Quite why the German-based Pure Steel label has chosen now to re-issue this long-buried 1999 sophomore album from Florida power metallers Seasons Of The Wolf is a mystery, but we can count our blessings that they have done so, as “Lost In Hell” is an undiscovered gem (for those who didn’t pick it up the first time around that is) and very much a missing link in the evolution of modern American metal.
It is not a classic album, by any stretch of the imagination, nor is it even a great one: on its own it is, if anything, a fairly average one – a collection of fair to middling heavy metal songs, played by competent musicians, and with some good, almost verging on great moments (‘Abandoned City’, ‘Witchfinder’, ‘Voodoo Master’ and the bombastic ‘One Land One King’) on it… and some pretty dreadful ones (‘Interstellar’, for example), it must be admitted. What it does have is a consistently impressive vocal performance by Wes Waddell, whose falsetto delivery lies somewhere between a mellower Rob Halford, Ripper Owens or Udo Dirkschneider combined with Geoff Tate or Metal Church’s David Wayne. While the band seem to have wanted to slot into that mould of the heaviness of a Judas Priest or an Accept, mixed with the atmospherics and progression of a Queensryche or even a latter-day Diamond Head, their ambition makes many of the songs sound over-stretched, with the result that they outstay their welcome and the listener loses interest.
In retrospect, as well, it is not an album that has aged well, with the song structures, performances and, especially, the production, sounding extremely dated even for the comparatively short gap of just 13 years since it was first released.
In context, however, it is an important album: overtly influenced by the likes of Angel Witch and Witchfynde, and coming half a decade too late to ride on the coat tails of the likes of Queensryche or Metal Church, it serves as a stepping stone to sound later perfected by Iced Earth, Cage and other later generation US pomp/power metal outfits. It is not hard to see, and hear, why “Lost In Hell” and Seasons Of The Wolf are both regarded as underground classics.
This worthy re-issue comes with a trio of bonus tracks, including a live version of Seasons Of The Wolf’s signature ‘Land Of The Dead’, which will appeal to die hard fans and curio collectors alike.
“Lost In Hell” is released on Pure Steel Records on 27 January.