The triune guitars tugging at the reins of this five-song chariot give Colossus little time to offer introduction: Just 13 seconds into "The Mountain That Rides," the Chapel Hill-Raleigh sextet is at full gallop, harmonic twin leads stealing the spotlight as intended, even as Sean Buchanan's operatic howls play Bruce Dickinson at least as well as ol' Bruce can these days.
Immediately, the EP marks an improvement from the band's debut, ...And The Pan-Dimensional Undergods, which was righteous in its own right. The guitars are tighter and more engaging. The rhythm section bullies. Buchanan sounds much more confident. Recorded at Chapel Hill's Warrior Sound, the charging volume and room-soaking distortion are partially hidden from view. But the confinement reveals Colossus' refinement, and, in this light, the band sounds serious.
Thing is, when Colossus plays live, all six members smile always, a telling trait that underscores its mission: One needn't parse Colossus' lyrics too fastidiously to realize that, yes, Buchanan sings about Manticores, zombies and Wendigoes. Here, the subjects of Sci-Fi Channel original movies happen to live alongside hefty instrumentals, like the three-headed riff of "The Operative," where each line slices with divergent harmonics and fills before rejoining the charge. And with the over-the-top theatricality of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal at the band's disposal, Colossus' Maiden- and Priest-isms seem almost parodic. And maybe they are. But it doesn't really matter, so long as the band continues to play at this level. To pretend there's no place in metal for fantastical imagery and humor to coexist is to miss the point. Here, as in most of these fine-line cases, the difference between novelty and legitimacy is talent. And Colossus oozes talent like a Viking lets blood on a battlefield.
Colossus is at Carrboro's Reservoir with Blackholicus and Gollum Friday, May 22, at 10 p.m. and at Raleigh's Pour House with Caltrop and Black Skies Wednesday, May 27, at 10 p.m.