Rio de Janeiro-based DIXIE HEAVEN has exploded onto the underground South American music scene with Riding the Thunder (out now). With roots of IRON MAIDEN and DIO, they bring their own version of Brazilian metal into something uniquely their own. Their lineup is as follows: Villu Castelo on ranging vocals, Cesar Tevares thundering bass, Anderson Lima and Fran Castelo (lyrics writer) on monster guitar and Murilo Marinho on pounding skins.
Heading off the effort is “Allohria,” a minute-long instrumental and mellow tribute to a former gothic metal band by the same name. If you expect the rest of the tracks to follow suit, well guess again. Breaking its way through the calm and serenity is “The Wicked”. Reminding me of the band ENFORCER from Sweden, it has great vocals, power speed metal, double kicks and heavy bass and shoots us off the launching pad to begin our Terra do Brasil adventure. The title track “Riding the Thunder” is next. It’s a fast-paced, minor key tune very similar to IRON MAIDEN with just enough influence to make it excellent, and one of my favorite tracks.
“Skies Will Fall” gives us awesome galloping rhythm that is brilliantly played. This song also has a very cool lyric video on YouTube. Next we find “No Pain, No Gain”, originally produced as a single in 2014. Castelo’s vocals really dig down under your flesh when she belts out “No pain, no gain” over and over. A great hook and eventual “earworm” you can’t get out of your head.
Subsequently “Under the Mirror of Dreams” slows down the pace to more of a melodic story, although not that much. Again vocals are dominant in this eight plus minute track. Drum beats and muted guitar are in perfect synchronization. They take us down the path to “look at ourselves”. About half way into the song, there is a moment to rest with some quiet piano and stringed orchestral melody. Finishing up the tune, the pace once again quickens until the end. To me, the lyrics are the strength. In my experience, many songs over about six minutes long, feel like they go on and on, but not this one. Eight minutes feels like four. I was entertained the entire time and was surprised when it was over. Also a favorite.
“When the Eagle Flies” is a reflective story of how our thoughts imprison us and when things come to light, the lies are left behind. A good rock song. “Running From Reality” sounds a whole lot like MAIDEN’S “Fear of the Dark”. As a matter of fact, it seems like it was confiscated from the vault at “22 Acacia Avenue”. I was turned off from the track because it was too similar. Really my least favorite on the album, it seems out of place.
“Blind War” knocks it out of the park. Castelo’s screaming vocal just empowers this tune and makes it really one of the strongest on the presentation. I actually got chills up my back during one of her screams. Probably my favorite on the album. “Waste of Time” anchors the album. Castelo again shines on this effort. She shows her excellent range and that she really is a great vocalist. A very slow and deliberate tune accompanied only by piano (and a few birds). A nice ending.
My overall thoughts on this effort are that it’s a nice mix of fast and slower songs. According to the band Riding the Thunder lyrics “Speak of the paradigms and convictions that we live in the middle of this world of chaos, either directly or in allusive ways”. It’s a great theme.The band seems very tight and I think if DIXIE HEAVEN continues to expand their repertoire of music, they have a great start. Fran Costelo’s writing is very strong and their own style is most definitely there. I look forward to more in the future. Salude’
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Riding the Thunder”, “Skies Will Fall”, “No Pain, No Gain”, “Under the Mirror of Dreams”, “Blind War”
-MARK “\M/ETAL \M/ESSIAH” EHRLICH