The band did send me an advanced copy of the CD but instead of TMT doing a review, I am providing the review that our friends over at Focus on Metal did.
Click on the link here: Focus on Metal - Times Arrow review and it will take you to their site.
Here is their complete review. I hope there are no issues with me re-posting it.
Time's Arrow is the latest release from A Sound of Thunder. Their last, 2012's Out of The Darkness was completely brilliant and I couldn't imagine being able to follow it up. The incredible progression in just three albums is amazing. This is a band that has been able to mix old school sensibilities with some of the newer sonics to create a sound that is so damn approachable.
One of those old school sensibilities is sequencing an album. They don't write filler so they spend time figuring out how to sequence the songs. Even more so on this release since you can also get it on vinyl.
Another bit of old school is their attention to the artwork. Check out the cover art above. They have labored over every detail of the regular CD and the box set. Essentially they take all this on themselves. There's not some huge staff behind them.
Let's go through the tracks:
Power Play - This is clearly the grab you by the nut sack opening track. Remember the first time you heard Steve Harris's bass? Power Play opens with this killer bass line from Jesse Keen that will take you back to that feeling. A few bars in and Josh Schwartz opens up with a killer dual guitar harmony. It's clear these guys have come to rip. Chris Haren keeps a nice tidy drum part behind it all just gluing it all together. At the 23 second mark they just shift gears and take it to a whole other level. It not until the 41 second mark that the mighty vocals of Nina Osegueda enter the picture. 41 seconds in and I'm already glued to the speakers. Once Nina hits it's all done. She has one of the best set of pipes in metal today and this release is a veritable showcase for her talents.
In this case her vocals hits strong and clean with just a touch of that raspiness she can inject at will. Adding to that is some great gang vocals when needed. Again some old school sensibilities in that regard. This track is so damn good. Great lyrics. Tasty solo. Hooks that will infect your brain and we are only one track in.
Time's Arrow- The title track as track two. A long time tradition carried on by ASOT. Okay my first impression was F*%K it's almost ten minutes long. Long time listeners know I have an issue with long songs. Personal bias, I know but that just how I'm wired. Alright let's dive in on this one.
So there's about two minutes of instrumental lead in. It's massive sounding and very well orchestrated. As I'm listening to it I'm just staring at the cover art trying to put the music with the artwork. Once the vocals kick in the first thing I notice is how tight the guitar melody and the vocal melody are. It really draws you in. There was also something else there. It took a bit but at almost 10 freaking minutes I had time to figure it out. There's almost this seventies vibe to the overall feel to this one. That's not a bad thing it just the vibe I got. All totaled even at ten minutes this is a great track. The amount of work that had to have gone into recording this song had to be huge. There's a lot going on and in true ASOT from the mix lets everything have it's moment to shine. It may not be my go to song on this one but I have a shit ton of respect for what they did on it.
I Will Not Break - A smoldering churning chunk of metal. Think of the tempo of Priest' Grinder. That's where this one sits. THe lyrics on this one are classic no B.S. from Nina. The choice line "I won't be silent but I might be violent". The guitar tone on the fills on is this just killer. Clean and searing. You can't ignore it. That's followed up by a solo with this cool middle eastern vibe in this nice copping of George Lynch's style. This whole track just says POWER in a very forceful way. The real secret on this one is the infectious lines that the rhythm section puts down in the background.
Broken Bridge - This one starts of slow and just lulls you into thinking that you are getting a bit of a respite. NOPE!! About 30 seconds in it kicks into a nice mid tempo rocker. I say this as a compliment, I can just hear Ronnie James Dio doing this song. With that in mind it just made Nina's vocals that much cooler. I don't know how Josh gets that thick massive guitar tone but I do intend to ask him about it. It's just this huge solid slab of tone behind the whole song. If that wasn't enough the wah infused breakdown four minutes in further solidified his axe cred. Once again that section with the classic keyboard pads behind it really beefed up that RJD vibe. To top it off a lesser band would have rode out on that but not ASOT they went back to a pastoral piano part to end the song.
Queen of Hell - I bought the Queen of Hell EP on both vinyl and CD and this song is just killer. I have had this cranked so loud in my car that you could hear it blocks away. The build up on this is freaking insane. Listen to the drums. They are just so pounding and yet Chris throws in these tiny accents on the brass when you don't expect them. The guitar is screaming and Jesse is just barely holding it all together with his bass line. What is truly cool about this build up is that once you have heard the song once the expectation of what's coming will just make it that much cooler. No shit, the hair on my arms go up when I hear the opening of this one. Why? Because this track shows Nina in all her vocal glory. She goes from sweet to evil in the space of four bars. Just insane. If you dig this one do yourself a favor and get the version with Veronica Freeman on it too.
One of my favorite tracks on the album and watch out for the roller coaster drop when it comes time for the bridge.
Let's Start A Fire - Hooks upon hooks upon hooks. This one's another mid tempo rocker. Probably the most straight forward track on the album. Three minutes long and just put together nicely. My piece of advice on this one is listen to the lyrics. Nina has created some solid imagery hear so don't get distracted by the musicianship surrounding it. Even in what seems like a simple song Nina has crafted some choice lyrics. I also like the bit of amp sound at the tail end of the song. I'm glad they didn't gate it out it sounds perfect there.
I'll Walk With You - So this one has some shades of "One" to it. At this point I guess if you combine acoustic arpeggios on top of a snare cadence you get comparisons to Metallica and I guess I'm guilty of doing it too. All that washes away when Nina opens her mouth. Anyone who has just considered her a "metal" singer will get schooled with this one. She displays a whole different facet to her abilities and I was blown away. This one the sleeper track of the disc. Besides the vocals Josh's guitar work on this is impeccable. He does some tasty acoustic interludes between the verses that are top notch. What makes them even better is that most people would have just blazed on electric on those spots but his abilities on the acoustic actually makes those parts sound heavier. It isn't until around 4 minutes in that he fires up the electric and just smokes. Interestingly I actually hear shades of Pat Methany in his solo here. Pat who? Yeah I know Pat Methany isn't often spoken of in metal circles since he's a jazzer and unlike someone like Chris Poland I don't think he would ever cross into metal territory but nonetheless guitarists can learn some cool phrasing from him.
My Disease - Spanish guitar. Monks chanting, WTF? Never mind, 30 seconds in and in comes a snaking bass line from Jesse followed by a crunchy doubling on guitar and then drums. Okay I'm not nervous anymore. Nice vocals. Okay I'm digging this one. Hey, who's the guy on vocals? Enter Blaze Bayley. This is a nice concept and it works well. The extra bonus here is Nina's lyrics. She clearly had a lot of fun with the words on this one. They may not be as over the top as Kill that Bitch or Hello Nurse but they rank right up there. The very English sounding breakdown around the three minute mark work so well with Blaze's voice. Jesse is also able to throw in some nice Geezer like lines in there while Chris pops in some very Bill Ward like brass work. That transitions to a very Dio era Sabbath sounding part. If that wasn't enough Josh then manages to transition into a classic ASOT sound before the vocals kick back in again.
Wastelands - If there is one thing ASOT is guilty of is never following a format. No long intro here. Josh does the riff and BAM Nina just launches in and the vocals don't stop for the next two and a half minutes. Then this jazz infused double stop section comes in. Who expect that? Even have a touch of Hammond B3 going on. Just some cool arranging here and ASOT has shown some big stones on this one. And yes after the jazzy part it does kick back in and just burns through the rest of the track.
End of The Road - Back to the mid tempo groove. This one has that slinky feel ala AC/DC's Nightcrawler. Honestly this one could almost qualify as a crossover tune into modern country. Even the very Tele sounding solo points it in that direction. Once again the playing is solid and even with the country feel it's a cool track. I also like the reverb ring out at the end.
Reign of The Hawklords - Those of us that were Kickstarter supporters got this one as a preview track months ago so I have a bit of time with this one. First point, there's Theramin on this one. Somehow Theramin always sounds cool on a track. This one definitely has a triply psychedelic vibe to it. When I first heard it I my first thought was crap I hope the whole thing doesn't sound like this. Then I heard the QoH EP and I knew that very cool shit was on the horizon. I applaud the fact that they were smart enough to put this as the last track. I think they knew that to toss this into the middle of everything else would be a buzz kill for most of their fans. I take this track for what it is. Another example of the breadth of ASOT's songwriting abilities.
So what's the score? 11 tracks and 9 solid metal tunes. A cool crossover that stand solid on it's own and one that comes in as more of a cool excursion but one that might get skipped on repeated plays.
In metal terms that's a solid steel two horns up.
So once again ASOT has made an album on their own terms and delivered us one hell of a good album. I cannot wait to experience the physical copy at maximum volume. This a band you can feel good getting behind. They work their asses off. They give a shit about their fans. They are very approachable and are a blast to interview. AND they write some of the best new music out there.