album comes with hesitation of an absolute recommendation.

Highs: A few noteworthy twists to their sound freshen the sound up, decent solos, nice ode to '70s heavy/doom metal

Lows: Little memorable about the album, boring vocals, lacks energy

Bottom line: Inconsequential sophomore album from Castle that isn't a must-listen, but has a few highlights.

Rated 3 out of 5 skulls
3 out of 5 skulls

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)