By Andrew Bansal
Ventura, California’s Dungeons-and-Dragons-themed rock n’ roll group Gygax made a spectacular landing in the world of heavy music in early 2016 with their debut LP, cleverly christened ‘Critical Hits’. In the opinion of just about everyone who listened to it, it’s the finest debut full-length to have graced our favorite genre in a long time. Musically, with their Thin Lizzy-inspired hard rock/heavy metal, Gygax was carrying on from where two of the members’ previous band Gypsyhawk left, but combined with the lyrical theme and imagery, ended up creating a niche all of their own. Now, the ‘2nd Edition’ is ready for release, and it is an exciting time for heshers and nerds alike. After a debut of such sky-high calibre as that of ‘Critical Hits’, expectations were obviously high, but if you thought Gygax would not be able to match and better that effort, you were very wrong.
Just like its predecessor, ‘2nd Edition’ clocks in a little over 30 minutes in duration, the perfect dosage of D&D R&R. There is no “beating” this game, because it only compels you to keep playing it over and over again. With sweet guitar licks and lively rhythmic hooks, the album opener ‘Dice Throwers & Rock N’ Rollers’ is filled to the brim with Gygax’ signature boogie rock brilliance, and listeners will certainly enjoy the extended instrumental passages decorated with guitar duels, tradeoffs, solos and harmonies. The following tune ‘It Makes It Worth It’ is slower, sweeter and even groovier, and serves as the perfect follow-up to the stellar opening track. This is when you arrive at the first critical juncture of this quest, as you are treated to the tale of ‘The Lascivious Underdark’, a tune that undoubtedly stands out as the potential “hit” song of this record. Pure rock n’ roll perfection, simply put. With just the first three tracks, this Gygax album delivers more than most others would even come close to.
Next comes the delightful ‘Pure Hearts’, a song boasting the finest vocal melodies on this record, and some mighty fine instrumental work to go with it. And then comes the next critical juncture, and probably the best song on the album, ‘ Song of The Silver Hands’. Not only does this include all the musical elements you would have come to expect from Gygax, it also features the use of the saxophone which blends in so beautifully, it is almost mythical. When you do get your copy of this album (which you will), you must proceed with caution before listening to this particular song, as it will be stuck in your head forever.
The album does not let up here, as there are three more excellent tunes before you reach the end. ‘Wish’ and ‘Heavy Meddle’ are songs with powerful vocal melodies, where the latter puts the bass in the spotlight and brings back the sax. ‘2nd Edition’ comes to a close with the very, very aptly titled ‘Second Wind’, because it is exactly that for your next session of listening to their entire album all over again. This one treats you to some great organ action along with the usual ingredients, and establishes that this album definitely ends as strongly as it begins.
Vocalist/bassist Eric Harris and guitarist Bryant Throckmorton have made albums in the past, with Gygax and with other bands, but this is clearly their best effort in any band till date. Jeff Potts, an excellent guitarist also with many years of experience in other bands, has lent his touch and fits in perfectly in a band very different to anything he has played in before. Pentagram drummer Pete Campbell expertly showcases the importance and power of playing in the pocket. Together, these gents have created something special.
Lyrically, these songs are probably about a bunch of things I have no clue about, and neither do you need to. The nerdgasm will be enormous among those who do know what Gygax is talking about here, but the music is so compelling on its own, any knowledge of the lyrical themes or lack thereof is inconsequential.
Some of the metal police might not deem this to be a strictly metal album, some might even call it “dad rock”. But ‘2nd Edition’ is beyond all that, it revisits and brings to light the roots of all that is heavy metal, and presents it with such creative expertise and sonic fluidity that no one can deny taking pleasure listening to it. With ‘2nd Edition’, Gygax have cast an unbreakably enchanting spell, and for the rest of this year and most likely many more years, you will not hear an album anywhere near as magical.
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Record Label: Creator-Destructor
Release Date: March 16 2018
1. Dice Throwers & Rock N’ Rollers (4:59)
2. It Makes It Worth It (3:03)
3. The Lascivious Underdark (3:56)
4. Pure Hearts (4:54)
5. Song of the Silver Hands (4:23)
6. Wish (4:32)
7. Heavy Meddle (4:18)
8. Second Wind (3:41)
Total Duration: 33:46