I have to tell you that at first I was leery, I'm not a big doom metal fan and that is what my initial take on CASTLE was, spooky doom metal that I am not cool enough for, maybe it's my lack of maturity. But damn! The deeper I got into this disc the more I wanted to hear.
San Francisco's CASTLE have a very unique sound that can be tied to HIGH ON FIRE but really remind me of some semi-obscure band from the early Metal Massacre comps or maybe something I cannot name from the New York Metal '84 comp (maybe BLACKLACE minus the pop hooks?). There was a time when there was just Heavy Metal, all the sub-genres had not been defined yet and I think CASTLE would have been very alive in the early 80's and a heavy contender in that early 80's heavy metal scene.
Much of the guitar work is Iommi worship but it is truly inspired, I mean this dude Mat really jams, he owns his instrument and is not too flashy, you can feel his love for metallic each note he plucks it from his axe. Mat keeps his shredding appropriate to the song while producing some very air-guitar worthy riffs. In short this dude jams!
Elizabeth Blackwell's vocals are incredibly unique and can be described as eerie in laid back way. Sometimes though there is almost a young Ozzy Osbourne hidden in there somewhere, maybe it is the vocal arrangements on some of the tracks. By the second song 'Fire In the Sky' I am sold on her vocals, as they are almost hypnotic in the way they draw me in. This track also has a nice little hook in it (I do wish there were a few more good hooks on the album, I'm a sucker for a good hook). I do wish Elizabeth would push it a little harder here and there to add some emphasis at key moments, not over do it, but a little can go a long way.
On the third track ('Slaves of the Pharaoh') we are introduced to a male vocal that is seething with evil but not in a growling monster Death Metal way. This vocal is used with restraint throughout the album and really adds to depth this 3 piece is able to create.
There is certain mysticism that swirls throughout CASTLE's music and the occultist subject matter and lyrics are very mature and not goofy as many black metal bands end up being. Again, I really like how evil they are without talking about Satan and pentagrams, that stuff is so over played I can handle it.
Al's drum work gets the job done, again you can tell that he is badass on the skins but he too only does what is needed for the song. That is one of the things I really like about this band, everyone knows their role and no one is playing rockstar trying to showboat or upstage any of the other dwellers in the castle.
'Butcher of Los Angeles' is a kick ass song and perhaps my favorite of the 11 song disc. The energy comes up a few notches and the scary, evil vocal that comes in at the end as the lyrics describe the butchering and peeling back of human skin is incredibly powerful at that point in the song.
This is heavy metal. Maybe some doom metal, or even goth influence in there but really it's pure American Metal and I recommend it for the real metal heads, not the trend following flavor of the day types, but those that live, breathe, eat and shit metal.
CASTLE also has a cool video you can watch below: