Review by Pete Finn for MPM
A pandemic conception sees the birth of Elegant Weapons, a Supergroup created by Richie Faulkner of Judas Priest. With Faulkner now thankfully recovered from an aortic aneurysm, that saw him in emergency surgery for 10-hours.
After this near-death experience, Faulkner decided he had unfinished business, so grabbed the “bull by the horns”, with Elegant Weapons and ‘Horns for a Halo’ becoming the result.
The album is the product of a number of tracks recorded during the pandemic, that featured a few of Faulkner’s friends, that also happen to be some of the finest musicians in Metal. They were Pantera’s bassist Rex Brown, vocalist Ronnie Romero who includes Rainbow and the Michael Schenker Group on his CV, and finally fellow Judas Priest Metal God, Scott Travis on drums. And just in case that isn’t enough, Faulkner called in his Priest co-guitarist Andy Sneap to deliver the production.
The band officially announced their formation on 25 October 2022, the touring band has legendary Uriah Heep man Dave Rimmer playing bass, and Accept drummer Chris Williams, replacing Scott Travis completing the live quartet.
‘Horns for a Halo’ has a running time of 53-minutes, and is made-up of 10-tracks including one monster at just over 7-minutes long.
The album opens with ‘Dead Man Walking’, Faulkner’s intricate riff starts proceedings. This morphs into a real bruiser as Romero introduces himself. The rhythm is hard and quick, the sound rich and full. The tempo swaps from a steady stroll to a sprint. Travis’ launches a drum salvo, then Faulkner delivers a tingling solo. A great start, no, actually it’s a brilliant start.
Next up is ‘Do or Die’, a ferocious riff and frantic beat assault the senses from the start. Romero’s lyrics controlled and clear. It has an undercurrent and pace of speed-metal, interlaced with the classic metal of the 80’s. I’m smiling as I listen to it, genuine enjoyment. Ronnie Romero is nailing the lyrics, demonstrating at least three different styles. Faulkner has free reign and delivers some breath-taking guitar work. This track when played live will cause total carnage.
A crunching combo of Faulkner riffs and quick Travis drums launch ‘Blind Leading The Blind’. Romero’s lyric is almost narrated, crystal clear and razor sharp. The bass has the room shaking, this track isn’t as heavy as the previous two going to show that Elegant Weapons are not a ‘one trick pony’ and are prepared to mix it up.
‘Ghost of You’ is a ballad by comparison. Ronnie Romero’s vocal oozes sleaze, imagine a smoke-filled Blues Bar, he has an incredible talent. The band give him respect and play a supporting role. Faulkner tickles and strokes his strings. Brown and Travis’ subtle beats keep the track moving, as Romero’s passion filled lyrics guide us to the finish.
The grungy sound of ‘Bitter Pill’ keeps the pace steady, but the rhythm boys deliver thumping beats. This is a big sound and must make the live set. The stoner vibe continues, Rex Brown’s bass has a deep-down low growl. Faulkner’s lead breaks slide in and bite hard. Romero hypnotically raises and lowers his voice and draws you in for the kill.
The next one caught me a bit by surprise, a cover of UFO’s classic ‘Lights Out’. This is a full-fat version though, with a “Full Metal Jacket” and a “Straight Through Exhaust”. A lot harder and heavier. It demonstrates the bands fine ability to produce such a complementary track. Romero’s vocal is deeper, earthier than Phil Mogg’s, Faulkner gives us a great version of Schenker’s classic solo. I really enjoyed it, however, being a long-time UFO fan, the original still gets my vote.
It’s time for the title track ‘Horns for a Halo’, a simple quiet beginning, a short Travis drum-beat then the track explodes in your face. It’s feels like Elegant Weapons dispatch their full arsenal at you. Thunderous beats, frantic squealing riffs and powerful vocals. Think, Black Sabbath with Priest and Soundgarden. Awesome.
Everything is played suitably down the dirty end for ‘Dirty Pig’, more Sabbath-esque riffs, slowing in parts, building tension. Romero adopts an effective punchy lyric delivery. The different sounds Faulkner produces are as equally impressive, from big riffs to smooth and silky lead breaks the track has everything. Romero’s vocal grows to a full metal Dio scream, Brown and Travis have the ground shaking as they take their instruments to the limit.
‘White Horse’ is the 7-minute monster. Faulkner has re-tuned his guitar to ‘fuzzy mode’ in parts of this epic. Romero’s voice matches the tempo and intensity changes with ease. We gallop, we trot and charge through the track. This is a fully spec’d number, it has all the options ticked, there’s even a part where you can hear a Hammond style organ. This will keep the fans well and truly on their toes during a show, from some gentle head nodding to wild mosh pits.
The final track is ‘Downfall Rising’, Blues with a Sabbath mix. Slow and eerie sounds to start, that ease into dark and heavy. Romero opens his lungs to maximum. Travis and Brown are also switched to ‘give them everything we’ve got’. Faulkner is perfectly extravagant in all he plays. A superb way to close the album, and whet the appetite for more.
This was a project bursting to get out of Richie Faulkner, almost like “that” scene in ‘Alien’, the result equally breath-taking. The more I listened to ‘Horns for a Halo’ (and I played it a lot), it made me realise these tracks have been designed and constructed to be performed live, and when Elegant Weapons do perform them live, it will be like this album…Bloody spectacular.
Pre-order Horns For A Halo
ELEGANT WEAPONS‘ debut full-length, Horns for a Halo (produced by Faulkner‘s Priest bandmate, Andy Sneap and featuring album performances by Pantera’s Rex Brown and Judas Priest’s Scott Travis), will be dropping May 26th via Nuclear Blast Records, and can be pre-ordered here: https://ew.bfan.link/horns-for-a-halo
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