Munition is a new heavy metal band that delivers some seriously killer music for their debut album.
Release date: January 28, 2023
Label: released independently
- Skyrider (3:41)
- Harrowed Halls (4:32)
- System32 (3:45)
- Shattered Mountains (5:23)
- Highway of Nightmares (4:15)
- Phoenix Rise (4:01)
- Beyond These Visions (5:49)
- Watchtower (4:26)
- Dreamer/Deceiver (Judas Priest cover, 8:40)
Some albums just grab you right away from the moment the first song plays. For me, Visions is one of those records. This album is just some great heavy metal. Visions is filled with catchy riffs, ripping guitar solos and soaring vocals that all combine together for an excellent listening experience. The more times I listened through the album, the more I loved it. Coming in around the 44 minute mark, Visions hits all the points that a metal fan would want.
Munition are a five-piece band from the Chicagoland area in Illinois. They first came on my radar when I saw them live last October opening for Exciter in Chicago. Munition had awesome energy in person and put on a killer live performance. They were way better than most random or local opening bands are, where you might not expect much from them. I could tell Munition had something special seeing them live. Their debut album Visions proves that too.
Visions is a killer first album. Its sound takes influence from classic metal bands in the vein of Judas Priest, mostly before their British Steel period and a lot like their first few albums. There’s also elements and sounds from bands like Fates Warning, Queensrÿche, Crimson Glory, classic hard rock from the ’70s like UFO and maybe even some power metal thrown in. Munition’s sound is still fresh and modern though. The band has only been around since late 2019, with Visions coming together over the course of the pandemic the past few years until it’s now ready for release. The band is made up of group of guys in their 20s making music together so they have a lot of room for growth, which is kind of crazy given the tremendous quality of this first album.
One aspect I liked about this album is that it’s not just a tribute to classic or traditional metal but does its own thing. Visions doesn’t feel dated or rooted too much in nostalgia or its influences. Visions sounds like modern heavy metal with its own identity.
To start, the album has a super cool cover with art by Lauren Gornik (check her out on Facebook and Instagram). Literal visions of nuclear war are inside a crystal ball with shattered glass/reality all around this woman who has a horrified look on her face. Metal and fantastic art have always gone hand in hand. If I saw Visions at a record store I would buy the album just for its cover alone. That’s what we used to do back in the day before the rise of streaming services and YouTube, when you sometimes had no idea what a record sounded like before you bought it. If the album had a sick cover then you just went for it. Gornik has done awesome work on several other albums for metal bands along with shirts and show posters too, so Munition is in good company.
Visions kicks off with the song “Skyrider,” Right away I really liked the vocals by Syl Smith. His singing is what I immediately noticed on the record. “Skyrider” is a great intro song with high energy to set the tone for the rest of the album. The galloping, chugging along main riff leads the song alongside Smith’s vocals in a quick introduction to the rest of the record. It’s an awesome first song at under four minutes that’s encompassed with a great riff and guitar solos, sounding reminiscent of those legendary rock bands from decades ago.
I had heard the recorded version of the band’s song “Beyond These Visions” before seeing them live. At times, Smith’s vocals on Visions kind of remind me of those of John Cyriis from Agent Steel and their classic albums. That was my immediate impression of his voice when I heard Munition for the first time too. I love those old Agent Steel records so that partly drew me into Munition along with their killer guitar playing. Smith has a fantastic voice and his singing fits perfectly with the music supporting him.
Going into the next track “Harrowed Halls,” the song begins with a nice, mellow bass intro from Jorey Guillermo before the power of the guitar comes in as the album then starts to picks up more momentum. Smith’s singing goes along great with the guitar playing on this one. About halfway through this song is a really killer guitar solo, which is a constant theme throughout Visions. The song’s lyrics are about a person in some sort of imprisonment who may never escape. The musical structure actually goes really well together to create that feeling from the person’s anxious perspective, with the riffing and Smith’s delivery of the chorus. The chorus is great in this song as Smith also starts expanding his voice more and ends the track with a high shriek.
The third song “System32” really highlights Smith’s vocal delivery as it opens up his singing more. I really liked the chorus on this song, which is another highlight across the whole album. The chorus has Smith’s vocals soaring high with excellent range. There’s more great guitar solos during the second part of this song too. The song’s lyrics are commentary about social media and the Internet taking over people’s lives yet it gave many a false reality. I loved this song, from the riffing to Smith’s incredible voice. “System32” is one of my favorites from Visions. The fourth track “Shattered Mountains” is a more even-paced song and the second longest from the band on Visions. The lyrics have an apocalyptic feel to them. The guitar soloing comes in a few times that elevates the song, especially at the end. “Shattered Mountains” ends with Smith belting out his voice in another high-pitched scream.
One of the things that really stuck out to me about Visions is the album’s production quality, especially for an independent release from a relatively unknown band. The production across the whole record is fantastic. Everything sounds sharp, high quality and like it’s from a major band. The mix is really great and everything from the vocals to all the instruments gel together pretty awesomely. It’s impressive, especially for a band that did it themselves without the backing of a record label.
The songs on Visions are all mostly in that sweet spot of around 3-4 minutes in length, except for the longer tracks “Shattered Mountains” and “Beyond These Visions.” None of the tracks overstay their welcome but give the listener just enough musical energy until it’s on to the next song. Before even realizing it Visions is over, with the nine tracks all flying by. There aren’t any duds on this record. They’re all mid-tempo to faster-paced songs that fit the metal vibe perfectly.
The guitar solos from both Casey Tremont and George Sizos are really banging all over this record. They usually come in at the halfway and end points of the songs, elevating the tracks in the process. The two of them are fantastic players and work really well as a duo, feeding off each other in much the same way as the classic metal bands of the past. Tremont on lead guitar takes Munition to another level with his guitar solos. The guitar playing and riffs are one of the main highlights of Visions, with each song uniquely having their own stand-out elements to them. Munition are definitely a riff and guitar solo-focused band.
I also liked how there were two layers of vocal tracks from Smith on top of each other throughout some of the songs. This gave the tracks a more epic sound and made his singing feel even larger. I noticed that all the instrumentals and riffs lined up in harmony with Smith’s vocals really well too. Solid drumming from Dan Dash backs up the band on each song, keeping them all centered. There’s also really good bass playing by Guillermo going through all the songs that’s right underneath them all. Both Dash and Guillermo are awesome in the live setting too.
Munition knows how to put together great choruses, as Visions is filled with catchy sections that repeat at just the right times. I found myself having some of the songs stuck in my head after listening to them. Munition’s lyrics are a solid surprise as well. The songs are filled with a storytelling aspect in the metal and hard rock vein. Some of the topics (from my interpretation) are about apocalyptic/doomed scenarios, personal perseverance, social commentary and fantasy themes. Most of the lyrics are composed by Smith, so he definitely has some good writing ability too. The lyrics also match the tone and structure of the musical compositions and are woven into them really well.
There’s more awesome soloing on the fifth track “Highway of Nightmares.” It’s a bit faster paced up to this point on the album, which matches the song’s lyrical content. I liked the riff on this song. The vocals on the sixth song “Phoenix Rise” stand out a lot too. There’s fantastic soloing a little over midway through this song with another great chorus section delivered by Smith. One of the main riffs and the guitar playing at this song’s end kind of have an Iron Maiden feel to them as well.
“Beyond These Visions” as the seventh track is a longer song at close to six minutes, which takes the listener on a bit of a journey. It’s definitely one of the major highlights of the album. The structure is different from the other songs on Visions and the band’s bigger songwriting attempts. It’s mostly a slower-paced song with Smith’s vocals carrying the track and then some more awesome, ripping guitar soloing appears on the back end. About midway through there’s some solid bass playing from Guillermo that’s perfectly placed and fits the song’s dreamy mood. “Beyond These Visions” is a terrific song. I loved the song’s lyrics too, which have a trippy, cosmic vibe to them.
The last original track called “Watchtower” is the fastest on the record. It starts off with a little melodic guitar riffing and then turns into almost like a speed metal song. It has great soloing at a few different points along the way and really good riffing. Dash’s drumming sounds excellent on this song, which picks up the track’s pace and is some of his best on the album. The song’s last two minutes are killer, with lots of guitar soloing as the drums and guitars frantically end the track together. “Watchtower” is another one of my favorites from Visions.
Munition’s songwriting is great, most noticeably for a newer band. Visions has a lot of catchy riffs and choruses. There’s sick, shredding guitar solos and high-pitched singing all over this album. What more could you ask for? Smith has the chops with his vocals, which go perfectly with the guitar playing. Munition really have something here on this album. Visions definitively passes the car test too. Driving around while listening to the album over your car’s speakers is pretty awesome and sounds rocking. Visions has variety in each of the songs where they all don’t sound the same either. All the tracks join together to create an album filled with really good metal energy.
Munition’s debut closes out with a cover of Judas Priest’s “Dreamer/Deceiver” from the 1976 album Sad Wings of Destiny. It’s obvious that bands like Priest are a big influence on Munition. It takes some guts to cover a song of this caliber from Judas Priest and even more so to make a recording and put it out on an album. Munition does a full cover of the song at 8 minutes and 40 seconds. Smith impressively hits all those Rob Halford-esque high notes and takes control of the song with them. When the song shifts in speed and energy towards the end into the “Deceiver” part, Munition matches it and nails the feel down of the original. Smith’s vocals shine through the whole way with ease, almost like it’s nothing that he’s covering one of the best singers ever. This song’s version definitely highlights the fantastic vocal range and capability that Smith has. The guitar playing and soloing throughout the whole song is also matched in power to the original.
The actual audio and production quality for this “Dreamer/Deceiver” version is awesome. It sounds fantastic and like a brand-new song. If you had no previous knowledge about this song, you might think Munition wrote it themselves like last year and it’s not from almost five decades ago. Judas Priest is one of my all-time favorite bands and Munition probably did the best cover of theirs that I have ever heard. It’s a cool way to close out the album, a supercharged finale to a strong group performance and potentially a sign of what’s to come in the future. I could totally see Munition writing their own song in this style, which there’s hints of already with “Beyond These Visions.”
Visions flows incredibly well from start to finish. There’s no filler on this record. Listening to the full album in order or just picking out individual songs, everything sounds like killer metal. There’s nothing I wanted to skip or that I felt dragged the album down. Everything comes together strongly. Basically knowing very little about the band before diving into this record, Visions left me super impressed. On repeated listens the songs still all solidly hold up and actually stay with you. The whole album seriously rocks hard.
With their debut album, Munition solidifies their talent and create a strong foundation for the band. Munition have a ton of potential. I can’t wait to see what they all do together in the future as the band grows with their next album and more. Don’t sleep on these guys. If you’re a fan of heavy metal and hard rock then Visions is definitely for you. This album rips!
***Visions was provided by the band for this review.
How to find Munition:
Bandcamp (where you can listen to and buy Visions along with other merch)
Listen to a track from Visions: