Issued this past May (and available as both a digital download and in CD form), "Hunters" is a full-length album from Cleveland, Ohio's one and only Olathia (oh-LAY-thee-ah). It was back in January of this year that I posted my coverage of this band's previous single and while I personally enjoyed it (and still recommend it!) that particular 3-track recording did seem to illicit mixed reviews from critics (both professional and not so professional). The key thing to remember is that was then and this is now. We're talking about a couple of songs verses a full-blown release. With their 7-track debut album here Olathia is given the opportunity to fully work out their overall sound. While "Hunters" features the two previously-released singles ("Hellbound" and "Open your Eyes") it also comes pack with such gems as "Feel the Earth", "Seven Deadly Sins", "When I Die", "After I Die" and the title cut. When given more room to run about and flex their creative muscles this Cleveland band (Chris E, Jake Nicholson, Steve Albenze, Sully, and Jeff Morrow) pulls out all the stops and that much was obvious once the "new" number "Feel the Earth" kicked down the proverbial door! Following closely behind wicked opener "Hellbound" (see my previous review of this sick single at the link above), "Feel the Earth" packs the same familiar punch as it predecessor. But whereas "Hellbound" is straight-up CHAOS the album's second cut maxes out (hard) heavy metal and the thrashier side of metalcore! For lead singer Chris E. (ex-Cellbound) and her bandmates the resulting onslaught of "Fell the Earth" is just the sort of thing that heavy metal maniacs live for as it's LOUD and most definitely LETHAL! Moving past the other previously-released track (the rock radio-friendly "Open your Eyes") we have "Seven Deadly Sins". This is speed metal/thrash at first and damn fine speed/thrash at that! It's not long though before it finds it's way into modern metal territory. While that would normally be a terrible thing (what with most modern metal bands/songs walking a fine line between trash and treasure!) here on "Hunters" it works. That would be thanks to the skill-set of guitarists Jake Nicholson (ex-Black Valor) & Steve Albenze (Idleblack), bassist Sully (Crown Royal), and drummer Jeff Morrow (Dose). As great as Chris E. is as a singer she is by no means a lone island. She is backed by a great group of musicians who help bring power and passion to the mix. So, between the vocals and the music we've got a nice flow going for Olathia and that naturally enough brings us back to "Hunters" (or to be more specific this album's title cut!). The title cut actually slows things down (if ever so slightly) with a preference for stream-lined metal. It's a nice change and it goes a long ways towards showcasing this Cleveland band's wide range of influences. Still, we are talking about a metal band that loves to put the HEAVY in everything they do. With "When I Die" Olathia brings back the fury and then some! "When I Die" drops the bomb (!) on your speakers and your eardrums! Sure there's a undercurrent of Pantera, but otherwise it's all or nothing blistering metalcore/thrash with Chris showing off her impressive range and bonus points awarded for the sticky sweet solo work of Olathia's guitarists! Of course "When I Die" takes us straight to "After I Die". Here we have a hint of progressive metal and some key moments that bring to mind the best that classic and traditional heavy metal has to offer. All of which is great of course. The odd thing is while all of that is going on I couldn't help but picture Metallica's "Fade To Black"! Even though "After I Die" is perfectly capable of standing on it's own two feet it has that same kind of melancholy vibe going for it as "Fade To Black" does. Whatever the case is the song works and the same can be said for "Hunters" as a whole. Whether it fully captures the live spirit of this amazing band* is open to debate, but for a debut album it works wonders. There is depth behind the numbers and there is a huge-range of styles on display within "Hunters". Newcomers should appreciate the energy and overall sense of metallic urgency of this Ohio band and they should find much to enjoy about the very lovely and extremely talented Chris E. Now, for those who might not have bonded with this group's previously-released single I would say that it is time to give Olathia another shot. "Hunters" feels like a complete work whereas I can kind of understand how the 2014 single might have come across as a bit "jarring" to some (one very wicked slab of metalcore/thrash packed up next to two versions of the more subtle and radio-friendly "Open Your Eyes" could feel uneven to some I suppose). On their own these seven numbers might feel discombobulated. But when paired together? Well, it's a whole different story! They offer a clearer picture of Olathia as a whole, fully-functioning unit and these differing numbers feed off of the strengths of each other. "Hunters" needs to be played start to finish in order to get a feel for the whole story, but once you tap into this album you won't want it any other way! To Olathia I say great job and keep up the good work.
*As one of the hardest working and most charismatic bands in all of Cleveland the five-piece Olathia has amassed a large & loyal following. Their high-energy live shows are not to be missed! The way in which Chris E. easily captivates the audience is amazing, but then again so is the metallic assault of this local hard & heavy favorite!