Queens Of The Stone Age had cleared the way with the pulverizing LP Songs For The Deaf in 2002, and Wolfmother’s late-’60s/early ’70s proto-metal revival in 2006 sparked major-label interest in the riff-heavy sound of its brethren Early Man and Sword.
But Montreal’s Priestess, echoing the melodic drive of greats like Thin Lizzy and AC/DC, was thought by many to be the next breakout act, and they signed to RCA in 2006. The label remastered their 2005 debut Hello Master — ignited by the frenzied dynamo of an opener “I Am The Night, Colour Me Black” — and waited for the profits to roll in. But they didn’t, or at least not in the obscene amounts they were hoping for.
Soon, in early 2010, Priestess will drive a brand-new Firebird of muscle-car rock off the lot in Prior To The Fire. But RCA has nothing to do with it. In fact, it’s been reported that RCA had a chance to release the new record, but it didn’t like what it heard and wanted Priestess to go back to the drawing board.
“We battled back and forth for a while about the new songs not being ‘marketable’ enough,” laughs Priestess vocalist/guitarist Mikey Heppner. “So that played a large part in the long delay and ultimately being dropped.”
Now with indie stalwart Tee Pee Records, Priestess is ready to assume its rightful place among the best indie metal acts around. It was an easy decision to go with Tee Pee.
“They are the best label out there for our kind of music, and they pulled a gun on us,” jokes Heppner.
Resorting to such threatening tactics wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibility for labels sure to be stunned by the invigorated Priestess’ relentless sonic assault, on display in storming tracks like “Sideways Attack” and “Ladykiller.”
“It’s our aim that the music will blow people away, or at least make them stoked,” says Heppner.
Recorded with producer David Schiffman (Mars Volta, System Of A Down and Nine Inch Nails), Prior To The Fire is due out in February 2010 and it promises to be a densely layered affair that’s always on the attack. It packs a wallop to the solar plexus that leaves you gasping for breath, but like Hello Master, Prior To The Fire’s melodies don’t get lost in the furious energy and prog-metal complexity Priestess has mastered.
They’ve come a long way since 2003, when Heppner was playing with the punk band The Dropouts and the other three members hightailed it to New York to form the stylishly dark post-punk outfit The Stills. Left to his own devices, Heppner latched on with bassist Mike Dyball, drummer/vocalist Vince Nudo and vocalist/guitarist Dan Watchorn.
“We’ve all aged about 15 years in the past six,” says Heppner. “We’ve gotten tighter and better at our instruments, and are better at backing up with a trailer.”
A necessary skill when touring to the extent that Priestess has, going on the road with Black Label Society, Converge, Mastodon, Motoörhead and Gwar. But Priestess’ biggest moment came in 2007 when they opened for Megadeth in the U.K.
“[Dave] Mustaine is a hero of mine, and he was a f**kin’ sweet awesome dude,” says Heppner. Even sweeter for Priestess was having its song “Lay Down” picked for the “Guitar Hero III: Legends Of Rock” video game.
Feeling liberated and confident, after a series of recent shows in their native Canada indicated fans are embracing the band’s latest creations — “It’s been killer; the people are stoked,” says Heppner — Priestess is pleased to be on Tee Pee and believes the relationship with the label will be mutually beneficial.
“It’s nice to not be dead last on the list of priorities anymore!” exclaims Heppner.
Although it’ll be hard to match the stunning artwork on the cover of Hello Master, with its contorted hand breaking through dark orange skies and hovering over desolate, almost alien landscape. Heppner says he was blown away when he first saw it. “Arik Roper did that in like four days,” he adds.
It took longer than that for Rome to be built and for Prior To The Fire to come to life. But the extra time spent working on the new LP may just pay off for Priestess.