Sergeant Thunderhoof. If you haven’t listened to this band from southern England yet, you’re missing out on one of the best bands in the underground scene (and definitely one of our picks for the top 10 UK Stoner Rock bands).
Since releasing their first EP (Zigurat) in 2014, Sergeant Thunderhoof has managed to become even better with each subsequent album and EP, alternating between cosmic trips and street-level assaults via monolithic riffs.
As a band that relies heavily on psychedelic grooves, massive guitars, soaring vocals, and all of the mystical stories historic England can muster, Sergeant Thunderhoof provides a powerful and consistent punch.
And on their latest release, This Sceptred Veil, the band puts out what will likely go down as one of the best efforts of 2022.
About Sergeant Thunderhoof
Hailing from Bath, England, Sergeant Thunderhoof is:
- Daniel Flitcroft – Vocals
- Mark Sayer – Guitar
- Jim Camp – Bass
- Darren Ashman – Drums
Daniel Flitcroft, if you don’t know, is the co-owner of Pale Wizard Records, an awesome record label that’s currently working with contemporary bands to cover some of Rock and Metal’s most important albums on their 50th anniversary (they covered Alice Cooper’s Killer last year and have since covered David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars).
Back to Sergeant Thunderhoof: For This Sceptred Veil, the band draws heavily on the ancient myths and legends surrounding their hometown in the South West of England, using these stories to influence their lyrics throughout the record.
This Sceptred Veil has some impressive names attached to it. Most notably:
- Tony Reed (of Mos Generator and Big Scenic Nowhere) mastered the album.
- Josh Gallop (of Phoxjaw) produced the album and contributed instruments and vocals on a few tracks.
The record was recorded at Stage 2 Studios in Bath, England. Art and layout were conducted by Sara-Jane Swettenham.
This Sceptred Veil Album Review
Release Date: June 3, 2022
Label: Pale Wizard Records
Track 1: You’ve Stolen the Words
From the very beginning, This Sceptred Veil is markedly different from Terra Solus, Sergeant Thunderhoof’s 2018 record and last studio album. Terra Solus has what was my favorite Sergeant Thunderhoof song (“Another Plane”), which thrived on punchy riffs and a catchy chorus from Flitcroft: “She’s made of metal!”
But “You’ve Stolen the Words”—and much of This Sceptred Veil, for that matter—is darker, deeper, and much more serious. Instead of playing heavy in the Psychedelic sense (like the band does on 2015’s Ride of the Hoof), the band plays heavy in a Prog sense, carefully arranging their multi-sectional songs and keeping the production slick throughout.
“You’ve Stolen the Words” sets that subtle but important difference perfectly, eliciting emotion through massive riffs and soaring vocals.
Track 2: Devil’s Daughter
“Devil’s Daughter” is easily one of the best songs on The Sceptred Veil, relying on a catchy opening guitar lick and crashing drums to launch the track at a gallop’s pace. As on the opener, Flitcroft is in rare form, distorting his voice at will to channel as much punch as possible into his lofty vocals. After the quieter bridge and solo section, the band comes back with a fury, delivering an exhilarating close.
Track 3: Absolute Blue
Although This Sceptred Veil leans more Prog than Psychedelic, “Absolute Blue” does have a bit of cosmic energy behind it, relying on reverb in its fuzzy guitar tone for a shroud of mystery. While this is a softer track compared to much of the record, it still has that sharp Sergeant Thunderhoof edge.
Track 4: Foreigner
A beautiful Prog track with soaring guitars and pained vocals, “Foreigner” is worth the 10+ minutes the band pumps into its experience.
Track 5: Woman Call
“Woman Call” opens on a David Gilmour-style guitar, relying on that same tone until the band reaches the chorus. And that’s how much of the song develops, alternating between UK Rock royalty and Sergeant Thunderhoof’s signature sound.
Track 6: King Beyond the Gates
“King Beyond the Gates” is an impressive song, instrumentally, with its soaring guitars and head-nodding riff, but Flitcroft again steals the show, especially with his layered vocals later in the song. Like many tracks on this album, this song runs nearly seven minutes—but it feels like a typical four-minute rush.
Track 7: Show Don’t Tell
With guitars and vocals inspired by classic Van Halen and Iron Maiden, Sergeant Thunderhoof channels the very best in ‘80s Rock and Metal. With a 4:57 runtime, it’s the shortest track on the album, and the song’s sky-high energy levels make it feel even shorter.
“Show Don’t Tell” is admittedly a strange fit on an album that incorporates so much Prog Metal (though “Show Don’t Tell” surely has its moments), but it’s a keeper just the same.
Track 8: Avon & Avalon, Pt. 1
Slow and dramatic, “Avon & Avalon, Pt. 1” is an epic Prog track leveraging Daniel Flitcroft’s aching vocals and the band’s depressive soundscapes.
Track 9: Avon & Avalon, Pt. 2
“Part 2” contains many of the same themes (and its intro may remind some listeners of We Hunt Buffalo’s Living Ghosts), but it’s much heavier out of the gate, and its bass thunders through the noise. Interestingly, “Part 2” also effectively uses sudden volume shifts for emphasis, as around the 3:20 mark when Flintcroft says “For then he was just a boy” and the band fades out—a moment worthy of Tool’s Lateralus.
Final Thoughts on Sergeant Thunderhoof’s This Sceptred Veil
Final Score: 10/10
Standout Tracks: “You’ve Stolen the Words,” “Devil’s Daughter,” and “King Beyond the Gates”
Pros: It took me a long time to finish the album, and for good reason: I kept re-listening to the immaculate first half.
As I eventually learned, the second half is just as strong. This Sceptred Veil will definitely be on our Best of 2022 list in December.
Sergeant Thunderhoof is a band stacked with talent on all fronts, but the standout here is frontman Daniel Flitcroft. Occasionally pumping out the likes of David Lee Roth and Bruce Dickinson for ecstatic, high-energy punctation, Flitcroft frequently steals the show on this record.
Cons: This album is so emotionally charged that the band could have gotten away with fluffing the album with a few weak tracks.
But you won’t find any here. This Sceptred Veil is well constructed, and even “Show Don’t Tell,” which is a sonic outlier on the record, has a purpose: It’s an energetic high point before the gloomy depressive episodes of tracks 8 and 9.
If there’s anything to complain about, it’s the occasional drone of tracks like “Foreigner,” but the album as a whole is strong enough to excuse any sort of over-indulgent repetition.