Gentlemen & sexslaves
-- Promise Down --
|William “Lawson” Debaene
|Daniel “Dax” Aertssen
Review written by Stijn "Metal Shredder" Daneels.
[METAL SHREDDER REPORTING]
One band that has attracted a lot of my attention in the past few years is Promise Down, it all started when they asked me to review their 2020 debut EP “I Bleed Rock ‘n Roll,” a short but very enjoyable release (read my review of that EP here: https://www.belgianmetalshredder.be/reviews/237). Since then, I’ve seen Promise Down live quite a few times and each time they managed to play a very entertaining gig. In late 2022 the band released their first full-length called “Struck By First Light,” let’s see if they can strike even harder this time around.
“Struck By First Light” is the debut album of the Belgian hard rock/heavy metal/speed metal act Promise Down and is released via the Belgian record label Hell (run by the same people who own the Hell bar in Diest). The album kicks off with “4 Beers Please,” a fast and juicy tune with a catchy chorus as well as energetic guitars and drums. A more than solid opener to this album.
Next up is “No Time to Die,” which, aside from another catchy chorus, is a track that feels slower, longer and more repetitive. Too bad, but fortunately the follow-up “Forget Your Misery” adds some variety to Promise Down’s sound with a slow but moody middle section wherein vocalist William’s voice goes slower, heavier and sleazier for a bit until the guitar solo kicks in.
The speed kicks in again with the title track of “Struck By First Light.” A shorter tune this one is and for the moment, I believe Promise Down shines the best with short and effective tracks like this one, with the drums slamming fast, supported by hard-hitting bass, upbeat guitars and powerfully clean single and multi-vocals. Speaking of bass, that 4-string sweety gets a lot of loving in the next track, “Sexslave.” A song with a juicy bass jam and sleazy vocals that gradually build up towards the chorus “climax.” The sexual testosterone from the previous track turns into aggressive testosterone in the next song, “None” which is dominated by fast and hectic guitar riffs, really pumping up the speed.
Things gets a bit more bluesy with the next tune “Threading The Needle,” not a very memorable track to be honest, but I did like the drum solo and fast jamming section that starts in a later part of the song (specifically around the 2:37 minute mark). A rather unique track on this “Struck By First Light” album is its 9th track, called “Where Are You?” It’s a song that blends the mellowness of a rock ballad (the narrator hearing that his brother has passed away) and suddenly transitions into an hopeful Iron Maiden gallop (the narrator firmly believing that he’ll be meeting his brother again in the afterlife) with another very catchy chorus.
Next up is “Bad Girl,” a song that begins with a creepy girl’s monologue threating to kill the listener if she isn’t set free. The song itself, however, makes the girl appear to be a meanspirited by overall not very harmful girl. I really enjoy the very gradual buildup of the follow track, called “Speed Racer.” It starts off with slow but hard-hitting guitars, slowly but surely picking speed until ending at a frantic pace. The penultimate track, “Love/Hate,” has some serious Mötley Crüe vibes and the final track, “The Gentleman’s Way” has power chords that instantly remind me of AC/DC.
After going to all those tracks, I can safely say that Promise Down’s style hasn’t changed much compared in this album to their earlier EP. The band has taken a lot of elements from acts like Motörhead, Mötley Crüe, AC/DC and for the most part, the tracks on this “Struck By First Light” album provide a lot of uncompromising rock n’ roll fun. The rhythmic drums, the high emphasis on bass, combined with the melodic guitars, many solos and snarly vocals all make for a really tasty mix of hard & blues rock on the one hand and heavy & speed metal on the other.
The one major flaw I find in “Struck By First Light” is the production. While the band plays with high intensity and conviction, the overall mixing still lacks some necessary sonic power which does make the band sound less impactful than when they’re performing live (and trust me, they’re quite an engaging live act). Now, to be fair, the production values on “Struck By First Light” are already significantly better compared to the “I Bleed Rock N’ Roll” EP but still, I believe the band can sound ever more intense on record. And finally, I felt the album to be a bit too long with certain songs I think could’ve been left on the cutting room floor (I’ll be mentioning them in more detail in the appropriate chapter of this review).
The artwork of “Struck By First Light” features Promise Down’s frontman William getting thunderstruck by several lightning bolts. Not that it hurts him, on the contrary, he seems to genuinely love it. Maybe he’s Thor or Zeus disguised as a human rock n’ roll vocalist. Who knows? Nice artwork overall, but I do wish the other band members were on the picture too, maybe as beings of lightning who strike down their own frontman straight from the heavens.
As for the themes on “Struck By First Light,” well, we’re dealing with an old-school rock n’ roll band so the topics are old-school rock n’ roll as well. So you’ve got songs about drinking beer, the thin line between love and hate, freely riding around on motorcycles and of course, sex!
SHREDS & BLUNTEST BLADES]
Since we’re dealing with a 12-track album here (full tracks that is, no intros, interludes or outros) there are once again multiple tracks that I consider as either the strongest or weakest tunes on this particular release. And I consider this album’s heaviest hitters to be “4 Beers Please” (starting your album with a great opener instantly makes it a favorite on my list), “Sexslave” (I love that bass), “Where are you” (a ballad combined with Maiden-esque gallops, it works!) and the album’s title track (a short but great track that beautifully showcases Promise Down’s strengths).
The weakest songs for me were “No Time To Die” and “Threading The Needle.” Both were among the slower tracks on this Promise Down album and both weren’t very memorable, hell, I won’t even miss them if they were cut out from the album completely.
7,5 gentlemen slaves out of 10. Half a point less than the “I Bleed Rock N Roll” EP but that’s because this “Struck By First Light” album has some filler tracks while the aforementioned EP was a rollercoaster from beginning to end.
That being said, Promise Down’s new album is a worthy successor to their enjoyable debut EP. And although the production could still be a bit better and there were a few songs that could’ve been left out, when Promise Down hits it, they hit it hard. If you’re looking for a well-cooked throwback to the tunes of Motörhead or AC/DC then go check these guys out!