There isn’t a whole lot of music in this world more fun than an album steeped in heavy metal history. There will always be debate about whether new bands so indebted to the past can ever really hope to recapture that old magic, much less surpass it, but metal is especially interested in trying anyway. No metal band has been more mimicked than Black Sabbath, and Sabbath (on a surface level) is the base from which Boston band Worshipper operates. Despite their name, Worshipper offer a lot more than simple rehashing for adulation’s sake.
What sets Shadow Hymns apart from the sea of other albums occupying the same niche is a smart focus on melodic guitar hooks, coming straight from classic 70s and 80s hard rock and metal. Where many bands in this style put the riff first and foremost, and understandably so, Worshipper takes a riff and uses it to build to climactic chorus. “Place Beyond the Light” might the song that encapsulates Worshipper’s strengths and advantages over bands of a similar ilk. The song’s bouncing rhythm guitar, delicious harmonic guitar licks and tremendous, vocal-centric chorus are all a cut above just about anything you’ll hear from anyone else this year.
There as so many bands out there relying on tone and aesthetic to capture an audience, but what Shadow Hymns offers is going to have a lot more staying power as the years go on. It’s all about quality songs, when all is said and done, and Worshipper knows that better than most right now. If you have any affinity for early metal at all, you would do well to give this album your attention.