Struck/Down – To Witches EP


Canterbury quintet, Struck/Down, are in the elite of unsigned artists to have won a regional final of the UK’s premier battle-of-the-bands competition, Metal 2 the Masses. They started as a hard rocking group with flamboyant riffs and strong showmanship but have evolved since their 2021 sophomore album into a more menacing proposition. Now, they identify as a metal band, and they’re ready to take their music in a heavier direction after recruiting a new bassist (Will Mihr) and a replacement lead guitarist (Pete McLarney).

There’s always a fear that a hard rock group transitioning into a metallic unit might retain traditional blues influences. Fortunately, Struck/Down avoid this dad rock tendency on opener, ‘The Enforcer’, with a guitar sequence that threatens a sinister Phrygian theme. Instead, they lean into a slow groove of dense proportions, like early Life of Agony finding their way in the aftermath of the grunge-saturated MTV era. Their fellow Kent doomsters, Famyne, would be proud of the ringing one-finger power chords that settle on the husky chorus like morning dew. Linden Twyman’s breath control and exhalation of words can teach any aspiring vocalist how to project your voice like Miles Kennedy of Alter Bridge.

It’s easy to see why Struck/Down won the 2021 Kent regional for Metal 2 the Masses. Like Hertfordshire riff merchants, Löwdown, their music bristles with energy and muscle. Listen how Ian Spurrett digs into the bridge of his guitar to palm-mute his way through the verses of ‘Nephilim’. People associate this type of crunchy rock with Black Label Society, but Struck/Down are darker and more attuned with the momentum of Nevermore. Though Twyman avoids the pitfalls of the yarling Eddie Vedder technique, you’d still assume him to be an American rather than a Jute from Kent. That’s because he enunciates like Phil Anselmo and Scott Weiland (Stone Temple Pilots). He can also sing to their standard. Have you heard anyone, since the great grunge days, push their tuneful masculine voice to bleeding point like he does on ‘No Value’? The way the band switch to a sudden sludge metal lift-off at 03:10 is classic Mastodon.

We take rock music for granted these days and assume it has nothing to offer. ‘Tyranny Hellride’ is a reminder that it can be lean and mean and imperious. Here, the guitars force you to extend your chin as you tap your foot and goose your neck. Pantera sounded like this in the mid-90s when they acknowledged the cultural importance of Alice in Chains on the heavy mainstream. Less is more on closing track, ‘Son of the Unburnt Witch’, where Struck/Down need only four riffs to do the business.

This EP is an important milestone in the band’s new line-up and shows great promise for their upcoming third album. Their challenge is to beef up the metallic aspects even further, including faster tempos, without compromising the strength of the vocals and the charisma of the guitars. It’s a journey we’ll watch with a keen eye over the next three years. Struck/Down’s future evolution should be an exciting one to contemplate.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 07/07/2023

Record Label: Self Released

Standout tracks: The Enforcer, Tyranny Hellride

Suggested Further Listening: Down – NOLA (1995), Knim – When a Star Falls (2022), Löwdown – All Hail the Riff EP (2023)