What’s French for ‘air guitar’

Jul 5, 2006 at 12:00 am

Can you release a metal album in 2006 without being “thinking men” or “smirk merchants”? Montreal longhairs Priestess can, and have. Hello Master, the foursome’s RCA debut, presents 12 meaty, booming, acid-blues rippers with nary a wink, nod or prog-guitar-geek aspiration, aiming for the bullshit-less fuckYEAHness of a Motörhead, AC/DC or even a Molly Hatchet, and usually nailing it. They’re great in straightforward bludgeon mode, as on opening salvo “I Am the Night, Colour Me Black,” or “No Real Pain.” But they’re even better when they slam the solid state rhythms and dueling guitar squeals of classic Southern rock against Sabbath and NWOBHM animus. “Lay Down” and “Everything That You Are” echo over both Birminghams — Alabama and England — and vocalist Mikey Heppner can wail inhuman like vintage Chris Cornell. But he’s also down with Joe Elliot and the brass ball anthems of early Def Leppard, as “Talk to Her” proves. It’s a song for squeezed-shut eyelids, arm wrestling tourneys and the cavernous cement echo chambers of 1970s sports arenas. But “Talk to Her” isn’t actually a throwback — like most of Master, its chills exist in real time, like armies of exclamation points marching across your outstretched fists.