By Dr. Abner Mality

The rise of Castle has been pretty meteoric in the last year. I'm reminded of the lightning-fast ascension of The Sword about 6 or 7 years ago. Like The Sword, some consider Castle a kind of "hipster" trad metal band. Such labels are not for me to pass judgement on. To tell the truth, labels of all kinds are pretty hard to apply to this three piece. I have commonly seen them lumped in with doom and stoner metal and neither description seems quite right. They've got too much pace and drive to be considered doom and they have too much depth to their songwriting to be stoner rock. Here's a novel thought: why don't we just call them heavy metal and be done with it?

Well, even that description may be lacking, because they are certainly not what one usually thinks of as being "tradtional" metal in the style of Cauldron, Holy Grail, etc. The songs are mostly mid-paced, catchy, basic but with interesting melodic frills around the edges and featuring the smoky female vocals of Elizabeth Blackwell. Her vocals are refreshing precisely because they DON'T blow doors off with high pitched screams or diva like vocals. There's a bluesy touch to her singing that gives Castle a nice earthy touch. They don't overpower the music. In a few spots, most notably "Storm Below the Mountain", guitarist Mat Davis chimes in with a kind of grim, raspy growl. But it's mostly Elizabeth's show.

"Blacklands" is a likable album but it's kind of hard for me to figure out the huge accolades it's gotten. This album is not going to change your life with its straight-forward metal, but it can provide about 35 minutes of pleasant listening. I honestly can't hear much more to it than that.