Review by William Dibble, photos provided by Knightmare or by William Dibble (credited)
The days of fast, blistering metal with gang vocals aren’t over. In a world full of death metal, metalcore, and other bands, it can sometimes be hard to find new music that sounds like the peak of 80’s heavy metal. Knightmare is certainly evidence that it’s not gone. They come tearing out of Raleigh, NC, singing about dragons and raging with solos. It’s as if the NWOBHM (new wave of british heavy metal) took a break… Then returned. Except Knightmare is American, not British. Knightmare explodes onto the music scene with their latest album, Walk Through the Fire.
The intro immediately calls to mind dramatic band introductions. Crashing thunder and slow, melodic guitar solo are combined with heavy, dramatic drums before fading away into a dual-guitar lead for the title track, “Walk Through the Fire”, two minutes in. The album immediately calls to mind bands like Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Iron Maiden, and Dio. The high-pitched vocals are reminiscent of Tim “The Ripper” Owens, and it would not be out of place to draw parallels to his run in legendary Judas Priest. Fast chords, skilled vocals, and paired gang vocals on the line, “Walk through the fire”, make this a high-energy earworm. The high production quality continues into “Banshee”, which is a bit lower-key while still being fast and high-energy. It also demonstrates that Knightmare and Walk Through the Fire are really a love letter to 80’s heavy metal. And that is meant in the best possible way. Anybody who missed out on DethCadence last year has this album to look forward to this year. It would not be out of place to completely miss that we’re well into the 2010’s now with this resurgence.
Much like their inspirations in the 80’s, Knightmare includes a lot of fantasy themes within their music. “Supermoon” opens with descriptions of a vivid night sky before launching into a slower, galloping song. While “Supermoon” is no speeding powerhouse like the first two songs on the album, it is not of any lower songwriting quality. It also marks a good midpoint for the album, feeling more like a power ballad, right down to the mid-song guitar solo. And that’s something that bears a note in this album. The songs very much follow a verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo pattern, but that is quite alright. It’s the formula that was prevalent in heavy metal then, and works now. Knightmare puts it through its paces with unique and fun guitar solos that will burn into your memory as if the frets themselves were on fire. “Spirits” pulls us back from the ballad and back into the speedy riffs of the rest of the album, determined to give one hell of a second half to Walk Through the Fire. While the overall song structure is very formulaic, each song sounds unique. There is no repetition of riffs or vocal themes here. Each song is a labor of love, with the members of Knightmare pouring their souls into this band and album.
“Lake of Rage” makes a small break from the rest of the album, featuring a bass intro with drums instead of the guitar. While it is a galloping song like “Supermoon”, it is very much a more traditional heavy metal song, invoking mental images of a band on a stage as lights and fire burst out around them. It is perhaps thematically appropriate that “Lake of Rage” is followed by the album’s last song, “War Song”. “War Song” is the album’s longest song if you don’t include the opening intro as part of the title track. It gives the album a lengthy power-ballad sendoff. With a slow, rhythmic beat and a long melodic solo, it is a fantastic sendoff. The song isn’t done with you, though. After the first solo, you get more verse and chorus. Then one long, final outro solo that gives the album a send-off salute.
If you are into heavy metal at all, and liked the legends of yesterday, Knightmare brings back every bit of that sound and attitude in their album. Walk Through the Fire is an absolute blast to listen to, feeling like it walked right out of the 80’s. And the thing is, that could be a bad thing. But here, it’s not. The songs are masterfully written and performed, and the recording and production quality are spot-on. This is not an album to overlook. While Knightmare may not yet be selling out stadiums, they very much sound like they are on the road to do so. Buy their latest album today on Bandcamp, and be sure to read our interview with them, exclusively in our March print edition!