“Witchbanger” is the second full length album from Texas Heavy/Stoner Rock band DUEL and was released on April 28th, 2017. After last years stellar “Fears Of The Dead” this Texas quartet returns to offer up another slab of 70’s inspired heavy metal. I can’t believe it has taken this long to get to talking about this album, but finally here we are. So lets see if DUEL were able to expand on the first album or if they fall into the dreaded sophomore slump.
1.Devil-Opening with the sound a guitar plugging right into a simplisitic dirty blues based riff and Tom Franks’ heavy and very powerful vocals, the song has this almost “power-doom” vibe to it that makes it heavy but singable to with a catchy and very rock solid chorus. I really like the production it is very much like their first album but the vocalist seem to pop a bit more and have a bit more grain to them. The soling is smooth and faithful to the genre with a lot of groove being the main focal point. This is a great opener and shows the band being even more up front than they were on the first album.
2.Witchbanger-This is one of the most grooving tunes on the album with the main riff in the verses following the melody of the vocals. One thing that Duel manages to capture is their ability to sound really tight but be really loose in their style at the same time where it feels like they are jamming in a garage somewhere. The chorus riff always gets stuck in my head but the weird vocal melody before that riff hits is a little weird, it just feels a bit out of place. The song is definitely a good number and one that would work very well live if I had a chance to catch these guys.
3.The Snake Queen- This tune has this almost classic rock aka early KISS feel until the hazy vocals come in which do work very well. The vocal melodies I think help the band establish more of a signified sound for themselves and gives the song more of it’s doom vibe as well. The song is a bit more laid back but the chorus really hits hard as it comes more up front with a more straightforward riff sludging all the way through. The song does eventually hit that more grooving tempo DUEL like to use in a lot of their songs and even though it is a shorter part, it works quite well and gives the track some extra flavor.
4.Astro Gypsy- One of my favorites on the album for sure. It has that Sabbathy Jazzy feel to it with some wah’ed out guitar riffing going on the slower bits. This is a tune that shows the more creative feeling of the band and has a very ZZ Top vibe as well. Definitely a highlight on the album.
5.Heart Of The Sun- I almost get a Witchfinder General feeling from this tune, it has a very melodic presence especially in its composure and it really works against the heavier songs on the album. It also shows bits of the progression within the bands songwriting capabilities also. Thus song also has one of the best solos on the album as well.
6.Bed Of Nails-This tune has an interesting riff to it as you think the melody is going to go one way, but the band tweaks it a bit and it works. However, as this song does have some of those melodic moments as the last track did, I don’t feel like it is as strong as “Heart Of The Sun” but still has some good qualities about it with some tasty solo guitar work throughout.
7.Cat’s Eye- This is another tune that has a mores simplistic approach to it with a heavy chugging riff through the verses and the chorus as well. As far as a straight forward heavy doom/rock song it works quite well. The solo is one of the heaviest on the album as well as it kicks in right after a break on the song. It is pretty short but it works for what it is.
8.Tigers and Rainbows- This song has a groove that works very well and sports one of the strongest choruses throughout as well. This song takes alot more turns than the last few do similar to the last track on their debut with the softer mid section in the song. The song does end with this more psychedelic heavy jam which works but also feels like the half of two songs combined into one it just feels a bit disjointed but isn’t a bad closer either.
Overall, I give the album a fair 7 out of 10. While this album does have a few problems with some of the songs being a but too simple or disjointed, the songs that are good are really freakin good. DUEL have definitely expanded their songwriting with added melody and more intricate sections within their songs. While their are things that this album do better than their first , the first does some things better than this one does. However, this album I still would give a spin as it definitely has sustainability in any collection of the lovers of heavy rock or doom metal.