I’m endlessly amazed by people who run RPG-related podcasts they devote to entire campaigns and others that do gaming on outlets such as Twitch where an audience can watch folks play videogames. I’m capable of neither of these things. I blame undiagnosed ADHD for my lack of attention to the plotlines of an RPG and mediocre skills playing videogames, but I still love them both.
My inferiority complex came rushing back with “The Side Quest,” a split effort combining Bay Area thrashers Dungeon Crawl and Midwestern-based traditional heavy metal crushers Throne of Iron. This collection itself is a bit of a side adventure as the bands navigate between larger proper releases (Dungeon Crawl released “Roll for Your Life” in 2021; Throne of Iron dropped “Adventure One” in 2020), and it provides newcomers to one or both a quick taste of what each brings to the massive feast table. The collection is chock full of fantastical power and metallic glory, each band delivering sounds built into the genre’s storied DNA and splashing it with their own blood and guts. This split collection is undeniably fun as fuck.
“Minions of a Dark Master” starts the Dungeon Crawl section amid a synth swirl that makes it feel like being locked into deep space as the strangeness feels its way through the mist, bathing in dramatic winds before leading into “Where the Coin Falls” that changes the pace immediately. Riffs dig in and trudge as guitarist/vocalist Codie Jones’ nasty howls send jolts down your spine, blistering with heavy fire. Gang-shouted singing colors the chorus, filth is driven hard on the verses, and wild shouts make the blood rush in the heat of battle. “Critical Failure” starts with a clip from “Mazes and Monsters,” a 1982 film starring some complete unknown named Tom Hanks, and then it’s full-on destruction mode. The vocals are spat out, the guitars are speedy and grisly, and bludgeoning thrashing makes this adventure potentially bruising. Leads flurry and search, scorching wills before disappearing in ash. Finally, “Chained to the Grave” tears open with a devastating riff, raspy howls, and a rowdy chorus that ignites with adrenaline. Melodies soar in the stratosphere as scathing cries scrape at wounds, and everything comes to a jarring end.
As for Throne of Iron, opening is “Gods of Liquid Gold” that I’m pretty sure isn’t about mac and cheese, but we can dream. The riffs stampede as Thomasson’s mighty singing soars, driving toward a fiery chorus that directs the emotion into your chest. Double kick drums pummel as the guitars spill and flood, the chorus rips back, and everything ends in a quake. “Curse of the Lightningmancer” starts already in hyperdrive as the playing gallops viciously, and the chorus once again is packed with metallic glory as guitarist/vocalist Tucker Thomasson wails, “Lightning wizard, strike you down!” The drumming reverberates through the earth as howls and shrieks strike, and the soloing brings and extra jolt of electricity that really works in the punishment. “Tricksters” is the final cut and opens in full-on classic heavy metal thunder, chugging and charring, making your heart rate increase. The playing here is storming and energetic as the soloing chars faces, and the tempo gallops with strength, feeling like an impossible force to control. As Thomasson sings of combatants doing battle in his head, amplifying the panic, the sonic force behind the words are daggers that push deep inside your heart, with everything ending with a cat purring aggressively. I mean, obviously.
“The Side Quest” is a tremendous adventure pitting two bands in Dungeons Crawl and Throne of Iron that are like minded but approach their metallic brews from different directions. Not only is this the perfect way to get a good introduction to two bands that likely are flying beneath a lot of radars, it’s an exciting collection that feels right whether its dice or a beer in your hands. Metal fans of every stripe can unite over this fucker and have a bloody good time while indulging in these sinister sounds.
For more on Dungeon Crawl, go here: https://dungeoncrawlofficial.bandcamp.com/album/the-side-quest
For more on the Throne of Iron, go here: https://www.facebook.com/throneofiron/
To buy the album, go here: https://wisebloodrecords.bandcamp.com/album/the-side-quest
For more on the label, go here: https://wisebloodrecords.com/