The fight continues…..
If you don’t know Duel, but you already know your rock from your roll, then you can probably have a good guess as to what they sound like.
Look at the cover above.
If you have decided that Duel might be obsessed with the heavy sounds of the 1970s, then we are here to tell you that you are bang on.
To put some flesh on those bones, though “Witchbanger” is their second eight track record in a little over a year, following the brilliant debut “Fears Of The Dead”. On these pages, we proclaimed it thus: “Their world is a bar in which Clutch could drink with Thin Lizzy and everyone could get roaring drunk to the Classic Rock jukebox in the corner.”
That is still true up to a point, and these Austin, Texas boys are rock purists, you’d best believe, but as the title of “Witchbanger” perhaps suggests, the follow up finds them in a more occult mood.
Much of this has to do with the lyrics and the delivery of Tom Frank – who along with bassist Shaun Avants used to be in Scorpion Child – but there is an unsettling feel to the tracks that perhaps wasn’t there before.
Appropriately enough, it begins with a song called “Devil” which possesses a brilliant fuzzy guitar sound and settles itself into Rainbow territory with absolutely no problems at all, as Frank and fellow axe slinger, new boy Jeff Henson trade riffs for fun.
Indeed, the feeling of fun isn’t one that ever leaves this record. The title track is a chugging swirl of a thing that is reminiscent of Cathedral at their very best, and the blues influenced “Snake Queen” is a psychedelic treat, but it is “Astro Gypsy” that really takes the honours as the absolute highlight. Sabbath overtones, a gleeful desire to rock and a chorus that is somewhere beyond catchy add up to something truly special.
Side B – and you just know this was designed with vinyl in mind – barges its way in with a mighty intent, and whilst you might not have any idea what on earth (or indeed the cosmos) “Heart Of The Sun” is talking about, you can be sure it makes for a fine song.
“Bed Of Nails” has an eerie air, and when Frank sings “you’re in the arms of the creeper” then whatever it is, you wouldn’t want to be held by it, likewise, there is a touch of the malevolent about “Cats Eye” even if you aren’t quite sure why.
Having established the ground rules throughout, Duel are content to end “Witchbanger” as they’ve spent it. Playing their guitars loud and concocting a rather more mystical brew than you might have expected. “Tigers And Rainbows” is a throwback to some mythical golden age, and that can be said for the whole album.
The quartet have constructed something genuinely timeless – as the cover suggested. If it didn’t have made in 2017 stamped on it, then you wouldn’t have any clue that this was a 21st century vintage. And that, no doubt, is just what Duel wanted from this particular banger.