Given the numerous beneficiaries of Valhalla’s endowment of lightning and Marshall stacks of volume, it’s a wonder that we’ve come this far without having been treated to a band by the name of Royal Thunder. It’s a weighty phrase, for sure, but the Atlanta-based foursome who so harness the moniker more than live up to its epic connotations. Not so much a metal band as purveyors of a uniquely heavy approach to psychedelic rock, Royal Thunder beef up their sound with chunky, swirling, Zeppelin-esque riffs and melodies that soar with a kind of fearless majesty. But fearless rock needs a fearless personality at the front of it all, and singer Mlny Parsonz is just the unstoppable force to carry Royal Thunder’s songs to another level, her deep and heroic voice somewhere between Grace Slick and Johnette Napolitano, with all the swagger of Robert Plant.
As a band whose primary approach and influences are rooted in blues-based classic rock, Royal Thunder were given a challenging task of making something novel in an arena that’s been visited time and again for four decades. Yet on their Relapse debut, CVI, Royal Thunder prove their mettle via ten incredible songs that rock hard while maintaining a heavy emphasis on melody, giving in just enough to prog-rock ambition to make the journey an unpredictable one. When the band opts for bigger hooks and unshakable choruses, as on “Whispering World,” they tap into something exciting that’s been sorely absent from mainstream rock for a pretty long time. When they submerge into Sabbath-style doom, as on “Parsonz Curse,” they do so in the service of a great melody, never indulging in pointlessly meandering jamming merely for the sake of doing so. And when they let the riffs fly on a barnburner like “No Good,” even when the badass is cranked to eleven, elegant production techniques like the addition of one-note piano riffs give it a spit-shine that’s hard not to love.
Royal Thunder are a rock `n’ roll band, in the classic sense of the term. As much grit and grime gets under their fingernails and into their amp tubes, their strong songwriting and charismatic performances remain the focus. Making something new of classic rock isn’t easy, but Royal Thunder have done just that, with style and magnetism to spare.