Article By: Pat ‘Riot’ Whitaker ‡ Edited By: Leanne Ridgeway
There is no denying that Austin, Texas is home to so many killer rock and roll and related events that it can sometimes be hard to keep track. However, one band from there has set itself apart from all the rest. The band, Duel, made a searing impact on fans of hard rock with their 2016 début, ‘Fears Of The Dead‘.
The band’s seeming drug-addled delivery of retrograde-inspired, proto-metal tinged with 80’s era metallic influences is a powerful concoction, indeed. It was a natural quandary to wonder if guitarist/ vocalist Tom Frank, bassist/ vocalist Shaun Avants, guitarist Jeff Henson, and drummer JD Shadowz could capture lightning in a bottle twice.
I have been appointed the messenger tasked to come here and inform you that yes, indeed they have my friends, so rejoice. Rejoice, I tell you, for Duel‘s sophomore album, ‘Witchbanger‘, was recently released via Heavy Psych Sounds on April 28.
With the new effort, the quartet takes all the outstanding qualities of last year’s début and ratchets them up into the red. First thing, the Seventies-solid NWOBHM styling of the introductory song “Devil” hits you square in the skull. With intense, chugging guitars energizing it, onward it drives while the rhythm section rallies to the cause.
Things settle into place a bit with the title track “Witchbanger“, another heavily riff-fueled behemoth. The more laid back vocals present a wholly different feel to things, especially the “whoa-oa-oas”. By this time you are well invested in the album as the retrograde greatness of “Snake Queen” unfurls. A staggering, punch-drunk meandering vibe holds fast in the verses before cutting loose in the choruses.
“Astro Gypsy” channels an intense ZZ Top-meets-Thin Lizzy-like boogie at times. It’s high energy and just flat-out rocks with a truckload of swagger at the wheel, with a quick turn into some doom toward the end.
Things go all upbeat with a sort of odd number, “Heart Of The Sun“. It has a bit of an airier feel in places before exploding into some heavy fuzz at others. A tinge of psychedelia introduces us to “Bed Of Nails“, a heavy-handed, tight-knit rocker with a punk rock approach.
Things begin to wind down with fantastic back-to-back “Cat’s Eye” and “Tigers And Rainbows” (a subliminal nod to Uncle Grandpa, perhaps?). The first has a real classic, proto-doom feel to it and this is one of my favorite cuts from the album. Ending track “Tigers And Rainbows” keeps the darker, heavier nods prevalent, while its uptempo paces power things on. It also possesses some incredible guitar work throughout the song, as well, eventually building and ending, with a haze of samples and escapism music.
Duel dispels the sophomore album curse that so many bands suffer after having an acclaimed début. They successfully show all interested parties that their first release was not some flash-in-the-pan fluke and that they have what it takes to create some worthwhile music.
Now it is your turn to judge that claim for yourselves when you stream Duel‘s ‘Witchbanger‘ (out now via Heavy Psych Sounds) in the Bandcamp embed below.