California quintet Huntress are a new band with an interesting premise: traditional heavy metal with occult lyrical themes and witchy vocals courtesy of Jill Janus, a frontwoman who is perhaps best described as equal parts flower child, pagan goddess and page-three model. Aesthetically, she’s the mythic warrior princess of every sweaty-palmed RPG-playing teenage boy’s dreams, as evidenced in the band’s first music video for ‘Eight of Swords’ in which she appears wearing…well, not a lot. Sonically, she’s somewhere between Doro Pesch and Angela Gossow, with the ladyballs to match. She’s no insipid ice queen floating about in a ballgown, that’s for sure.
Though she boasts an impressive four-octave operatic soprano voice, there is little evidence of this on ‘Spell Eater’. For the most part Jill uses her pipes to deliver harsh vocals over galloping guitars, fast and furious riffing and a thunderous rhythm section from her bandmates, including former Skeletonwitch bassist Eric Harris. When she does trade her usual guttural style for a cleaner, more melodious one, however, as on standout track ‘Aradia’, Jill possesses a metal voice to rival the likes of Rob Halford and Eric Adams at their best. She showcases both her Doro-esque banshee wails and witchy, blackened growls most effectively on songs like the mid-paced ‘Sleep and Death’ and ‘Snow Witch’. Her screams are at their most chilling on ‘Children’, another great song with a demonic, frantic energy and plenty of slick soloing from guitarist Blake Meahl.
As a band, Huntress are at their most enjoyable when they mix things up. There are plenty of decent songs on ‘Spell Eater’, but only those mentioned above are really exceptional as the structure and pace of the album can feel a bit samey. The music is tight, but it’s hard to escape the feeling that this debut doesn’t quite live up to its potential. There’s no doubt, however, they have the talent and the formula to create something amazing, and that their live shows (they are currently touring with Dragonforce in the USA) will be a spectacle worth seeing.