Prior to the Fire (Tee Pee)
“We’re Priestess, and we’re going to fuck you!” This was the rallying cry with which Montreal r.o.k. stallions Priestess opened their shows for years, and it was a promise they consistently made good on: Live, this band is one of the most obliterating I’ve ever seen ... and I’ve seen them a lot. Prior to the Fire, their sophomore effort, leaves me feeling a little more fucked over than fucked, unfortunately. Whereas their previous album, 2006’s Hello Master, was a quartz mine of hard-rock hooks, at least half the songs on PTTFfeel overwrought or, I guess, overwritten.
There’s no question these guys are ridiculously talented musicians, and that’s certainly in evidence here—just check out the bass on "Sideways Attack,” or the drums on, well, any song—but tracks like "The Firebird,” “It Baffles the Mind” and "We Ride” come off as standardissue stoner rock, and in that mold, run long and deliver little memorable riffage. There are some diamonds, though, including the flangeintro’d “Ladykiller,” the strangely nostalgic "Murphy’s Law” and the closing, speed-metaltinged "Trapped in Space and Time.” The true standout here is aptly named "The Gem,” with its Thin Lizzy-style twin guitars that dissolve into a brief, repeating hot metallic riff before thundering full speed ahead, ripping and destroying.
Overall, this album sounds like it was written by a band who felt under pressure to be great. Since they already were great, I’m gonna get what I can out of this and eagerly await their next release.—Polly Watson