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Thursday, March 18, 2010

REVIEW: Salem's Wych (US) - Betrayer of Kings (1986)

Salem's Wych Betrayer of Kings 1986

Salem's Wych from Michigan United States released only one album during their career. They play US heavy metal / early power metal with recognizable epic twist in their lyrics and melodies. Lyrically this could be an album from their country-mates Omen or Manowar, or even from Swedish Heavy Load. Lyrics tell tales epic tales about battles, devil, and death. However, lyrically this album is not one of the most cheesy ones out there, and doesn't really feature high-end fantasy, but rather something more common and realistic. The general sound and tone of the album is less flashy and just bit darker than any with any of the above mentioned three bands have. This is bit darker and heavier kind of power metal from the eighties, than say, for example Omen or Manowar. Not by it's tempo and speed, which most often is quite average, but by it's generally Kill'em All-heavy guitar sound and production, and you don't find happy melodies in Betrayer Of Kings either. It's not exactly brutal record, but unlike many power metal records from that time, it hang on neutral-dark zone.

Vocals by Ron Johnson continue along the same lines with the darker approach. He has has slightly hoarse and rugged, quite powerful and charismatic deep mid-range voice, something comparable James Hetfield at Ride The Lightning-era, but more jagged. Johnson was born to star heavier power metal band. Although, he hasn't got widest range out there, he surely has better abilities to sing than many vocalist out there with similarly rugged voice, and his shrieky shouts pack quite fine amount of power. Johnson actually shows up to be a minor positive surprise. Twin guitars of Tom Bronicki and Mark Gast play no-frills standard quality heavy metal riffs. They are both solid players, while not exactly the most memorable duo around, the fellas still sound professional, playing their power chords tightly and cranking out some quite memorable lead melodies. The guys also know how to play their solid solos, such as the lengthy solo in 'Time Is No More', where the guys take turns at shredding some thundering guitar notes. Ripping guitar tone of the album cuts like barbwire. Crunchy and distorted crisp guitar sound on this album is quite heavy for traditional heavy / power metal band at the time. I'm sure the guys could play pure thrash metal with this guitar set-up if they just wanted to. Production isn't perfect, though, and leaves some low-end thickness in sound to be desired. Luckily Keith Jann's bass playing is skillful and well audible in the mix, and I have no complaints about solid drumming.

Betrayer Of Kings successfully combines traditional US heavy metal with early power metal bits, though leaning more towards the first mentioned. It's not fast and uplifting enough to be what we nowadays consider pure power metal, but lyrically it definitely leans towards power metal fields telling tales of battles and darker fantasy, and musically reminding a bit of Omen occasionally, but with less flashy lead guitars. The overall tempo on the album is rather average and cautious, hanging on middle-tempo fields, and not providing many surprises on that area. There are a few semi-fast songs such as: Fight Till The End There and Attack, never really storming at the full speed though.

Songs of the album are totally honest eighties heavy metal, without any mainstream or hard rock influences included. It's almost honest as it gets, without pretentious happy melodies or high-end fantasy about dragons. The album starts with slower title track Betrayer Of Kings, with rather sadder and mysterious tone. You can hear slower and chugging, tight palm-muted trademark riffs from the first epic song. Relatively heavy guitars and epic feeling of the song blends together really well on this one. Same slower-tempo playing style continues on great and narrative Never Ending Battle with it's totally catchy punchy and pounding bassline and some excellent strong vocals by Johnson. Things speed up with semi-fast Attack, power-chord driven rocker that must be the most commercial and straight-forward song of the album, but it's in-your-face-attitude works and the solo part is very good. All Hail To The Queen is your standard ballad, although not overly happy or cheesy. The song is more like yearning and beautiful with some clean and distorted guitars mixed together, and features the cleanest vocals by Johnson in the album. Surprisingly he can sing decently with clean style also. Things speed up back to semi-fast level again with decent and straight-forward 'Time Is No More'. More epic and uplifting power metal moments can be heard on bloodlust-driven 'Run From The Devil', a song that could well be one of Heavy Load's more frank songs. Battle-spirited and heroic 'Furor's Reign' is another, in my opinion, definite early power metal moment on the album, in veins of Omen or Heavy Load. It's perhaps the best song of the album with title track and 'Never Ending Battle'. Rhythm-guitar driven 'Sweet Revenge' is one of the heavier tracks on the album, while 'Fight Till The End' features some rather nice Maiden-influenced lead guitar melodies and bass-lines.

Conclusion

Betrayer Of Kings tends to wander towards more gloomy and darker heavy/power metal blend with rather rough edge sound, rather than being happy power metal played in "major" scale. It's not really happy, yet it's not really very dark. I would say the album is from neutral to mildly dark, with sadder tone, and with surprisingly heavy guitars for power metal genre and lyrical content. Vocalist Ron Johnson is definite highlight in the album, despite not being one of the most memorable singers around, he still has more charisma than your average vocalist, and he really pushes his technically decent singing skills to the top limit. Another highlight are well composed gloomy melodies and solid guitar solos by Tom Bronicki and Mark Gast. Although, the music is power-chord dominated, songs have space for fine lead guitar melodies and guitar solos. While the album isn't most complex and surprising one around, and it is quite straight-forward in it's core, Betrayer Of Kings do have enough guitar hooks and tricks on it's sleeve to keep it sounding fresh. The album's speed tends to drag a bit at times, but the slower songs are pretty good efforts with quite epic and narrative lyrics, avoiding the usual problems of several power metal bands - over-the-top-cheesiness. Yet complexity and epicness of this album cannot be compared to something truly epic heavy metal such as Manilla Road, for example. Salem's Wych's style is much more in-your-face compared to adventurous patterns of Manilla Road. One more positive thing this album has, is in my opinion very good bass sound that really stands out along with saucy guitar sound. The quite short, little over 33minutes length of material, provide honest and quality moments with darker eighties heavy/power metal, but lack just little bit of finesse and unique moments to make this record a major classic or masterpiece.

Still, highly recommended for all fans of early heavy/power metal, especially for those who favor darker sound of power metal. Generally, fans of bands such as Omen, Heavy Load, Griffin (US), and out of the newer bands perhaps American Aska. Speed-freaks might disapprove, as this isn't fastest album around. This album as vinyl is quite valuable and rare (find out all necessary info from the seller before buying). There are many CD bootlegs around not worthy spending for. Betrayer Of Kings provides more straight-forward kind of epic, honest early power/heavy metal with good quality, and I can't quite agree with the guy who gave it 65% in Metal-Archives.com -- well it's all about the taste in the end of the day..

Recommended!


81

-www.kultmetal.com | reviewer: dungeoncrawler
Search this record from Amazon.com

Not available as new from Amazon.com - There was quite high priced piece as used though - if you really want this LP then check if it's still available below


  • Ron Johnson - Vocals
  • Tom Bronicki - Guitars
  • Mark Gast - Guitars
  • Keith Jann - Bass
  • Bill Neff - Drums

  • 1. Betrayer of Kings 03:36
  • 2. Never Ending Battle 03:24
  • 3. Attack 03:41
  • 4. All Hail to the Queen 06:07
  • 5. Time is No More 03:16
  • 6. Run from the Devil 04:09
  • 7. Furor's Reign 02:18
  • 8. Sweet Revenge 03:04
  • 9. Fight 'till the End 04:06
    • Total playing time 33:41






For Collectors:
(Following prices have raised since ’99 but will give you direction)
Used album price @ Martin Popoff’s Heavy Metal Record Price Guide (1999):

Label – Metal War
Type – LP/US/86
Near Mint – $80
Very Good+ - $50













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