Demos are an odd thing; on one hand, they represent a potential source of new music just there for the taking, as a metric ton of new bands release new, raw music, often brimming with potential. On the other hand, demos are by definition not a finished product. Sometimes, this means that production is not up to par. In other cases, some tracks which make up the bigger picture aren’t even recorded yet. In yet others, the tracks which you do have aren’t in their finalized version, to be tweaked and changed as the full release draws near. Despite all of these challenges, demos are still such an inherently positive source of new music that they’re wildly looked at by journalists to discover hidden gems and word of things yet to come.
Which is exactly what happened with Traveler when they released their demo last year. Just three tracks, the release featured incredibly powerful vocals and the kind of dedication to traditional heavy metal that reminded us of Haunt, Blade Killer, Gatekeeper and the such. They definitely had our attention, at least this writer’s; I spun their demo countless of times last year. And now we have the full release, self-titled, featuring no less than eight tracks, five of which are new, alongside “Starbreaker”, “Behind the Iron”, and “Mindless Maze” which featured on the demo. So, how much has changed? How does the band hold up to a full run-time and does this release meet with the potential their demo promised?
The answer to that question is, happily, yes. The three tracks from the demo sound to have been re-recorded; they might just have been remastered but subtle differences in speed, intonation on some of the vocals, and little touches on the guitars lead me to believe they were more deeply re-worked. Honestly, these are still the stand out moments on the album, with “Behind the Iron” probably being the best track on the release (as it was on the demo). The bass lines, so unabashedly influenced by Iron Maiden and the entire NWOBHM scene, are just a delight and the chorus is one of the most powerful on the record, blending with the guitars and bass in marvelous way.
But that’s not to say that the full release has nothing to bring to the table beyond the demo tracks. Second track “Street Machine” holds up pretty damn well after “Starbreaker”, it’s more straight-forward riffing and aggressive vocals doing much to charge the two demo tracks which adorn it from either side. Another high point includes “Fallen Heroes” where the vocals really push themselves and attain this sort of rasp that is just impossible to resist, produced to a tee to bring us every note and vibrato. Alongside them, the drums and galloping bass have been given loving attention, sitting firmly in the mix and presenting a powerful and present groove section as the track’s solo scorches across its middle part and into the outro.
To make a long story short, Traveler’s self-titled, debut album is everything we wanted after their demo and more. Hopefully, this release puts them square in the middle of traditional heavy metal and shines a light on this young, accomplished, and moving genre that’s coming back to life in our midst. In the meantime, spin this album for maximum riffs, high-pitched vocals, and bass which will put your aching heart through its paces.
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Traveler’s self-titled album will see release on February 22nd. Do me a favor and pre-order it; this is just the type of band I’d like to see gain more support.