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Given how traditional metal is inherently a European genre, with its roots in England and Germany in particular, it’s surprising to have one of the one of its most potent new underground forces hail from North America. Forming in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 2008 it wasn’t until 2012 until Lady Beast released its self-titled EP. Now, three years down the line, Lady Beast is back with the matter-of-factly named ‘ Lady Beast II’ (hereafter ‘II’). The State Of Independence has been a steady provider of traditional genre acts with the likes of Exit-13, Funerus, Incantation, and Sathanas.

P1090142Traditional heavy metal has been slowly on the rise in North America. Armored Saint, Helstar, Iced Earth, Manowar, and Virgin Steele all are institutions of the genre with histories dating back to the 1980s. Since the early 2000s Benedictum has been flying the flag. In the Great White North, Category VI and Primalfrost have been building a solid following in their respective regions of Newfoundland and Ontario after the demise of sometime modern revivalists 3 Inches Of Blood. In more populist circles Napalm Records artist Huntress is, for some hitherto inexplicable reason, being held up as a supposed saviour of the genre. In mainland Europe bands as Elvenstorm, Velociter, and Wicked Plan are steadily on the rise. Unarguably, bands as Reign Of the Last, Savage Master, and this one are worthier of that kind of critical praise and business/touring opportunities than Jill Janus’ band.

While ‘II’ is internally consistent with its style it also tends to be rather one-dimensional in its songwriting at times. That in itself isn’t necessarily to the band’s detriment but rather the result of the fact that Lady Beast never formally demoed. Even though the songs were composed by no less than four different guitarists there’s a wonderful sense of flow and cohesion between the material. Chief among its influences are British pillars Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon. ‘II’ doesn’t quite chart the compositional heights of a ‘Powerslave’ or ‘Piece Of Mind’, and that’s okay. Lady Beast is making steady progress as a band if the prominent bass guitar licks, Levine’s vocal prowess and the abundance of screaming guitar solos are anything to go by. Only the drums seem to lack in flair and character as they are purely supportive. A greater variety of fills and interesting rhythms would instantly elevate the music of Lady Beast to a higher plateau. As of now the drums don’t do anything to warrant any attention. Thankfully the remainder of the band complements its purely functional percussive aspect.

Traditional heavy metal is alive and well in North America

The biggest selling point for the record is frontwoman Deborah Levine. Levine not only has the grit but also an incredible range. Her high-register wails in The Frost Giant’s Daughter, Forest Of the Impaled, and Banshee are among the album’s strongest moments. One can only hope that Deborah will continue to expand her already impressive range, and lash out with more of her high-pitched wails. The lyrics revolve around celebrating the heavy metal lifestyle, self-empowerment, fantasy, history and mythology. The latter three themes are obviously the most interesting with tracks as We Are the Witches, Bind the Runes, The Frost Giant’s Daughter, Forest Of the Impaled, and Banshee. Interestingly ‘II’ opens with the song that concluded their 2012 album. The main focus of the album lies on it hard driving grooves, rugged riffs and passionate soloing. Lady Beast has all the piss and vinegar you would expect of a streetwise heavy metal band, yet they don’t feel confident enough to try more elaborate compositions. As such there’s, sadly, no equivalent to a Rime Of the Ancient Mariner to be found on ‘II’.

As with its debut ‘II’ was originally released on vinyl through the band’s own Cobra Cabana Records label. It was released on CD/cassette through French label imprint Infernö Records in a limited run a few months later for the European territories. The colourful artwork for ‘II’ was rendered by Mark Cooper for Mindrape Art. One can only hope that Lady Beast will continue its upward evolution in terms of its visual aspect. With the increasingly fantastic, mythological and heroic lyrical direction that Lady Beast pushes towards future records would benefit from lush artwork from artists and illustrators as diverse as Matthew Stewart, Lorenzo Sperlonga, Scott Murphy, Luis Royo, Pablo Fernandez, Eve Ventrue, or Christine Griffin.

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In comparison to its ‘Lady Beast’ debut of 2012 ‘II’ is richer tonally, more concrete sounding and grittier as far the guitar tone is concerned. Levine’s vocals sound fuller, and the whole production is much more full-bodied and organic than on the preceding record. On all fronts Lady Beast has made significant strides, both artistically as from a production standpoint. In fact the guitar and bass guitar tone sound nearly identical to that of the 1983 Iron Maiden album ‘Piece Of Mind’. Given the growth and progress that Lady Beast has experienced from album to album, they have yet to write their definite statement. Lady Beast might just break out of the underground with its third album.

For all intents and purposes ‘II’ proves that traditional heavy metal is alive and well in America.

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Wouter Roemers Wouter Roemers is a self-professed elitist, music critic, and death metal purist from Belgium. Known for his outspokenness and frank opinions on all things metal, bands and industry alike. Proprietor of Least Worst Option where he spends inordinate amount of time analyzing records three people care about.