In 2019 the saturation of newer heavy metal bands that shop for their tools at the NWOBHM store is higher than ever. Bands such as HAUNT, BLADE KILLER, POUNDER and NIGHT DEMON are on the higher end of the dozens of acts looking back to the vaunted British scene that inspired METALLICA's early mission statements. We are not complaining, as even the acts that are merely competent are able to string together a catchy song or two using those tools. We're not quite ready to anoint FATAL CURSE as one of the higher-end acts worshipping at the altar of the well-worn sound just yet, but "Breaking The Trance", the debut effort from this Moravia, New York trio, shows formative promise for future infectious metal to come.
FATAL CURSE launches with a straight to the point approach with the opening title track. Riffs immediately descend upon the listener, following the blueprint for the Neat Records singles of yesteryear to a tee. Galloping riffs from guitarist Dave Gruver and equally galloping drumming from Chris Bowen are augmented by bassist/vocalist Mike Bowen, who channels both British heavy metal masters bearing the Harris surname. Older fans with worn-down DIAMOND HEAD vinyl records will have no problems spotting the similarities with Sean Harris's vocal deliveries on that band's influential output, while IRON MAIDEN fans will appreciate the bass lines channeling Steve Harris circa the Paul Di'Anno era.
For the remainder of the relatively short running time—under thirty minutes—"Breaking the Trance" hits all of the tropes perfectly. There are slight variations to the formula scattered throughout the album. "Blade in the Dark" features a more aggressive drumming approach, while Bowen hits his loudest vocal bellows on a chorus inspired by the faster-paced rock tracks from DIO's solo catalogue. "Gang Life" has a fun false finish before racing to the finish line. "Priestess of Fire" begins with an ominous trudge before launching into catchiness. Gruver does exhibit strong short bursts of shred guitar flash—most notably on "Can't Stop the Thunder" and raucous album closer "Eyes of the Demon"—but for the most part FATAL CURSE eschews excessive shredding or speed and just focuses on tightly constructed, well-executed metal.
The true strength of "Breaking the Trance" lies in the record's production. The majority of newer acts are able to adequately replicate the songwriting structures, but in the end, the final recorded product sounds undeniably like it was recorded in 2019. The production sound and mix of "Breaking The Trance" expertly captures the organic warmth of the source material that is inspiring today's bands. If you slipped any tracks from this record into a playlist made up of Metal Blade's 1990 "New Wave of British Heavy Metal '79 Revisited" compilation, an unsuspecting listener who isn't paying close attention would be none the wiser.
If you are not yet overwhelmed by the throwback metal sounds generated by many of today's newer bands, FATAL CURSE's debut record is another worthy addition to your collection. They haven't quite broken out from the middle-tier of bands mining this sound just yet, but "Breaking The Trance" is a 499-piece puzzle with just one more piece needed to hit 500.