The Lesser Key of Solomon (2014) is the fourth full-length album by US heavy metal act A Sound of Thunder. A Sound of Thunder are one of those bands who seem to be an unstoppable force with their output as it's only actually been a few years since their debut album Metal Renaissance (2011) was released. I've personally followed them since their second album Out of the Darkness (2012) and have never failed to be impressed by their work and their last album Time's Arrow (2013) was just about everything I wanted from the band after first experiencing Out of the Darkness. Needless to say that makes The Lesser Key of Solomon a release that I've been highly anticipating since it was first announced.
It's clear right from the first spin though that The Lesser Key of Solomon isn't the instant love affair that Time's Arrow offered. The mood of this album seems darker than the previous two A Sound of Thunder efforts I've listened to, which may explain why it needs a little time to sink in. I guess the band were also due an album that was less immediate though, needing time to grow on the listener and I feel confident to say that's certainly the case here. I can actually track my reactions to each spin I've given the album starting from this is good, but... to I may have to settle on a lower score than Time's Arrow for this one to hmm...I think I've been misjudging this one so far.
The music on The Lesser Key of Solomon is essentially yet another take on A Sound of Thunder's traditional heavy metal sound and that's exactly what I expect to hear. I still need to hear their debut but they haven't made the same album twice since I've been listening to them. Though The Lesser Key of Solomon has proved to need a few listens to get into this was one thing that was never in question. I do think though that the actual elements in the sound, in terms of the amount of different genres being drawn on, that The Lesser Key of Solomon is actually the least diverse I've heard A Sound of Thunder so far but to counteract that rather than drawing a little bit of several genres they instead draw more extensively on progressive metal, which has now become the most common the most common secondary element I can hear in their music, followed by power metal which to my ears is absent on this record.
I would go as far to say that the progressive elements make The Lesser Key of Solomon a progressive heavy metal album. That is to say that it's not a progressive metal album in the sense that the term is used for bands like Dream Theater or Ayreon but it's also significantly more than a straight up no frills attached traditional heavy metal album too. This is the same niche that I'd put Iron Maiden's later records in as well as their classic Seventh Son of a Seventh Son (1988) album. In fact a comparison to the later Iron Maiden albums isn't wrong in other ways too. Particularly the mix of longer and shorter songs has later Maiden written all over it.
As the album grew on me more and more it became clear that The Lesser Key of Solomon is easily A Sound of Thunder's most consistent work to date. Early standouts should be mentioned as Elijah and Blood From the Mummy's Tomb, which are two of the album's longer tracks. The of course there's Udoroth, the first full long on the album after the doomy intro piece Nexus of Realities, which is a real beast of a song. The other songs all definitely reach the same level after a few spins too. Even the more ballad orientated parts are top quality work and not all metal albums can claim that.
The Lesser Key of Solomon may be a grower but it's often the case that such albums end up the better regarded works and after giving it a few listens I'm happy to report than my early fears of it being a step down from Time's Arrow were unfounded. In fact just as Time's Arrow was a step up from Out of the Darkness so too is The Lesser Key of Solomon a step up from Time's Arrow. This is the finest traditional heavy metal release I've heard from 2014 and a top tier rating is most definitely well earned. The first of hopefully many for A Sound of Thunder.
(Originally written for Heavy Metal Haven: http://metaltube.freeforums.org/a-sound-of-thunder-the-lesser-key-of-solomon-t3806.html)