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Ceres "Tyrant's Rise" EP Review

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I've been an obsessed hard rock/heavy metal fan and collector since the early 1980s. If it's got a good guitar riff and attitude, I'm in.

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Ceres - "Tyrant's Rise" EP

Country: USA

Genre: Traditional/Power Metal

Tracks: 4 / Run Time: 18:22

Stormspell Records' latest discovery is the mysterious entity known as Ceres. Their debut four-song EP Tyrant's Reign will be released on CD in September 2021. (For the ultra-true hardcore collectors out there, the EP apparently already exists in cassette form via Electric Assault Records.)

Stormspell's hype sheet that accompanied my Tyrant's Reign promo didn't offer much background info about Ceres, merely stating that they are "classic US 80s true metal power acolytes, worshiping at the altar of MANILLA ROAD, WARLORD, OMEN, MEDIEVAL STEEL, and MERCYFUL FATE." After spending some quality time digesting these four denim and leather encrusted tracks, I'd say that's a pretty accurate description, but I still wanted to know...who the hell are these guys?

(Be advised, this Ceres is not to be confused with a modern rock/nu-metal combo from Montana by the same name.)

Eventually I learned that Ceres (which is either "the Roman Goddess of grain and agriculture" or "the first asteroid to be discovered in 1801," depending on which reference you consult) consists of only two musicians - Jesse Balgley, who performs most of the instrumentation, and Leo Kabat, who sings and contributes some guitar and synth bits. Balgley's past resume seems to be based mainly in black metal projects like Impure, Horns & Hooves, and Spite, while Kabat is apparently making his debut recording with this EP, because I can find no further info about him. (Ian Kilpatrick of Canadian retro-metallers Cauldron also drops in to lend guest guitar solos on two tracks.)

"Tyrant's Reign" EP

The Songs

Whatever their story is, Ceres has crafted four tracks of quality retro, true-as-steel metal straight outta the valley of 1984 on Tyrant's Rise. Seriously, if you handed me this EP and told me it was a vintage demo tape by a long-lost '80s band, I would totally believe you.

The sounds of war drums, horses, clashing steel, and some cheesy "B" movie style synths lend a properly Medieval feel to the opening title track, which chugs along at a pleasantly bruising mid-tempo pace. The Mercyful Fate comparisons are most obvious when listening to Kabat's vocals. He doesn't have the ultra-helium powered high notes of MF's legendary King Diamond, but his lower register has the same mournful quality. If you can imagine what Mercyful Fate might have sounded like if they'd been obsessed with Conan the Barbarian-style fantasy instead of Satan and demonic derring-do, then you're in Ceres' ballpark. The thumping "Blood of the Warrior" sounds like something off of those early, gritty Omen discs, with Kabal hitting some squawky high notes reminiscent of 1970s Judas Priest.

The sturdy anthem "Remnants of Battle" features some nice, fuzzed out guitar work and leads into the galloping closer "Writs of Blood," which chugs along at a familiar NWOBHM-style gallop, with Kabat milking his King Diamond-ish wail for all he's worth.

"Tyrant's Reign" cassette. (Kids, ask your parents what "cassettes" were.)

"Tyrant's Reign" cassette. (Kids, ask your parents what "cassettes" were.)

Summing It Up

Ceres makes the most of Tyrant's Reign's relatively short run time (just a hair over 18 minutes), providing a quick and effective blast of '80s style "true" metal and doing an admirable job of re-creating a "vintage" vibe all around. Everything about this release, from its deliberately lo-fi production, to the stark, black-and-white cover art of a horseman holding his sword (and the severed head of an enemy) aloft, screams "old school!"

If Ceres had been around in the '80s, they'd be the kind of ultra-obscure, subterranean band that you might find buried deep on Side B of an obscure metal compilation album, or advertised waaayyy in the back pages of only the most "true" underground metal fanzines. Just pressing "play" on this EP is like taking a trip back in time.

For further info on Ceres or to get your own copy of Tyrant's Reign, you can hit up Stormspell Records for a CD, and you can snag some official Ceres swag like downloads, t-shirts and buttons (sorry kids, the Electric Assault Records cassette version is sold out!) at Ceres' official Bandcamp page. Stop by, raise a flagon of mead in their general direction in your gauntleted fist, and wave your swords in the air in celebration of true Underground Heavy Metal!

© 2021 Keith Abt

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