Formed in 2008 in Cody, Wyoming, Righteous Vendetta is a Christian metalcore band that is finally being heard. Their last few albums were released independently and are unfortunately not easy to acquire. But in 2017, they came out swinging on Century Media Records with Cursed, their first full length album in four years and one that should carry the band into the forefront of today’s metal world. I had a chance to chat briefly with frontman Ryan Hayes about the title of the album, who said it was the “overall mood we were in when putting the album together. We felt cursed. Which is why it’s so dark!”
And it is dark. The album starts with the lyric “We’ll never make it out alive if we’re just waiting to die” in “War Is Killing Us All”, the hardest track on the album and a great album opener. The rhythms here in both the instrumentation and vocals drive the track forward and set the pace for the 13-song album. The next few songs continue this energy with more melodic choruses, or in the case of “Daemons” a yelled Chorus 1 followed by a melodic Chorus 2. Vocalist Ryan Hayes does both harsh and clean vocals and every song on Cursed showcases his talent for both. “A Way Out” shifts to a classic rock style and beat with impressive drum work by Zack Goggins. “Defiance” and “Psycho” continue this trend with hard rock styles taking after some of the harder songs by Shinedown or Three Days Grace.
Cursed was very carefully assembled with thought given to the order of the songs. The album entirely shifts gears with “Never Say Never”, without doubt my favorite track here. Opening with a blistering guitar melody, the song instantly takes the album in a different direction into melodic rock, showcasing a different side of Hayes’ singing prowess while maintaining his vocal control, adding a measured growling edge to even the clean vocals. After the heavy darkness of the front of the album, “Never Say Never” turns it toward a more hopeful message as he belts “Never say never/There’s always tomorrow/We’ll live forever/Let’s take our time there/Bring me to my knees/No longer will I bleed/I will always have this fire/On the flames build my empire”.
With “Doomed”, another powerful standout, while Hayes belts out “Doomed forever” the message is about fighting until the end. These last six songs on the album bring to the forefront the band’s Christian roots. The cornerstone of this section of the record is “Halfway”, featuring some of the best lyrics on the album: “Have you ever seen a man/Struggling to find himself/With a cross above his bed/Waiting for the night when he/Can finally rest and get some sleep/He was never safe between the pews/The last place he’d think that he’d find you.” Hayes sings about the struggle to find God in life and begs God to meet him halfway because he “can’t make it to Heaven alone”. Similarly, the closing track, “Strangers” is about God being the one who will never fade, even though they are strangers for now.
Righteous Vendetta makes a strong entry into the metal world here with Cursed. Songs like the opener “War Is Killing Us All” have a political message that is relevant to today’s world but without taking sides, more projecting a sense of general frustration with events today and that they resonate lyrically with the pulse of the nation. The sharp contrast with the end of the album shows a clear plan for the layout of the album, saving the more personal and powerful songs for the second act. Now with a record label, I look forward to the next stage of Righteous Vendetta’s career.