Category VI – Fireborn
Reviewed by Christopher Foley
I have a distinct knack for hearing the best song on an album prior to hearing the whole thing – seriously, I’ve lost count of how many times this happens to me. Such is the fate of Category VI and their debut full-length, although despite hearing the band’s crowning number first; I can say that it’s: a) the best band I’ve heard with a variant of “Category” in their name, and b) home to some burning potential that I really want to hear ignite.
Oh yeah, I should probably mention that Category VI is female fronted. Not that gothic tripe, mind you, this is pure heavy/power metal; and if releases from the likes of Crystal Viper or MindMaze have tickled you in the right way, then you’re going to want to continue reading. The music for the most part on Fireborn is very much of an old school, eighties timbre. Think dueling lead guitars from Iron Maiden, think venom-edged riffs courtesy of Mercyful Fate, think of complex rhythms that Crimson Glory blazed the trail with, and finally, think of towering epics that the likes of Manilla Road and Fates Warning crafted with their forbidden magic. Category VI has, without a doubt, its heart in the right place, although I will say that here its stuck at the worshiping altars of the aforementioned, with nothing to exceed or build on what came before. The potential, however, is undeniable.
Whilst the band’s sound is a veritable buffet of heavy metal delights, the voice of Amanda Gosse ensures that you’ll return for extra helpings. Her style is fairly interesting, and at least as far as I’m concerned, all her own. I’d say she takes elements from the Ronnie James Dio-inspired female vocalists who front acts like Chastain or Benedictum, as well as a touch of the sultry, magical deliveries of the femme fatales that front retro doom acts. Either way, there’s plenty of charm going on with Amanda’s voice; she certainly offers an endearing aspect to the pummeling display of heavy metal delivered by the rest of the band.
As I mentioned in opening, I heard the best song prior to the full album, which urged me to check these guys out. The number in question is “Silence Befalls The Crowd”, which, when taken in context with the rest of the band’s material, stands as what I’d call their flagship song. It shows every side of the band, from the pugilistic riffing bursting through the speakers in the beginning to the more involving, slower burning middle section which shows their approach to the mysterious and the epic. Throughout the album, the band straddles the line between these two elements of its sound, with plenty of variation in terms of guitar riffs, rhythms, and dynamic; and their balance between the melodic and the aggressive is impressive. Other notable tracks would include the steamrolling “Reborn” and the tour-de-force closing number “Wasting Away”.
Category VI houses ample talent, and as a debut album I’d say Fireborn stands as a perfect platform for future releases. This is basically what I look for in a debut album: the band establishes everything it’s about with strong material, yet never biting off anything more than its members can chew. As a result, I’d definitely recommend checking this one out, especially if you’re a big US power metal fan. Female fronted metal bands get a bad name thanks to manufactured crap, but bands like Crystal Viper, Seven Kingdoms, MindMaze, and Triosphere show how it can and should be done. Category VI are further proof of this and can be added without reservation to the list.
3.5 // 5