Living in the Maryland/Virginia/D.C. area I feel lucky to have a steady stream of the world’s best metal bands frequently visiting the region. While it is wonderful to have this unprecedented access to the best the metal world has to offer, I take great pride (and no little enjoyment) in some of the incredibly talented bands that hail from my own backyard. Today I would like to tell you a tale of one of those bands: A Sound of Thunder.

A Sound of Thunder has just released their fourth album, “The Lesser Key of Solomon.” If this is your first taste of the band, prepare to be blown away. My first awareness of the band came two years ago with the release of their second album, “Out of the Darkness.” If you are doing the math here, you are realizing this means that there must be a third album lurking around in 2013. That would be last year’s excellent “Time’s Arrow.” A Sound of Thunder is surprisingly prolific, yet this in no way dilutes their potency. I would be hard-pressed to find another band that has matured and evolved as much as A Sound of Thunder in such a short period of time. Not that they needed to, mind you, but somehow they just keep getting better.

Let’s take a moment to introduce the band. Out front is the ridiculously talented vocalist Nina Osegueda. On guitar is the riff-master and songwriter Josh Schwartz. Then we have Chris Haren as master of the drum sticks, and Jesse Keen on bass and keyboards rounding out the band. Have a mere four people ever made such a big sound? Not since Manowar, my friends.

“The Lesser Key of Solomon” opens with the appetite-whetting introduction, “Nexus of Realities” before delivering a round house kick to the face with the punishing “Udoroth.” This gives way to another fairly heavy track, “Fortuneteller”, before giving us a breather in the form of “The Boy Who Could Fly.” Here the band shows off their lighter side as well as just how versatile they can be. Don’t get too complacent, though, because the next song is going to rock your world. “Elijah” is a nine-and-a-half minute masterpiece that is easily my current favorite song from the album. I hesitate to wield the over-used description “epic”, but man, if the shoe fits. Nina’s performance of the “mother” character in this track brings to mind a contemporary and spine-chilling version of King Diamond’s “grandmother.” It literally gives me goose bumps.

We are now only halfway through the ten tracks that make up this hour-long album. By this point it is quickly becoming apparent that there is no filler on this album. “Master of Pain”, “Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb”, “Black Secrets”, “One Empty Grave” and “House of Bones” all fulfill the promise implied by the first half of the album.

I am incredibly wary of trying to put a label on A Sound of Thunder’s music. I have heard one band member say they are not prog metal, yet their chops would certainly make them worthy of the tag. Another band member declared they are not power metal either; yet, “The Lesser Key of Solomon” is bursting at the seams with power. These labels are merely facets of a much broader sound. While I would agree that they make up parts of A Sound of Thunder’s identity, this band is not bound by the limitations of any sub-genre. This is simply metal.

Did I mention that A Sound of Thunder released “The Lesser Key of Solomon” themselves? The last few months on the Metal Heads podcast I have been singing the praises of bands that take hold of their own destiny and shun record label “support” in order to have complete control over their own creative output. A Sound of Thunder has been my main inspiration for these rants. It used to be that bands were forced to rely on record label money in order to have any hope of surviving in the business, but A Sound of Thunder proves that a well-managed Kickstarter campaign can take you far and not leave you indebted to corporate overlords. Both “Time’s Arrow” and “The Lesser Key of Solomon” were crowd funded, and the band is already at work on yet another album. It doesn’t sound to me like they are suffering from lack of label support.

I recently had the pleasure of catching Nina in a quite different role; that of Mrs. Lovett in the Landless Theatre Company’s prog metal version of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd. It was my familiarity with Nina that brought me to the show, but the whole cast ended up blowing my mind. There is no questioning Nina’s versatility after seeing this performance. Check out my write up to here more about the show.

“The Lesser Key of Solomon” was released last week, and A Sound of Thunder will be holding a release party show at Empire in Springfield, Virginia on Friday, September 19th. If you happen to be anywhere within driving distance of this show (or flying if you are really dedicated), I recommend marking it on your calendar. Hopefully I will see you there.

Here are a couple tracks to hold you over. I couldn’t decide between the amazing animated video for “Udoroth” or the lyric video for “Elijah”, so here are both. Check ‘em out.

A Sound of Thunder. Fear their name.