"Under Siege"

By Lord Randall

North American power trio CASTLE has been one of the bands I’ve made sure to keep an eye on (ear to?) since 2011’s Van debut "In Witch Order", straddling as it did the sometimes-expansive gulf between proto-‘70s doom ala BLACK SABBATH and the gallop-friendly current THIN LIZZY worship of, say, SLOUGH FEG and BIBLE OF THE DEVIL. "Blacklands" upped the ante, but not as much as I’d expected, so I did what I do in such cases. I held out for a third album to make my final decision re: CASTLE. If you’ve heard my Third Album “Theory” ™ before, I won’t bore you by repeating it. If you haven’t, read other reviews herein, and you’ll come across it eventually.

And thus, "Under Siege" arrives, CASTLE having found a new  US home on Prosthetic, leaving me a little concerned. Turns out, my slight worry was for naught. Opener ‘Distant Attack’ recalls SAHG, the vocals of Elizabeth Blackwell soaring over the guitars of Mat Davis, Al McCartney (no relation) holding down the fort behind the kit. This is the CASTLE of old, my friends, but with what sounds like a bigger production budget. There’s a beefiness – a weight – to ‘Be My Ghost’ that carries on through the soon-to-be live favorite ‘A Killing Pace’ that was missing in parts of "Blacklands". Billy Anderson’s mix is clearly a high point throughout the 30-odd minutes of "Under Siege", to the point that each instrument can be picked out and listened to on its own merit. I’ll have to admit cringing at the opening “All right now!” of the otherwise ideal ‘Pyramid Lake’, but after repeated listens, also admit subconsciously looking forward to its inclusion in this obviously ‘Sweet Leaf’-inspired slab o’ doom. ‘Powersigns’ stumbles, but ‘Labyrinth Of Death’ rights the runner, and by the time we get to ‘Temple Of The Lost’, we’re primed and ready for ‘Evil Ways’, ending an album that has far more right with it than it does wrong.

 The name of the album may be "Under Siege", but, to my ears, it seems CASTLE has us right where they want us.