West of Hell Spiral Empire

West of HellSpiral Empire
Not many bands have an origin story featuring as much travel as West of Hell. The group initially formed in West Auckland, NZ in 2002 as a four-piece instrumental act, then, in 2009, relocated to Vancouver, BC for a fresh musical start. There, they hooked up with former Zimmer's Hole singer Chris "the Heathen" Valagao, and their current incarnation finally took shape. Spiral Empire, their debut, comes a full decade into their existence, but it has been worth the wait, as they've found a frontman charismatic enough, and with a powerful enough voice, to do justice to their traditional heavy metal sound. The production value of Spiral Empire is great, as it's produced by Rob Shallcross (Strapping Young Lad). The recording brings out the clarity and grit in Valagao's voice to their utmost advantage ― the man has a great instrument. Andrew Hulme's drums also sound fantastic ― the cymbals are bright and the rest of the kit is dynamic and muscular. West of Hell are talented musicians and this strength is an integral part of their songwriting, demonstrating the skills they learned while playing for years as an instrumental group. For example, the intro of "To War" begins with a bare, fingered bass line that's eventually joined by a tasteful guitar lead. West of Hell play proficient, surprisingly classy heavy metal that hearkens back to the days of classic thrash, and Spiral Empire is a refreshing listen. (Reversed)