LORDS OF BLACK
"Alchemy Of Souls"

(Frontiers Music)

01. Dying To Live Again
02. Into The Black
03. Deliverance Lost
04. Sacrifice
05. Brightest Star
06. Closer To Your Fall
07. Shadows Kill Twice
08. Disease In Disguise
09. Tides Of Blood
10. Alchemy Of Souls
11. You Came To Me (Piano Version)

RATING: 8.5/10

Best known as current frontman with RITCHIE BLACKMORE's RAINBOW, Ronnie Romero has, to put it mildly, a set of pipes. Away from his higher profile endeavors, the Spaniard has also been putting in the hours with LORDS OF BLACK — an incendiary melodic heavy metal band with occasional toes dipped in symphonic and progressive waters. "Alchemy Of Souls" is their fourth album and, much like its predecessors, will probably make you wonder why Romero and his comrades aren't already a lot more successful. Everything about the band's sound is classy: simultaneously traditional and inventive, with shades of everything from ICED EARTH to QUEEN, it's a convincing and strident hybrid that reaches new heights here.

At this point, it should go without saying that Ronnie Romero could sing the birds from the trees, but there's still something startling and thrilling about his arrival, 60 seconds into opener "Dying To Live Again". A thunderous, high-octane metal anthem with an ACCEPT-like sense of melodic simplicity, it's a wonderful showcase for the singer and the sublime songwriting chemistry he enjoys with guitarist Tony Hernando. Rich with harmonies and showcasing Romero's exquisite versatility, it should tell you all you need to know about LORDS OF BLACK in 2020. But if you need further convincing, this is easily the band's most consistent and focused album to date; one full to the brim with uplifting, eyes-to-the-sky hooks and moments of flat-out metal abandon. "Into The Black" is a bruising, brooding PRIEST-like crusher with a gleaming, AOR heart; "Deliverance" is turbocharged power metal, but with riveting, melodramatic undercurrents; "Closer To Your Fall" is an instant rabble-rouser, like Y&T on steroids, but with a dash of melancholy and acres of groove; the elegant, wildly dynamic "Shadows Kill Twice" shines a hazy light on Hernando's endlessly emotive playing, before erupting into more heads-down, riff-driven heft. It's all executed with large amounts of chest-beating bombast, but with Romero's soulful rasp providing a steady, emotional core.

"Alchemy Of Souls" reaches an undeniable apex of potency with its sprawling, ten-minute title track. Strong evidence that LORDS OF BLACK may have an even more ambitious record in them, it's an epic with depth and some of the gnarliest, pure metal riffs this side of the last EXHORDER record. Romero, as ever, delivers a performance of rare brilliance, conjuring malevolent ghosts and near-chewable tension, before the chorus's blessed release.

There is always a chance that the fourth LORDS OF BLACK album will get lost amid 2020's chaos and confusion, not to mention Frontiers Music's somewhat overwhelming release schedule, but if you're in the market for some top-quality heavy metal, sung by one of the best in the business, "Alchemy Of Souls" manifestly deserves your attention.

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