Duel Album Review
Valley of Shadows (Heavy Psych Sounds)
Almost supernatural, Duel deep, deep dives into Valley of Shadows. After a pair of LPs that put the Austin quartet onto the international atlas of doom rock acts, Duel's third chapter – an eight-song triumph of lyrical sorcery and enlightened stoner grooves – separates them from the crowd. Lead cut "Black Magic Summer," with Tom Frank's increasingly lionlike vox tempting escape from a cold and harsh existence, arrives so epic it could soundtrack a snowy scene in Game of Thrones. He's two parts Phil Lynott and one part Danzig, poetically essaying a universe rife with angry gods, eternal fires, spells, blood, and evil despots. Aptly, Jaime Zuverza's cover art depicts a severed snake bleeding down an obelisk into a skull mortar. Psychedelic – conceptually, not sonically – Valley of Shadows transforms the foursome with extraordinarily detailed production from axeman/engineer Jeff Henson, whose underwater solo soaks "Drifting Alone," one of several tracks evidencing Duel's increasing penchant for powerhouse hooks. Meanwhile, "Strike and Disappear," a Pink Floydian astral rocker that seamlessly upshifts into berserker thrash punk, highlights the platter's compositional unpredictability. Deft drummer Justin Collins proves a game-changing force on his Duel debut, coupling with onetime Scorpion Child Shaun Avants' gnarly bass to fuel a glorious instrumental breakdown on "The Bleeding Heart" that's tailor-made for the stages of European summer metal festivals.