‘Prior To The Fire’ will set the Canadians aside from their peers... Montreal’s mighty Priestess have certainly come into their own since ‘06’s ‘Hello Master’ as this searing little second effort proves. Packed with neat little grooves topped with Mikey Heppner’s distinct vocal tones (which admittedly take a while to get used to before you realise they’re perfect for the elevated riffery and complicated fretwork), aside from the odd Baroness reference on tracks such as ‘The Gem’, ‘Prior To The Fire’ will set the Canadians aside from their peers.
Canadian retro hard rock band Priestess kept fans of their debut CD, 2005's Hello Master (released in the U.S. in 2006) waiting quite a while for a follow-up, but Prior to the Fire is highly worthwhile. Their combination of crunching riffs, hard-driving rhythms, and howling vocals isn't exactly unique, but their spin on the sound, which adds some touches of classic, early-'80s pre-glam metal to the usual blend of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, et.
Canada may have made a splash internationally in the 2000s with its wave of indie-rock bands, but one can be sure that this metal four-piece from Montréal couldn't care less. On its sophomore album, Priestess pulls no punches and delivers all blows in menacing fashion, borrowing heavily from the gods of metal's yesteryear. Throughout 43 blistering minutes, Priestess expertly mixes the original metal of Black Sabbath with the vitriol of Iron Maiden and late '70s Judas Priest, adding a stoner rock tinge of the likes of Fu Manchu, and throwing in a dose of heavy psych to boot.
Even in its death throes, the major-label machine sometimes gets things right. Consider, for example, the Montreal riff-rock crew Priestess. Hello Master, the band's 2006 debut, showed a flair for soaring hooks and memorable riffage rare in any of the many retro Camaro-rock bands out on the touring circuit. The band initially released the LP on a pair of indies, but RCA snapped them up.
In the wake of the US release of the enjoyable Hello Master, Montreal foursome Priestess found themselves riding a nice wave of momentum in 2006, the record justifiably attracting a good deal of attention Stateside; their Canadian fanbase growing by leaps and bounds (typically spurred by the positive reception in America); a series of plum tour spots being offered with such popular bands as Black Label Society, Mastodon, and Megadeth; and even inclusion on the wildly popular Guitar Hero videogame franchise. After all the promise they displayed on their first album and all that positive publicity, Priestess were primed to take that important next step with their much-ballyhooed follow-up, but much to many people’s surprise, all that momentum came to an abrupt halt when their label RCA refused to release the album upon hearing the more aggressive and less commercial direction of the new songs. Instead of caving in to a major label’s demands, the band parted ways with RCA, ultimately winding up with the excellent indie label Tee Pee.
Following their 2004 debut, Hello Master, Priestess rode in on the wave of critical acclaim for heavy metal. They opened for heavyweights Dinosaur Jr. and toured the world with contemporaries such as Mastodon and Converge and old-timers such as Motorhead and Megadeath. Around that time, It seemed as if metal was getting the long deserved credit it always warranted.