CD REVIEW Black Thunder: Doomriders 

There's always a wild card or two, but in general, when you hear a metal album, you pretty much know what you're going to get. Guitars, thundering drums, throat-scorching vocals, lyrics that reference darkness, magic and other non-daylight world subjects: metal has become its own mainstream. However, there's still good stuff to be found in that genre, and Boston band Doomriders manage to overcome most of the cliches to produce an album worthy of a listen.

Granted, my first impressions weren't all that good. When I picked up their new release, Black Thunder, with its well-done but derivative cover art of the Grim Reaper on a winged horse with fire-red eyes and Gothic lettering, my first thought was, "Hasn't Iron Maiden already done this album?" Then I started playing the disc, and despite the guttural, near-incomprehensible howls on the eponymous first track, my interest started to pick up, because the music itself was fast blues-rock, like what you might hear if the men of Thin Lizzy decided to try their hand at metal. For the next couple of songs, though, it was every stereotype of the genre laid out for listeners to enjoy: deep growl, check; near-epileptic drumming, check; lyrics about death and darkness, check ... interest fading ... eyes closing ... zzzzz ...

But these Beantown berserkers had a few surprises in store. I was awakened by a cheerfully bluesy up-tempo thumper called "Listen Up!", which then segues into the most intriguing song on the disc, "Midnight Eye." Borrowing what sounds like the opening riff to the Police's "Invisible Sun" as imagined by Lemmy, the song turns into a mid-tempo Soundgarden impersonation, and a well-done one, too. There's no lyrical depth here, but Doomriders prove themselves capable of more than just headbanging speed strumming. Of the remainder of the disc's 13 tracks, only "The Chase," which really earns the sturm und drang of its vocals with a tight volley of hammering guitars, and the moody instrumental "Voice of Fire" are worth the price of admission. When all is said and done, the five good tracks on Black Thunder don't outweigh the eight tracks of stereotypical filler, but there's enough evidence to suggest that Doomriders may grow into a killer metal trio.

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