Durbin – The Beast Awakens
Frontiers Music srl
Release Date: 12/02/2021
Running Time: 55:03
Review by Simon Black
James Durbin is a young singer, songwriter and guitarist based in California, who achieved a certain amount of notoriety from his appearances on America Idol a decade ago. This alone might normally be cause enough for me to raise an overtly cynical eyebrow in his direction, were it not for the fact that the mighty Judas Priest joined him onstage at the time, along with input from other luminaries like Zakk Wylde. OK, so ten out of ten for beating the Metal drum to a wider audience, but American Idol does have a certain level of disdain associated with it in British Metal circles, given that it’s the North American equivalent of the never-ending stream of prefabricated crap pulped out by Simon Cowell’s interminable series of talent shows over here.
Well…it would be, were it not for the fact that James really does have a blisteringly good Metal voice in the Halford range. Then there’s the fact that, post-idol, he has gained a bit of credibility for crafting no less than three solo albums, followed by a stint in Quiet Riot before forming Durbin. That takes us to now.
I can’t comment on any of the material in between the American Idol appearances and this record in too much detail other to note that they were much more commercial in tone, but I will say that those influences worn so proudly on his sleeve back in 2011 are loudly and clearly present in this new band and that means traditional Heavy Fucking 80’s Metal, with vocals to help you strip wallpaper with. It’s a distinct improvement on the material in the intervening years, even though intentionally and unrepentantly cheesy with it lyrically. To be fair, he’s catching the tail end of a retro movement that’s been with us for a couple of years, but it has to be said this album does it very well – focussing on the ethos as well as the sound, so what you get is a modern sounding recording of material that would not have been out of place in the year of his birth (1989, which makes me feel really bloody old, given that’s the year I went to Uni).
Opening with the galloping ‘The Prince of Metal’ (yes, really), Durbin’s voice opens the verse in a Di’Anno-esque timbre, before releasing the full throated and aggression tinged Halford scream. Those references are not just vocal – this whole album is pure early Maiden and Priest, but as I said, quite a crisp modern recording style, with little effects overlay on the instruments. The rest of the album follows suit, and the supporting band really let rip, but don’t take centre stage. Regardless of whether this project is intended to be a real band or not (as opposed to the clear solo recordings to date) Durbin’s voice is the primary focus of the mix and everything else takes a bit of a back seat to this. This is no bad thing, as it’s refreshing to hear something young and new that does this, as that’s exactly what attracted me to the genre when those influences were at their peak four decades ago.
‘The Prince Of Metal’ (Official Video)
01. The Prince Of Metal
02. Kings Before You (Ft. Chris Jericho & Phil Demmel)
03. Into The Flames
04. The Sacred Mountain
05. The Beast Awakens
06. Evil Eye
08. Riders On The Wind
09. Calling Out For Midnight
10. Battle Cry
11. By The Horns
12. Rise To Valhalla
James Durbin – All Vocals, Acoustic & Electric Rhythm Guitars
Barry Sparks – Bass
Mike Vanderhule – Drums
Chris Jericho – Guest Vocals
Phil Demmel, Jon Yadon Jr, Marc Putnam, Dylan Rose & Nick Gallant – Guest Lead Guitarists
Ryan Heggum, Ellison & Jeremy Locke – Additional Guitars
Earl Salindo – Keyboards/Synths
Paul Grimm – Textures/Pads
Disclaimer: This review is solely the property of Simon Black and Ever Metal. It is strictly forbidden to copy any part of this review, unless you have the strict permission of both parties. Failure to adhere to this will be treated as plagiarism and will be reported to the relevant authorities.