Royal Thunder at Boston Music RoomSupport: Fire Red Empress
November 24, 2017 at Boston Music Room
Atlanta’s Royal Thunder are on their most extensive European headline tour yet with the inclusion of five UK dates in support of this year’s very impressive Wick album. For those already familiar will know they are a band who very much wear their hearts on their sleeves. Their band members’ life experiences have been pretty well documented in interviews and features elsewhere. But as a first-timer to the Royal Thunder live experience, the question is, can they translate the intensity of their records into a live setting? (spoiler alert – they bloody well can with gargantuan bells on).
Originally scheduled for two support acts, Last International unfortunately had to cancel. Fire Red Empress take stage and they clearly are a well-oiled, robust rocking machine; very tight delivery, with the twin guitarists mastering some fine meaty riffs. Jennifer Diehls intertwines clean vocals with guttural roars which culminate into a sound of the commercial straight-edge rock of Halestorm and outsider hints of QOSTA/Kyuss stoner-styled fuzzed riffage.
They are well-received from those in attendance. And this Anglo-French combo may have future potential but for this reviewer this could rest on which direction they really want to take their sound; a continuation of their polished sheen of their debut, or take the grittier, harder side further into more left-field rock territory (I prefer the latter). Time will tell.
There is always a strong sense that Royal Thunder are free from bullshit and pretence so it isn’t a surprise they lead straight into their set after setting up their drum kit and a sound check. It doesn’t take long for them to get into their groove, from the opening complex slow groove of ‘Burning Tree’ onwards it is clear this is a band who express their life experiences and emotions through their music.
While ‘The Sinking Chair’ is their most forthright rocker, ‘April Showers’, and ‘Time Machine’, are huge and demonstrate the intelligent complexities at play in their songs. They veer from quite reflective moments to staggering all-consuming breathless rock-out amalgamations while the intensity never weakens.
Mlny Parsonz may be a reluctant star, in-between banter kept to a minimum of a few repeated “thanks for coming out” and an acknowledgement of Fire Red Empress; but she is a tour de force, every line of her lyrics is sung from an inner, deeply personal emotional depth – no half measures here – this is a deeply moving performance. She gives everything! The weighty throat-splitting vocal delivery on the closing ‘Plans’, with Will Fiore accompanying on guitar, is quite exceptional. While she also mixes both finger-picking bass lines to barre-chord strumming. And lest not forget her partaking in some full-on ferocious head banging.
But the band combined are greater than the sum of its parts. Josh Weaver darts and bounces around like a Duracell battery advert prop, attacking his guitar with fervour. While Will is content to remain in the background, adding his dexterous finger-pickings which give their music another deeper dimension. Add in the colossal thumping energetic drive of Evan Diprima on the sticks and it all combines for an all-absorbing, captivating, intense performance.
For a band who cite Guns ‘n’ Roses, The Cult and Blue Oyster Cult as key influences, it is with their grungy pioneers they have more obvious connections with, especially those of early Afghan Whigs’ intensified emotional outpourings. While their self-confessed admiration of Monster Magnet’s no-holds-barred full use of Marshall stacks, is also reflected into their inescapable unrelenting huge stabs of noise which, apart from the occasional brief silence, merges from one song into another. It all makes for a head-staggering display where dimming the fire or lowering the tone never enters the band’s equation. This made the tube train home sound tranquil, while my ears were still proudly ringing out loudly the next day.
Royal Thunder are not to be pigeon-holed or easily categorised. They operate from a deeply personal, intelligent level and form it into a sound that is just blistering, in which, at this moment of time, they stand way out on their own. Don’t delay . . . put Royal Thunder on your “To See” list. Intense? Definitely. But the growing voices of approval for the progress of a special band will glow ever more brightly after stunning performances like tonight.