Tuesday 26 February 2019

Coventry - The Arrival (2019)

Country: Mexico
Style: Heavy Metal
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 13 Feb 2019
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I couldn't resist checking out what this sounded like, given that I've never seen anyone like the young lady on the cover of this album on any of my trips to Coventry. Well, this band come from Ciudad Juárez on the other side of the Mexican border from El Paso, so I'm wondering where the band name came from. Googling doesn't help. It just points out that there are enough Mariachi bands in the city of Lady Godiva to warrant a top ten, which is pretty weird to me.

I don't recall Coventry being a hotbed of heavy metal, unlike Birmingham, only twenty miles away, which birthed the whole thing, courtesy of bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. As a city, Coventry is probably better known for its ska revolution, courtesy of the Two Tone record label, rather than its metal bands like Bolt Thrower and Cathedral.

And hey, the influences of the Mexican band called Coventry seem to predate that, given that they're primarily a traditional heavy metal group, a lot of their sound sourced from the eighties, at the point when bands started to add some serious speed. The long notes that Luis Satyr hurls out are straight out of the NWOBHM era and there are plenty of Iron Maiden influences to be found, most obviously on the title track where Satyr really echoes Bruce Dickinson and the band follow suit with recognisably melodic Maiden guitar lines and crowd friendly backing vocals.

While The Arrival could easily have come out of the reject song pile for The Number of the Beast, Coventry aren't Maiden clones. Satyr emphasises that on tracks like You Die if You Try and Cordis Die where he goes for death growls instead, perhaps because both songs have the word "die" in their titles. He does mix it up on a wider basis, with tracks like Forget 'n' Forgive sounding more like a heavy ballad Metallica could have put onto the Black Album, right down to the James Hetfield inflections; or Mary Queen, which he introduces with a scream more akin to King Diamond, before moving into hardcore shouts.

I applaud the band for trying to avoid pigeonholes, but it's odd to hear the different vocal styles on similarly built tracks. I'm intrigued to hear that shouted hardcore chorus on Mary Queen suddenly turn into old school keyboards at the end. Using multiple vocal styles works as a contrast on You Die if You Try, where the clean and harsh vocals converse in interesting fashion. Given that we often hear both at once, I wonder if there's a guest on the album or one of the musicians is stepping up to share duties at the mike.

It works less when one track is in a completely different style to the next. To get away with that, you've got to go hog wild like Queen did on Sheer Heart Attack or Saigon Kick did on Water. When you're defining your sound as heavy metal in the traditional style, shifting from clean vocals to death growls on successive tracks makes me wonder if I'm listening to a compilation album not a single band's release.

For instance, going from the Metallica-esque Forget 'n' Forgive to an anthem like Something is Behind, which sounds much more like an arena rock band like Journey, is a little weird. The same goes from the shift from an Iron Maiden sound on The Arrival to the melodic death of Cordis Die.

I did like this album and Coventry are clearly able musicians, but I do feel that they need to figure out exactly what they want to sound like before the next album.

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