Priestess are a good band, I must say. Their first album was a triumph, as it saw the band get global attention in their first attempt — the success of Lay Down overwhelming. Hello Master brought with it a recognisable, rocking sound, which concentrated on brilliant catchy choruses and used more classic rock styles. However, after many disputes with their record company, Priestess were eventually allowed to change their style. Prior to the Fire, from 2009, four years later, is heavier, less catchy and very different in its tone and lyrical themes. It sounds very different. But worse?
It’s taken me a while to decide whether it’s as good as Hello Master, and I’ve come to the conclusion that in some ways it is, but in others it falls short. On the album is a selection of quality tracks, which use the change in style to their advantage. Lady Killer, The Firebird, The Gem and It Baffles the Mind in particular are fantastic songs. Although none have a particularly catchy chorus (other than Lady Killer does, but not to the same extent as something like Lay Down from the previous album), they all possess a powerful, unique sound — along with every other track on the album. Prior to the Fire is heavier than Hello Master, first and foremost; and as a result it is more of a metal album. But not modern metal – like metalcore or melodic death metal acts like August Burns Red and In Flames; it’s more like the classic thrash rock acts, such as Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden stick out for me as the biggest obvious influence for this album, although it also possesses instrumentals not too dissimilar to bands such as Mastodon or Red Fang – Murphy’s Law being a prime example of this. With these influences, come different lyrical themes, based on more obscure themes than the simple classic rock themes of Hello Master. It also means less emphasis on catchy hooks or riffs, and more of an emphasis on the style itself – along with the instrumental work.
Prior to the Fire sounds both like an 80’s thrash inspired album, and a prog album in parts — further showing some Mastodon influence, I think. This change in style isn’t a bad thing, certainly. I like the sound, and I’m sure fans of bands such as Iron Maiden will like it. It brings more musical variety and more impressive guitar work – along with more aggression, and in essence heaviness. However, without the catchy choruses Hello Master did so well, I can’t help but feel something is missing from the music.
At least in a few songs this is a problem. Raccoon Eyes stands out, at track two. It’s two minutes long and in dire need of a substantial chorus, to keep the music going. Without one, it’s a decent song. But with one, it could have been great. There’s also Lunar, which could have been better with one, although it’s a great song in itself. But these songs are the only inherit dips in quality. Every other song totally makes up for these minor blips, as the album, at first, is an interesting album, but after a few listens, a very enjoyable album — which is maybe quite deep, even.
I don’t understand why RCA Records were so reluctant to release this album. It’s heavy, rocking, and brilliant in its style — which resembles music played by such bands as Iron Maiden and Mastodon. It’s a great 80’s thrash album, but done in 2009, with some added prog and Priestess awesomeness. Nonetheless, the change in style from their first album means less catchy choruses, so it’s certainly not as accessible. This is only a negative point, though, in a couple of tracks — as the rest of the album retains a quality sound, with fantastic musicality and variety. If you like Priestess, listen to this. If you like any of the other bands I related to it, give this a try. This is Prior to the Fire, and it will grow on you like a fungus until you love it to bits. So, it’s probably just better than Hello Master, somehow.