by Prairie "Oyster" Dog Prairie "Oyster" Dog
October 25, 2009

Is there such a thing as a sophomore jinx for a rock and roll band?  For Priestess, it’s debatable.  Their new record, Prior to the Fire, is a strange, difficult album.  Anyone familiar with their debut, Hello Master, knows the band as a throwback—a band who wants to rock like the elders—but harder.  So where does a band go if they want to rock harder while make their music harder?

Make no mistake this album is a departure from their first record.  Their label initially rejected the new record (it’s just been released in Canada, with a release due in the US sometime in early 2010).   Hello Master started with “I am the Night, Colour Me Black,” but it doesn’t compare to the dark themes explored in Prior’s opening track “Lady Killer”.  “I’ll be stalking you night and day ‘til you share all my pain… beware, you will pay, lady killer.”  This is not the band that yelped about having “The Shakes” when you come around.

The mood doesn’t settle.  “Raccoon Eyes” seems like a distant cousin to previous tracks, but things aren’t quite right.  There’s a real tension.  Besides the ripping solo, it feels like as if there’s urgency where the band can’t wait to end the song and start another

The Canadian based band has toured with Mastodon in the past year, and it shows: “The Gem” begins slowly before building into a ferocious, driving rocker eventually mutating into a thick jam.  Nearly every song seems like it might have the potential for the 70s riff-rock of their earlier material until it transforms into something else.  Goodbye “Talk to Her.”  Hello “Communicating Via-Eyes.”

Fans of progressive rock with find a lot to love here, where fans of the “original” Priestess sound might be turned off.  It’s not difficult to see why their label rejected this record.  Where are the hooks?  The songs?  There are songs, but they take patience.  There are keyboards, there are effects.  Sometimes it seems like Motorhead is playing; sometimes it seems like UFO; sometimes it seems like fellow Canadians Black Mountain.

But please, don’t think there aren’t straight-ahead rockers on this monster.  “Lunar,” “Sideways Attack,” and “We Ride Tonight” are more than enough reason to bang your head.  The vocals are spectacular, especially considering they’re shared by 3 different singers.  The musicianship is spectacular.  It’s vicious.  There’s an intensity that most wouldn’t consider when hearing Master.  Hearing Fire, I see this is only the beginning.

I think I love this album.  Do I love it as much as their first album?  No.  Not yet, at least.  But I want to invite anyone who was interested before and might be interested now to take a journey.  The band clearly thinks you should.

- Prairie “Oyster” Dog

out of 5 weasels.

Choice Cuts: Lady Killer, Racoon Eyes, The Gem

1. Ladykiller
2. Raccoon Eyes 
3. The Firebird
4. Murphy’s Law
5. The Gem
6. Communicating Via-Eyes
7. Lunar
8. It Baffles the Mind
9. Sideways Attack
10. We Ride
11. Trapped in Space and Time

The Firebird (live) (courtesy of Indica Records)

Never trust a prairie dog. Support the artist and find out for yourself. encourages purchasing Prior to the Fire locally at Red Cat Records in Vancouver, B.C, any independant record store of your choice or online here.


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