A Realm Of Tales
Released: 2017, Pure Steel
Back in 2013 I wrote a longer review of the fifth Custard album INFECTED BY ANGER. In that review I discussed my theories why the band is not bigger than they are. Now, five years later I can conclude that waiting five years between albums does not help the momentum of a band. On the plus side of the equation, the line-up has remained stable.
This review I’m going to focus more on the music of their new album, A REALM OF TALES and less on history and trivia. Under the beautiful album cover art, the songs have a bit of a cold/ice theme with four of the cuts having an ice/cold motif but the over-arching theme, as the title suggests is realms of fantasy. Each song is based on mythological or fantastic event or story such as mermaids, 10001 Arabian Nights, the pirate Bluebeard, The Pied Piper of Hamlin, Victorian England and the centerpiece of the album, a retelling of the story of Snow White. Yes, that Snow White. If you think about it Snow White is a totally Metal story with an evil queen, driven insane by her vanity, seeking to ruthless eliminate an innocent stranger, literally murder the competition! Custards version of the old fable kills! I really enjoy albums that are thematically and theatrically structured and Custard does a supreme job in this regard.
The German Power Metal band is more powerful and faster than ever before. The album opens with not one but two powerful opening screams from vocalist Oliver Strassor, who puts in his best performance since he joined the band. His clear, expressive, powerful dynamic voice, lead the charge. I like his phrasing and choice of words for the lyrics. Check out the opening lines of ‘The Pied Piper’ where Strassor sings, ‘Rats! Rats! Rats! Rats!’ ...setting the scene for the poor town overrun by the vermin. One of my favourite sets of lyrics, oddly enough is a ballad called, ‘The Little Match Girl’. With an intro piece, the song is well over six minutes long and with the addition of with the narration and sound effects, all combine to make the very sad story, about a homeless orphan who comes to a terrible fate, into a very compelling song. It’s actually a bit creepy as well and on par with King Diamond level storytelling.
A REALM OF TALES is pure Power Heaven. Everything is virtually flawless, soaring vocals fly overtop of a relentless rhythm section, blazing solos and lots of energy and passion. The guitar tone is great, the production, very clear loud and powerful with the drums quite far up front in the mix which I always like. There is not one weak song on the album in my opinion. There are lots of brief respites, such as acoustic guitar sections or the middle-eastern stylings of ‘Arabian Nights’, and slower parts to offset the classic European flavoured Power Metal.
As much as I’ve enjoyed albums by Custard in the past, this new album takes it to a new level. The songs are just a bit stronger and the performances are tighter so maybe the five year break really helped. This has been in heavy rotation and a very strong contender for my year-end lists.