Hard rock heroes Wolfmother revived their genre with a surge of energy widely unexpected from the masses; however few imagined that not only could this momentum be capitalized upon properly, but that it could be topped. Thanks to the Guitar Hero franchise, to which Wolfmother largely owed its success, it all flourished; however, Canadian quartet Priestess was able to display a far superior songwriting prowess, and given that they emerged about the same time as their Australian counterparts, Priestess truly assert themselves on their briskly advancing sophomore effort.
Lady Killer gives Prior to the Fire an excellent, blazing start, with simultaneously complex and fist-pumping hooks. There's an immediate feel somewhat different from that on their debut, however; whereas the debut was chock full of quick and snappy hard rock, here there's a slightly more progressive quality. The following Raccoon Eyes is more suggestive of Hello Master, with its rapid, punchy delivery, though it still sounds just right where it is. The Firebird perhaps is the first to truly establish the album's mood, as it makes the previous two songs sound better together by successfully combining the best of both in four compelling minutes of intricate stadium rock.
Next is Murphy's Law, written about what vocalist/guitarist Mike Heppner has stated to be his favorite movie (Robocop). This revelation renders the lyrics as slightly... okay, very cheesy, but since this is the obvious intent, you can't help but be charmed by the oddly gentle song's personality; as is said in both the song and (almost) the film, "that's some fancy shooting, kid." The band wastes little time busting out The Gem, an eight minute epic sounding slab of hard rock that sounds as though it should have been saved for Prior to the Fire's latter portion. Still, the band is able to make nearly ten minutes go by very quickly with clever hook-ridden progression, especially in Heppner's shouted vocal patterns. However, what is clearly intended as the album's centerpiece eventually gets too self conscious to reach for greater heights, and almost as if aware of this, it ends with a very unfitting abruptness.
The extremely dynamic Communicating Via-Eyes isn't particularly remarkable but boasts an outstanding solo and keeps the record's propulsion going until Lunar kicks in, which is one of the moments in which drummer Vince Nudo shines; namely in his magnificent cymbal work. Heppner isn't exactly left out of the money himself, as his vocal hooks here are among the best the band has shown yet. In fact, Heppner's vocals steal the show again on the following It Baffles the Mind. He may not be a technically proficient singer, but he can flawlessly carry a melody, and his powerful voice unquestionably takes command here. The song's tangled bridge only serves to further compliment the slick songwriting.
While Heppner may not be at his most convincing shouting "I'm a demon" with his high register, the song is musically worth all its effort. The beat changes so frequently that one can't help but be impressed by how the song's personality is unchanged by the numerous time signatures found within, as well as, again, Nudo's great drumming. We Ride Tonight's sliding guitar riff carries an impressive amount of charisma on its own, but combined with the rest of the band's efforts, proves to be nothing less than a highlight of the band's admittedly short catalogue. The closing has difficulty keeping up with all that has preceded it, but while it shows a chink it the album's consistency, it's very forgivable, considering its fearlessly aggressive beat and ferocious melody.
Unfortunately the States will have to wait until February 2010 (god, that year's not even a month away and it still looks futuristic.. maybe THEN we'll finally get our hoverboards) for an official release due to a few label related conflicts, but Priestess' highly anticipated follow up is well worth the wait. The added progressive rock influences have only helped Priestess sharpen their sound, and it's become evident that if any band can top Wolfmother in the arena rock department in this era, it's them.