Nearly six years in the making, and a genuine labour of love for Ronny Munroe and all involved, much was hanging on the final release of ‘The Black Watch’. The whole album was inspired by and dedicated to Ronny’s late wife Joy, who lost her life after a prolonged battle against cancer. ‘The Black Watch’ is a concept album, actually rooted in historical fact, telling the story of Mary, Queen Of Scots.
Ronny has fronted Metal Church, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and now Vicious Rumors. David Mark Pearce is Ronny’s principal guitarist/Musical Director, while being responsible for mixing and producing while also playing bass guitars throughout. Justin Zych (Viking/Zephaniah) is Dave’s six-string partner, Oliver Wakeman provides keyboards, with the backbeat provided with by drummer BJ Zampa (House of Lords/Dokken). The final part of the puzzle is Karl Groom (Threshold) who mastered the album.
The production is flawless, the guitars are razor sharp, whilst the bottom end is punchy. Musically It’s somewhere between Heavy Metal, Melodic Power Metal, Progressive Metal, and even classic Thrash. Picking certain songs for praise here seems churlish – but here goes. The title track opener is a glorious fusion of Savatage and Iron Maiden, while ‘Awaken The Fire’ is an epic number; imagine Threshold jamming with Deep Purple/early Rainbow.
‘Babbington Mary’ begins with some delicately elegant acoustic guitar, before blasting into a huge riff and a song that suggests Metal Church and Mk III Deep purple colliding fabulously. ‘Dead Man’s War’ finds the band heading into Thrash territory – somewhere between Testament and Megadeth, it’s a massive number with a crunching riff. ‘Thirty Years War’ combines Savatage, Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Deep Purple Mk III and is a brooding number that allows the band to explore their more Progressive side.
‘Echoes Of The Dead’ enters Thrash Metal/Power Metal Territory, somewhere between Testament and Helloween. The verse has a furious riff, while the chorus is classic singalong Power Metal. Justin Zych plays his heart out here, his solo is incendiary...what a truly inspired track! The album closes with ‘The Executioner’, a searing slice of pure molten Metal, for me evoking Metal Church and Savatage smashing into each other, and is the perfect way to end this astonishing record. If you only buy one more release this year – make it this one. It’s nothing short of a Masterclass!