This is one of those albums I wish I'd heard last year, because despite the tough competition there's a solid chance it could have made the year-end list. Gritty and tough with sharp hooks, compelling melodies, gnarly vocals, and lyrics dripping in fantasy violence, this album had everything a good heavy metal release should have. In addition, it took no time at all to feel completely immersed. I initially plugged in the title track just to get a sample, and by the midpoint of that track, I was hooked.
The band brings in some really good background instrumentation and atmosphere, but it keeps the central emphasis on the crunchy riffs and the almost-too-harsh-to-be-traditional-heavy-metal vocals. For me, the overall blend was just right.
To be totally honest, while I'm familiar with them by name I don't really know much of the band's back catalog, so I can't comment on where this falls relative to their prior work. For good, recent, straight-up heavy metal, though, it's excellent. It made me want to start digging into their other work, and that's always a good sign from a record.