Review: “Firecry” by Category VI

It has been six long years after their last album “War Is Hell” was released in 2017 and with the arrival of and album from guitarist Geoff Waye’s side project Triskelyon titled “Downfall” in October, there was at one point the question of whether or not Newfoundland Canadians Category IV would return. However for the band it was always when rather than if and a third album in a decade following 2013’s “Fireborn” awaits from the female fronted Traditional Metal quartet with roots in 80’s Hair Metal, Power Metal and Thrash as Waye is joined by bassist Keith Jackman, drummer Brian Downton and vocalist Amanda Jackman…

The long wait between records hasn’t done anything to derail the progress of Category IV as they pickup with opening cut and title track “Firecry” as if they never left the studio after recording “War Is Hell” back in 2017. Rest assured that none of the fire in their hearts has been lost and their musicianship remains impeccable when it comes to writing classic 80’s styled Traditional Heavy Metal. The title track is a bass heavy affair that finds Jackson inspired by the likes of Ronnie James Dio as she demonstrates her vocal prowess while Wade lets loose with a suitably fitting solo during a battle hymn about witches being burned in ancient times. The concept underneath that lyrical veil is one about how being different is often the cause of people getting burned, beaten or bullied in the present and that is a something that sewn into the fabric of the album as a whole. “Valkyrie” finds Jackson delivering an equally hard hitting narrative about misogyny and sexism as she feels she’s been held back as being too loud and too proud which is something that will resonate not only with ladies but also those who feel outcast in general. The pre-Thrash riffs overflow the poison chalice with their abundance, this one having plenty of verve and swagger to it which make it an obvious stand out.

Hints of influence from bands like Judas Priest bubble to the surface in “The Vultures Never Came” with its clever solo and bouncy riffs, a fitting tribute to the late great Jill Janus of Huntress fame about whom it was written, a homage to her strength in face of mental illness. The album has a purposefully aged feel to it, the recording not modernised but instead capturing the essence of what made the bands heroes forces to be reckoned with. If someone told you this record was released any time in the past forty years you’d struggle to say otherwise which is a testament to the timeless charm of it, not to mention the bands dedication to their craft. A classically styled black and white horror movie narrative runs through the heart of “She Runs With Wolves” which depicts a woman escaping a society which nearly destroys her only to be abducted by aliens who give her a the ability to shape shift into a man eat wolf. Jackman possesses all the story telling capabilities you could ever want and delivers the tale effortlessly while the band play out its soundtrack with clever moments of atmosphere and moments that reflect on a life time of listening to Power Metal and Alice Cooper.

Taking a more melodic route, mid album cut “Heavy is the Crown” have more of a late 70’s feel to it, lacking a little of the punch and anthemic qualities of the earlier cuts but grows on you with multiple listens. The dark tale that is “Coven” however has far more instant gratification about it with a tongue in cheek humour and a knowing wink. That plays to the bands strengths as they are able to give us something which is fun to counteract some of the more serious points of the lyrical narrative. Higher pitched warbling from Jackson adorn “The Cradle Will Fall“, which plays on a melodic verse and powerful chorus in a traditional song structure, the solo a surprise firecracker of a virtuoso moment that will no doubt be extended when the band play the song live. There is a personal edge to the vocal performance which suggests this one means that much more, making it a winner. The band are in their element with “Burning Bridges“, a cut which sums up their sound perfectly with a little more edge and urgency alongside another flaming solo from Wade making it the Chef’s Kiss of the album. Finishing with a cover of “Barracuda” by Heart is perhaps an obvious choice but, the band carry off this rendition with style and grace, making it their own by beefing it up and making it a pre-Thrash classic. A classy Traditional Metal album that has plenty of attitude to accompany the riffs [7.5/10]

Track Listing

1. Firecry
2. Valkyrie
3. The Vultures Never Came
4. She Runs With Wolves
5. Heavy is the Crown
6. Coven
7. The Cradle Will Fall
8. Burning Bridges
9. Barracuda (Heart Cover)

Firecry” by Category VI is out 24th March 2023 via Moribund Records

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