A lot has happened over the last four years. Most of it, let’s be brutally honest, is probably best forgotten, including most of 2020. But one recent event that has obviously been extremely positive for all concerned is that VICIOUS RUMORS have found themselves a new singer and he’s an absolute beast. Even ignoring the thrillingly gung-ho performance that new boy Nick Courtney puts in across these 11 newly minted metal anthems, “Celebration Decay” would be an outright triumph. VICIOUS RUMORS have never been the flavor of the month or a band that most mainstream metal media would even acknowledge, but the truth is that these New Yorkers have long been one of the most consistent pure heavy metal bands around. “Concussion Protocol” (2016) was a strong effort, too, but their 13th full-length is streets ahead on every level, Courtney‘s towering presence included.

As ever, founding guitarist Geoff Thorpe has provided a dazzling barrage of steroidal mid-paced trad and thrash riffing as this album’s sonic bedrock. There is nothing remotely old-fashioned about VICIOUS RUMORS‘ sound at this point, but the band’s dedication to elegantly constructed songs and huge hooks remains unwavering. As a result, the blend showcased on “Celebration Decay” has an air of “Jugulator”-era JUDAS PRIEST, but dragged into the post-digital present day with evangelical zeal.

The opening title track nails its creators’ colors to the mast with venom: muscular, momentous and (not surprisingly) vicious, it’s the kind of brutal but melodic metal that deserves a much bigger audience than it usually gets. “Pulse Of The Damned” is an instant crowd-pleasing monster, with a monstrous, mid-paced gait and a gripping, dark undertow; “Any Last Words” is a near-perfect heavy metal song, with Courtney veering from abyssal bellows to retina-popping screams, audibly very much at home in his new environs. In fact, while VICIOUS RUMORS have had several phenomenal vocalists over the years, they haven’t sounded this singular and cohesive since the late, great Carl Albert led the charge on classics like “Digital Dictator” and “Welcome to the Ball”. There’s palpable passion and excitement driving everything here, from the atmospheric churn of “Asylum Of Blood” and the stirring pomp of “Death Eternal” to the hard rock stomp of “Long Way Home” and the all-out aggro of “Collision Course Disaster”. The melodies are uniformly memorable, the riffs likewise, and a sweet balance has been struck between speaker-threatening bottom end and ’80s-friendly clarity. All told, “Celebration Decay” is VICIOUS RUMORS‘ strongest album in more than 20 years, and Nick Courtney (check out his old band GLADIUS on Bandcamp!) could be the find of the decade.