Thunder Rider - Tales of Darkness & Light (independent) 1987
1. "Death to Death"
Tales of Darkness & Light is an independent release from Canadian band Thunder Rider. Their sound is gothic heavy metal with an almost doomy sound. They remind me a bit of bands like Warlord and Veni Domine with the mixture of haunting keyboards, heavy guitars and thundering drums. In listening to this CD, I hear some classic 70's influences as well. For instance, "For Christ's Sake" has a keyboard solo in the middle that sounds like something off a Rainbow or Deep Purple album. Quite nice. The songwriting is good as well. Most of the songs are memorable, without being overly repetative. The first time I listened to this CD, I was driving to work at 5:30 AM in the morning. I turned the CD off and had the chorus to "For Christ's Sake" echoing through my head for the majority of the day. The vocalist has a mid-range, clean style that has an uncanny resemblence to Zaxas' vocalist Dale Anthony. His vocals fit the music quite well. Lyrically the band seems to be coming from a Christian/spiritual perspective, not unlike Veni Domine or Zaxas. This does not mean they shove thier beliefs down their listeners throats, rather their lyrics are pretty thought provoking. Unfortunately, the mix is pretty uneven. The drums are a bit loud in the mix and sound triggered. The vocals, likewise are in the front of the mix, leaving the bass, keys and guitars in the background. I actually like metal to have a raw, heavy mix. However, this is not raw and heavy, it's distracting, especially in the first few songs. Perhaps I just got use to it three songs in, but the first few songs the digital snare had me close to pushing the skip button. It's a shame, because with a slightly better mix, this CD would rule.
Thunder Rider - Tales of Darkness and Light Chapter II (independent) 2004
After an almost two decade absence, Thunder Rider return with their sophomore release. As the name of the disc implies, this CD continues where "Tales of Darkness and Light" left off. The bands has a unique, epic, and classic metal sound that dabbles in doom metal quite a bit as well. To be quite honest, I put off reviewing this CD for a long time, not because I didn't like it, but because I liked it so much, yet wasn't exactly sure how to put it into words. Not since bands like Cirith Ungol, Warlord and early Fates Warning have I heard metal like this. I am absolutely floored. Perhaps to give a more modern comparison, these guys would probably do well sharing a stage with Jacob's Dream. Most songs have a mid-paced to slow, metal sound wwith crunchy guitars, tasty guitar licks, eerie keyboards and those classic metal vocals. The song writing is dynamic as well. While the tempo from song to song isn't that different, there is plenty going on to keep one interested throughout the entire CD. "Mid Evil" for instance starts off slow and doomy, sounding like something off of a St. Vitas album before kicking into a mid-paced, metal romp. However, right in the middle of the song, where you might expect a ripping guitar solo, there is a flute solo that actually works quite well with the doomy feel of the song. The epic "Day of the Damned" likewise starts off very slow and ominous with what sounds like a harpsichord and haunting female vocals before kicking up the intensity level a bit. This song is very dynamic and changes tempos several times throughout the song. I actually think this would have been the best song to end the album with. Instead the band chose one of the most upbeat songs on the album, "Devil's Playground". The short, acoustic "Final Eclipse" is a haunting piece of music that features a female vocalist. Album opener "Thy Kingdom Come" is one of the albums standout tracks as well, and starts the album off strong. The lyrics as well are interesting on this CD. Most of them are of an apocalyptic nature and seem to come from a Christian perspective, although I would not say they were overtly evangelistic in nature. In other words, I don't think anyone would accuse Thunder Rider of being "too preachy". One BIG improvement over the band's debut is the production, which is 100% better. Really the production problems were my only complaint about that disc. With that taken care of, this CD will see many, many spins in my CD player. Aside from a very nice full color booklet, the initial pressing of this CD came with a guitar pick, a sticker and a tattoo.