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Durbin - Screaming Steel review


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Band: Durbin
Album: Screaming Steel
Style: Heavy metal
Release date: February 2024

01. Made Of Metal
02. Screaming Steel
03. Where They Stand
04. Hollows
05. Power Of The Reaper
06. Blazing High
07. Beyond The Night
08. The Worshipper 1897
09. Tear Them Down
10. Rebirth

Our pal Rod already had to carry out his obligation to tautology by applying himself to the latest release from The Rods, so now it’s my turn to take on Screaming Steel. I’d just like to point out that I had the idea for the name 14 years before James Durbin did.

Even setting aside pilfered pleonasms (I won’t be suing, don’t worry), my take on Screaming Steel is quite similar to Rod’s take on The Rods, although Durbin is a later-generation disciple rather than a lingering original: heavy metal by the books, by the book of The Book Of Heavy Metal, not as stalwart or convincing as Dream Evil yet just as obviously indebted to Dio, fluent in the aesthetics but benighted as to where the magic truly comes from. Screaming Steel abounds with familiar silhouettes, shadows of riff and hook structures that were already calcified back when Raven, Tank, Tygers Of Pan Tang, and Tokyo Blade were slipping from the second string to the third. This is a highly referential album, both lyrically and musically, and the fact that Judas Priest themselves released a (much better) album of their own a few weeks after leaves Screaming Steel sounding like a moot point; this album not only lacks surprises, it lacks the brio to muscle its way ahead of the countless other imitators on the strength of pure execution.

Execution is chiefly where the problems lie. Compounding a docket of middling songs is an issue that plagued James Durbin’s previous dalliances with Quiet Riot on a couple of very unfortunate albums: his vocal performance is inconsistent. Part of me questions whether I’m not applying closer scrutiny because I recall that he was a fairly successful contestant on American Idol and that leads me to expect a polished and pitch-perfect pop performance, and some blame must be laid on the production, which repeatedly hobbles him with a flat and flimsy sound. If you refer again to Judas Priest’s latest efforts, the fullness, warmth, and vitality with which they proceed are nowhere to be heard here – Durbin’s vocals do not feel adequately blended with the instrumentation and that can make his delivery sound awkward and artificial, like someone laying down tracks in a booth rather than singing a song (let alone taking you on a magical journey). There are points, however, where his voice lacks something, and when that happens, the whole song falls. At times, his pitch wavers, he allows too much distortion, he acquires a rasp that sounds too much like strain; I remind myself that if you listen closely enough, you’ll hear any singer go wide of the note from time to time, be they Bruce Dickinson or your pals after too many drinks, and if I had more of interest to discover in the songs, or if the vocals were more smoothly incorporated, or if I were just listening without the persistent knowledge that Durbin already had a professional career in a mainstream circuit, I doubt I would find these instances as distracting. But I don’t, and they aren’t, and I can’t, so they are.

The songwriting isn’t too far afield of a solid success – if largely unremarkable, there are some tunes that declare themselves to be hummable. “Where They Stand” is a better-balanced track with a speedy chorus that gets the blood pumping in the manner the album intends; “Power Of The Reaper” contains possibly Durbin’s best stab at bringing Dio’s dramatic delivery to bear; “Tear Them Down” has a hook that might be catchy or grating, I can’t decide, but it’s at least memorable. I would go as far as to say that no song is unlistenable, merely unfulfilled in potential, however modest that might sometimes be. This is Durbin’s second album under this truncated moniker, but he has a longer career – before those disastrous Quiet Riot run-ins, he had several albums under his full name coming off his well-received American Idol tenure, generally of a more corporately curated and prewritten pop-rock style more in keeping with the party line for a post-television record deal, and one gets the sense that Durbin conversely, is a place where he feels more content to play around. This iteration was designed with metal in mind and it’s evident that he has a fair amount of versatility and range; given some better production, better material, he could make a better name for himself. I wonder at the likelihood of this, since these two albums have had different lineups of apparent session players and with no data on the writing credits I suspect more of the same. We’ll have to see whether a more personal vision solidifies by album #3.

If you have found yourself charmed by the recent successes of revivalists such as Wings Of Steel, Tailgunner, Ritual Fire, Striker, Enforcer, etc., then Durbin might well be another name to watch, even if this album does not suggest a great likelihood of overtaking those other practitioners in the revival race any time soon. I myself was not swept away by the aforementioned, so Screaming Steel falls on disinterested ears (which is also what happens whenever I try to tell you guys about Sabaton). At least we can wholeheartedly say that this is a step in the right direction after Quiet Riot, but I don’t think this will be dethroning Agent Steel’s “Agents Of Steel” as my personal theme.

Rating breakdown
Performance: 6
Songwriting: 6
Originality: 4
Production: 5

Written on 24.03.2024 by I'm the reviewer, and that means my opinion is correct.


Comments: 5   Visited by: 63 users
24.03.2024 - 08:19
For the record, Radu didn't put me up to this; I discovered this one during my weekly Googling of my own name.
"Earth is small and I hate it" - Lum Invader

I'm the Agent of Steel.
24.03.2024 - 11:11
Written by ScreamingSteelUS on 24.03.2024 at 08:19

For the record, Radu didn't put me up to this; I discovered this one during my weekly Googling of my own name.

You escape this time
Do you think if the heart keeps on shrinking
One day there will be no heart at all?
24.03.2024 - 13:19
I’d just like to point out that I had the idea for the name 14 years before James Durbin did...
Even setting aside pilfered pleonasms (I won’t be suing, don’t worry)

Clear case of identity theft. I'd sue if I were you, not because he used your name, but because he did it to release some pretty weak material.
24.03.2024 - 20:19
Rating: 7
endangered bird
I find the critique a bit harsh, while I mostly agree with it. The one songs which stands out for me is "Tear Them Down", this soaring catchphrase is so awesomely put in music, plus the variations on final note to complement the harmony... I like it a lot, even if the verse vocals sound off production, even if the riff is not astonishing, even if the chorus sounds pop. Everything works well together, the solo too.
18.04.2024 - 18:01
Bad English
Tage Westerlund
Cool band list all hettas as Durbin.
Btw how about getting into article about all screaming steel bands.
I stand whit Ukraine and Israel. They have right to defend own citizens.

Stormtroopers of Death - ''Speak English or Die''
I better die, because I never will learn speek english, so I choose dieing

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