THE CALL OF THE VOID
Released on June 7, 2023 (Sumerian Records)
Back in 2018, I listed Nita Strauss‘ first release Controlled Chaos in my Top Five Albums of the Year for this site at number three (only Stryper and Judas Priest beat her out on my picks that year), which was filled with strong guitars and heavy riffs. Her second solo album The Call of The Void adds several guest vocalists to the mix.
The opening track “Summer Storm,” with its movie soundtrack beginning with thunder noises and keyboards complementing the early guitar fills on the melody, quickly turns into the heavy Steve Vai-ish guitaring (who was an influence on here playing) and powerful drumming that won’t confuse listeners thinking this is the famous Garth Brooks song about thunder. It’s a strong, rocking opener. “The Wolf You Feed” will meet the lovers of heavy metal singers with Arch Enemy‘s Alissa White-Gluz. I had to look up many of the singers because I am not well-versed in many of them (preferring my classic and hard rock staying with a radio-friendly format), and even though the angry Cookie Monster vocals at the beginning normally wouldn’t be my preference, by the time the chorus hits, the song showcases that this vocalist has range.
“Digital Bullets” has a mix of hard rock and a radio-style mix that is pleasant to listen to, again, without knowing much about the vocalist or his normal band, and without having to look them up on the internet. But this is about Nita and her playing is strong throughout so far and the songs flow in placement nicely so far. “Through The Noise” with Lzzy Hale is another solid song that could get radio play on the rock playlists, bringing together two females who are carrying the metal banner for women while still showing they can hold their own with the opposite sex. The song isn’t as heavy as the others so far, which gives it perfect placement here, giving the listeners’ ears a break from the in-your-face rocking. At under three and a half minute run time, this song makes you want to hear more, which is wonderful (I’d rather be begging for more as opposed to having too long of a song). This is a gem in the first seven songs.
After another solid instrumental, one of the earliest songs from the CD (it was released almost a year ago) is “Dead Inside.” Again, not being familiar with heavier bands like Disturbed, the album is introducing me to different vocalists to the credit of Strauss in getting different people as opposed to having just one singer. More keyboards can be heard in the song, which adds to it. “Victorious” is the song I was most excited to hear due to the combined efforts of Strauss (I have mentioned in my writings that I love not just her playing, but her love of wrestling and her fitness lifestyle) and Dorothy, whose 2022 album Gifts From The Holy Ghost made my top pick on this site. With Lzzy Hale being a veteran on the metal scene, could Dorothy and Strauss be the future torchbearers? My vote is yes. With the rock talent and the positive lyrics, this is one of the best songs on the CD. The mid-tempo “Scorched” leads into the unique death metal opening of “Momentum,” but when you think the song is all fast tempo, Strauss adds a funky groove to the song, which gives another dimension that shows her skills.
If I were to skip a song, “Golden Trail” would be it. Taking nothing against the musical side of the track, the vocals are what distracts me the most. As mentioned earlier, the good thing about the different vocalists is exposing me to other bands I normally would not go listen to. Some I like, and some I don’t. This vocalist from In Flames is just too heavy for me and I like understanding what the vocalist is singing about, and not going back to the Muppet reference, those that scream and sound like Cookie Monster with their mouth full of food, isn’t my cup of tea. Yes, they have talent, and it takes skill to sing like that all night long, but it just isn’t for me. This may be my pick as the weakest on the CD, only because I’m not a fan of the vocals.
How could I NOT like Alice Cooper being on Nita‘s CD? Finally, the Coop has announced that the current line-up with Strauss will be on a studio record soon, which has me excited to get a hold of it when it comes out. Being a big fan of Alice on and off stage (again the same with Nita), this track is almost a throwback to one of Alice‘s heavier records of Brutal Planet without being out of the elements of the Alice character. This is up there with the Dorothy track as my favorite (a tie on both). “Winner Takes All” is a winner. “Monster” with Lilith Czar is a nice follow-up after the Cooper song. The song has a mix of strong rock, but I’m hearing parts of Eastern playing to it. The dynamics in the song are a wonderful addition, as opposed to playing all-in, especially with a title like “Monster.”
“Kintsugi” starts with a mellow 1980’s ballad style behind Nita‘s emotional playing, along with the keyboards of Katt Scarlet. I was hearing a mix of Boston, Dokken, and even a reminder of a song by Nelson. This is my favorite of the instrumentals. It is mellow but not too soft that one can’t appreciate what’s going on here for a rocker. The concept of the word from the Japanese culture will help the listener get more of an idea instead of just a song on the album, where one could vision something like a phoenix rising or something that is considered useless getting a new life (strange that I got a deep meaning on an instrumental, but it shows the power of her work). Anyone who thinks Nita is just a shredder on guitar must hear this track which will show her multiple skills in playing. Ending the CD is “Surfacing” featuring Marty Friedman. Placing it right after the slower instrumental is perfect for ending her release, with its melodic slower opening on the song, and then getting heavy throughout, bringing the song up in dynamics to keep the listener happy with strong musicianship at the finale.
After years of waiting for another release by Strauss, it was worth the wait. I like the different vocalists as well, introducing different lyrics and interpretations to her music. There is only one track I am not a fan of, but that didn’t diminish the talents of everyone involved musically. Being a drummer who grew up listening to Steve Vai‘s music because my best friend was a huge fan of his, I may not understand the complexity of all the notes, but I know there is stuff going on here that shows that Strauss is not just beauty — she can not only play and craft wonderful rocking songs but also add different flavors in between. There is something here for all lovers of music; from the heavy to the classic rock and instrumental lovers, without distracting them with most songs being under five minutes. With 14 tracks, at first look, it may be daunting with thinking there are too many tracks, but it isn’t that way here. Strauss answered the call of waiting a while between releases to produce a quality product for her fans and new ones.
01. Summer Storm
02. The Wolf You Feed (featuring Alissa White-Gluz)
03. Digital Bullets (featuring Chris Motionless)
04. Through The Noise (featuring Lzzy Hale)
05. Consume The Fire
06. Dead Inside (featuring David Draiman)
07. Victorious (featuring Dorothy)
10. The Golden Trail (featuring Anders Friden)
11. Winner Takes All (featuring Alice Cooper)
12. Monster (featuring Lilith Czar)
14. Surfacing (featuring Marty Friedman)
Nita Strauss – lead and rhythm guitars, bass
Josh Villalta – drums
Katt Scarlet – keyboards
Kile Odell – additional guitars and bass
Alissa White-Gluz – lead vocals (1)
Chris Motionless – lead vocals (2)
Lzzy Hale – lead vocals (3)
David Drainman – lead vocals (6)
Dorothy – lead vocals (7)
Anders Friden – lead vocals (10)
Alice Cooper – lead vocals (11)
Lilith Czar – lead vocals (12)
Marty Friedman – guitar (14)
Produced and engineered by Kile Odell
Mixed by Nick Sampson
Mastered by Justin Shturtz
Nita Strauss‘ “Victorious” video feat. Dorothy: