Knightmare - Walk through the Fire

Knightmare Walk through the Fire cover
Walk through the Fire
Independent Release
Suffice to say, any band which sports the word “knight” in its moniker while alluding to Mr. Sandman deserves a gold star, even before testing the waters with a cursory listen. Compound this with actual kick-ass traditional heavy metal and we’ve a dead-to-rights winner. Hence, my latest affinity for Raleigh, North Carolina’s Knightmare, formed in 2010 and boasting of three stock solid and commendable full-lengths, the most recent of which, March’s independently and digitally released “Walk Through the Fire”, has ineluctably grown on me faster than a sprouting toadstool in an enchanted forest.
Once the hooking title track gets underway following the stormy stage setting two minute “Intro” – which somehow manages to incorporate a super soulful, Carlos Santana style extended lead – one can’t help but fully revel in the band’s fluent grace, as well as silkily smooth and incredibly well-balanced production which uniformly showcases the quartet’s ravishing catchy-ness and harmony, much like Züül’s “To the Frontlines”, from 2012, or maybe the grittier “Freedom Metal” by Chicago’s Bible Of The Devil (another Land of Lincoln stalwart). Furthermore, the massively resounding and exploratory bass presence, notably on the greasy Alabama Thunderpussy sounding Southern anthem, “Lake of Rage”, brings to mind Natur, albeit in a less sinister and chthonic, unholy vein.
Readily worth disclosing is how one of the guitarists, alongside Jared Mountz, is none other than Reid Rogers of Cerebus, a long running Tar Heel formation I came across last Winter. This transition from rougher, raunchier climes to more fluid and melodic pastures reminds me of 3 Inches Of Blood’s Justin Hagberg and his brow raising switch to Dead Quiet, another local Vancouver band, albeit of the stoner/doom variety.
Now, the riffs, while not quite as roughhousing, are loftily imbued with a tell-tale NWOBHM slant whilst the magniloquent, masterful and oft long-winded solos take off like so many rockets through the ether, such as the finger-tapped and festive yet soon-to-be-Phrygian n’ Stygian foray intersecting “Banshee”, which, as we’ll discuss shortly, yields a slew of surprises.
For now, the singer/bassist, Anthony Micale (still active with Mega Colossus), eloquently plunges into some slyly animated, vivid verses accompanied by a snappily inflected refrain on “Walking through the Fire” proper. I mean, it’s a pretty rad opener to start with, but wait ‘till the killer, high sprung “Banshee” follows suit with Spencer Hughes’ rough and tumbling, thwacking drum rolls and the ax men’s crisp, javelin-throwing doubly layered guitar riff, the killer momentum of which repeatedly compels me to blacktrack.
It’s a gem in every sense of the word; dig its wonderful, literally addictive chorus:
“She was the one who took my soul from me
She was the one who took my light of life
She's the one who took my life from my own hands
And tonight then I knew that I was going to set the night alive!”
This amazing song comprises not one but two intensely feral solo sections, with a hypnotically wistful, triangle/glockenspiel festooned bridge occupying the seventy-six second gap (or gulf) in between. Boy was I ever bowled over the first time 04:50 rolled around! You want free-wheeling and stratospheric sonic amusement? Look no further!
A crushing return to form concludes this bedrock piece before “Supermoon” and “Spirits” keep the dream alive with their slick, groovy rhythms and fulminating vibrations. The former is a familiar sounding but soothing mid-tempo sci-fi odyssey akin to a less shredding and mellower Scanner (Hypertrace beckons), with unforgettably catchy vocals and lyrics conservatively spliced by technological sound bites and a powerfully ruminating bass line as well as infectious drum ride. The latter, well, what can I say other than the fact it rings very much like something off of fellow statemen Demon Eye’s sumptuous 2015 sophomore, “Tempora Infernalia”. So much, in fact, I couldn’t help but bring it to the attention of a thoughtful comrade who initially introduced me to said ghastly waltzing doom venture!...
The atmospheric-as-Hell organ at its inception, along with some wicked Erik Sugg style verses, poignantly paves the way for yet another lovely sing-along chorus, which has me wearing down the rewind button on my MP3 player, yet emphasis should be placed on the song’s highly accessible, radio-friendly flair and swarthy round of gung-ho quips such as “If you’re walking downtown... after the sundown!” (with special sardonic, snarky emphasis on “sundown”, Bobby L. style!). The combination of killer hi-hats and a startling yet auspicious and imposing post-solo tempo reduction at 03:40 is simply too good, never mind the upcoming slam-bashing hat trampler, “Lake of Rage”!
“Comme prévu”, the finale and longest track at 7,5 minutes, “War Song”, consists of a ubiquitous but no less conducive “epic”. Until the time of this writing I unflinchingly bailed on it, considering it a tad too eclectic and progressive (i.e. Rush mode) for my tastes. However, I’ve come to appreciate and respect its congruity. All told, it compliments the album’s mythical theme and fits the mold like – wait for it! – a suit of armor! (You can punch me now!)
My only grief with “Walk through the Fire”, however petulant, is its low number of tracks – one or two more quality cuts would have been sublime! – yet, this is properly compensated for thanks to its general high density. In other words, seven mercurial selections averaging 5,5 minutes and loaded to the brim with fiercely melodious content peppered with dashing vocals suit me fine. Besides, having checked out “What It’s Worth” from the 2012 debut (which, while still satisfactorily hard-driving, felt rough around the edges and raw compared to any of the tracks here), it’s a safe bet Knightmare will continue to improve and re-invent itself with each subsequent release.
Looking ahead, it doesn’t take a genius to realize the importance of keeping tabs on this liberally gripping East Coast phenom.
“Feel the spirits everywhere
And they are watching you too
Feel misery now as sleazy eyes see
All that you do!”(x2)